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TIME SEEMS TO FLY AS LEAVES START TO FALL

Daylight shrinks noticeably as September fades into October. Maybe that's why the days, and the weeks, too, seem to fly by so quickly.

I do morning chores with a flashlight and have breakfast as the sun opens one eye on the landscape to discover the low fields cottoned with fog. When you walk the woods or along the hedgerows, the air is soured with the vinegar of turning leaves, a proper tonic for October.

Rick and his son, Keith, came out to perform the ritual of posting the land. I was about to pick up half a wagon of late-cut hay, and they stayed a bit to help. They are brawny fellows, and the job didn't take long. Hunting season is not far off, and their truck is likely to be parked in the barn driveway on many days.

Kathleen accompanied me to the woods yesterday as I went out to drop some large trees to be sawed for planks. I selected a big beech along the lane for a number of reasons. It was straight, had an open drop lane and there were a couple of smaller trees that would thrive only if the beech was harvested.

Felling a large tree is a three-act drama. After determining the direction of the fall, a wedge is cut about a third of the way across the trunk. Act two begins as the chain saw starts chewing a line on the opposite side above the wedge. The bar of the saw is pulled out of the cut, well before you near the wedge.

The massive tree, this one 80 feet tall and 8 feet around, balances on the remaining wooden hinge a few inches thick. The final act begins with the sound of tapping as the felling wedges are knocked into the back cut, each hit unbalancing the tree a little more, until slowly it tips and begins its descent toward the forest floor.

The woods echo with the explosion as the tree top crumbles on impact just before tons of falling trunk crash into the ground. The earth shakes. You let out the breath you have been restraining.

There is a new patch of sun above you and leaves flutter down, and you know this drama is, in essence, a tragedy. With the passage of 15 minutes, 90 years end, and a tree is now a log. Anyone who is not humbled by this does not deserve to use the wood this tree has graciously provided.

The vegetation is short in the hay field across the Alps Road, and my son and I trotted over there last night with his soccer ball. We had a conversation about his junior high team as we booted the ball back and forth across the alfalfa stubble.

I can't understand how he, a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter, can kick the ball farther than his old man. I got a stiff leg trying to match his drives, and I was wearing my heavy work boots, too.

The Ohio Boys pulled up the driveway Saturday to see if they could camp by the creek. These fishermen hail from down around Mansfield and come by this time of year to challenge the salmon that are running up Johnson Creek to spawn.

Saturday at sundown, a thunderstorm arrived unannounced. As the rain poured down, I wondered if they were going to need to be towed up the steep dirt road from the creek bottom Sunday.

When I walked down to inquire the next morning, I found them gone. Evidently they made a run for it before the hill got too muddy. That might explain why I found a sodden pair of jeans at the bottom of the slope. I surmise that the pants were left on the rear bumper and forgotten in the haste of the fishermen's retreat.

The jeans are nearly new but size 34 x 30. I haven't worn that size since Jimmy Carter was president. If Carter runs again and wins, maybe these jeans will fit. But I imagine the Ohio Boys will be back before that happens and can count on getting the pants back even if the fish don't bite.

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