Autumn By Committee

 Living in what is considered the “deep south”, one often hears people bemoan the fact that there “is no fall here”. Those people are not paying attention. Autumn is subtle season here, but it exists. It is late, rather elongated and blends seamlessly into winter, but if you’re paying attention the signs are unmistakable.

Young Gum trees are among the most enthusiastic participants. At frost’s first nip they exuberantly all turn astonishing shades of crimson, scarlet and brilliant orange. Older Gum trees tend to be more cautious and wait awhile before allowing some of their branches, or possibly only the tips of their branches, to turn more subdued shades of the same colors.

 As the morning air begins to develop an invigorating chill (under 65 degrees) Beeches and Willows turn a clear, intense yellow and a paler lemon color, respectively. Bamboo (not necessarily a native, but we have plenty) turns an oddly confusing shade of chartreuse that might make you think it was spring. Tall white flowers of the Aster family begin to bloom in the road ditches and waste places, adding a silvery sheen. Leaves begin blowing across the road.

 About this time, if you happen to be driving through the small town of Jena, LA., you will find the town decorated with pumpkins. On Main Street all of the businesses create ‘pumpkin people’ for something called the “Fall Festival”. Most of these ‘pumpkin persons’ are doing things relevant to the business that created them, so you are likely to see pumpkins staged in small cars in front of the car lot, pumpkins eating a feast at a picnic table beside the restaurant (let’s hope they are not eating pumpkin pie!) and pumpkins drinking coffee on a bench in front of the café.

 Some of the actions being perpetrated by these pumpkin creations are inexplicable. I have never been able to decide WHAT the ones in front of the bank are doing and can see no reason why the ones in front of the clothing store are inevitably ensconced on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, but the ones on hay bale pews in front of the church are easy to figure out. Many of these figures hold signs saying, “Happy Fall Y’all !”. A friendly and cheering sentiment, I think.

 Thanksgiving dinner usually heralds the final harvest of the peas and tomatoes, as a killing frost tends to follow shortly afterward. By December the oak trees quietly turn brown and true winter begins to settle in….but for now,




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