BY ED HUNGNESS
---- — Anybody who knows me is well aware that fall is my favorite season.
Shortly after our last summer guests depart, I start to anticipate and look for telltale signs of its approach. Don’t get me wrong, I am not wishing my life away, but I look forward to autumn more than any other season of the year. The first noteworthy indicator is when the ferns along the edge of the forest begin to change from emerald green to a pale yellow. By mid-September they transition from a comforting yellow to an ominous brown.
Shortly after the fading of the ferns, leaves of maple trees along U.S. 131 begin to lighten from their signature deep forest green. On successive trips past the same grove, I observe a progression from yellow to a myriad of bright oranges and reds.
I know it would not be long before I find myself attached to the end of a rake.
The squirrels, chipmunks and birds also know that summer has passed. This year the oak trees are loaded with plump, juicy acorns. Although not suitable for human consumption, squirrels, chipmunks, deer and even some birds make a feast out of them. The slightest breeze sets off a bombardment of ripe acorns falling from above. They land in a staccato on a neighbor’s tin roof making rifle-like cracks before bouncing down to the driveway.
The squirrels and chipmunks not only stuff themselves with these tasty morsels, they busy themselves filling their nests and burrows for when the cold winds blow. Some squirrels bury them in shallow holes they dig in our yard. I often wonder how they remember where they buried them. I have difficulty keeping track of my glasses yet we call them dumb animals.
We have two hummingbird feeders which are kept filled with sugar water throughout spring and summer. Toward the end of September we came to the realization that the hummingbirds were gone. The following week I made a 500 mile trip south to visit my mother. We spent a pleasant afternoon sitting in the garden of the assisted living facility where she resides. I was surprised to still see hummingbirds darting from one feeder to another. One of them looked very familiar and I imagined it being a Fife Lake hummer on its journey south to escape the perils of a Michigan winter.
On Oct. 5, I awoke to a boom-boom, boom-boom-boom.
Instantly, I recognized the familiar sound of a twelve-gauge echoing across the bay. Duck season had begun. I wondered if any of the ducks that spent a lazy August afternoon sleeping and pooping on our dock were destined for a Crock-Pot in the hunter’s kitchen. It reminded me of many hunts with my dad along the Illinois River.
Along with the beauty of fall, come the tasks of preparing for winter. Those beautiful leaves eventually drift to the ground and require raking. The boats that took us fishing and towed the inflated tubes full of grandchildren must be put away until next year. Docks and hoists must be pulled from the lake or succumb to the destructive powers of the ice. Deck furniture needs to be stored away in an already crowded garage and firewood added to the woodpile.
Soon enough winter will arrive.
We Michiganders are a tough lot and are up for anything that nature throws our way. When we get a big storm, we batten down the hatches, build a fire in the fireplace, brew a batch of chili and start a good book.
Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed’s retirement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633