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Jefferson Weaver: September — The Golden Month

My shirt was soaked, despite having been relieved of its sleeves and collars somewhere in a previous life, when it was armor for an office rather than minimal protection from mosquitoes, sunburn and disdainful looks at the grocery store. I wanted nothing more than to crumple in front of the air conditioner, blessing the memory of the ingenuity of Mr. Carrier. I hadn’t accomplished nearly as much as I’d hoped for that Saturday, but it’s hard to meet some goals when you rely on a walking stick.

Miss Rhonda called me to come back outside, and I smelled September.

There was a thunderstorm brewing, but there was something else in the sunset, a promise that the Golden Month was right around the corner. My beloved had called me outside since the breeze was in a word, delicious. It was cool and redolent of late hay and cut corn, pines and dying dog fennel.

September will be different this year, I am sure; church homecomings and football games do not function well with social distancing. We are having the most active hurricane season in years, as the gloom merchants constantly remind us, and what seems like a pending insurrection as well as a volatile election just weeks away. There were more 100 degree days last year during the ninth month than the average month of June.

But September is a month of golden promise to me.

The ugly old apple trees and overachieving pears are causing their respective branches to groan, leaving one to wonder how they will have any limbs left next year. There are grapes, both wild and domestic, and the last surviving blackberries, all awaiting a careful harvest for preserving, or the greedy gluttony of a passerby desperate for his portion before the possums, coons, deer and foxes harvest nature’s share. The earliest pecans and walnuts will turn black and fall by the end of the month, leading the way for those to be harvested when true autumn comes around.

September is a month I shall always associate with food, whether it’s the aforementioned homecomings and family reunions, or the pursuit of something to eat. Due to my appetite, Mother always said I was born with a hollow leg. I prefer to think I just have an appreciation of food, whether it has its genesis in nature, a garden or a field.

September is when one can again fish, whether in salt or freshwater, but I admit saltwater is the most productive and attractive at this time of year. Islands of spots are raided by shoals of Spanish and blues, when are in turn eaten by the larger predators, any and all of which do well on a hook and belong in a frypan. I cannot eat a spot or a bluefish without thinking of the humpback we saw breaking water, almost on the beach, spots and bluefish pouring from the sides of its mouth on a September morning. We didn’t realize that we were watching such an incredible spectacle before some folks had even had their second cups of coffee.

September means the start of the first dove season, when the birds are plentiful, silver-purple rockets flashing in a sunset, far fewer than one might hope falling to the bark of a shotgun, the moment of brief sadness at holding the harvested bird overshadowed by the joy of an afternoon with good friends and a good dog, making memories that will last long decades past that afternoon, memories unearthed and polished with the words “Remember that time we…”

September is the snort of an early buck wrapped in mosquitoes, velvet traces on his antlers, as you calm your breathing and slowly draw back your bowstring. September once meant it was time to get serious with dogs. It was time to really work Dudley and Dixie, my last working retrievers, since dove season would soon give way to ducks and geese, and no civilized hunter should have to fetch his own birds. I’ve halfway tried to have other hunting dogs since those two passed away, but I don’t mind fetching my own birds nowadays. Beside, nothing could ever replace that pair in the field.

September is time for catfish big enough that their gills rattle whilst being hauled ashore on a moonlit riverbank where the campfire serves more to deter mosquitoes than to keep anyone warm, and to keep at bay the shadows that have haunted kids since the time before flashlights supposedly gave us superiority over the night.

September is indigo-blue night sky scattered with stars and stretching unsullied by haze and humidity. September is earlier sunsets, but September apologizes for cutting the days short by making those sunsets studies in light and colors that would make the most skilled artists weep, knowing he could never replicate the image, and God erases the canvas every day with a new one, just as spectacular.

September is when the first of my hardwoods begin to turn their leaves for fall; someday soon, the stalwart crabapple in our front yard will shiver, and seemingly overnight, every leaf will fall to the ground, leaving it defiant to another autumn and winter.

Sometime soon, that refreshing breeze my bride shared with me will become more of a fixture; the ragged workshirt will be replaced by an equally ragged but fully-armed cousin, and Toni will be more reluctant to share the covers, since she’s an older dog now and feels the cooler weather.

William the redbone will become more restless, knowing that other hounds are tuning up for October’s coon hunts. Even though he has settled into a life of domesticity (and is gunshy), he still loves to give voice, and there is no music like houndsong in the fall.

Sadly, September could well bring us a bad storm or two, that’s just part of the price we pay for the glory of the golden month, the shining jewel that is September, a time of family, food, hunting, fishing and memories, the month of promise.

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