Based on the forecast, I suspect the sun might be shining by the time most people read this.

But twice today (once early in the morning at home and again at about 10:30 a.m. in Houston) I have stepped outside only to be greeted by what I would describe as a sheet of water in the sky. It was wild – by no means torrential (thankfully), but there really weren’t defined raindrops falling; it was more like the air was just full of water.

Chalk it up to what has – to this point – certainly been a fall full of fall-like weather conditions. Sure, it would have been nice if the rain we’ve gotten so much of lately would have arrived a couple of months ago and area cattle ranchers could have avoided haying their herds the way many already have.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

But we’re also looking at a classic example of “better late than never.” I mean, I know there are folks who took about a day to start complaining about the rain, but it’s still badly needed around here where the ground water supply has yet to fully recover from those back-to-back major drought years of 2011 and 2012.

Not being one of the complainers, I’ve been enjoying getting out in the cool autumn temperatures in between the showers and taking in plenty of what the Ozarks outdoors has to offer. During such a calm spell last Saturday afternoon, me, my oldest daughter, Roxanne, and two silly dogs who live at our remote Texas County outpost took a nice walk down the dirt road and came back along a creek bed in the nearby woods.

After being nothing but a dry ribbon of rocks for months, the creek was running nicely because of all the recent precipitation. As it wound through the trees and below several small to medium bluffs, it gurgled and made lots of other pleasant sounds that combined with spongy soil and trees loaded with colorful leaves to set a very fall-like tone.

As trudged through the relatively rugged terrain and blazed our own trail between scattered thick and thorny obstacles, we came across a big downed tree that bore an amazing fungal display. On the side facing up, there was a large area covered with colorful growth that basically looked like a multi-layered pile. Going out in both directions from there, more of the stuff occupied virtually every nook and cranny in the not-yet-rotten tree’s bark, forming horizontal stripes and lines that looked like an abstract work of art.

I later consulted my Missouri mushrooms field guide and what we were looking at was almost certainly “sulfur shelf,” which is known to have an bright orange-red cap and pale sulfur-yellow pore surface, and can be found from summer to fall growing on living trees or dead wood in “large masses of overlapping caps” (there’s your “pile”). By the way, I have a large collection of similar field guide magazines on frogs, lizards, snakes, fishes, trees, raptors and many other plants and animals found in Missouri. You can, too – lots of stuff like that is available for free at the Mark Twain National Forest ranger station in Houston.

As we continued our trek, we saw some old wooden fencing the spanned the creek bed, probably dating back many decades to when the old dilapidated schoolhouse that stands nearby (barely) was still an attractive, first-rate neighborhood gathering place for students and meetings. We also saw several strange and unusual limestone rocks and formations, which is of course typical of the Karst topography so common to the Ozarks.

As we pressed on toward our finishing point, we experienced many other interesting sights and sounds, and the dogs – Wally and Gertie – took turns using the creek itself as a trail. Both of those animals love water, and the opportunity to splash around in the cool stream was far too good to pass up.

We didn’t, however, see or hear any turkeys along our route, which I thought was interesting because I’ve been seeing several almost every day for the past month. Maybe the local big birds were staying clear of a certain Corgified Terrier and Permapup.

Can’t say as I blame them. Those dogs wouldn’t have any designs on a kill or anything like that, but they would surely be up for a good chase.

I’m glad we’ve had so much fall this year. Still, I guess when the first frost hits and a hard freeze soon follows, I figure there’s a good chance I’ll hear an almost inevitable statement.

“Well, we went straight from summer to winter again,” someone’s going to say. “Seems like we never have any fall weather anymore.”

While that would be entirely inaccurate, if it happens I’ll probably just smile and politely say something like, “heck, it seems like just yesterday that the temperature was 96 and the day before that when there was eight inches of snow on the ground.”

It’s best to pick your battles carefully. Enjoy the fall conditions.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

 

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