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Today is October 4, 2022

Outdoors

September memories and outdoor wonders

September memories and outdoor wonders

Even with some summer green still showing, the presence of early-fallen black gum leaves announces autumn's sure arrival. Photo: Tony Kinton

Attempts to live in the past are futile. The only viable options have been established: Progression or stagnation. Still, I can’t resist those occasionally deep and often protracted journeys into reminiscence each year as September casts its mystical spell across the landscape and through my aging recall.
     And not surprisingly, many of those journeys—if not all those journeys—in one way or another relate to the outdoors. Not exclusively to hunting or fishing, though these were and are certainly an integral part for me and likely anyone else with a similar mindset, but to the outdoors in general. For it was in these alfresco settings that my childhood was spent.
     Squirrel season was the most heralded hunting event in these parts and in those days when I was young. And while it did not open in September, that month gave ample cause to begin thinking about and planning for those grandiose adventures that would come soon. The black gum leaves would turn brown and red then as they do now, and some few would rattle to the ground to rest silently on warm sand along wooded streams and ditches or among the long grasses bordering field-edge roads. These leaves were an epiphany, a proclamation of things to come. They always generated a swirl of enthusiasm. That has not changed.
     At some point during all this, my dad and I would pull out battered single-barrel shotguns and rummage through tattered tan game vests. The latter held what we hoped was a sufficient supply of leftover shells: 20 gauge, No. 6 shot, high-brass paper hulls. The guns received a cursory squirt of 3-In-One machine oil. I can still smell that magic elixir, which remains a capable cure for most ailments. No trip to the Big Island or the Coast of Maine now could produce the degree of exhilaration which that pedestrian practice of gun cleaning did back then. 
     Even during those times of farm labor, some of it arduous, the lure of September managed to creep into the crevices of my being, those external crevices soiled and beaded with sweat-soaked dust and plant debris common to harvest. The internal crevices were far more antiseptic, but September reached and excited them as well. The rustle of dried and curled corn stalks giving up their chubby ears of yellow sustenance served as sentinels that stood and shouted: Fall is coming; fall is coming!
     And I would be fully remiss should I neglect the most delightful work-related outdoor endeavor from those days past. This one was cotton picking. Hot, tiring, difficult—but delightful just the same. We had our own family fields, but picking them was often a lonely affair, with perhaps only two of us dragging sacks and stuffing them with fluffy white. The one most entrenched in memory was shared by our little community church. We used the field to generate funds that were placed in the offering on one special day each fall we called Harvest Day. Both the cotton picking and Harvest Day were social gatherings much anticipated by all involved.
     Practically all church members showed up for picking day. The able bodied snatched glowing fibers from fist-sized boles; others cooked stew and made jugs of iced tea. Sweet, of course! And if you have ever crawled into a truck load of freshly-picked cotton, you know the delight. It is a sensory journey like no other.
     While the true essence of autumn did not then nor does now arrive in September, there was and is ample warning of its imminent appearance. And with it comes perhaps the most welcomed change known to the South. That is none other than the cessation of oppression handed out by summer’s sinister grip. This begins to relinquish its hold in autumn. Life is quickened, refreshed. Outside is no longer the place to avoid; rather, it is the place that beckons. It is the place to be.
     September is a reasonable time to enter training for the promises of autumn.

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