Leaves That Are Green Turn to Brown

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Sam and I walked in the early morning darkness the other day after the first blue Norther blew through. I was bundled up against the wind, Sam frisky and tugging against the leash, clearly enjoying the drop in temperatures. Leaves skittered across the pavement, which made a naturally skittish dog occasionally flinch. Even after more than two years of affection and living the good life, Sam still bears psychic scars. He was clearly mistreated before my Beautiful Mystery Companion found him lying up the hill in the street in 2012, with matted smelly fur and a look of resignation in his eyes. He had given up. Either that or he sensed my BMC would be an easy target for a stray dog lying in the street.

Sam, a poodle/cocker spaniel mix according to folks who know these things, became a project. It took a few months before he could be trusted inside unattended. He is not the brightest light on the porch, but what Sam lacks in intelligence he makes up for in loyalty and affection. And he will walk with us until the cows come home, often doing 3.5 miles with me in the morning, and the same distance that afternoon with my BMC.

As we walked along, the sun began to rise, sending thin beams of light through the trees, illuminating the changing foliage. Autumn is my favorite season, with its changing light and array of colors. The brightest colors come from the trashiest trees, and the scrubby, weedy brush along the road. It is their brief moment of glory before winter’s chill strips them of their leaves, and they are relegated to weed status once again.


Driving to work an hour later, I drank in the scenery along the route: the rolling and always manicured pasture dotted with round bales after a recent — and final — cutting. The Bradford Pear trees in residential yards are turning a deep shade of red, and the sycamore tree with its brilliant shade of yellow always turns my head.

A pair of oak trees anchor what apparently once was a picnic area on the long slow curve on the southern outskirts of Pittsburg. I have watched with sadness as one of these stately trees slowly dies. A crew came out during the summer and cut off a couple large limbs that had turned brown. Now another limb, probably 30 feet long, is also dying. I don’t hold out much hope for the tree, but perhaps the still-green half will survive.


At our house, which has about 50 trees of all varieties in the front and back yards — pine, oak, maple, sweetgum, Japanese maple — it looks like a spindly hardwood out front has also bitten the dust. Its leaves turned brown in August, never a good sign. We’ll wait until spring before pronouncing it dead and turning it into firewood. I hate to see trees die, but they have lifespans like all God’s creatures.

With autumn’s arrival, I relinquish yard duties that are relatively light in spring and summer. A man and his teen-aged son show up every Saturday and blow and bag leaves for $35, truly a bargain since it would take me at least half a day. They work fast and can usually finish in an hour or so, leaving a half-dozen or so large bags at the curb. The first year we moved in, I raked and bagged nearly 150 30-gallon sacks since I wasn’t working and couldn’t justify paying someone else. Talk about a strong incentive to seek employment.

Fall also means the swimming pool has been covered and winterized, pumps shut down and drained. That means for the next five months I won’t have to worry about something breaking that costs me money. The old saw goes that getting one’s first swimming pool marks the second-happiest day of your life. You can probably guess what will be the happiest day. A friend told me before we bought this house that owning a pool is the equivalent of walking out there and tossing a couple C-notes into the water every month. He has been proven right. Never again, once the time comes to downsize and move, in about 18 months.

This weekend, we once more will gather around the outdoor firepit on the deck, visiting with a friend and grilling a couple steaks. There is something compelling about a crackling fire warding off the night chill as darkness surrounds us. As I build a fire and keep it going while we tell war stories, I am always reminded of country editor William Allen White’s adage: “There are three things that no one can do to the entire satisfaction of anyone else: poke the fire, make love and edit a newspaper.”

Wise words from a famous sage.


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