Yellow of fall calls for us to pay attention

June, July and August are over. Summer hay has been cut and stored in the pole barn. It took a week, but all the fat pastured yearling steers and heifers are shipped out. The glass colored water in the river ran as long as it could with out any rain for three months. Summer is over. Our reservoir water is used up. The ornery red cow has a spot of cancer in the corner of her eye; it will have to be watched. The black bull was sold. September is coming on like a big yellow school bus. The yellow of caution. Pay attention, things are happening here.

Light, dry, straw colored grass is standing in the fields. The cattailed toolies at the edge of the field show clear paths where coyotes have criss-crossed the swamp looking for mice and birds. Thick clumps of willows along the back lane have grass hidden in their shadowy middle. Pressed down where animals have laid waiting for the heat of the day or unsuspecting food to pass.

Bear tracks in the sand up by the rock pile don't concern too much because the black bear that made them wasn't too big. He'd been on the front porch early in the morning smelling the flowers left out after a garden party when I opened the door to shoosh him away mistakenly thinking he was the neighbor's black 100-plus-pound Newfoundland dog. My quick cut-off shout and even faster door slam had him climbing the tree outside the bedroom window in a second flat.

He watched me from about 15 feet in the air.

I could have reached out and touched the branch he was on from the second story window if I had no care for my own safety. But since the kids were still sleeping and I had loads more of laundry to do I just sorted clothes on the bed while he watched, scratching his side and shoulder on the tree bark, for about 15 minutes.

When it was obvious there was no food around and no danger on the ground, the bear allowed a few colored pictures of itself to be taken before it climbed down, went through the back yard, climbed a four foot white wood fence, walked along the top board for a few feet like it was a balance beam, then jumped down and ran off to the cover of willows along the irrigation ditch.

Haven't seen it since that one time because the apple, plum and apricot trees in the owl place, behind the house, didn't bear fruit this year. Lots of leaves but the tree blossoms froze in the early June frost and blew away in the dry wind.

The quick and cautious powder grey partridges are hiding under the blackberry bush in the back yard make cooing calls to warn whenever someone walks around the thorny bush checking for fresh berries.

Most berries are still hard light green bumps but signs of the dark blue, purple fruit can be seen near the top of the 7-foot bush. Soon fingers and lips will show signs of a good berry year with tints of red and blue on them.

Fall comes with its own set of colors. Pay attention. Things are happening around here.

-- Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.


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