The woods are different in the winter because trees without leaves are like people without clothes. It’s all out there, for bad or good. With people my age, naked is mostly bad but bare trees reveal beauty and truth.
A walk in the winter woods is easier because you can see where you are going. Without weeds the rocks and stumps are visible which makes walking safer. And no snakes! I like snakes, but I have an aversion to stepping on the ones with poison fangs.
Our Tennessee hills offer some beautiful scenery but leaves often block the view. We have a high hill that shows almost nothing in the summer, but now you can see down the Cane Creek Valley all the way to the skyline of Petersburg.
On a clear day, winter sunsets are amazing. I’ve heard that sunrises are nice, but I don’t get up that early.
Many of my friends and family get up and go hunting while it’s still dark. They tell me it’s soul-stirring to watch the emerging eastern glow until the first sun rays break over the horizon.
I tried it once. I put on long johns, then added layers until I could barely walk. I carried a rifle so I’d look like a hunter. I found a nice, dry place and made a comfortable little nest. Then I fell asleep. A deer or squirrel could have peed on me and I wouldn’t have known it.
Trees look different without leaves – it’s like you can see their bones. Old, large Oaks remain majestic unclothed. Their lower branches could be large trees on their own.
Maples, sometimes called Sugar Trees, make me wonder about harvesting Maple Syrup, but I it looks like cold work to me. I’ll let the New Englanders keep it – I prefer honey anyway.
Cedars keep their leaves, or needles, and I appreciate the green color they add to my woods walk.
Then there’s the magnificent, tragic Ash. It’s a breathtaking tree, winter or summer. It grows straight and tall and makes beautiful lumber for flooring and furniture.
Ash is the best wood for making baseball bats. Most of the great sluggers from Joe DiMaggio to Roger Maris and Mark McGuire used Ash Bats. Babe Ruth swung Ash bats weighing forty-six ounces. Ty Cobb’s were carved by a coffin maker. Ted Williams personally selected the Ash lumber that the Louisville Slugger folks used to make his bats.
But, for now, the noble Ash has struck out. A little green beetle bug is driving the Ash trees to extinction. This year’s baseball post-season was the first to have zero Ash bats in use. Even worse, watching the bark peel and brance from my dying and dead Ash friends makes my winter walks a little bit sadder.
Warren Gill has released a new book, called Princess of Horses. It is an adult fiction novel that can be purchased online (Amazon and other websites). Signed copies can be purchased in Fayetteville at Book Inn on the square, and in Petersburg on the square in Colt Show Antiques, The Junk Shop, and the Thread. Also, the Petersburg Community Library in the Morgan School building.
Warren Gill has fifty plus years of professional involvement including a Ph.D. in Animal Science. Animals have been essential to his career and most of his hobbies and interests.