“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Early September and the clouds have flat bottoms; some with gray bellies on their underside, some translucent, opaque and bright.
It’s as if, scuttling along, the earth has somehow scraped or sheared them flat on the underneath side, not yet to the mountains east, but almost cleaved flat, bouncing over the Great Plains, scrubbed by wheat or tall Midwestern corn fields.
Fueled crossing the big muddy river, Delta cotton or soybean fields, flat bottomed and puffy on top.
These clouds drift out of the West in waves. Cowboy clouds, like large herds of cattle, or buffalo before there were cattle baron bred whitefaces to rope in the vast eastern slopes of the Rockies.
Miraculously, our cowboy clouds seem clean of smoke that ravages Idaho and Montana, pushed by hoards of smoke out of California. California which someday, inevitably will no longer have anything left to burn out of control. Maybe concrete and pavement will be the only thing left to burn in that state someday when misguided Californians finally figure out how to control a dry landscape.
When these cowboy clouds show up here locally, I get antsy. These flat bottomed, slow movers portend an end to summer. The end of summer makes the antsy part vibrate.
You can feel it, smell it, taste it, the season has changed. It’s hard to actually see it, but you can feel it, smell it and the odor in the soft night air gently assaults the olfactory. Smoldering scented ragweed, chigger filled, hot ragweed, doves, empty and hard to find shotgun shells litter the field. The smell of the fox squirrel, pungent with the faint odor of green hickory nuts as you slip the red animal into your game bag is there.
The overload of odors wood duck habitat explodes with every twist and turn of acrobatic maneuvers each flock makes as they scream into the decoys.
Even the butterfly and the hummingbird tell you that the old season is ripe for leaving. It’s over, time for a change, time to think about finally moving things in a more southerly direction again.
Too bad chiggers don’t get these not to subtle hints. You know this because you’ve been looking, searching the signs, adrift yourself like some slow moving cowboy cloud. The chiggers still find you this time of year. No matter how many showers, how much clear fingernail polish you slather on the offensive lumps, when you look in the mirror it still looks like you’ve been shot below the belt with a 410 full of number 8s.
Hopefully chiggers and sun burn are not all you’ve amassed from drifting around under the clouds out of the cowboy west.
Patterning things, if you’ve been lucky, should be coming into some kind of hazy focus by now.
Doves wrapped in bacon should be grilled, the patterning of the shotgun should have been the reason for that feast. Deer trails, however faint, are materializing slowly under that big White Oak about now.
The arrows that scattered here-to-an-fro might have been better dialed in by now. Sights, pins, releases, cams, etc., have been wrenched, adjusted, tweaked and reset multiple times. Sore muscles, bad eye sight and any myriad of other cheap excuses should be lounging in the trash about now.
It’s all on you now.
It’s all on all of us now. The flat bottomed cowboy clouds are marching by like a great herd of bovines. Thankfully there is no turning back. The next thing you know the bass and crappie will be back in shallow water and we’ll find ourselves torn between spinner baits and Zara Spooks and shotguns and deer stands.
There’s a couple of Jerry Jeff Walker songs that go well with these clouds of September.
One line from a song about a trip to Belize goes like this;
“Packin up the bathing suits,
Gettin out the cowboy boots,
I guess that’s a sign that we’re finally going home.”
And another JJW song about a cowboy reading a letter in the moon light, “that was as bright as a reading light,“ from an old girlfriend back home who just got married because she thought he had “lost the track and was never coming back, because he must have gone crazy out there,”
It goes kinda like this;
“But they’ve never seen the northern lights,
They’ve never seen a hawk on the wing,
They’ve never spent a spring on the great divide,
And they’ve never heard old camp cookie sing, (yodeling).”
These clouds today, out of the West, like slow moving cattle, they are yodeling to me; chiggers and all.