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Tag Archive: Autumn

Oct 13

Epilogue: what ever happened to Red and Autumn, savvy mountain dogs?

“The greater love is a mother’s; then comes a dog’s.” – Polish Proverb

A reader asked me last week about a column I wrote in the fall of 2006. It was about Red and Autumn, tough, savvy mountain dogs, and their unusual love story, not just love for each other but for humans as well.

“I saw your column last time about Henry, the cat,” the reader said, “but what ever happened to those mountain dogs you wrote about once. You have to be fair and write about dogs, too, not just cats,” the reader laughed.

The reader’s question made me curious as well. I decided to find out what happened to those two after three years since I first encountered them.

When I first met Red and Autumn, they lived in the mountains in Teller County, Colorado, southwest of Colorado Springs. Elevation: 9494.

EPILOGUE: three years later. A car hit tough, indestructible Red since I first wrote the story. A vet who lives nearby saved his life, but Red is crippled and in constant pain. Red’s adoptive family, where he stayed when not wandering the mountains, cares for him full time now. Autumn never leaves Red’s side since his accident and does not venture across the mountain to her home and family anymore. I am told Red will give you a bark, but he is no force. They stay close to the house and avoid the bears.

If you want to hear the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, take a look at their love story, written October 28, 2006.

“Red and Autumn are savvy dogs”

We were hiking in the Rocky Mountains when Red appeared from behind a huge mossy boulder, the kind of rock formation you often see in the Colorado high country.

I was expecting a bear and was somewhat prepared for that potential encounter, if one can be prepared to meet a bear.

Instead, a great red-haired street-tough dog, a stray, growled at me. He came closer. I did not move a muscle.

About then, my brother stepped out of the woods with bear stick in hand and called to Red.

Apparently, he and Red knew one another.

John threw Red a doggy treat.

I learned later that my brother always keeps doggy treats in his pocket in case Red wanders through the forest and surprises him.

The thought crossed my mind that doggy treats in one’s pocket might possibly attract bears as well, but I dismissed that notion for the moment anyway.

I was aware that in the fall bears are consuming 20,000 calories a day in preparation for their winter hibernation.

Doggy treats could do nicely for the bears as an appetizer for their main course, the human carrying the doggy biscuits.

“Don’t worry,” John said. “No bears around right now. Don’t worry about the dog either. Red has been abused, dumped in the mountains, and is actually afraid of you.”

Red, adopted by a kindly neighbor who feeds him, still runs wild in the woods. He is as much a part of the mountain wildlife as are the bears.

John asked me to look across the clearing.

“There’s Autumn, Red’s friend. I wondered if she was with him today,” John said.

Autumn is a motley sort of animal, an Australian sheep dog with a black and white and grayish coat and haunting eyes. She never steps too far from the safety of the woods and rarely moves into a clearing.

That is, until Red signals her through some uncanny method of communication between the two of them that it is OK to travel further.

What a peculiar relationship these oddly paired dogs have.

Red travels nearly five miles one way every few days to visit Autumn at her home across the mountain. Then, the two make the five-mile trek back to spend a couple of days with Red’s adoptive humans.

When the time to go arrives, and they somehow instinctively know that, Red and Autumn begin their journey back across the mountain to Autumn’s family.

Red may stay a night or two with her or come straight back.

No one knows why or how the two communicate so well.

After awhile without her, Red heads off in her direction to escort her back to his place.

My brother will say, “Well, there goes Red. He must be going to get Autumn.”

She always comes with him, but only for a day or two.

When she is ready, Autumn signals Red that it is time to walk her home.

Once she stayed too long, and her worried humans came looking and drove her back in the truck. It was too far and too dangerous for her to walk alone.

Red knows that, and he is there to protect her.

On one occasion, while visiting at Red’s place, Autumn was attacked by a bear.

Red, of course, came to the rescue, although Autumn suffered an injury to her leg. Happily, she survived.

I was thinking about all this and how amazing these two creatures are when I realized I was standing in a clearing alone halfway up a mountain.

My brother, my sister-in-law, and my husband had climbed much higher up the mountain on some exploratory mission, and I was left in an open meadow.

Choosing to stay behind due to my arthritic knees, I realized all too quickly that I was without help, and I was standing near a tree where bears had recently discovered a honeycomb. The evidence of their meal was left on the ground.

I sensed I was not entirely alone, so I began to turn slowly watching my backside in all directions.

No bear stick. The mountain climbers had them.

No Pepper Spray. It was in the truck.

Then, at the edge of the woods, I spotted Red. He did not bark. He did not want a treat. He did not move.

He was on bear watch and guard duty, not for Autumn this time, but for me.

Oct 14

Early fall in Missouri is Hedgeapple time —aka Horse Apples, Osage Orange, Hedgeballs

“Tail end of a ragtag summer, Horse Apple Time”— from 1997 poem “Horse Apples” by Nancy Fitz-Gerald Viens

When a young friend told me about her latest decorating passion, placing live Hedgeapples in glass vases around her house, I laughed out loud.

“Really,” I asked her, “Are we talking about the same Hedgeapple–those bowling ball-size bright green, bumpy, smelly things that fall off hedge trees in the fall? You’re bringing them inside?”

“Yes,” she said, “ I love them, and they are chic now, the hottest trend in home décor. My friend added that on a Martha Stewart episode Martha explained how she uses them in their natural state, not dried. They last about two months before turning black, my friend added.

Now, that part I agree with, after two months they turn black and rot outside, too.

“Hedgeapples? I asked again. “My great-aunt used to call them Green Brains, and as I recall they smell like a rotten orange.”

“Oh, no,” my friend argued, “They smell like the nice citrus smell of orange rind.”

Indeed, maybe we are talking about two different things after all, but here is what I do know about Hedgeballs, although I admit, I am no Martha Stewart.

• When my grandmother was young probably in the late 1890s, Osage Orange trees, or hedge trees, were planted in rows in rural areas by the hundreds. Thus, the term—hedge rows.

• They were planted close together so, as the saying goes they were “horse high”, no horse could jump over them; “bull strong”, strong enough a bull would not push through them; and “hog tight”, woven tightly so a hog couldn’t wriggle through.

• Wood from these trees was used for fence posts, but long before that, the Osage Indians of the Great Plains used the strong but bendable branches to make bows. Some people still refer to hedge trees as “bow trees” as a result.

• Squirrels are known to chew the Hedgeballs wide open and carefully separate the seeds, the only part of the Hedgeapple squirrels will eat.

• Cattle sometimes choke on Hedgeapples if they don’t chew them well, and the big, thick skin of the fruit gets stuck in their esophagus. Mostly, animals leave them alone.

• If you want to do what the squirrel does and pick out the seeds, go for it. Incidentally, Hedgeapples are not poisonous but the fruit is not what one would call edible by humans.

• I remember as a child trying to cut those green rough balls in two wondering what was inside. I found a white, milky, sticky substance and remember being surprised that was all there was.

• Sometimes, we kids referred to them as “bumpkins” because they were as big as some pumpkins and rough and potholed with bumps.

• If you want to grow your own hedge trees, you won’t find them in nurseries, or I have never seen them there. Remove the seeds like the squirrels do by clawing them out or put the green Hedgeapples into water and soak for days or weeks until they are mushy. Easier to remove the seeds that way I am told, but who has time.

• One last pertinent comment to add: I believe the old wives’ tale might be true that Hedgeapples do in fact keep spiders and insects away. But certainly the idea is to place them around the foundation on the outside of the house, not inside.

I think this is about the end of my Martha Stewart impression.

And come to think of it, I don’t care if the live Hedgeapples are in the window of Pottery Barn; I am not bringing them in the house.

(Note: If you have Hedgeapple stories, I’d love to hear them.)

Aug 07

Remembering summers past, last in a series of stories about summer before air conditioning Cherished summers are at the end of the rainbow

 “Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tides always and a full moon every night,”—Hal Borland

Summer is waning. We never see the end coming do we, and its end always breaks my heart.

I planned to have a lazy, carefree summer with lots of time to swim, picnic, and read, just like I did in the summers of my youth.

Instead, I painted the deck, attended meetings, fought broadleaf weeds in the yard, and visited relatives.

Each year, I continue to search for this “end of the rainbow”, if you will, a futile attempt to recapture the untroubled and happy-go-lucky days of summers past.

Incidentally, if you have ever walked toward the end of a rainbow you know that it will continue to move further away. In truth, a rainbow does not actually exist in a particular location, just like cherished summer memories.

In this series about a time before air conditioning, we have revisited a variety of summer memories.

We talked about enjoying homegrown tomatoes, dressing chickens, championing summer laziness as a virtue, loving the patriotism of bygone days, reminiscing about long lost summer romances, “putting up hay”, taking road trips and watching each others’ slide shows, and spending hours of our summer vacation doing crafts such as paint-by-number kits.

And, there are more lovely memories to recall as well. Memories such as these:

Playing outside all day with no sunscreen or bug spray for protection as we wandered through the timber naming the trees and rocks in order to reenact our favorite western movies.

“Meet you at Twin Oaks,” I said to my siblings and cousins. “ I will be at Lone Rock watching out for outlaws.” We believed we were a posse of cowboys, lawmen, and cowgirls chasing the bad guys.”

We stayed out all morning in this pursuit until my mother honked the car horn to call us home for dinner, served at 12-noon straight up. She never knew where we were but assumed we would come back if injured too badly.

I remember riding a go-cart made from scraps of metal and an old gas engine and driving it very fast while releasing the governor so it would move even faster, often downhill and into bushes. Iodine was eventually applied to the ensuing scrapes because there was no such thing as Neosporin.

In the afternoons, we went to the library and “borrowed” a new book, or we went swimmin’ in the town pool. Evenings were filled with playing tag or other games and eating homemade ice cream.

Wistfully, I pine for a way back to the unworried summers of our youth, as the memories there are simply too delicious to forget.

I apologize to no one for being so spoony (excessively sentimental).

“There’s nothing you can say to make me change my mind…as we look back and see our yesterdays entwine, the beauty and the truth of the summers of our youth. And you can go there anytime. The movies in your mind” (lyrics from “Summers of our Youth” by M. Furuholmen).

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