An Epic Eclipse
December 20 was a notable day. Besides being my birthday, it was the shortest (or darn close to the shortest) day of the year. A lunar eclipse also occurred. Discussing the event with my kids, it spawned a recollection of another, more epic eclipse that I witnessed as a youth.
The exact date of the eclipse eludes me (and is beyond my internet search capabilities to retrieve). I was in my teens, living on the family ranch in western Montana. Scientists from all over the globe flocked to Bozeman, the “eclipse capitol of the world” to witness a total solar eclipse.
On the morning of the eclipse, the day dawned cool and cloudy. The next day, the papers reported astronomers zipping around the Bozeman area, trying to find an unclouded location from which to view this rare phenomena. On the ranch, 50 miles west of town, we could see the sun through a gap in the clouds.
As the moon passed in front of the sun, the world darkened, as if night was falling. In the coop, the chickens began clucking and flew up onto their roosts. Peering through a welding helmet, I could see the orb of the moon slowly blocking an ever-increasing portion of the sun. Finally, the moon completely obscured the sun except for a thin, bright ring. Swapping my welding helmet for a Kodak “Instamatic” pocket camera, I snapped a dozen photos of the event, images that proved to be better than any I later saw published in the local papers. As the moon passed by the sun, the landscape began to brighten. The roosters began crowing and the hens fluttered down from their roosts.
Some 35 years have passed since that unforgettable experience. I have since learned more about eclipses and the astronomical explanation of what I experienced. But I continue to ponder one question. What on earth did those poor chickens think?