I think most of us have noticed the leaves are beginning to change color. The soft maples are the earliest to change from green to red. Fall has always been my favorite time of year.
Thousands of people visit Vermont to photograph the changing seasons. Fall is a season everyone enjoys for different reasons.
For me, fall is a time to be in the woods away from other people. Small game season starts in September. Small game is gray squirrels, rabbits and partridge.
When school was out I would rush home, change my clothes and go squirrel hunting. When I was growing up we always had beagles for rabbit dogs. We owned several prize beagles. Weekends my father and I would go rabbit hunting, usually in Mount Holly or Shrewsbury.
Shooting a running rabbit or a partridge on the wing requires practice and good hand and eye coordination. My father was a much better wing shooter than I was but I got my share.
Deer season was a few weeks away so the time we spent in the woods hunting small game was also a time to learn where the deer were and what they were feeding on. Sometimes sitting quietly in the woods waiting for a squirrel, a deer would come along feeding on acorns. One time I saw a huge buck about 50 yards away. He never knew I was there. He was an eight-pointer and about 200 pounds.
When you’re in the woods and the leaves are falling off the trees there is an incredible scent that fills the air. Sometimes you can smell smoke from a woodstove far off in the distance. All of these experiences sharpen your senses.
Another thing I like to do during foliage is ride old back roads. Danny Clemons and I spend many hours riding around. We look for an old road with stonewalls on both sides. We drive very slow, reminiscing about days gone by, people we used to know or previous hunts. Some of these old roads are lined with ancient maple trees. When most of the leaves have fallen onto the road, the automobile traffic has lightly dusted the leaves off to the side leaving a narrow lane. The photo with this article perfectly illustrates this. I took this photo last fall on the Burgess Cemetery Road in Grafton.
We see deer, foxes, partridge, turkeys and other animals. If you see an old apple tree and look close you might see a partridge. Partridge love apples. Partridge also like to sit on stonewalls. As my father taught me, “they stand out like a sore thumb.” They won’t fly unless you turn your motor off. Some of the views we see are breathtaking.
If you pay attention you might find a cellar hole where someone lived over 200 years ago. It’s fun to explore these old cellar holes and try to imagine what it must have been like living there so long ago. I still have the imagination I had as a young boy.
Beaver ponds are another place we like to visit. If the water is calm, the reflection of the foliage and bright blue sky creates a mirror image. You might see a beaver, geese or a moose. All animals are busy preparing for winter. In dry leaves, something as small as a stonewall panther (chipmunk) can sound like an elephant in a potato chip bag.
Another thing we look for are old cemeteries. Occasionally you’ll find a small cemetery in the middle of nowhere. Stop the car and wander through these archaeological sites. Most of the names will be early English settlers. Some of these early gravestone carvers really created works of art. Have you ever been to the cemetery in Smokeshire? I have family buried there.
Fall is a short season but it has a lot to offer. I spend a lot of time in Mount Holly and Shrewsbury. I always stop at the Crowley Cheese Factory in Healdville to buy cheese. It’s something my father and I always did, as did my father and his grandfather Frank. I believe the Crowley Cheese Factory is the oldest cheese factory in the country.
Take a drive on the back roads of Shrewsbury, Mount Holly or Belmont. Don’t be afraid of getting lost, you won’t. You’ll come out somewhere. It’s the best way to see Vermont.
This week’s old saying is from my mother. “If cheese doesn’t smell like your feet, it ain’t no good.”