They say fall is coming, but you would be hard put to prove it by the weather we've enjoyed earlier this week. It was sunny and warm - downright hot some days - and although there have been a few mornings with a nip in the air, those have been few and far between.
I was reminded Tuesday morning, however, that the temperature will catch up with the calendar sooner or later. Autumn will arrive and winter will follow autumn as certainly as five will follow four.
I am on vacation this week, you see, from one of my many jobs. The main one. Teaching school. We are in the midst of something called fall break, which was designed, they tell me, so that struggling students could receive remediation. They must be getting that remediation at Disney World, Panama City and Gatlinburg, Tenn., because those are the places that most of my students told me they were going as soon as school let out Thursday.
My daughter is getting most of her remediation in the bedroom with her eyes closed, but all that is another story for another day. We were talking about the change of seasons.
Tuesday morning, I was enjoying my second cup of coffee and trying my best to complete the crossword puzzle that came in the morning paper when I heard a tractor coming through the woods.
First I looked at the clock. 8:30.
Seemed about right, because I knew that if a tractor was coming my way, my father-in-law, Benny Potts, would have been the one driving it, and Benny Potts was Benjamin Franklin's poster child for that "early to bed, early to rise" thing. I hadn't even gotten the answer to 34 across, much less 58 down, and he had already gathered up several trailer loads of firewood and was making his second or third delivery of the day - this one to my wood pile.
Which brings us, finally, to the topic at hand.
To be perfectly honest, I am a procrastinator's procrastinator. Why do today what can be put off until tomorrow? That's my motto. Let's face it, if I had been Noah, I wouldn't have even started looking for the gopher wood until the first few drops of rain started falling. Luckily, there are other folks in my world who are more proactive than am I. (More proactive than "me" would have sounded better, but it's not proper English and I don't want to be assigned remediation during winter break, so I decided to use "I."
But we burn wood in our fireplace during the winter, and when I say that we burn wood, I mean that we forevermore burn wood. Each and every night - and days, too, if anyone is at home.
I don't know anyone who doesn't like to sit by a fire on a cold winter's night and listen to the crackling sound the logs make and stare into the glowing embers. People say that burning wood in an open fire is a very inefficient means of heating a home, and maybe it is. But we stay pretty warm in our house and our furnace doesn't generally come on until late up in the night, when the fire has managed to burn itself out.
As much as people like open fires, however, most folks I know don't use their fireplaces all that much. They have lots of reasons, of course. For one thing, there's the mess. Burning wood makes ashes, and ashes blow all over everything, especially if you don't keep the fireplace cleaned out.
And we don't, by the way. Oh, once in a great while I will shovel them up and haul them out to the woods, but the more ashes you have under the grate, the more warmth the fire gives off. And sometimes, if the wind creates a downdraft, you'll get a little smoke in the room - but not enough to hurt anything. Besides, I sort of like a little smoky smell once in a while. Reminds me of camping out.
Of course, the biggest drawback to frequent burning during the winter months is that most people don't have easy access to firewood. I realize that I am lucky because I do. We live on a great big farm with thousands of trees, many of which die every year. And my father-in-law keeps them cut, split up and distributed, with the help of his brother, Larry, who was with him on the tractor Tuesday morning, and some of the rest of us.
And for that I am very thankful, which is why as soon as I heard him coming Tuesday morning, I threw on my blue jeans and work boots and joined the wood-hauling party.
I can finish the crossword puzzle in January, when I'm sitting by a nice warm fire.
And for the record, 58 down, source of inspiration. MUSE. I wonder where I can get one of those?
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.