The temptations of a fall day

Nov 11, 2012 By Randy Tucker

It's difficult to work up a good worry when it's almost 70 degrees in November.

It was tempting to take her out one more time.

We've never had the pontoon boat on the water after Labor Day, but with the unseasonably mild weather this fall we thought about cruising around Ocean, Boysen or Bass lake again.

But it'll wait until next summer.

I don't pay much attention to the weather aside from track season and during first and second hay cutting, but my wife and daughter are glued to the Weather Channel each morning.

I think they both inherited it from Sue's grandmother, who lived most of her life in Valentine, Neb. On cable in Valentine, the Weather Channel had a blue band on the bottom of the screen with the local time, temperature and wind speed.

Grandma Hahn's console-style television had the image of that band burned permanently into the picture tube.

No matter which channel you switched to the bottom color band remained prominent at the base of the screen. She must have watched that channel a lot.

Sue asked me to winterize the boat after learning a winter storm watch was in place for the weekend.

We had to get the boat off the water a couple of times this season when the wind came up late in the evening, so I wasn't sure if the fuel had been completely burned out of the motor.

I hooked up the trailer, drove it to the back yard, put the paddles on the motor, turned on the hose and fired the 140-horse Mercury up for one last time in 2012.

After a few minutes she sputtered to a stop. I put some Stabil in the gas tank, attached the winter frame, and tied on a pair of tarps to protect the boat until next May or June.

As I backed the boat into a protected corner on the far side of our property, I looked west toward the setting sun and watched a gaggle of Canada geese descend in uniform power dive onto the water of a neighboring pond.

The big birds made a lot of noise as they came in and startled a half-dozen Corriente calves grazing in another neighbor's pasture. The young cattle bolted through a pair of grazing horses against the skyline of the Wind River Mountains to the west. The mixture of waterfowl, cattle, horses and perfect autumn weather bordered on the ethereal.

We live in a unique place. A place where we see nature at its best and experience it, often with just our own guile and wit to defend us, at its worst.

Indian Summer, as this time of year and type of wether is often called, is my favorite time of the year.The grass still grows a little bit but not nearly as much as in the full sun of June, July and August.

If you're careful you can squeeze a few extra days of grazing this time of year and stretch your hay just a bit further, but it's a gamble you really shouldn't depend on if you're feeding livestock through the winter.

Maybe I suffer from a bit of obsessive-compulsive behavior, but I find myself calculating how many bales remain in the stack against how many days it is until May 15.The numbers always fluctuate, depending on how severe the winter is going to be. A continued mild trend, and 300 to 400 pounds of hay each day is plenty. The supply will last until June.Drop a few degrees or descend into a prolonged cold spell, and consumption can nearly double, adding the threat of running out of feed in April.

It's a case of the grasshopper and the ant, with sensible, goal-minded people never wishing to fall into the grasshopper camp.

Still it is difficult to work up a good worry on a perfect autumn day. Newcomers ask me if the weather is always nice in November, and I quickly relate horror stories of taking the kids trick-or-treating in single-digit temperatures or of early storms so laden with snow that even the stoutest trees broke under the weight.

No, the first days of November weren't our typical mid-fall climate, but I'll gladly take it as long as it lasts.

Pundits debate whether global warming something more than a natural change in climate. There was a time in my life when I had to have an opinion on everything.

Those days have passed, and the issue of global warming is one of those I'll just sit out of.Is it hotter, colder, wetter, drier or windier than normal? What's normal?

We have had some incredibly bad winters in the shadow of the Rockies but I'm not sure what causes one year to be worse than another.

The winter of 1886-87 was the worst ever recorded, with many blaming global warming created when the island of Krakatoa disintegrated in a cataclysmic explosion in 1883 and the subsequent huge volume of dust ejected into the upper atmosphere as the cause.

The winters of 1949 and 1979 weren't quite so bad, but they border on the apocalyptic in comparison to the temperate autumn enjoyed early last week.

This, too, will end soon. But the abundance of beauty that surrounds us will continue as it morphs into another form with the changing of the seasons. Take time to enjoy it.

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