Fall blew into my piece of the world — for good, I think — not long after lunch last Saturday. I knew it was coming, but its suddenness still surprised me.
I’d been outside doing a couple of after-summer things a homeowner does to prepare for winter in South Dakota, or anywhere on the Great Plains, I suppose. I casually inspected the outside of the house, mostly to see how many cracks and gaps had decided since last winter ended that my home is their home. There were a few new ones, but most were familiar. I guess that’s a win.
I checked the lawn. It could use a mowing, but it hadn’t grown that much since the last time. I marked it down as a chore for “sometime soon.’’ In the fall, my sometime soon list consists of things that would be fine to get done but that would cause little damage if they waited until spring. I’m pretty liberal about the number of chores that go on the sometime soon list. Caring for a home requires maintenance. Deferred maintenance is still maintenance, right?
A light breeze and generous rays of sunshine made it a good morning to be outside. A fair number of people in fishing boats thought so. I’d been hearing boats roar down the Missouri past our place since before daylight. Half a dozen anglers must have figured the stretch of water over near the Interstate 90 causeway was lucky. A group of boats bobbed on gentle waves over that way from morning until after lunch.
I didn’t care to join those fish-chasers. I’m not much for fishing. The sight of boats out on the water the second weekend in October pleased me, though, for some reason. I felt a bit of envy, too. There they were, carefree on a Saturday, just bobbing over the waves and pondering the Universe. Me, I guess I pondered the Universe a bit as I walked around the house. And, I confess I took time to sit in the front-yard swing and ponder away. A passerby might have envied me, swinging along as if I hadn’t a care in the world. They might not have realized I was actually taking care of fall chores.
Back when I owned a big house on a corner lot across from the governor’s residence in Pierre, prevailing fall winds blew fat windrows of executive leaves across the street and onto my lawn. I did a lot of raking in those days. (Get this: I can’t even find my rake now.) I’d often take breaks and lie on my back on my freshly raked grass. I’d gaze at the sky, a rich blue dotted with chunks of marshmallow clouds that floated on the breeze. Sometimes, late in the fall, flocks of geese would wing overhead, honking like mad. Those moments are among my many good memories of fall in Pierre.
Thinking to recreate one of those moments, I flopped on the lawn and studied the heavens. I watched clouds float away over the roof of the house. Big mistake. Clusters of twigs and small branches sticking from the eaves troughs caught my eye. (No, I don’t have gutter caps, although I see them on TV.) Rain was expected, so I grabbed a ladder and cleared the troughs. I walked inside for a glass of water, pleased with myself for that bit of home maintenance. That’s when I knew it really was fall.
I looked out the west window. The river was gray and heaving. Boats pounded upstream toward the docks. I looked to the north. Leaves swirled furiously just outside the living room window, climbing in an angry cyclone toward the sky. I could see them spilling into the eaves troughs I’d just cleaned. When the wind let up, rain hammered the roof and rolled down into the newly clogged troughs. One last boat struggled upstream, having stayed out maybe a bit too long.
Fall was here to stay. Sunday morning dawned chilly and bleak. Wind built angry waves on the river’s surface. For the first time since early May, I dug out long pants.
On my sometime soon list, I wrote, “Clean eaves.’’