White Oak Mountain Ranger: August Cold Front?

Monday, August 15, 2022

“This is a moment in autumn when the leaves are still curling on the trees and the leaves that have fallen on the ground are in equilibrium; dry gold pools spreading under gold crested oaks. Then the yards and the forest floor seem to match the treetops, as if all the trunks rose out of ankle deep water on which a palette of red-gold leaves reflected.” - Mellisa Faye Green


Now is the time to focus on leaves.

Pay special attention to the leaves on the Black Walnuts and the Figs. When the first few weeks of August is dry, these two particular trees will rather subtly indicate the start of the backside of what we’ve been going through for the last few months.


For some strange, out of character reason, the first few long days of this month haven’t been particularly dry, but bear with me.


The slow, revolving of the season, we refer to as summer, is on the very precipice of change. It’s almost imperceptible, but if you pay really close attention, really be intense about your focus, you’ll pick up the very slight, the almost indistinguishable, change in the color of these leaves.


There are those folklorists that predict fall and winter with corn husk thickness, wooly worms fur density, counts of the fog days in August (I count 3 so far), and other strange things that really don’t make a lot of sense now days. It’s relatively easy to give up on many of these ancient signs. But, just trust me on the leaves changing color on the Black Walnut. It’s ‘dead nuts on’ as good an indicator as you can get for portending ‘old summer’ has begun the slow slide away into early fall.


It may help, if somewhere in your long ago past, you’ve experienced some formal training, or a form of tutelage in the fine art of painting on a canvas. If you have, then maybe some lofty painting instructor espoused the following theory; “No ‘good painter’ ever uses the color of paint that can be squeezed out of a tube. A really ‘good painter’ should always strive to create his or her own shade of every color, for every single stroke of paint, laid by brush to canvas.” 


So watch these leaves closely, and if you’re perceptive, you’ll see the shade and hew of these leaves transform from one, or maybe two, slighter, lighter, shades of green. They’ll slowly change to some shade that was, oh so slightly, a little less green than the day before. It’s happening. I’ve seen it. Trust me on this. It’s quite real.


The last thing I painted was a barn. The paint came in heavy five gallon buckets. Paint containers, that when emptied, could easily be re-purposed into uncomfortable dove stools.


There appeared to be no reason to try to add any ‘burnt sienna’ to the barn paint bucket like the old painting Professor once espoused. This was because the old painting professor, was what we called in those days, a ‘flake’. He wore funny looking shoes that made him always appear a ‘little light in his loafers’. He was prone to crank up Mozart when everyone else in the painting class was listening to the Allman Brothers.


The eighth month of the year is such a confusing and strange month. It somehow makes you focus on leaves. Focusing on the hope that fall has gradually, somehow agonizingly slowly, BEGUN. 


I’m not especially tired of summer though. Weary of weed eaters and weed eater string replacements? Yes, you bet!


Worn out from stumbling into yellow jackets in places where you’ve never found yellow jackets before? For sure!


Even the bird dog has settled into prolonged battles with massive skin irritation. The list of reasons for August needing to go rapidly away seems at times to be intolerably lengthy.


When you spot the first small leaves of the Black Walnut fluttering, exhausted into the tall grass below, it’s time to start searching.


Where did that box of AA, # 9 shot get hidden? If needed (hopefully not), is there any steel shot left? When was the last time you tried to load any low brass # 8s? Has the side by side, the one with the improved cylinders, potentially been slowly rusting from too lengthy a time in hiding? Where did the dove stool get stored? Are there as many doves this year? And, who has planted their fields? Is it the right time for a three county road trip looking for permission to shoot doves? Why can’t we just put all this stuff in the same place year after year? What happened to the bottle of Hoppes #9?


The search for all of this temporarily lost, abandoned and extensive missing inventory may take a few August weeks to locate. The search process invariably starts in what the wife disgustedly refers to as the ‘the old smelly camo closet’. This is the single closet in the ranch house that I was able to commandeer for the long term storage of treasures related to the great art of hunting, fishing and camping. Survival gear storage of various vintages, crammed to the very limit, for any extended adventure short of nuclear war. 


She constantly reminds me of the time a ‘doe in heat buck bomb’ unexpectedly exploded in the camo closet and we had to spend a few days at the nearest ‘No Tell Motel’ until the house was once again habitual.


This is the kind of closet where you have to take half of everything in it, out of it, to get to what you think is in it. Rummaging in this closet is a labor of love in August. It’s by far the best closet in the house as far as I’m concerned.


While you find yourself floundering through these September dove hunting related searches it suddenly dawns on you that you may not have to agonizingly wait until September to scratch this recurring August itch.


Some very sharp pencil in the State’s wildlife organization recently invented something they refer to as “Velvet Hunting.” During the last few days of August, we have been authorized to fling arrows at bucks, as long as those deer have horns, smothered in a unique coating of velvet, and protrude at least three inches from their bony little skulls.


The marvelous thoughts of hanging suspended in a tree in August and of a giant velvet wall hanger, both expands and speeds up the searching process. Now you have to find, or maybe even purchase, a whole new set of paraphernalia. The nightmare prospect of purchasing anything new is always fraught with fear. This terror of spending large and inflated amounts of disposable income on new gear just adds to the anxiety of August searches.


Every single, badly damaged, broad-head you can find, if you’re lucky, seems to indicate that last year you decided to shoot rocks with all of your arrows, instead of shooting deer. On top of that, there is this pressing question; ‘Where exactly did I store the rusty tree stand and all of the safety gear that is designed to hang me in the tree when I fall asleep and fall out of the tree stand?’


Another probing problem surfaces about this time every August. Can you even pull the bow back and hold it for the requisite 5 to 15 seconds necessary to unleash an arrow into any location relatively near the area where the arrows should intersect with a foam practice target?


This perplexing little question leads you immediately back to the search for where you hid the extra string for the dreaded weed eater. One good thing about weed eaters, and it may be one of the only good things about weed eaters, is that they can, and often do, assist in finding arrows that sailed away into that spot in the big field of ragweed where you missed the practice target by about two feet.


The down side of hunting arrows in the weeds with a weed eater, is that 9 out of 10 times, when you actually do manage to find a hidden arrow, the weed eater has eaten all of the fletching off of the arrow. Sometimes in August it feels as if you just can’t win.


But, one good thing about this month is that it makes you look longingly to the future.


Soon, we can open the windows at night.


Some folks wait out the agonizing heat of these frantic August searches. I can’t say that I blame them much. Looking to the future without heat sounds pretty good even if you don’t want to shower small birds with lead. There’s always college football to look forward to.


We’re slowly getting closer by the day to being able to watch millionaire college football players, who have transferred from multiple schools, to play for new multimillionaire football coaches. Coaches who grumble about transfer portals and other school’s players who are getting paid way to much money from other school’s boosters. Who’d want to miss all that fall pageantry?


Doves, deer, wood ducks, teal, squirrels and football are on the very near horizon again. The leaves tell me the future is imminent. Let the big search begin, again.


There’s nothing like the smell of a big, cool field of ragweed and Hoppes #9 in the August morning.


WOMR Note;

One faithful reader commented that he was sure he might have had a rather testy encounter with Joe D in a bar parking lot in Dayton, one night about closing time. I’m dead certain that there’s a lot more to that particular “whoopin” that the reader was unwilling to divulge.


Send comments to whiteoakmtnranger@gmail.com

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