From the Mountain

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From The Mountain

Mark J. Tidwell

Now don’t get me wrong, fall is always a beautiful time of the year.  Some showcase super-brilliant foliage.  Others are, well, more drab, with less splash and panache.  I would have to personally rank this fall as being a little less spectacular on the scale of falls I’ve experienced. 

At first, the colors began to really show through. But it had been an extraordinarily blazing hot summer, so more crunchy brown leaves began to adorn the woodland scenery.  When we had some blustery weather roll through the area, the leaves succumbed to the forces of wind and gravity by the millions.  It wasn’t long before our forests’ trees were disrobed.  It’s always a little shocking to me to see the woods stand stark and naked before us. After getting used to the greenery of summer, it’s a big change for sure.  Just think how the critters feel in their mountain homes after such a radical change.

Different areas varied in colors and the timing of the leaf-fall.  I had the opportunity to drive across Tennessee in late October to attend some formal training.  I paid close attention as I motored across Tennessee’s Grand Divisions.  Some mountains were bare before ours.  Others had held onto their leaves very tightly.  Some places boasted vivid colors while others were totally drab.  In other words, fall’s storybook of leaves was found to have something different on just about every one of her pages. 

As well, to coincide with the natural changes of fall, mankind likes to spice things up a little bit with our artificially imposed keeping of the clocks.  I loathe the day that Daylight Savings Time ends.  I really enjoy my afternoons.  The long ones during the summer are awesome.  One can have so much fun, or get so much work accomplished.  Now, by the time I arrive home at around six in the afternoon, darkness has its heavy hand in firm control of the situation.  I reckon I’ll be watching some TV indoors instead of enjoying the great outdoors.

The fall sky is back in play now as well.  The starry night sky has been nothing short of awe- inspiring on the cold, clear nights we’ve been experiencing.  I’m thankful we live in a rural setting where the overwhelming lights of a big city can’t dim our view of the heavens.  One of my favorite constellations is Orion, the Hunter.  He’s currently sprawled out across the night sky in dramatic form, complete with his belt and sword. 

I always like to study the Big Dipper too.  It sure is handy in finding one’s way.  Just look at the outer two stars of the cup end, Dubhe and Merak.  Then look about five times the distance those two stars are apart, directly in the line they form, and there will be the North Star hanging above, named Polaris.  From our vantage point here on earth, all the other stars in the sky appear to rotate around Polaris.

One big thing in nature that lots of locals are keeping up with right now is the antics of the whitetail deer.  For that critter population, it’s the time of year they think about getting together to create the next generation of whitetails.  Bucks are currently “rubbing” on trees to mark their territories, in ways that biologists, and hunters, think we can interpret.  But will we ever really, truly know what deer are actually thinking, doing, or communicating?    “Scrapes” are also abundant; places where deer paw at the ground.  These can be made, or visited, by both deer sexes. 

At any rate, it’s almost a Wild West aura out there among the resident deer and deer-hunter populations.  Only the deer’s incurable drive for sex makes it so vulnerable to hunters this time of year.  Lots of bucks will be gracing den walls and hanging above fireplaces soon due to such strong instinct. I can’t rightly say whether it’s the deer hunter, or the actual deer, that gets the nuttiest in the fall.  I hunted them for years, so I know full well the unexplainable spell chasing a big antlered critter can cast upon a hunter.  It takes more than the North Star for some of us to navigate back to sanity after a season of chasing lovelorn deer all over the hills and hollows of our beautiful fall and winter woods.