I knew going in this was a battle I was likely to lose. But I had to try, you know?
That’s desperation for you.
We were in southern Georgia, in late summer, a few years back. My cousin was getting married and at the urging of my dad we’d all traveled down to visit his brother, see some other family, perhaps explore a bit and, before coming home, attend the wedding.
It was, as these things go, a lovely affair. The wedding was held on the back lawn of the bride’s parent’s home. They live on a lake, so there was water and a setting sun in the background. It made for a lovely scene.
The ceremony was heartfelt, too, with all the appropriate people in attendance.
At one point I leaned in close to my wife, my sport coat grown as swampy as the countryside and sweat beaded on my face like pimples on a high school freshman.
“Listen,” I whispered. “If they don’t pick up the pace, how about I yell ‘Gator!’ Then we grab the kids and run for the car and the air conditioning.”
She looked at me, smiled, put her hand on my leg and attempted to crush my kneecap.
Thankfully she’s not a power lifter. If the strength in her hand had matched the “don’t make me kill you” vibe I saw in her eyes just then, I’d still be limping.
I got the message. We stuck it out.
Heat’s just never been my thing, though. That’s why the few recent cool nights were so welcome.
Did you hear what they were saying? They sang of things to come in a voice so soft as to be almost unintelligible. Yet there was no mistaking their message of what’s ahead.
Honking geese. Pheasant roosters, unseen but heard cackling in the high grass. The plop of acorns hitting the forest floor. Streams suddenly too cold for wet wading.
There already have been tangible signs of the coming changes, to be sure. The return of school buses to the roads, football and band practices and those end-of-season sales fliers from department stores are harbingers of what’s to be.
But cool nights touch the soul and stir longing for days afield in a world that once again will feel crisp, fresh and new.
I’m trying to not let that get me too far ahead.
If you’re an outdoorsman or woman, there’s always something to do outside. They key is taking time to live in the moment.
Focus too much on the crappie spawn in May and you forget to enjoy some of the best trout fishing of April. Think only of the progress of food plots in July and you miss the beauty of young wildlife and songbirds and wildflowers on hikes along summer trails. Worry incessantly about being ready for the archery openers in September and October and you miss out on lazy August nights spent chasing catfish.
There’s a time for it all. And the older I get, the more I want to experience each and every outdoors opportunity while it’s available.
Soon enough, fall’s smallmouths — like little boys pleading for one more tussle with daddy before bed — will fight harder. The bucks that have been so unconcerned about seemingly everything all summer will adopt a gritty, prickly edge. Even the chipmunks will be more frenzied. They’ve tormented the dog all summer, darting in and out of the stone pile left over from building the fire ring. In the coming weeks and months they’ll go into full kamikaze mode, racing and panting, panting and racing, to get ready for winter.
I’ll enjoy it all then, just as I’m trying to enjoy what we have now, while it’s still here.
I just hope it’s not too hot. There are no gators here to be found and, either way, my kneecaps can’t take it.