OUTDOORS - A hot day for a walk in Pioneer Park

Don Davis and Nora linger in the July heat at Pioneer Park.

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A sign at Pioneer Park's smaller pond identifies the source as Lincoln Creek.

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A swallowtail butterfly rests on a sun-drenched leaf at Pioneer Park.

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A climber takes advantage of an open limb at Pioneer Park.

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Still water reflects the nearby foliage at Pioneer Park.

A yellow-and-black swallowtail butterfly fluttered past with erratic roller-coaster dips and dives at Pioneer Park.

It flitted in and out of my view through the camera lens from deep shade to shimmering sunlight.

I squinted with one eye to track its flight through the lens and failed. I opened both eyes wide but failed again.

I couldn't lock-on its quick, erratic feints with the automatic focus or the manual focus. It seemed hopeless if not plain dumb trying to photograph the swallowtail in flight.

I pressed the trigger often and recorded yellow blurs.

I lowered the camera that weighs a ton with the big lens and checked Nora the Schnauzer, who patiently stretched out to cool her belly on the grass. Her tongue dangled like a short, pink neck tie.

She seemed content to lie still and daydream.

Yet, by camping at my feet and locking her eyes on mine at home, she had insisted on a walk. Never mind that a near 100-degree July day lurked outside.

She just wanted out, to go somewhere.

So, after pondering the shady coolness of Pioneer Park, we went there.

Nora had to wear her leash, and she didn't mind.

She lead the way on a meandering route, tugging me along.

When Nora reached the park's smaller pond, she sniffed without her leash among the vines along the shore while I snapped photos of red and blue-black dragonflies, of ducks, of a duckling and of the pond itself.

We passed flower beds, and I snapped a photo of the pioneer wagon sculpture gleaming golden in the sunshine.

We saw a wedding in progress at the gazebo and a squirrel legged it up a tree. It leaned down to harshly scold the tethered Nora.

She stood with her front paws on the tree trunk to listen.

We met a man with two small dogs, including a bulldog named Gus. When Nora and Gus greeted each other, they tangled leashes.

We unsnapped them, and they dashed and dodged in X's, O's and P's until they flopped, breathless, on the grass. Then Gus wandered off to the road where he found something smelly to roll in with gusto.

Nora and I circled back toward the parking area, moving from shade to shade. That's when two swallowtails chased one another, much as the dogs did.

One landed on a leaf just above my head, and I snapped several photos of it.

When it flew, it circled, dived and dipped among the trees. Several times it followed spiraling yellow leaves to the ground, touched them and fluttered away.

Perhaps swallowtails mate in July, so a yellow leaf fluttering to the ground looks to a near-sighted swallowtail like a companion.

Or, perhaps when two of them get together they play, like feisty dogs do.

As I pondered, Nora plopped on the grass.

"We'll go in a few minutes," I said as another swallowtail fluttered past.

What if I got off a lucky shot?

I lifted and pointed the lens as Nora rested her chin on the cool, green carpet.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com.

If You Go

Pioneer Park is bordered by Division and Whitman streets and Roosevelt and Alder streets.

If you Google "Pioneer Park" on the Internet, you will find several entries.

It is either a 53-acre or 40-acre park on property set aside in 1901. It boasts a Civil War cannon mounted in 1905. The gazebo bandstand was built in 1909. A fundraiser in 1908 sold lapel pins for $1 to finance work on the park. The park features trees of historic size and age, two ponds, many benches and picnic tables, a bandstand, a play-area hill (sledding), tennis courts, horseshoe pits, children's playground equipment, peripheral little league baseball fields and a world-class aviary.

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