by Rowland E. Robinson
SEPTEMBER days have the warmth of summer
in their briefer hours, but in their lengthening evenings a prophetic breath
The cricket chirps in the noontide,
making the most of what remains of his brief life. The bumblebee is busy
among the clover blossoms of the aftermath, and their shrill and dreamy
hum hold the outdoor world above the voices of the song birds, now silent
Such a little while ago they were our
familiars, noted all about us in their accustomed haunts sparrow, robin,
and oriole each trying now and then, as if to keep it in memory, a strain
of his springtime love song. The bobolinks, in sober sameness of traveling
gear, held the meadowside thickets of weeds, and the swallows sat in sedate
conclave on the barn ridge.
Then, looking and listening for them,
we suddenly become aware they are gone. How unobtrusive was their exodus.
We awake and miss them, or we think of them and see them not and then we
realize that with them summer too has gone.
This also the thistledown and the blooming
asters tell us, and, though the woods are dark with their latest greenness,
in the lowlands the gaudy standard of autumn is already displayed. In its
shadow the muskrat is thatching his winter home, and on his new-shorn watery
lawn the full-fledged wild duck broods frolic in full feather strength
Evil days are these of September that
now befall them. Wish for the callow days of peaceful summer when no honest
gunner was abroad and only the keel of the unarmed angler rippled the still
channel. Continuous unrest and abiding fear are their lot now and till
spring brings the truce.
More silently than the fisher's craft
the skiff of the sportsman now invades the rush-paled thoroughfares. Noiseless
as ghosts, paddler and shooter glide along the even path till, alarmed
by some keener sense than is given us, up rise wood duck, dusky duck, and
teal from their reedy cover. Then the ready gun belches its thunder, and
suddenly consternation pervades the marshes.
All the world has burst forth in a
burning of powder. From end to end, from border to border, the fenny expanse
roars with discharge and echo, and nowhere within it is there peace or
rest for the sole of the webbed foot. Even the poor bittern and heron,
harmless and worthless, flap to and fro from one retreat to another.
The upland woods, too, are awakened
from the slumber of their late summer days. How silent they had grown when
their songsters had departed, rarely stirred but by the woodpecker's busy
hammer, the chatter and bark of squirrels, and the crows making vociferous
proclamation against some winged or furred enemy. The grouse have waxed
fat among the border patches of berry bushes, rarely disturbed in the seclusion
of the thickets but by the soft footfall of the fox, the fleeting shadow
of a cruising hawk, and the halloo of the farmer driving home his herd
from the hillside pasture.
Now come enemies more relentless than
beast or bird of prey, a sound more alarming than the farmer's distant
call man and his companion the dog, and the terrible thunder of the gun.
Peace and the quietness of peace have
departed from the realm of the woods, and henceforth while the green leaves
grow bright as blossoms with the touch of frost, then brown and sere, and
till long after they lie under the white shroud of winter, its wild denizens
shall abide in fear and unrest.
So fares it with the woodfolk, these
days of September, wherein the sportsman rejoices with exceeding gladness.
Rowland E. Robinson was an
avid Vermont naturalist and writer.