“A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, too, have known autumn too long.” E. E. Cummings
There have been too many days spent lately sitting in a tree. So many in fact, there was one particularly slow day when a half hearted and desperate attempt was made to catalog them all.
That happens when you sit in a tree and things don’t seem to go the way you expect them to go.
The earth rotates so very slowly when you sit in a tree.
No speed involved.
I just finally gave up trying to count the recent fall days spent sitting in a tree. Counting the hours became somewhat like slowly suffocating in some strange kind of negative thought. Spending mornings, afternoons, in a tree, should not be considered a near negative sort of thing, so I just gave it up.
There were slow days when it rained briefly, silent, wet and soggy. There were days the gold and red leaves of a glorious autumn rained down with a vengeance, noisily, like the clattering hoof beats of ponies.
There were days when nuts cascaded down like a Nebraska prairie hail storm. There were slow days when not much else happened other than the slowly evolving cadence of a resplendent Tennessee fall that has repeatedly transpired for millennials past.
It’s definitely a good thing to be a part of all that, sitting in a tree. But after more than a few slow days of that sort of thing it kind of tends to wear on you a little. It gnaws on you some when the deer you’re after don’t seem to want to walk under that particular tree that was selected as a suitable killing perch.
Oh sure, there were plenty of other distractions to keep you occupied while sitting in those trees. The absolute glory of Tennessee’s autumn should be more than enough. This most recent one was exceptional. I’ll grant you that fact.
There were turkey flocks and squirrels that pumped the adrenal gland to near empty. Even the occasional coyote managed that, on slow moving days, when the deer didn’t seem to want to make an appearance.
One particular large and obnoxiously loud Fox squirrel comes to mind when I think back on it. This big black headed and white tipped nosed tree climber took the better part of a recent morning, loudly turning over every other leaf under my tree on White Oak Mountain. This slow moving squirrel foraging cacophony drug on for the better part of three or four hours.
After filling his gut with every choice nut he could manage, the big red squirrel decided to take a nap at the foot of my oak. I found a sense of relief that he had finally found the time in his busy and very noisy day to finally take a much needed break.
The spot he decided to nap and digest his prodigious stomach full of nuts, was at the base of my perch. There was this old rotting log, glowing green with a healthy crop of moss that must have seemed to the old squirrel to be the perfect mattress for squirrel slumber.
I watched him fold his beefy little forearms for a pillow, splash down in the moss and go into a deep, deep slumber. I wasn’t sure if Fox squirrels snored at this point. Now I’m dead certain this old tree climber snored as loudly as every old Uncle in your family, who ate too much at Granny’s Thanksgiving table, and collapsed in front of the TV.
As this nap unfolded, I envisioned that the old squirrel was a decent candidate for hawk bait. His red hide glowed in the autumn sun like neon. He somehow seemed to understand that no hawk could spot him in the red leaf carpet that surrounded the old moss covered napping log.
I wondered how long the Squirrel had lived. How long had it been since the rotting tree fell horizontal? I pondered how long it had taken for the moss to grow to the point that the old squirrel had decided that this particular bed was suitable for a good sun soaked respite.
Time is a funny thing to calculate, as the fall rotates so slowly. Slow moving thoughts abound when you’re sitting all day in a tree.
Often times, the very passing of time, the movement of the sun, seems to drag on and on when you’re sitting in a tree.
But, while in a tree, passing time, there are a multitude of other distractions. Modern distractions from addictive things like mobile phones and texts.
These distractions should not be a part of spending a fall day in tree, but they are inevitably with you nonetheless. I try not to notice, but invariably I succumb to their distraction. I’m not sure why, but I look. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do, but I look anyway.
There are those people out there wanting me to make sure I know that my warranty on a 1997 jeep with 204,000 miles has expired. I hate that. There seems to be some concern about enrollment in some overly expensive Medi-gap plan. I don’t think this sort of thing is legitimate. There is some nonsense about the Police being defunded by Socialists. I hang up.
But there are the other texts. Messages from like minded souls sitting in trees, complete with photographs of big deer. Big deer from buddies that have chosen trees more wisely than I. Happy fall faces all, complete with large racks and smiling tree sitters standing in the golden leaf strewn patch of fall. Standing proud, next to some trophy, the likes of which we will probably never see again.
There is even one text that includes a high quality trail camera picture of a Mentone Alabama cougar. I love this text.
Time in a tree drags on and on at times. I look at the watch about every fifteen minutes. I know I shouldn’t. I do it reflexively. Bad habits die hard when you’re in a tree all day.
Sunrise - Toes are surely ready for amputation from frost bite. I’ve never seen a deer from a tree at sunrise. It doesn’t matter. You have to climb trees in the dark. Everybody knows that. Today’s the day!
08:00 - I don’t think I remember many shots at a deer before 08:00. Today is the day! Forget that we got in the tree at 05:30. I wonder if the frozen trigger finger is up to the task.
09:30 - I seem to remember in past years seeing many deer at 09:30. Today’s the day!
11:00 - The first deer I ever shot was at 11:00. Never forget that Oconee River buck. 11:00 is magic. Today’s the day!
12:00 - About every three years or so there seems to be a buck that trots by about noon. Today’s the day for sure!
After noon, calculation of time passage gets really strange. It seems to somehow magically drag you into nap time. Nap time in a tree can get pretty dicey. All manner of strange and dangerous things happen to those that nap in trees.
Then this text woke me up.
The message was from a buddy who routinely travels west of the Mississippi to chase birds that live in swamps. The text was a veritable photo filled extravaganza.
It was titled, “10 LIMITS in 95 MINUTES!”
The operative word here seemed to be the use of the word “LIMITS”.
Limits are important I guess, but the use of the word is all in the context.
I remember girls in High School that had limits. These limits were routinely established in the back seat of my car on a seemingly ad hoc basis.
I seem to remember limits being established by local law enforcement agencies as they were stuffing my sorry behind in the smelly back seat of their squad car.
And there may have been a few transgressions that went far beyond the limits of decency with respect to the lack of common sense occasionally displayed here and there.
All very regrettable of course, but, nevertheless, you just can’t fix stupid.
10 LIMITS in 95 MINUTES!
And then it hit me. What does speed have to do with it?
Why is the calculation of speed important when it comes to limits?
Does speed imply some unique level of expertise?
Does speed imply that there is some over arching level of skill?
Does the time it takes to kill 10 limits of birds mean that birds may in fact be more stupid than we think?
Does the speed with which we dispatch a flock of birds, who more than likely have never been hunted before, mean something other than we shot a bunch of young, or stupid, birds in some strange, or untimely fashion?
What does speed have to do with all of this?
Why is speed important here?
For that matter what is it that makes the word LIMIT important?
When you’re in a tree for hours at a time, these kind of strange and obtuse questions seem to weigh on your mind.
There is not much speed to think of when you sit in tree from sunrise to sunset. This is especially true when there are no deer to entertain you.
Speed, to those who sit in trees, may only seem to matter in the last hour of the day.
The sun turns a different shade of dull light in the last hour of the day. The very rotation of the earth appears to speed up in the last hour of each day of fall.
The sun light in the last hour of the day is the thing that photographers lust after. There is a glorious glow, a strange dullness accompanied by a soft colored hue that strangely elicits a different feeling in the last hour of every crisp fall day.
Grays become different in shade, yellows and reds change to something subtely unique.
The turkeys loudly flap off the forest floor and settle in their trees for the chill of the fall night.
Crepuscular creatures begin to stir. Owls, coons, possums, foxes, and coyotes begin to stalk, and talk, and roam about for their nocturnal feeding frenzy.
Everyone who sits in tree in the fall knows that this is the hour that the big deer of a lifetime surely shows up, hungry, scent checking, ready for receptivity. Today is the day!
Speed is important in every tree stand in this last hour. The day is going, going, gone. Last light, last chance, last dance with destiny. Today’s the day!
In the end, what does speed and limits have to do with it?