The weather is perfect, sunny and cool. The crops are in, the bugs are gone, the hectic summer schedule is behind us.
Proof that there is a God is found in the spectacular splash of color on every hardwood ridge. I spend a lot of October looking up.
My favorite outdoor activities are never better. Fall fishing is the best fishing of the year. It took a long time for Maine to offer fishing in the fall. Our fishing season always ended on September 30. Now, we can fish year-round in many places. I am proud that the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine led the way on this.
If you are a dog owner and upland bird hunter, this is the month you live for. Migrating woodcock provide spectacular sport as they dipsy doodle up through the alders after you flush them in front of the dog’s point.
Homegrown partridge (ruffed grouse to you professional birders) are the tastiest wild game you’ll ever be privileged to eat. Cook them in beans and you’ll wonder if you’ve died and gone to heaven. Providing meat for the table is a Maine heritage that means a lot to many of us. We get serious about that in October.
And of course now we’ve got the entire month to hunt turkeys. The extension of the fall turkey hunt to all of the month of October, and the doubling of the fall bag limit to two birds, was the result of a bill I proposed two years ago. I’ll be out on Saturday morning with Harry Vanderweide, trying to chase down a few turkeys.
Linda and I kayak down Hopkins Stream this month and pick the last of the wild cranberries, and she makes cranberry muffins that melt in my mouth, particularly when they’re pulled out of the pack for a riverside breakfast as I cast to my favorite brook trout.
We make our final pilgrimage to camp this month to drain the water, shut off the gas, and store another summer’s memories. There might be frost on the Subaru on our final morning there and snow on the top of Katahdin.
October is hearty stews of the last of our fresh vegetables, lots and lots of squash dishes, leak and potato soup, and the savoring of the last of our fresh tomatoes.
We start enjoying evening fires in our woodstove, bringing the scent of the forest into the house that Lin has already decorated with cranberries and the other treats of fall. That new novel is finally taken down from the shelf to be read in front of the crackling fire.
October 15 is my birthday. At my age, I recognize it by celebrating my children and grandchildren, a mighty fine crop if I do say so myself.
I even love preparing for winter, bringing into the cellar the wood that’s been drying out in the open-air woodshed, transporting a load of kindling from the local sawmill, getting the winter clothes out of the attic and storing the summer clothes there.
I love getting ready for something. October is getting-ready month.
E.B. White, in One Man’s Meat, wrote a memorandum in 1941 that begins, “Today I should carry the pumpkins and squash from the back porch to the attic. The nights are too frosty to leave them outdoors any longer. And as long as I am making some trips to the attic I should also take up the boat cushions and the charts and the stuff from the galley and also a fishing rod that belongs up in the attic.”
His to-do fall list goes on for six pages. Many Octobers would be required to get it all done. I like that about October too.
I don’t even mind sharing Maine in October with our friends from away who have discovered that this “shoulder-season” isn’t a link between Maine’s best seasons, summer and winter, it’s the secret season we kept to ourselves all these years. We know that the smartest tourists and part-time residents are here in October.
Many others come as leaf-peepers. One year, when we were extending the moose hunt into new areas where members of the tourism industry were concerned that leaf-peepers would be put off if they saw dead moose around town, I was quoted in the Lewiston Sun Journal saying, “Maine isn’t just about dead leaves. It’s also about dead moose.”
Got a lot of comment on that! We ended up scheduling the moose season later in those areas. Turns out fall is only about dead leaves. But we do hunt moose in October in northern Maine.
New England’s favorite poet, Robert Frost, opened his poem October with these words: “O hushed October morning mild, Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all.”
In truth, the dead leaves and other detritus of October enrich the soil that brings us lady slippers and mayflowers in the spring, and chanterelles a bit later. I like that about October too. It’s not the end of something, it’s the beginning.
This is the month when you don’t want to move a gosh-darn-inch. Why would you want to be anyplace else?