It isn't that I like to walk the course, really - it's more the scenery, birds, local color, or companionship that spurs me on. And I need spurring.
I have been liv7ing adjacent to the fourth hole of a tropical golf course in Panama for eight years and usually walk for half an hour every morning with a friend or my husband. Proudly I tell friends, "I have a personal trainer!" And I do know how wonderful it is to have someone prod me into getting off the couch.
When husband-P.T. is not prodding, my Panamanian friend drops by at 7 a.m. sharp. She displays remarkable patience, waiting for me to put on my sneakers. Unlike P.T., who often walks in silence, we talk nonstop. In half an hour we have covered Panamanian politics, her family, my family, local golfers, bees, trees, birds, and travel. Occasionally we run into a lady golfer who likes to chat a while if no one is behind her.
Our golf course attracts a wide variety of birds, many of them water birds, as we are just minutes from the ocean. In spring, the pond is a nesting place for small flocks of white herons. Cormorants perch on old stumps and spread their wings to dry.
A workman told us a 10-foot cayman lives in the 16th-hole pond. We couldn't confirm that, but we have seen a five-foot one sunning itself and swimming, its two round eyes showing just above the surface of the water.
Flocks of small, chattering parakeets, swallows, and a wide variety of yellow-breasted birds appear in succession, but most intriguing to me was the flock of domestic guinea hens from the farm by the 13th hole. They moved along primly in short, rapid little steps like a polka-dotted gray-and-white ocean wave, protesting our approach. Their owner no longer keeps them, and I miss seeing them. They had the good sense to rush off the green as golf balls plopped down.
When we first came to live in this weekend resort, we knew few people and had no close neighbors. The course was all ours on weekday mornings. It was a beautiful ride in our golf cart, and frequently we were joined by Daisy, a large boxer, not quite full grown. She was an inspiring sight skimming the course in great strides till she finally caught up with us.
We are not "doggy" people. Our ripening friendship with Daisy was a measure of our loneliness. She dashed excitedly at us, then wriggled backward, making an S-curve of her body, while I made silly, loving comments to her. When we returned to the cart after hitting our balls, she usurped my seat, squeezing insistently between us and making our trip to the next shot precarious. If pushed out, she headed for the nearest creek to investigate the fishing. Returning covered with mud, she seemed hurt and baffled by our refusal to let her ride with us.
ON very hot mornings when the greens' sprinklers were turned on, she enjoyed leisurely showers, opening her mouth to catch a drink.
Next to P.T. and my friend, Daisy was my favorite companion, but our friendship was short-lived. One Saturday she fell from grace while accompanying her owner and his foursome onto the course. Quick to grasp the object of the game, she retrieved his ball as it hit the green, picked it up, and dropped it in the cup. After a stunned silence, the other players roared: "Dogs don't belong on the golf course!"
It saddens me not to see her running, or splashing in the creek. I would even welcome a little mud on me or the golf- cart seat. But I hear she has become a mother and is happy with her beautiful baby boxers, who probably will never have the same privileges she did of skimming the course with the wind in her face and learning the game.