First Killing Frost

Trouble sleeping. After sunset I walk in the woods where stars sparkle above soaring oak and hickories.

         What’s that noise? An armadillo, bear or ghost? I’m nervous in the dark with just a tiny flashlight. The state has recently opened a season on our Black Bear, the first ever. Forty be “harvested,” as they call the killing of these innocent critters.

         Of course no wild creature is in any way ‘innocent’. All living things eat one another depending on how hungry we become.

         Does anyone eat armadillo? They are so bizarre! Thank you Texas for sending them to the Ozarks! I gradually fall asleep meditating on diverse chance encounters with these improbable armored predators. 

         Will frost cover the trees when sun moseys forth? It’s supposed to dip below 30 degrees. That will turn the Ozark forest brown.

         Leaves will tumble in bursts, not drift down daintily. We don’t have New England’s hues. Our timber, at least in Shannon County near the Jacks Fork, has been worked hard. Third growth. 

         Still cutting for railroad ties and pallet wood. Even the pine’s being hacked now for 2x4s. The on-going Covid-19 pandemic has bumped up prices on everything.

         Global climate change may have kept it warm so late. In town we had hundreds of kids come trick-or-treating.

         Everyone glad to get out. The Halloween parade was almost a block long. Friends had a party and gave out maybe a hundred bucks worth of candy.

         “Here’s one for you,” I’d say as we took turns handing out individually wrapped tiny treats. “Cute costume!”

         “When I was a kid, we used to get full-sized candy bars,” Cathy remembers. “My dad always asked kids to do a trick before they’d get a treat!”

         Kay and Ted live so far out they never get any kids. This year they got dipper gourds. 

         A friend gave them one little seedling. It grew to cover a whole section of the garden and produced more than 60 long-necked spooky squash.

         They’re put up in the new guest house. The vine got nipped in early frost, but not enough to kill, or hurt the gourds. Just put a little character on the skin.

         Here’s one for Cath, along with some turnips, peppers and sweet potatoes. So generous when I stopped by. Wish we still had a garden. We always grew extra to give away and for visiting varmints.

         Just thankful for this little cabin. I’m hanging out for a few days to get it and me ready for winter. But when I arrived I found a young doe dead in our tiny pond.

         “Blue Tongue Disease,” the conservation agent explained when I called the next morning. “It’s been a bad year for it. Some get it, some don’t.”

         It’s a virus, he explained. Hemorrhagic dehydration transmitted by a tiny midge especially in dry years. Died in the pond not able to drink. 

         Luckily I have a generous neighbor, a hunter willing to help haul out the carcass for the coyotes.

         They’ll be yipping and singing soon. Always a surprise when they show up.

         How do they survive so well? They remind me of the bad luck of a foster daughter who lived with us for nearly two years and was at least as smart as any coyote.

         But she got messed up with drugs. And a man. Now she’s facing a felony charge. I can’t sleep for thinking of her, even though we’ve gotten out of touch. 

         I can’t help now, though tried for years. We did what we could, but circumstances got complicated. Covid didn’t help with her bipolar issues. People have gotten sort of suspicious of one another. These last couple of years harder on humans maybe than our long suffering wildlife.

         Are you vaxxed? Jabbed? You know Dr. Fauci has become a billionaire thanks to Covid!

         Who can we trust? So many theories floating around on the Internet.

         No coyotes howling outside yet. The doe rests out in deep woods.

         If nothing happens, leaves will cover her thick fur. It was falling off on stones around the pond as we drug her down by a big old pine.

         Frost in morning will shimmer over her body like a blanket of stars as she gradually becomes one with the earth. 

         A sad fate. But maybe kinder than a state pen with no stars or nature, just fellow creatures ornery as any armadillo.

3 thoughts on “First Killing Frost”

  1. Kimberly J Murphy

    That beauty is one of a kind. She comes from the stars, just like her name. She’s not one of you and you will never understand her, the true artist soul from another realm. She deserves freedom. As an alien hybrid myself, I know I’m different too and I can see her soul and it’s magnificent! No one is perfect and this world is
    upside down. When we can learn to love and live together free of military and governmental tyranny and religious abuse, this world will become a better place!

  2. We had some mutual friends when I was a student in Rolla between 1976 and 1981. For that reason I got a copy of “Short Time”. I was talking to my wife the other day about something that reminded me of your book so I pulled it out and read it again. Then I looked you up. Glad to see you are well and your brain is still capturing those snap shots of the moments that make a life.

    1. Hi Russell, good to hear from you and honored you bought ‘Short Time’ long ago. The Vietnam War still haunts me as it does many vets; I wish our political leaders had learned its lessons. But maybe we’ll muddle thru and democracy will somehow be revitalized. Where are you living now and what kind of work? Have a great New Year!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top