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The Last Windrow: Warm fall weather wasn't always welcome

One of the activities I detested was having to go back to the cornfield to pick up the ears of corn that the one row Woods Brothers picker left on the ground. I was of the opinion that if that corn were left in the field, the pheasants and other wildlife would have an easier winter. PineandLakes.com Illustration

Will we have an Indian summer this year? Will the recent cold spell ebb into a warmer disposition as we await the final ax of winter falling, leaving no one to guess that real winter has arrived?

Some would wish for this weather condition, a period of unexpected warm weather after snow has actually covered the earth. I found Indian summer to be more a negative than a positive during my early farm days. After the busy harvest season I welcomed the recess that cold and snowy weather provided.

Pheasant and deer season were upon sportsmen like me after the corn came out of the field. Having warm weather interrupt my hunting plans didn't sit well.

During those warmer than normal days my dad would find jobs that couldn't be done after winter entered the landscape. One of the activities I detested was having to go back to the cornfield to pick up the ears of corn that the one row Woods Brothers picker left on the ground. I was of the opinion that if that corn were left in the field, the pheasants and other wildlife would have an easier winter.

My father did not see it that way. We were sent out to pick up and toss ears of corn in small heaps among the picked corn rows. The ears would then be picked up and tossed into a waiting wagon and hauled to the waiting corn crib. Picking up those ears of errant corn was about as boring a job any farm kid with hunting on his or her mind could be handed.

Today's modern combines leave nary a kernel of corn lying in the field. In recent pheasant hunting trips to South Dakota I actually looked for a stray kernel or two only to find none. I know that farmers and their bankers now put a high priority on the efficiency of pickers, but I feel sorry for any stray pheasant that looks to fill its crop full of field corn in the middle of winter. That Woods Brothers picker was a friend of the pheasant.

Another chore that happened during unexpected late fall warm weather was fencing. We would turn the cattle into the picked cornfields and to do that, a fence would need to be erected. Anyone who has ever done fencing and liked it would be suspect of a mental click in my mind. Pounding an uncaring post into the earth and stringing miles of wire from post to post is about as exciting as watching ice melt.

I could hear the pheasants cackling in the nearby creek bottom as I stretched the wire and hooked up the electric fencer. I thought of the task as cruel and inhuman treatment.

Northern mallards frequented the land between the Missouri and the Big Sioux River when the cold north wind pushed them south. Big, green-headed, curly-tailed drakes with florescent orange legs and feet and no pinfeathers were the premier duck of the day. At the first blast of cold wind my uncles and I would sneak through the underbrush along the riverbanks and secure a duck dinner from the still flowing rivers and streams in our area of western Iowa.

Indian summer days put this whole effort on hold and the ducks stayed up north where they found open water instead of iced over ponds.

I'm a firm believer that the land should have winter when it's supposed to be winter and summer should be summer when it's supposed to be summer. Lately, weather has been hard to predict.

Snow should come when it's supposed to and leave when it's supposed to. Industries are built on the premise and promise that weather should behave in an orderly manner. You may or may not believe in the global warming theory, but seeing red cardinals sitting in northern apple trees and moose heading for the colder climes of Canada makes one wonder.

Will we have an abnormal warm spell of weather yet this year? Only time will tell. If it happens, at least I won't have to pick up ears of corn or erect livestock fence. Maybe Indian summer isn't such a bad thing after all. Real winter will be here soon enough.

See you next time. Okay?

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