By LARRY M. JONES
For better or worse, I’ve never, or at least rarely, been accused of not having an opinion on just about anything. However, when it comes to my favorite time of year, I can’t decide whether it’s springtime or the fall. Since I’m in the “autumn” years of my life, I suppose this is the season I should most heartily embrace.
Down on the “pore farm” when I was a mere whelp, the fall of the year was an exciting time. By mid-September the nights are finally beginning to cool off from the unbearable and stifling heat of Texas summers. With neither electricity nor air conditioning, this was a welcome respite. In addition, breaking of the summer heatwave gave us a better chance for some vitally needed rain to mature the peanut and pecan crops. A good soaking rain in September would make it a lot easier to talk to the banker next spring.
Another sign of the changing seasons was the appearance of enormous flocks of migrating water fowl. Mallard ducks would blacken the skies as they headed south to spend winter on the Gulf Coast. Located on the central flyway, the peanut fields here in Parker County attracted these puddle ducks by the tens of thousands. Here they would gorge themselves with the nutritious nuts. The peanut fields would often appear as an undulating dark carpet of feeding ducks. They would feed during the days, retreating to the relative safety of the river or lakes at nighttime. Large V-shaped formations of sandhill cranes and, to a lesser extent, geese could also be seen daily as they made their way south.
The river bottoms became a center for animal activity in the fall as the pecans began to fall from the hulls. This kicked into “high gear” after the first frost. Squirrels chattered like teenage girls, with jaybirds and crows adding to the din. All were eager to get to the fresh pecans. After dark the raccoons would harvest their share. Today, deer, turkeys, and feral hogs indulge in this seasonal smorgasbord of tasty treats. However, I don’t think birds have much in the way of a sense of smell or taste.
In the olden days, the best reason for anticipating fall was the prospect of finally having a payday when the crops were sold. With the exception of watermelons and fruit, our main cash crops here in Parker County weren’t harvested until fall. I always despised picking cotton, but I never minded gathering pecans or threshing peanuts. Although it was hard on the land and depleted nutrient and organic content from the soil, we often baled the peanut vines for hay each fall. This gave us all the hay we needed for the coming winter.
While harvesting the crops in the fall was hard work, culmination of a good fall harvest, getting the banker paid off, and having a little left over for Christmas was a time of delight. It didn’t happen like this every year, but when it did, it was even sweeter. After harvest, we could rest up over the cold months of winter and eagerly anticipate picking fresh “poke salad” in the coming spring – one of my favorite times of the year, I think …
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.