Country Roads, Take Me Home

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My favorite month has arrived. November brings fall foliage, predictably cooler temperatures, Thanksgiving and the end to Daylight Saving Time. I awake at first light unless there is a reason to set an alarm. Since I largely work an afternoon/evening shift at the library, there is seldom a reason.

That means I don’t awaken at the tail end of DST until 7:00 or so, sometimes later. This makes me feel like I am already running behind on my morning routine — working out, writing, researching — all the activities I try to get done before heading to work. Now it will get dark earlier, but sunrise will be about 6:30. I welcome the change and rising earlier to face the day.

While November is my favorite reason for the above reasons and more, you will never hear me say, “I can’t wait (fill in the blank.)” As was pointed out to me a few months back on my birthday, I have lived two-thirds of a century. I try hard to savor every day, even when it’s 100 degrees outside. No sense rushing matters. Better to count your blessings and enjoy every sandwich, as Warren Zevon said. Indeed.

I had to go to Dallas the other day for a doctor’s appointment. I left at 5:15 a.m. (definitely used an alarm), so I spent a couple of hours of driving in the dark, followed by getting stuck on Central Expressway in morning rush-hour traffic. I muttered a prayer of thanks that this is not my daily routine, as it is for most of the other folks crowded together on the freeway. My days of big-city living are long over.

The drive home was considerably more pleasant. While the fall foliage in Northeast Texas suffered from the drought, there were still plenty of trees showing off their vibrant colors — especially the so-called trash trees and brush along fence lines, which invariably possess the most intense color. Once past Tyler, I took the backroads home, through Winona, Big Sandy and Gilmer, from where I can get to No-Name Farm along some lovely country roads. This likely takes a bit longer than staying on I-20 all the way to Longview, but that interstate has become clogged with 18-wheelers. It is not a pleasant driving experience.

The back roads provide a lot more scenery as well. Sometimes the trees nearly hug the road, the breeze skittering leaves across the asphalt. I was finally enjoying the drive, admiring the cows grazing, a trio of horses running across a pasture, round bales of hay lying in fields — the last cutting until late spring.

The last leg of this backroads route is a narrow oil-top road maintained by Upshur County, whose boundary is about a quarter mile from our place. One drives slowly, eyes out for approaching vehicles — especially large pickups with extended side mirrors. I am in a Toyota Rav, so there is little danger of running out of space on this road. I always extend a one-fingered wave from the steering wheel as we pass, which is usually returned.

As I topped a hill, I spied a cypress tree standing in a pond, its needles a deep shade of burnt orange. I made a mental note to return the next morning just after the sun rose to take a photograph. That is the Golden Hour for photography, the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, I tell my students.

A heavy fog was beginning to lift about 8 a.m. as I headed to the cypress pond. I stopped to photograph a barn on the Melton farm, mainly as a memory to Mickey Melton, who went out of his way to befriend me when I first came to Texas as a 12-year-old and joined Boy Scout Troop 201. Mickey left us far too early a dozen years ago.

I had to drive by the pond, turn around in someone’s gated driveway and head the other way to get the best angle on the pond. I climbed up the bar ditch to the fence line and composed the image. I was happy with the result, which accompanies this piece.

I hope the days of November pass slowly, as I do all days, though they seem to fly by despite my wishes. Still, I am grateful for the beauty of this time of year and the chance to enjoy it. Now I think I’ll go make a sandwich.

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