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The Last Windrow: Treasure fall while it's here

A single, brilliant red maple leaf drifted down and lit on my dark green camo jacket as I walked in the backwoods last week. A reminder that the "good season" is in progress.

A single, brilliant red maple leaf drifted down and lit on my dark green camo jacket as I walked in the backwoods last week. A reminder that the "good season" is in progress.

I hauled the latest batch of pickled red beets to our basement storehouse a few days ago to be placed alongside the canned string beans, freshly made salsa and dill pickles. Gifts from above as my wife stood by the kitchen counter working on getting our sweetcorn crop ready for the freezer. Soon I would be trucking 50 some pints of sweetcorn to be frozen and used as the January winds pound on our doors. Another reminder that the calendar has turned its back on summer.

In the corner of the canning room sat the Winchester Model 97 shotgun that my granddad had purchased for $16 back in the late 1890s. The shotgun was toted across those Iowa fields with its owner looking early on for prairie chickens and finding them.

The story was that after the black powder smoke lifted, 14 prairie chickens were headed for the pot. Of course, no one could prove that story, but would your grandfather ever lie to you about such a happening?

I picked up the old gun from its resting place and remembered the first rooster pheasant that was brought to my bag after a chase through a standing cornfield. I wasn't wearing any blaze orange clothing, just my normal farm clothes - torn work jeans and a frayed denim coat.

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I didn't have shooting glasses or a retriever dog or a pair of Gortex hunting boots. Just a desire to bring home a pheasant to be fried over the cob-fired cook stove and fed to the family. I looked at the old gun in the corner and it felt like that happened yesterday.

Fall is a time I seem to remember stuff more vividly than any other time of year. The days of picking ripened corn, hauling it home to be elevated up into our wooden corn crib, kernels still attached to the cob. Stringing electric fence around the picked fields and turning the cattle into those fields to clean up whatever corn was left on the ground. Chasing the same cattle out of the neighbor's field after the fence shorted out. Cattle seem to detect a shorted fence.

Ducks and geese were flowing south around this time of year, following the Big Sioux and Missouri rivers. They would stray off course once in awhile and end up sitting on Ralph Kounkel's farm pond, about a mile from our farm.

The old Winchester procured my first blue goose from that pond early oneSaturday morning as my 5-year-old brother crept in behind me. I can still see him standing on the rim of the pond, holding the goose up for me to see. It was every bit as long as he was tall.

I let him hold the old Model 97 for just a bit with the goose in the other hand. He still likes to hunt geese.

Fall comes fast and it leaves just as fast. So I draw on its beauty and grace as much as possible. I breathe deeper, stride longer and fasten my eyes on the colors that will too soon be gone.

That falling bright red leaf that lit on my jacket last week reminded me of that old Winchester 97 and that bright, red-faced rooster pheasant that came to hand so many years ago. It is that time of year.

See you next time. Okay?

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