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Football or goldenrod? September 12, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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The official first day of fall may not arrive until September 23, but anyone with senses and enough sense to use them knows that fall is already here. The corn is drying in the fields, beginning its long autumnal rustling chant. It doesn’t get light until nearly 7 a.m., and is almost dark again by 7 p.m. (Those lovely long days when it was getting light by 4:30 and dark at 9:30 are now just a longed-for memory.) The lightning bugs (aka fireflies), harbingers of high summer, have vanished.

We started talking about fall’s arrival because of a funny exchange between Silence Dogood and our friend Rob on the way to the Bowers Chile Pepper Festival on Friday. Enjoying the scenery as we drove through the beautiful PA countryside, Silence said, “I know it’s really fall now because of all the goldenrod blooming along the road!” “What do you mean?” Rob replied. “Of course it’s fall now! Football season has started!”

Once we all stopped laughing, the rest of us—our friend Ben, our friend and fellow blog contributor, Richard Saunders, and his girlfriend, Bridget—tried to home in on a single thing that means the start of fall for us. For Richard it’s easy: He’s a teacher, so the start of the school year means the end of summer as far as he’s concerned. Bridget said she knew it was fall when she put away her sandals and started wearing “real” shoes. I suppose I (OFB) think fall is really here when the male goldfinches moult their brilliant yellow summer plumage and assume the drab olive feathers they wear until the return of high spring and breeding season.

This conversation lingered in my mind, however, reminding me of the autumns of my childhood. We were not a sports-minded family, at least not in the sense the phrase is usually understood. Unlike most Americans, we never got into competitive sports, and we didn’t spend our time in front of the TV watching sports.

With one exception. My tiny, delicate, exquisite mother, the living definition of a Southern Belle, was a rabid sports fan. Football season always found her, dressed to the nines in her diamonds, pearls, and elaborate satin bed jacket, in front of the TV, urging her chosen teams on and criticizing bad play or bad coaching in ladylike language but in no uncertain terms. God forbid that any of us should interrupt her for any reason when a football game (or basketball, baseball, tennis, or golf game, or even a boxing match) was in progress.

Mama tried many times to interest me in football, perhaps because her father had won a football scholarship to the University of Kentucky. Appealing to my intellectual bent, she noted that football was like living chess, with the two quarterbacks as chessmasters, responsible for moving all the pieces. I thought this was a rather unique take on football, but unfortunately, I could never see it as anything other than a modern gladiatorial exercise, with the throngs of Romans shouting for their favorites from the sidelines. Bread and circuses, bread and circuses. At least today’s gladiators make good money in exchange for their injuries and don’t face execution if they lose.

Mama and I really only bonded over sports during horse racing’s yearly Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. These events would find us both staring breathlessly at the screen, shouting and screaming and urging our favorites on. But these days, the arrival of football season—at least, if someone reminds me that it’s arrived—also always reminds me of her, so small in stature, so great and gallant in heart, mind and soul. 

What tells you that fall is here?



1. Benjamin Vogt - September 13, 2011

You tell me that fall is here. That and the 2 week early frost forecasted for tomorrow night with temps in the 30s.

Oh lord, Benjamin! And here we were shocked by the 45-degree nights forecasted for here for week’s end. Acckkk!

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