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The Flatlander

Fall: Lazy River Days, Turnips, and Football

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It hasn’t happened yet, but it will. As surely as biscuits love gravy, the morning will soon come.

I’ll do the same thing as every other morning stepping out onto the front porch with a cup of hot coffee, scanning Round Bottom Valley for signs of life through the fog. Maybe the dark form of a massive buck will appear across the way, or maybe I’ll just see the awkward tracks of a half-blind armadillo through the heavy dew.

But the noticeable difference will not be in what is seen, but that which is felt. My skin will feel cool to the touch. The cook morning air will be just a bit more breathable. Overall, life will suddenly feel better, and my mood will become one of joy.

Summer won’t be over for sure, but it will be the first break in that annual stretch of torrid, humidity-soaked weather that just yesterday as I walked outside like a convection oven.
It won’t quite be fall yet, but it will be the first sign. Enough to excite me that fall is on the way.

A few things I’m excited about for this fall:

•The Stone County Fair. I gave up Tilt-a-Whirls and Rock-o-Planes decades ago and have now graduated to the slower pace of entering canned goods for judging in the home extension service contests. I may even enter a photo or two for judging. It will probably be hot and dusty, but the county fair is a sure sign that a change in season is just around the corner.

•Turnips. Yes, that’s right, turnips. It’s almost time to sow turnip and mustard seed. I’ll till up the entire garden soon and sow a nice patch of both. There was nothing I disliked more as a child than turnips and turnip greens for supper. I’m pretty fond of them now and last year noticed that the White River silt in Round Bottom Valley grew some of the most beautiful turnips I’d ever seen.

•Deer hunting. Though I’ve always considered myself a sportsman, I just didn’t grow up in an area where we deer hunted a lot. So last year, I tiptoed into both bow and modern gun hunting seasons. After a year in the valley I have a place close to home now, and I’ll go into the season this year knowing more than last.

•Our first Tranquility Base pig roast. I’ve talked my kids and their boyfriends and girlfriends into assisting with an all-day pig roast in November. It will really be an all-weekend event for us in what I hope will become an annual event where we make great food and show great hospitality to good friends and people who have made a difference in our lives.

•Fishing. Even though our property joins an Arkansas Game & Fish public access, I’ve been so busy building and maintaining the place there hasn’t been a lot of time for fun. But that’s about to change. We found a great deal on an almost-new river boat and I’m excited about beautiful fall mornings and lazy fall afternoons where we are pulling in world-class trout lickety-split. Or maybe we’ll take the boat upstream some Friday night for a catfish dinner at Angler’s or JoJo’s.

That’s something to look forward to.

•No more yard mowing. Seriously. I love it when the grass looks nice, but mowing our “lawn” is a good 5-hour job each week that I plan to convert to hammock time.

•Will we have beans at Beanfest this year, or will it be another beanless event? I’m not sure if that’s a good idea or not, but it would be my first full-blown experience with the beloved signature event.

•I still drive back to Jonesboro on the occasional weekend, and I will tell you there is nothing that speaks fall more to me than driving through the rice and soybean country of western Craighead County as the sun falls westward and watching a sky full of mallard ducks and Canada geese. The October harvest puts the migratory birds in a complete frenzy and watching them feed and settle in for the night is like watching Van Gogh paint a picture. It’s one of the most nostalgic things I know.

•SEC football on the radio. Yes, I know the conference pretty much dominates the television airwaves, but listening to football on the radio is another trip back to my adolescence. I listened to many a thrilling game in the Southwest Conference back in the 70s and 80s sitting on the turn row of a withering cotton field as my dad drove the picker. Every time he dumped, we’d discuss Lou Holtz’s choice of plays from the last few moments.

•Thanksgiving. It’s always been my favorite day of the year, and I love celebrating that day in Round Bottom Valley.

See you in next week’s newspaper.

(Steve Watkins is a reporter/columnist for the Stone County Leader. Write him at steve@stonecountyleader.com.)

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