As I looked East from the house past the apple tree and the inoperable old wagon there was a haze over the field. It was normal for this time of year. The orchard grass was releasing it's pollen in it's effort to reproduce itself in the rat race that is life no matter the species.
I had terrible hay fever. It didn't help that my cat slept on my pillow or that we were surrounded by fields filled with orchard grass. A good orchard grass year meant a good hay crop and everyone rejoiced. Even those of us suffering rejoiced. The hay fever didn't impact everyone. My mom and sister weren't bothered, the dogs didn't seem to notice and the cows were indifferent. My dad and I were miserable. He would go irrigating with fabric covering every inch of his body, a dust mask and ski goggles on his face all stuffed into thigh high irrigating boots wielding a shovel. No wonder there wasn't ever a UFO sighting on the ranch!
I was running a lot and the haze that I saw meant suffering later in the day. I knew what I was in for and like most days I would just gut it out. Later I would put cold washcloths on my eyes to keep myself from trying to rip them out and polish them with sandpaper.
On this morning, I trotted down the driveway with the dogs at my heals. My run was uneventful. I turned around and started towards home. Home meant running up the three-quarters of a mile private driveway to the house. I topped the hill at the haystack and could see the house. It was getting hot and I was ready to be done. So were the dogs. Their tongues hung out of the side of their mouths as they left a path of saliva and irrigation water in their wake. They had just stopped to cool off in the ditch and were catching up to me. To the left was a hayfield chest high with orchard grass and to the right was the neighbor's property and a pinyon juniper forest. In front of me was a skunk. I had been sprayed before as a little girl and I didn't want to repeat. He was far enough away that I wasn't a threat and he just was lazying his way down the road. At this point I stopped, held the dogs at my side and watched; he didn't seem to want to go anywhere.The sun was beginning to beat down and I was getting hungry so I decided to get home by going around him. I was nervous about hopping the fence to my neighbor's property and so I hopped the fence into the hayfield. I had that "THIS IS A BAD IDEA" feeling but was young and mostly invincible.
I started jogging again. The grass was hitting my bare arms and stomach. My legs were maneuvering their way over ditches. The skunk was to the right of me and then behind me. As I arrived on the road after circumventing the skunk I realized that a suffering far greater than a little skunk stink was in front of me. By the time I made it the last quarter of a mile home, every inch of my body was covered with welts. I ran into the house and straight into the shower. I clasped my hands behind my back and vowed to not touch my eyes. The water ran over me washing away the pollen that was my nemesis. I reluctantly turned off the water and dried off feeling nauseas. I made my way into clean clothing, a class of cold water and the couch with my washcloth. I would ride it out but wouldn't be scared to ask the skunk to do the running in the hayfield the next time.