Possumhaw: The season, it is a changin'




Shannon Bardwell



"We've got to do something about those acorns falling on the tin roof." 


Skip Shelton, wildlife biologist and brother 




Hallelujah, fall is finally here. One day the temperature is 55 degrees, and the next day temperatures rise to 70, maybe even 80. One night the gas heater gets lit, and another night air conditioning feels good. Fall means starting the day with a sweater or a jacket, discarding it by noon, and finding yourself pulling it on again by sunset. A Southern fall may mean T-shirts and tennis shoes one day and plaid shirts and hiking boots the next. 


Thankfully, gone is the sweltering heat and oppressive humidity. There's football and basketball, harvest parties, bonfires and campfires, hot dogs roasting and marshmallows over an open fire, steaming hot vegetable soup and cornbread, leftover Halloween candy, pumpkins and pies, pecans and acorns dropping from trees. Cotton scraps line road rights-of-way and Prairie fields, dark as chocolate, are plowed over and lay fallow 'til spring. Cherry trees are ablaze with red and gold, and leaves continuously flutter to the ground. I've tried photographing the fiery leaves lit by the morning sun, but nothing catches the brilliance like the naked eye.  


As the nights slip closer to 40s, even dipping into 30s, potted plants vanish from porches and take their places in the greenhouse. It's a big job moving them, but it pleases me in the winter to see green things growing. It will take a good bit of care as they need watering and watching during plummeting temperatures.  


Oddly enough, deer come closer to the house in fall. Usually by now there's little greenery for deer to eat and they come to the flower beds and boxes. This year there is plenty of green, but they still come. It's a good sign fall has arrived when plants disappear from the window box, as they did last week along with the potato vine on the fence.  


Beside the front steps, pressed deep into the mud, are split hoof prints. In the open fields deer graze and bed down for the night. The cats, Harry and Wilhelmina, are frisky. Wilhelmina ran down a mouse the size of a thumb; Harry catches leaves midair. Possums skirt the irises and sunflowers at the lake's edge. Night animals are on the prowl. 


Last week we took the "Gator" and a flashlight and looked for night critters. It's a fall/winter moonlight activity here in the Prairie. The old Gator goes about 4 miles per hour, which is plenty fast as we are in no hurry. Wild animals are less afraid of the sound of a machine than they are of a man walking. Many times, they stand and stare, much like deer seen grazing on the edge of a busy highway. 


Sam took discarded boards from an old Halloween display and fashioned them into an armadillo trap. One board says "spooky ghosts." He's live-trapped three already. On cool nights critters are on the move. The season, it is a changin'.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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