Winston sprawls on the tile floor, panting. With eyes half closed and tongue lolling out, his expression teeters between boredom and sadness. Every few minutes, my setter stands up, pads over to a cooler spot, and flops back down with a ponderous groan. These August afternoons aren’t called the dog days of summer for no reason.
To be honest, I’m not very motivated either. Glancing outside, the lawn looks less like a golf course and more like a meadow. With temps in the 80s, it doesn’t take long. And the grass isn’t all: Hedges need pruning, weeds need whipping and the driveway needs blowing. From my perch on the porch, I mentally flip through a Rolodex of excuses to avoid a meeting with the mower.
Outside, the drone of the postman’s truck snaps me out of seasonal despair. Call it old fashioned, but the arrival of mail remains a bright spot in my day. As with Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re gonna get.” Reaching inside the box, I notice fall catalogs tucked amongst the bills. Their arrival is timely — the months between fishing’s prime and early bird season are a sportsman’s purgatory.
Catalogs pair well with coffee. On second thought, I consider, make it iced coffee. Mopping my brow, I toss the dampish bundle of mail onto the table with a plop and pour a cup. This window shopping could be done online, but sporting catalogs are mystery and promise in print, and the internet is no substitute for literature in hand.
Thumbing through Orvis, images of blooded setters, custom shotguns and hand-stitched leather boots fill my mind. I can’t help but recall an afternoon last October when Winston proudly pointed his first of many woodcock. He’d been professionally trained, but preseason practice offers no guarantee for success.
Perusing the pages of L.L. Bean, I’m instantly transported to another misty morning when a buddy and I got lost and stumbled upon an incredible new grouse covert. By the time we found our way back to the truck, though, we had no idea how to pinpoint the place again on a map.
Pondering pocket knives, tailored shirts and game vests in Kevin’s, the porch fades from focus and I’m spirited away to forests of russet and gold. These are exotic places I’ll never actually visit and fineries I’ll probably never own, but who’s immune from daydreams with autumn waiting in the wings?
Back to reality now: The double guns deserve a wipe-down, some knives need sharpening, and I really should reload those empty 28-gauge hulls I’ve been saving. Come to think of it, it couldn’t hurt to shoot a few rounds of skeet this Saturday, and I might as well stop at the hardware store and buy a license, too.
Unless you ask Winston, autumn isn’t only about hunting. For the rest of us, there are apples to be picked and cider to be sampled. And that’s not all — not by a long shot. There are firesides to be shared, books to be read and stews to be savored. Before the snow flies, wood should be stacked and kindling must be cut.
I’ve taken only a few sips of coffee, but suddenly I’m filled with purpose, and the yard work becomes a distant memory.
Daydreaming out here on the porch, I swear a cool breeze just whispered through the window, and Winston’s expression says he feels it, too. Like most of life, seasons are a state of mind. The calendar says it’s summer, but autumn’s in the air, and we can hardly wait. ≈
Author and freelance writer Jon Osborn resides in Holland.
By Jon Osborn | Illustrations by David Ruimveld