By Rheta Grimsley Johnson
For the long trip to the end of the driveway to fetch the newspaper, I put on my favorite shirt with long sleeves and a fishing lure print. Mornings are cool.
A couple more trips to the pallet factory for oak trimmings and I’ll be ready for winter fires in the Jotul stove. It’s possible now to believe that once again there will be a need for heat.
Fall is just over the hill, meandering this way, painting the sumac leaves red and heaving the occasional acorn onto the roof. Fall announces itself with hoot owls and righteous color. It is a melodramatic season.
I sit on the porch more, reading from five or six different books as the mood leads me. At a young friend’s request I’ve started “Wicked.” I’ve also begun “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” which The New York Times called a “manic-depressive stew of a book,” and a day or so ago felt the need to reread a few Robert Service poems, especially “Yellow,” my favorite. The world needs more rhyming poems.
Fall is a tough season for the sentimental, so I gird up my loins for battle against certain memories. Even as I type these words, I realize “gird up my loins” is an antique and awkward phrase I must have picked up from a Louisa Mae Alcott book or a Baptist hymn. Toward fall, I think in purple prose.
The dogs, who spent summer splayed out on the cool tile floor of the back room, suddenly have energy to spare. Now and again they jump up and charge into the woods, following some unseen drill instructor’s orders. They don’t catch a thing, but never seem discouraged.
Humans could learn so much from dogs, if only we’d get off our high horses.
As the weather cools, football and politics heat up, and I find myself concentrating on the former. A friend I trust recently told me that I should write more about politics, but suddenly I haven’t the heart or the stomach for that assignment. Let someone else make the tackle.
My political team won’t even wear our colors on their helmets, much less adhere to the game plan agreed upon in the locker room before election. These days, local Democrats beat Republicans to the draw on hollow-point issues, pandering to ignorance. They forget they promised to fight for health care and change. They are loyal only to the idea of re-election.
Football, on the other hand, is dependably partisan, a righteous struggle to the finish, no namby-pamby runs toward the other fellow’s goal posts. No matter how lop-sided the score, you usually can trust your quarterback to pass the ball in the right direction.
The niece drove her PT Cruiser down from Kentucky and graced me with her presence. I spent most of the short visit simply staring at her. She has porcelain skin and a perfect mouth and eyes that are, in turn, intense and sparkling. She is perfection in faded blue jeans. She also is hunting for a job, and I feel her pain.
On the last full day of her visit we walked up the hill beyond the hayfield, marveling at the ferns and trying to ignore the sofas and busted tires that fools had dumped into a ravine. Fall, she said, makes her want to go on an exercise program and maybe back to school for another degree.
I know the feeling, I said. I know.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.