One of my most vivid memories of fall happened during junior high. I was standing in the end zone prior to the start of a game. I could barely feel my fingers and toes.
It was October, but it was unusually cold (Al Gore had yet to invent global warming). My shoulder pads, helmet, and other gear typically made me sweat profusely in the Arkansas heat and humidity. But a cold front, and the rain that pushed it through, had arrived.
I remember looking into the lights at the other end of the field and seeing the misty rain turn to small drops, then large pelting drops, and thinking, “It will take forever to get through this game.”
That was over 40 years ago.
But, despite the drastic weather shifts that have been typical for Arkansas, Texas, and other parts of the South for centuries (sorry, Al Gore), fall is, hands down, the best season of the year. Even though it lasts two to three weeks at best.
Fall is always a much more preferable time of year – much more so than the other three seasons in the south: Mosquito, Humid, and Humid and Mosquito.
Sure, winter is a nice one too, but in the south, winter is just a slightly colder version of fall that also only lasts two to three weeks.
Spring is great, unless you’re an allergy sufferer (if you live in East Texas, you live in one of the absolute worst allergy places in America), and summer comprises all of the other three aforementioned seasons of Mosquito, Humid, and Humid and Mosquito.
I have friends and relatives who live up north. Two things have always amazed me about their lives. Some of them have no air conditioning in their homes (this is the most difficult-to-process fact when visiting them) and they only have to mow their yards for a few weeks out of the year.
I’m fairly certain that it’s the same few weeks that I’m skeet shooting mosquitoes when I’m not taking refuge in my air conditioning.
But, fall in the south truly is something special. It’s too cold for mosquitoes, but not so cold that I have to wear a jacket.
There’s not much else that is more satisfying in the fall than heading down to my shop before light on a crisp morning and plugging in my parents’ old percolator. While I wait for the sound of it to stop and the red light to come on, I clean out the ashes from the shop wood stove and load it with twigs and other kindling.
Pouring myself a cup of percolator coffee (there is none better), I sip the strong brew and stare through the open doors of the shop at the misty haze that hovers above the last coastal that will make this year in the pasture.
The crackling of the fire tells me it is ready for a load of wood. Closing the shop doors behind me, I make my way to the wood stove, turning on my old RCA tabletop radio on the way. The volume knob crackles before George Jones, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, and others begin to sing.
It is early, so it is likely that the disc jockey, farmers, cops, firemen, donut shop folk, and convenience store employees, are the only others who join me up at this hour.
I know this from my 20-plus years of doing a morning radio show. These days, I still rise early. A habit that never left me even after I moved on from broadcasting.
The fire has now caught. The crackle has turned into a slight roar. The draw of air through the door of the wood stove brushes the flames as it passes over the wood and up the flue. The heat from the cast iron stove emanates against the concrete walls and reflects into the room.
I warm my hands around my coffee mug and stand with my back to the stove. George Jones sings of lost love and too much whiskey.
With the shop now plenty warm, I push the doors and prop them open. The birds announce the sunrise. A few houses over, so does a rooster.
The pond is now visible; the mist above it slowly clearing. I can see fish flipping. I wait for the doe and her fawn, who often come by the pond at daylight for a drink and some quiet time.
I eye the wood pile. There’s enough for now, but I will need to split more soon. I grab two more sticks, open the door on the stove, and add the wood to the fire. The fresh wood pops. I pour myself another cup of coffee.
Like my friends up north, I have reached the time of year where I won’t have to mow. The grass has begun its brief, East Texas nap. I contemplate taking one myself in front of the wood stove.
I hear thunder. In the southwest, I see it rolling in. The small drops create a wall that makes its way over the hill in my neighbor’s pasture, before rolling over the pond. The small drops turn to large ones.
Suddenly, I hear the rain hitting the roof of the shop. The air turns colder. I back closer to the stove. The warmth feels good.
This time, I’m not in a game, and I don’t wish for this to hurry up and be over. I know that I don’t have another 40 years. But, if life could stay like this moment, I’d take the fall.
©2018 John Moore
John’s book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Write-Passage-Southerners-View-Then/dp/1548144983. Email John at John@TheCountryWriter.com.