September. The kids are back in school and the evening heat has started to moderate a little. Combines appear in the fields, collecting the bounty that will see us through another year. Sounds of marching bands and shoulder-pad clashing can be heard late in the afternoons around the local high schools. The pecan trees will shed leaves as if in a panic, and the nuts will fall into the leaves for collecting. Autumn approaches, and with it comes Opening Day.|
Opening Day. That magical time when men become boys again, the tents come out, and most everyone around here heads for the woods. Opening Day! When the sounds of the woods are interrupted by gunfire, and laughter, and four-wheeler traffic. Opening Day. A time when daylight can't get here quite quickly enough.
Opening day is a different time depending on where you live. If you are a duck hunter, opening day is a time for hip boots, decoys, and shotgun shells. If you are a squirrel hunter, opening day is for oak bottoms and big beech trees. If you are a deer hunter, opening day brings out the orange clothing and the centerfire rifles.
Yet Opening Day is the same everywhere. It is a time of renewal, an annual pilgrimage to a place where life is a little simpler, the air a little cleaner, the bourbon a little stronger. It is a time of campfires and woodsmoke and easy banter around the fire. It is a time of silence in the stillness of the woods, listening to the dew fall from the just-turning-colors leaves.
Opening Day! Work is banished and chores are put aside for the weekend. The delicate aroma of Hoppe's lingers in the air and the aroma of coffee in a thermos is enough to make you dizzy with anticipation. The days are a little shorter, the light seems gentler on the eyes. If you are lucky, you break out a flannel shirt for the crisp air of the evening.
As many times as I have been through my pasture gate, the easy snick of a shell into the chamber, followed by the gentle tinkle of the gate-chain wrapping around the post, makes the pasture seem new and fascinating. The walk into the woods is magical, almost mysterious. Optimism brims over my heart and enthusiasm for the day springs into my step.
It's coming. Opening Day is coming. Get ready!