Along about the end of August in Northeast Ohio there is a noticeable change in the weather. By the end of September, the short season of autumn is moving through its paces. The nights are crisp, sometimes near freezing. The days are cooler and the warmth of the sun is a welcome relief to the dampness of the cloud cover, which occurs about 80% of the time. Feeding the animals in both the morning and evening is a good deal more brisk than it was just a few weeks before. And they appear as if they are eating more, are more hungry, and are storing up for the winter ahead. The trees are turning bright fall colors and the ground is undergoing a metamorphous of near freeze and thaw every night.
This was always a great time of the year to go on a horseback ride. We had a 100 acres and a lot of it was wooded. The spotted-winged deer flies that menace both the horse and rider were far more scarce in the cool autumn air, making the ride much more pleasant than those hot humid summer rides. It’s a relief knowing that you don’t have to anticipate one or more of those blood-sucking insects taking a hunk of skin out of your neck or sleeveless arm. And the horse won’t be shaking his head in an effort to keep them from swarming his ears and neck. It’s a pleasant time of the year to ride the backwoods, and the pressure of training for horse shows is off because the show-season is mostly finished as school starts.
It was a peaceful time. Things were winding down. Walking through the woods, you could appreciate the finer things of God’s great creation. The squirrels gathering their nuts for the winter, climbing along the trees as if to follow us through the woods, gliding along the canopy. The creek is still flowing gently through the farm. We kick up into a nice lope down the path of trees that were arched to make a hallway sometime long before the Wilson family settled this homestead, and it ends in a clearing where there was once a sugar shack in the late 1800s where maple syrup was processed, overlooking what we thought were Indian burial mounds. Didn’t know for sure, but didn’t want anyone to disturb them.
This was the site of many a camping adventures. My best friend Sonny and I would pitch our tent throughout the summer weekends when we were mere lads. Later, the Wandering Riders 4-H club would ride the 16 miles from Rootstown to our farm and camp out with the horses. Lorraine Linton, Lori Dunn, the Lewis Brothers, the Hensley sisters, Gary Urchek and many more would settle the horses and then play capture the flag or flashlight tag before settling in around the campfire. Yes, autumn was upon us once again. The memories of summers gently stirring my mind like a subtle breeze. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The days of autumn, on the back of a horse, riding through an Ohio woods discovers the simple joy of God’s creation and the memories of fellow sojourners.