Columns

2007.07.22 Look! It's a sun dog!

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN 

There’s nothing like a good sun dog to make you think about football. Actually, I’m talking about football practice. Every time I see a sun dog, I think about practice down at Wakefield Park.

I thought about that while driving home from Wauseon late Wednesday afternoon, I was heading west on U.S. 20 and reached the point just past Chesterfield where the road drops down. The vista opens up and you can see for miles. It makes you think about Route 20 snaking its way all across America to Newport, Oregon.

I looked up and there it was—a single sun dog to the right of the sun.

It happened again friday when I was leaving for work and walking toward the city parking lot. one more sun dog, this time to the left of the sun.

that made two in one week, but it wasn’t the end. At the homecoming game Saturday afternoon I noticed another one then spotted its mate on the other side of the sun. Is the world going to the sun dogs or what?

Let’s have a quick show of hands—how many people know what I’m talking about? I was afraid of that. Look, its all a matter of refraction. But what’s refraction? You know about reflection, refraction is when light is bent or refracted. When light passes through ice crystals, some interesting things happen, such as halos around the sun or moon. those high cirrus clouds are made of little six sided ice crystal. the ice bends the light rays and a halo appears.

When the clouds aren’t solid across the sun, you sometimes get little pieces of rainbow rather than a whole halo. Those little bits of brilliance are called sun dogs or mock suns. Sometimes you see a dog on only one side of the sun; another time you get matching dogs on both sides.

I had to do a little searching to find out why they’re called sun dogs. According to Jerry Dennis in “It’s Raining Frogs and Fishes,” those little rainbow blobs sometimes show a long horizontal ray of white light sticking out at the end like a dog’s tail.

I don’t see sun dogs very often. maybe they’re not all that common or maybe it’s a matter of my geography. There’s a large house and a few nice maples across the street that block out most of the late afternoon sun.

And then there’s the football connection. You know how things stick in your head for years and years. useless garbage that ought to be thrown away and replaced with more practical data, such as getting the correct names of homecoming court members on the fron t page of the paper.

the football connection leads back to an October afternoon in 1967. Ken Rollins was the coach and the might bulldogs were on their way to ne of the worst seasons in history.

It was one of those mostly sunny afternoons with some high cirrus clouds in the western sky. I was getting back to my feet after missing my blocking assignment and allowing quarterback Jim Brink to get creamed by kent Jarrell.

and there they were—the most brilliant set of sun dogs a person could hope for. It was hard for a future weatherman to keep from looking at them...until Coach Rollins threatened physical punishment beyond what was already taking place.

Twenty-nine years late and I still think of football practice whenever I see a sun dog. It’s not exactly the best memory, but its worth it just to spot one of those celestial pooches.

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