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Friday, May 6, 2016

Gray Matters:Autumn Splendor

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Perhaps, if I were in the midst of a howling January blizzard, or if I had to rake up my own November leaves, I might choose to live in a mild, seasonless climate. But just one glance out my windows at October's splendor and such a choice loses its appeal. I am sure, like most prairie towns, ours has been aware of the beauty and value of trees from the time of its founding.

Benjamin Radcliffe, one of our earliest settlers, planted many on the west side of town. John Bird and James Williams were similarly busy on the east side, with others planting many beauties in between. I might also point out that most of our streets bear the names of trees. I live on Elm Street. Ash is the one to the east and Oak lies to the west, and so it goes. I like that touch.

There is no need to use your funds and fuel to take a leaf-viewing tour out of town these next weeks. Just walk or drive through our tree-named, tree-lined, streets for a splendid local show.

There are a few majestic silver maples still around. They must be true centenarians, planted not too long after our town was platted. Most of the stately elms, lost some years ago to elm disease, were replaced with various maples. It's amazing how rapidly they have grown to fill in the emptiness. Each type seems to have its own pattern of color change.

This results in a fleeting patch-work panorama that is breathtaking. Then there are the conifers, those comforting pillars of green which will continue to punctuate the snowiest of landscapes, reminding us that, come spring, the rest of the splendor will return.

Speaking of conifers, you must be sure to look at the unusual ones in the area just east of the main entrance to the Marcus Fairgrounds. Those are larch trees. Having needles, they are true evergreens, but they are the only evergreens that lose their needles just as deciduous trees do. They are truly extraordinary. I have been told that these ancient marvels were probably planted by Mr. Radcliffe.

Here is a poem inspired by last year's Leaf Show:


My backyard maple knows no scarlet, only gold.

Leaves, arriving late when spring is almost

over, linger long, reluctant to let go.

At last they're raked in heaps of gilt profusion,

not trash or compost, but a

burnt offering to Mother Nature.

Flying sky-ward, the bonfire sparks

are golden bits of summer returning

for her to use again next year.

Now let's consider another favorite autumn topic, Halloween. As it is still October, there is plenty of time for you to travel straight west of Cherokee on C38 until you reach its intersection with Hwy. 143.

There you will find the Pumpkin Patch which the Hoeflings have created again this year. It's that very special place which you and your family must visit. Al, Geralyn and their kids provide many fun-filled activities, chief among them is the ever-popular corn maze. They also offer pumpkins, gourds, and ornamental corn, as well as a variety of breads, cookies and other home-baked goodies for sale.

If you don't feel like participating in any of the activities, you can just relax, sit back on a hay bale and bask in the peaceful beauty of the rolling Iowa landscape. The Pumpkin Patch will be open through October 31, so there is still plenty of time to enjoy this delightfully pleasurable experience.