Memories of the Fall

| 11/17/2015 11:26:00 AM

Tags: Wild Birds, Childhood, Farm Life, Jen Gunning, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania,

JenTo my children, Ehmar, Jaedy, and Elce

I watched a company of geese fly overhead as we raked leaves in the yard today, winging southerly for the winter. The oaks and maples have nearly finished stepping out of their amber and carnelian robes and soon will stand naked for the cold sun’s duration. The late autumn scene journeyed me back to a similar day which had taken place what seemed like ages ago. Watching the flock pass overhead and behind the tree line, I remembered another pair of wings that never found their way south. You’ve seen the pictures and you know the overarching storyline. But today I want to tell you the details about one of the hardest days of my childhood.

Baby robin

An orphan robin that we rescued last summer.

If memory serves, the scorching heat of June 1980 was mighty enough to burn even the most callused kid’s feet. Only a few times during that blistering summer did I make it into town where most of my friends lived. I spent those brief reprieves playing hopscotch at the park or sharing a bubblegum slush with my best pal, Holly, at the local ice-cream shop, The Blue Cow. The rest of my summer was spent on the farm. In retrospect, being raised as a country girl afforded me a wondrously enriching perspective on life that children raised in towns and cities lack. Years later, I am grateful and wholly indebted to my parents for their conviction to raise a family in the country. Now as I hurry between stoplights and fight through the mall traffic, I yearn for the simplicity and quiet seclusion of the open fields. But a spirited six-year-old would much rather spend lazy summer days splashing with friends in the West Branch of the Susquehanna instead of hoeing endless rows of wax beans. So while my friends delighted in the amenities of town life, Uncle Jason and I had to invent our own fun on the farm.

Insect hunts were popular. We would set out through the fields, competing to see whose butterfly net was fullest by the time Mom called us for dinner. Some days we would roll hulking rocks down the slope to the half dried-out pond to build steppingstone bridges from one muddy bank to the other. Sometimes on a dare, we would go into the chicken coop to snatch a nest full of eggs. By skillfully maneuvering a coffee can over the hen's head, we could safely plunge our hands into her downy warmth and make off with the goods. But our favorite and most compassionate activities always revolved around finding helpless creatures to save.  

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