The Possums of Autumn
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”
-Keats, “To Autumn”
In East Texas autumn is the gentlest season, first shooing away the fierce heat of the summer and then admitting those refreshing cool fronts from the north borne on soft winds. To step outside in the summer heat is almost painful, to step outside in autumn is a joy.
Autumn is erratic here, and while it progresses eventually to frosts and even an occasional rare freeze, the thermometer, hygrometer, and barometer are given lots of exercise in the variations.
On one morning the fields might be frosted almost to the aesthetic approval of Currier & Ives, and the next morning might be a matter of wasps and bees and minding the snakes.
Crows seem to be more numerous in November, and they are certainly noisier. Geese, seemingly happier birds, honk and squeak in their V formation migration, and from a nearby pond one can hear the happy quacking of ducks taking a break from their own travels. The other day we saw a huge egret frogging among the reeds in a watery roadside ditch. He looked at us disapprovingly, but he needn’t have been snotty for I don’t imagine the frogs thought highly of the egret.
This morning is warm and damp, and ground strawberries and tiny yellow flowers accent the grey sky and the wind-shoaled fallen leaves all ruddy and yellow and brown.
The little dogs are sniffing indignantly at the scents left by wild visitors in the dark hours. Yesterday evening I released the pups for their night patrol and they quickly found a large possum who had been minding its own business while quietly browsing around for some supper.
Every dachshund thinks it is a timber wolf, and separating the two dogs and the possum was a challenge. I managed to nab Astrid-the-Wonder-Dog first, since she is more of a loud spectator than a participant, and hustled her into the house. Luna-Dog, 16 pounds of fury, was more of a challenge. She is kind and loving and sweet to her humans, but death to numerous snakes, two possums, one racoon, and, sadly, two turtles (I didn’t move fast enough, and the turtles couldn’t move fast enough).
Luna-Dog did not want me to have the possum she was gnawing, and so there was a bit of a chase. A dachshund can’t run fast while dragging a possum its size, and I was finally able to pull the dog away (under protest) and carry her, too (she was calling for a point of order), to the house.
I returned to the arena of combat with a shovel for tossing the dead possum over the fence, but the critter had only fainted and now, having had enough of bothersome dachshunds, it was scrambling up an oak tree.
Perhaps we all slept better for the exercise.