Friday, October 26, 2007

The Rain [CCR]

After a long hot summer rain has finally come to our area. Before moving to Tennessee we were deluged in Ohio rainstorms and didn’t really appreciate the true need back home. Today is different. The heavy gray clouds puffed with rain droplets falling steadily are a welcome guest. So far, the rain here has been heavy at times, but without all the wind and lightning.

Alabama has always enjoyed a reputation of having lush green forests spread among our rural areas and the high humidity of the South has always insured that reputation was true. Grandmother Daily’s house sat amid the trees of Mountain Springs and held the wonderful smells of summer flora. But the best smell came with the onset of a summer rainstorm. The falling rain gently cleaned the air and gave some cool relief to the heat even if the storm added to the humidity.

The lucky folks still had tin roofs. Many people today would never imagine having a tin roof on their house. I assure you they are missing out on the pleasures of a summer rainstorm. Under a tin roof the storm begins as a gentle plopping that slowly builds to a steady roar. The continual drumming is just loud enough to lull even the most alert to a lazy summer nap. If you wander into one of those fancy gadget stores you will find fancy noise machines that emulate that very sound to encourage relaxation or sleep.

At Grandmother’s house we could sit in a chair on the porch and watch the heavy clouds empty their refreshment on the ground, trees, and Grandmother’s flowers. The children would sneak out into the rain to play and feel the wetness of the rain while splashing through the puddles. Grandmother didn’t seem to mind.

Then almost as sudden as the rain arrived the steady beat began to slow. The sun would find cracks in the clouds to peak out and once again declare its dominance. On a hot afternoon the steam would rise from the cool wet grass and the humidity rise to the famous levels known in the South. But the refreshing cleanliness of the air hung around to remind us of the blessing we and our plant friends just received.

Today I will drive home in the rain, facing some traffic until I finally break out of the metro limits and onto the country road leading to my house. I may mumble something about the roads and maybe the fogging of my windshield. But then I will remember that the rain is a blessing that brings new life to our wonderful home. Yet again I am reminded that in all things we should give thanks and enjoy the wonderful journey of life.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Outdoor Life [CCR]

My new house in Tennessee restores my enjoyment of rural life and the great Southern tradition of sitting on the front porch. Many evenings my children will be doing their homework or entertaining themselves with the various electronic contraptions located throughout our house when I sneak out to the front porch to sit and listen. From this solitude you can hear the dogs around the area barking or other nightlife. In the hours before dawn you can hear a rooster crowing in the distance. But this particular evening I hear a familiar sound.

As a small child growing up in North Alabama Dad frequently beckoned us outdoors to hear the ever famous hoot owl amidst the nighttime air. For those who wish the more accurate name, the Barred Owl or Strix varia. Either way, the familiar “hoot” is easily recognizable as it echoes through the night.

Alabama folks are lucky to have several varieties of owls populating the area, including the Barn Owl. These owls were very useful in keeping rodents away from our winter barn stash, but they didn’t carry the excitement of stepping outside to hear that familiar call of their relative.

The hoot owl frequently made its presence known on our coon hunting trips or near an evening hunting camp when sharing stories before the glowing embers of a fire. These owls are a familiar accompaniment to the evening sounds of the Alabama nights. Dad always made sure we all paused and listened to the familiar call.

Now I sit quietly on the front porch with the lights out to avoid the onslaught of the insect population. I can hear my familiar sound. Maybe the creature was rustled awake by the dogs or maybe he is calling for an evening meal. I’m not sure the reason, but the sound makes me long to hear the familiar hoot owl. My recognized sound is not that of a hoot owl, or any fowl for that matter. It is the humble call of a simple domesticated animal who has served us for thousands of years, a donkey.

I’m not sure if this donkey jostled my memory of the hoot owl or if the cool crisp air brought memories of hurrying to the front porch and listening intently for the owl. But it is pleasant to know my friend is adding his part for the harmony of the evening and is no less a part of nature. Maybe tomorrow night the hoot owl will join the melody with his rhythmatic call and once again I will be taken back to those evenings on a front porch stoup in Alabama.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fall [CCR]

Fall is here again and along with that colorful season comes the annual gathering of the leaves that overtake our yards after displaying their multicolored grandeur. Over the years we learn that we can identify the tree by its true leaf color along with the bark. I don’t know if I have met anyone better at that identification process than Dad, but I am sure many people know the secret.

Leaf changing weather often meant rides to Granddaddy Daily’s house because traveling to his house included a trip through the less populated area in the hills we called mountains. Mountain Springs always had a highly diverse population of flora that shared an equal diverse amount of color. Even over the brief time of maximum color the trees presented a show almost unmatchable by Mother Nature’s other annual events. And it signaled a break from the long hot summer days and an avid anticipation of winter celebrations such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It also meant cooler weather to gather the last remaining needs of firewood for the winter, relieving us somewhat from the summer sweat.

Family gatherings in the fall were not unusual, gathering at Granddaddy Daily’s house for a deer hunt. Yes, we cheated many times, using the dogs to drive the unsuspecting game right through our target area. Uncle Ezell often carried the duty of handling the dog drive while we waited on the hills and ridges, listening as the dogs picked up the scent of our prey. But nevertheless it was a family event that brought an already close family even closer together and giving us young folks a chance to prove ourselves.

One of the more festive events for the younger folks was handling the leaves that filled Granddaddy’s yard. I guess today’s conservationist might cringe at our antics, but the event was worth every moment of a child’s fascination. We first gathered the leaves in piles that meant a soft landing for jumping kids, but after our light scolding for redistributing the leaves, we raked again, placing the leaves in neat parallel rows. An uncle would light one end of the leaves and the children made a game out of avoiding the twist of the smoke plume in the swift fall breeze. The smell was unforgettable and introduced the soon familiar smell of the curling smoke spiral of the resident chimneys filling the air with the scent of winter.

Many family members used the excuse of helping Granddaddy Daily clear the leaves scattered across the yard. But I fully believe each of us sought the event each year as another opportunity to rekindle the family bond and regenerate the spirit that holds the Daily family together today. The grandchildren have grown older now and our parents have grandchildren of their own. Today we build fancy compost piles that slowly rot into fertilizer for those of us maintaining gardens. But few of us can deny the joy of the annual leaf burnings and pre-holiday dinners prepared by Grandmother.

This weekend Chrissie is coming up to visit us during her fall break at UNA. I am hoping the weatherman has missed his forecast of a warm winter and a light leaf season that may cause the leaves to bypass their annual light show. If we are lucky we will venture into the hills around our home and hopefully spark a memory that will carry me back home to another time, another place, a place that rings of comfort memories and simpler times. Maybe you too will get the chance to enjoy the next few weeks as the leaves present their annual show that took a whole year to develop. Take a look and enjoy what Mother Nature prepared just for you and give thanks for those things that make our area one of the greatest in the country.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Fishing at the Blue Hole [CCR]

The sun provides an orange iridescent glow along the edges of the streaked morning sky as I ride to work. To avoid the incoming Nashville traffic I drive along a winding back rode that momentarily takes me away from the hustle and bustle of an ever expanding metropolis. I pause briefly on the aged one lane concrete bridge and look up along the bubbling creek that will accompany a portion of my journey. A rock overhang just a small distance away seems to provide the perfect refuge for bass waiting on an inattentive water strider. These moments provide the morning meditation preparing me for another day of taming the robotic world.

The winding creek isn’t much different than scenes along Malone Creek back home, but the memories of the famous Blue Hole on Buzzard Roost comes to mind. I’ve made many journeys down to that infamous place both sightseeing and wetting a hook hoping to catch that bass or a mess of brim that you might know as bluegill. Sometimes I think the legend outweighed my personal results, but I have been known to catch some fish there.

Getting to the Blue Holes was most of the fun. In my younger years we could make the trip in our old truck, but it was more likely we went in Uncle Garvin’s jeep. Uncle Garvin had one of the old Army jeeps and he often took the jeep to its design task of conquering rough terrain, much to the delight of my cousin and me. I can still remember the last hill before the famous spot as being muddy and difficult for most ordinary vehicles to traverse. But Uncle Garvin’s jeep hummed along, all the wheels pulling us through the squishy mud as we ducked from the overhanging tree branches.

The fishing shows on television always amaze me. The hosts on those shows are constantly using some new fangled artificial bait with a fancy rig to lure a fish. I never understood the thrill of all that expensive gear and I don’t recollect it catching a fish any better than Nature’s perfect bait, a minnow. In fact the only bass I caught down at the blue hole came to me on a string with a cane pole on one end and a hook and minnow on the other end. Of course worms were the bait of choice for the catfish. Either way, you could easily come up with your own bait or, for a small amount of change, purchase enough natural bait for a whole day of fishing.

Dad seemed to always know where the best fishing cane grew. We would head out in the old blue truck along some back road until we found the perfect spot where a wilderness of cane grew. Dad never took more than one or two; just enough to replace any we might have broke on our last fishing trip. He would use his pocket knife to slice the pole and then trim the ends. I reckon the only man made things about our fishing gear might be the hook, line, float, and sinker. Dad had a mold for making our own sinkers. It didn’t get much simpler.

I imagine some young fellow has similar memories about this creek I cross along my path to work. The creek follows the road on one side and an old rock fence lines the other, providing a scenic trail that is only disturbed by us local commuters. It isn’t long before the rock fence is replaced by the modern fence lining the freeway. Maybe a few more years will pass before the metropolitan expansion finds that little section of road. It is the least we owe ourselves for the scenic memories under the ginger radiance of a Southern sunrise.