We walked into the wind as we crossed atop a small hill, passing an old house place someone had once worked hard to make, likely scraped and saved to keep, been proud of and called home. Nature had reclaimed most of it and no walls remained by then, though the foundation was still there. Like some memories, old foundations can be a long time fading.
Shouts between us were snatched away by the gale rolling down out of the dark cloud that held our attention. We were wedging one last rabbit hunt into a Christmas break that had gone by too fast, though the look of the clouds rushing down from the north to meet us hinted a possible delay of our return to school.
We knew the beagles and the Old Man who ran them were close, but where? We shouted and, though they’d topped the hill just yards ahead of us, we heard neither word nor bark. Then in an instant the wind delivered a temperature drop of 25 degrees, driving off the last of fall with a hard kiss of real winter. Along its ragged edges rode the shouts and howls we’d sought and we quickly coursed both, suddenly spying the Old Man not 50 yards away.
“I’ve been calling y’all,” he said, aggravated. “Why didn’t y’all answer me?”
I offered the theory that the sharp difference in temperatures between the air masses had done something funny with the sound. He offered the theory that we had something in our ears thicker than air.
“It’s fixing to come a blue norther,” he said with some concern. It had been 50 degrees or so when we set out and, as we expected to be walking hard through broken country, we’d left the truck with no cold weather gear whatsoever. Rolling down our shirt sleeves and buttoning the cuffs was as much wardrobe adjustment as we were prepared to do. The Old Man wore a thin blue windbreaker, but the wind we were meeting wasn’t consenting to break. Worse, we’d hunted in something of a loop and the truck lay miles away still, and in a direction that was somewhat less than certain. It wasn’t quite cold enough to die, we didn’t think, at least not quickly enough to make giving up a fair option so, with nothing else to consider, we mounted our grimmest determination and hiked out, daring the beagles to stray.
Earlier this week I stepped outside into something other than humidity for the first time in a season and mentally waved goodbye to summer. In the cool, dry air of the morning, I could hear the echoes of that day and others returning. It’s always a blessing to welcome them back.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.