October skies bring autumn splendor


For me, Christmas morning can’t hold a candle to one of these rare October dawns when the sun is not quite up and the dew is heavy on the grass and contrails play tic-tac-toe in heaven’s splendid blue vault.
The unusual weather this area has experienced contributes to an extravagant lingering summer. Some folks insist the Indian summer comes only after a snowfall, but whatever this is it would be great for it to last until the first of April!
In a 1955 issue of Pennsylvania Game News – then $1 a year subscription and great reading – a few paragraphs foretell the weather better than all the technical gizmos:
“It’s sure to be cold if pigs grunt uneasily or huddle; woolly bear caterpillars have broad black bands; there are plenty of comets; geese fly late at night; and you forget to take along a heavy coat.
“Look for fair weather if crows fly in pairs; cats wash behind their ears; the sunset glows red; birds fly high and you take along a raincoat.
“Expect snow if turkeys refuse to come down from trees; cats sit with their backs to the fire; burning wood pops loudly, and your back aches.
“Get out the storm signals if foxes bark at night; seagulls sit on sand; hair of redheads turns kinky, and your corns hurt.
“Only then consult your local weather bureau.”
Any minute now, or perhaps it has already happened, frost and wind and rain will strip the trees that have held their leaves as long as possible, some even before the color came.
Here, the back fence row is ablaze. To see Apache and Toby, heads down in grass still green, against that background gives me goosebumps. The ancient hickory trees have provided a feast for the scampering squirrels who don’t care that the nuts are quite small.
A pair of mallards plies the pond, which has been framed in goldenrod and New England asters. Both Toby and Apache have discovered forbidden fruit – neither needs the extra calories and sugar – hanging in the wild crabapple tree. What they can’t reach they wait until a bump knocks more to the ground and never miss a bite.
Winnie, the joy of my life, has hysterics when she sees one of the resident groundhogs pop its head out of the den excavated between the roots of a scrub tree in the pasture.
She has hysterics even when she can’t see one, since she knows it is there somewhere. Besides, it gives her a good excuse to race through the barn to the front gate – maybe there’ll be one there!
And the other day I put her back in the house before she could spot Reynard lounging in the deep weeds. I watched for some time as he wriggled and seemed to be scratching his back.
Fleas? Or the mange that denuded his tail? He did not appear to be in distress, but once I ended my vigil he was gone, and I didn’t get to see him go. Now I keep the binoculars at the back barn door so hopefully I won’t miss his next visit.
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Today’s Breeder, a Nestle Purina publication dedicated to the needs of canine enthusiasts, has on its current cover a photograph of a handsome German Shorthaired Pointer – GK’s Nuke It – who is the subject of a lengthy profile.
Nuke it is co-owned by Dr. Robert K. Reynolds of Canfield and lives at Hi-Point Kennels in Alliance. He is the winner of two national championships and the national futurity and was the 2006 National German Shorthaired Pointing Association All-Age Champion, plus he is siring champion puppies! It doesn’t get much better than that.
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Winter birds are already arriving, even as robins work on the flowering crabapple trees. Sparrows, not my favorite birds, are fun to watch as six at a time will splash in the bird bath. A foursome of juncos arrived on the 13th, a red-breasted nuthatch came twice and the white-throated sparrow flew in on the 16th.
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This writer was recently honored with the Pioneer Award “for notable contributions in the fields of literacy and/or historic preservation” from the William Holmes McGuffey Society.
It was nice to be recognized at this point in time.


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A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.