Favorite memories of autumn’s past
Published 9:29 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2017
With the intensity of the heat in day light hours, there is discomfort about these days, but we know fall is coming when the sun goes down and there is a modest chill washing over us. It is as if we were in the desert. The sun overwhelms during the day, but the nights require a wrap.
The days are getting shorter which brings about contempt for many who love the outdoors. I remember dinner in Southern France with Richard Tardits, the former Georgia football sensation whose story resonates over and over and over. The thrill of competition caused him to take up an unfamiliar game — college football. He learned to play it well enough to earn a scholarship and set the school sack record. What has gone over the heads of those who know about him is that he earned a B.S. and a masters in four years. Starting out he had to learn to speak English to understand what was happening around him. Achievement in anything begins with effort and commitment.
Today, this Renaissance man lives for the longest days of the year. This is a man who swims in the Atlantic every day and gives physical exercise the same emphasis that he gives the mental. He prefers the spring and summer over fall.
The fall, however, gets top billing in this corner. The shorter days are more arresting. I can’t get enough of the harvest season, especially in the mountains where pumpkins and hay bales beckon at every place of business. Firewood and fireplaces. Never met one I didn’t like.
Jeans and a plaid shirt. Orvis boots and a hunting style jacket which is appropriate for an informal social outing — which you find at places like Onward Reserve. That is smart dressing at its finest, and you only experience it in the fall.
While the fall, for most of our society, centers around football which can be as emotionally fulfilling as anything, provided that your team wins more than its share of games, but the fall offers an abundance of secondary options. With some, it becomes primary.
Right now, the trout in the upper Chattahoochee are active and ready for you to set a hook if you take the time to wander about the streams of the northern sector of our state. There are about 4,000 miles of trout streams in the Georgia mountains. The beauty of this activity is that it lasts all the way to next May.
Trout fishing is at its best in October. Trout may be more easily caught in the cold days of winter actually, but October allows for the environment to overwhelm you. To be standing in the rushing waters of the Chattahoochee and see the leaves at peak while you cast for a rainbow is one of the many wonderful outdoor options we have in our state. Too many pass on what is an ultimate experience.
For the passionate football fan there is time to do the Chattahoochee and the marshes on the coast as well. There are no hardwood leaves and fall color, but the marsh grass does evolve into charming brown hues which connects with the senses You get a jolt in your emotions when the marsh hen sends you a shout out while you reel in a bass, its silver reflections giving your emotions a surge and updraft while you think about dinner at Speed’s Kitchen at Shellman Bluff.
The down home atmosphere prevails throughout our state. You can brush up against modesty and humility wherever you go. I can remember a friend taking us home after an afternoon of fishing near Sapelo Island. He rounded a curve with his Evinrude motors churning the waters with a thrust that made your mood aglow — the wind flush in your face, the cooler brimming with dozens of speckled trout and bass.
Over in one of the small tributaries, feeding into the main waterway, stood a solitary figure — a man adroitly casting a shrimp net. He was not casting for sport, he was casting for his supper. This is a reminder of how we came to enjoy shrimp and grits. It was created by the poor families on the coast.
It was an elementary circumstance of making do. Historically, man has lived off the land and from the wild. On the coasts in the low county there has always been plenty of corn for cornmeal which becomes grits. Easy and inexpensive to grow corn and cheap, by most standards, to produce grits. Then catch a few shrimp from the coastal waters, marry them up and you have a nourishing and tasty dinner. Necessity will always be the mother of invention which is why connoisseurs of good food probably never think about how the shrimp and grits came about.
Go anywhere in the world and you will find a vegetable market dominating the scene on Saturday. The most overflowing market scene I have ever experienced was in Ramallah in the West Bank of Jordan.
There was the time, in France, when I went shopping at a street market with my host who bargained with the suppliers and farmers, taking home produce that became an unforgettable meal, enhanced by a local wine which touched the soul. It was better than anything the tour guides recommend in Paris.
Back to our home state. Let’s not overlook that fulfillment in the fall, in addition to trout fishing in the mountains and bass fishing on the coast, is only achieved when you head to Southwest Georgia and meet up with the Bob White quail.
Walking the fields, knowing that when your day is done, you will have a choice of enjoying a tasty quail, baked or fried for your next meal. That sage philosopher Satchel Paige warned against eating fried food, but if Satchel had eaten friend quail for breakfast, he might have pitched three or four more years in the big leagues.
Nothing more fun in my home state than the fall. Selah!
Loran Smith is the executive secretary of the Georgia Bulldog Club.