As the “cherished,” gloomy days of winter give way to newly sprouted buds and tender shoots of plant life, all creatures seem to disperse from congregated places of refuge. I notice my backyard residents of cardinals, finches, grosbeaks, and squirrels slowly dissipate in numbers as daylength increases with the arrival of spring. Of course, I have some influence with their scattering to unknown haunts as I intentionally reduce amounts of morsels that I have offered them throughout fall and winter.
I have mentioned before, I do not want them to become totally dependent on me for their nutritional needs, for a body at rest tends to stay at rest. They can get up in the morning and go to work just as I do. I will admit, the pleasure they bring each morning as I sip my rich brew and savor thin biscuits is well worth the price of admission. However, as Mother Earth warms, and insects and seeds become more readily available, their needs can be met on their own accord. Dispersion is a good thing at times.
My local critter friends are not the only creatures that seem to disperse to parts unknown when the landscape changes hue from gray, cold days, to vibrant colors of green as an abundance of new life and growth abounds. I have a group of friends who very much resembles that of my neighborhood zoo. In fact, it is uncanny how much our “fraternity” behaves the same way my local wildlife friends do. I’ll explain.
I must give credit to Ford Day for creating the name of our group which indeed is so fitting. Each “member” of our small fraternity has almost identical interests when the first leaves of fall sift slowly to the ground. These interests remain the same until we all disperse in different directions, as my backyard friends do, when seasons change. Ford’s brainstorm, “Stokes Gentlemen,” aptly describes not only our general geographic gathering spots, but also includes, for the most part, where our hearts and souls thrive.
All spring and summer, Ford has been either in the air or at the “Realm,” maintaining and manicuring the gardens surrounding his home. Since the last days of the 2020 ice storm, he and I have plowed, tilled, composted, planted, sprayed, weeded, and harvested a bounty of fruits and vegetables all summer. It’s been a good one indeed.
Brad has spent much of his time counting baby turkeys, watching sunsets at the beach, and rescuing abandoned roosters. From time to time, we pass in the road and discuss weed and insect control, but for the most part, it has been through the dreaded cell phone. Keep those predators at bay and protect those poults as much as you can. Ken stays busy all spring and summer diagnosing and addressing power outages throughout our quaint local village. He did reach out to Ford and me several times for garden insect issues, but to our fault, we only helped him through text. Please accept our apologies, Ken, for we will do better with actual bug control in the future. And please don’t hold it against us this fall.
Rock stayed busy clipping and hiking the Appalachian Trail all summer. Seldom do we see him, but he’s always available through text for local news. How many ticks did you pluck from your legs this summer as you climbed the hills and mountains across our nation? Sam has been obsessed with his new “live scope” on his boat. He’s chased crappie from one end of the lake to the other. That freezer better be full, it’s almost gathering time. JH has been consumed by acres and acres of cotton and soybean insects. I knew the end of the season is nearing when he asked me to take his rifle to our local gunsmith and top it off with new glass. At least he’s thinking about what is coming in the somewhat near future.
Creed has been busy with the golf clubs and his new sprayer. You can tell he’s not a cotton producer because he actually enjoys spraying the soon to be planted food plots. Rest assured, if he were spraying a crop for a living, he would not be nearly so enthusiastic. Chris has been busy all summer trying to finish homes with very limited supply chains. I even heard him make a remark the other day that “maybe it would be better to wait until next year to start back building.” Hmm, I detect a hidden agenda and a good excuse to start venturing into his favorite stand on the hill.
For the past seven months our group has been scattered like a spooked covey of quail. Nevertheless, as summer begins to fade, which it is quite rapidly, we will begin to pass each other on the back roads of Madison County. Phone calls and texts will become more frequent. Gatherings around campfires and kitchens will become the norm instead of a “chore” to get everyone together. Pittsburg steaks on the grill, fried venison loin, and smothered ducks in gravy, will be top items on the menus. A friendly cabernet and possibly a vintage bourbon could possibly be sampled as gentle plumes of smoke drift downwind from campfires of seasoned red oak.
Late mornings may find us at Ken’s as we emerge from the swamp in hopes he has that wonderful coffee brewing on the top of his pot-bellied stove. I would wager one of the “Stokes Gentlemen” could come up with some homemade preserves and a slab of sure enough salt-cured country ham. It’s been a minute since we’ve had time to gather and share stories about frosty mornings gone by. Camaraderie and friendships shared between a group of men that live for the outdoors sums it up in a nutshell as to not only what we are, but more importantly, who we are.
I have described our small local brotherhood with enough definition to know this hits home with many of you reading this. I know quite well that you also can relate to your own fraternity of close friends that you share the swamp and blind with each season. Maybe the kitchens and campfires shared defines us more accurately than we realize. I so look forward to the coming weeks when that phone call or text states something like this… “hey boys, I’ve got the coffee on if y’all are close.” There is no doubt there will trucks turned around and headed for the location of the call.
Make a point to reach out to some of your best friends this fall. Don’t let “life” get in the way of keeping you away from what are some of the best times of your life. Remember, and tell long forgotten stories of the past that will bring a chuckle to everyone sharing a crisp morning or an evening fire together. Remember good times and pass stories down to youngsters who long to hear them. There is no better time to start than now. If you’re out riding one cold morning with a cup of java in your hand, give one of us a shout, we may be closer than you think. I’m sure we can come up with another biscuit for you too.
Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.