It’s chilly outside. Colors are at peak — maybe a bit past, depending on where one looks. A damp cutting breeze is trimming leaves into great clouds of kaleidoscopic flakes onto earthen carpets where, except in the ‘burbs, they will become fertilizer for next years’ growth rings on the trees from which they fall.
Red maples, yellow poplars. Across the pasture over which Pickett’s Charge took place, Little Round Top wears horizontal stripes where different species have chosen different growing areas.
Of all the seasons, I like Fall best, though I’m glad there are more than one season. Fall, though, has the explosion of colors that makes a person want to go out and shout for joy, loudly, from a mountain — or at least from the edge of nearby wood.
Spring is my second favorite season, when green pushes through the ground and punctuates patches of brown in what is left of the previous month’s snow and Winter is quietly shooed out of the way of Summer.
Fall! What an explosion – like the finale of a nine-month-long fireworks show following the ground display in which seeds pop open and tiny plants poke up from the earth in random bursts of green, whites, purples, yellows – each hue in it’s own small place in the yard and nearby wood, sparkling across the land in brief bursts of celebration. Trees take on the hues of their buds, changing softly as their leaves unfurl.
When I was a youngster, still dreaming of teen-dom, I helped bring in hay for the cattle’s winter sustenance. I learned to use a scythe to cut the browning grass, and a wide, wooden-toothed rake to pull it into rows. When it was sufficiently dry, we hitched the John Deere to a wagon with tall fence-like sides over which, as the trailer moved down the field, several of us would pitch the hay with a three-fingered fork called, fittingly, a pitchfork, into the wagon.
At the barn, a large two-prong fork hung from a track poking out the window near the roof peak, a rope connecting it to a huge (to me, then) Percheron work horse at the other end of the barn. Someone backed the horse, lowering the fork into the hay wagon, where it grabbed a ball of hay about the size of a three-quarter ton pickup. The horse moved forward and the ball of hay was elevated to track-height, then pulled into the barn, where it released the hay ball, adding to the mattress that young people screamingly launched into from the rafters.
One could build up a fine set of muscles pitching hay. But balers got bigger, and the huge blocks – or wheels – of winter feed are stacked out in the field, sometimes wrapped in white plastic for protection against winter rain and snow. And fewer teenage workers are needed. Which is OK, because those hard-packed bales are too hard for jumping into, even if they could be stacked in the barn.
And young hands that squeezed milk from the cows – and sometimes squirted warm white streams at waiting cats – have been replaced with automatic milkers that fit over the cows’ teats and suck the milk into pipes that carry it to refrigerated vats. The cows come in from pasture, step onto a merry-go-round, and the milker automatically attaches itself. By the time the platform has completed a circuit, its milk has been drawn, the cow has left the barn, and another bovine has taken its place.
I’m old enough now to remember much of the work wasn’t as fun as I’m young enough to reminisce it being. But the leaves still change, and I don’t need the job.