Fall stumbles into the paint store

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Column: Tales From Exit 22

The car ahead of me was driving so slow that no bug was in danger of being injured by hitting the windshield.

I wondered why it was chugging along at glacial speed. I pictured the driver doing the Andy Griffith going fishing with Opie whistle until I discovered that the road ahead was being repaired. It wasn’t only being repaired, it was in the shop.

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As fall approaches, there’s a need to get jobs done. Roadwork is hurried and farmers bustle bushels into the bins.

Labor Day is the symbolic end to summer. To some, putting a cover on the air conditioner brings the beginning of fall. Others claim that summer concludes when the UPS driver switches from short pants to long pants. Me, I depend on the lions. I look for a group of lions to walk through my yard. Pride goeth before the fall. This year’s autumnal equinox is on Sept.22. The word equinox comes from the Latin for “equal night.” The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days of the year in which the sun crosses the celestial equator.

Geese fly overhead in a W-formation, exploring parts of the alphabet other than V. A breeze tugs at stubborn leaves as fall arrives with a promise that the sentence of mowing the lawn will soon end. Seeing a woolly bear caterpillar is a sure sign that the price of heating fuel is about to go up. Every color available at Mother Nature’s Paint Store appears. I grieve not summer’s passing. Fall, like all our seasons, makes things up as it goes along, but it typically brings at least one perfect day. The rest of the days of the year are too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too windy, or just too.

Autumn tends to change my crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk) habits of summer. I’ll note the date of the month of the first snowfall deep enough to track a rabbit. That number indicates how many comparable snows will fall this winter.

The seasons change quickly — leaving us as numb as a hammered thumb. We become leftovers. Fried one night and frozen the next. Humans aren’t designed for any climate that the Midwest offers.

The season we call fall was once called “harvest” to reflect the time of gathering crops. Fall falls between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. Residents of cities began using the phrase “fall of the leaf” to refer to the season preceding winter. With time, the phrase was shortened to “fall.” Chaucer and Shakespeare often used the word “autumn.” Thomas Hood wrote, “I saw old Autumn in the misty morn standing shadowless like silence, listening.”

Fall provides a foil to spring and a helpful reminder, “Spring ahead, fall back,” to use when adjusting our clocks ahead an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall for daylight saving time.

In an effort to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power, Germany and Austria began saving daylight on April 30, 1916, by advancing the clock one hour until October. Other countries followed. The plan wasn’t adopted by the U.S. until March 19, 1918, and was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919. After the war ended, the law proved unpopular (because people rose earlier and went to bed earlier than today) and it was repealed in 1919 with a congressional override of President Woodrow Wilson’s veto.

DST became a local option. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round DST, called “War Time,” from Feb. 9, 1942, to Sept. 30, 1945. Local-option DST proved confusing, especially for the broadcasting industry, railways, airlines,and bus companies. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson created a DST that began the last Sunday of April and ended the last Sunday of October. States wanting to be exempt from DST could do so by passing a state law. The law was amended in 1986 that changed DST to start on the first Sunday in April. Does DST save electricity? Its effectiveness is disputed.

Years ago, I was working on an old clock that had a pendulum and a chime. The clock was worth two cents and a rusty nail. I was trying to make its time fall back. As I turned the hour hand, the clock struck 14. I went to bed. I’d never been up that late before.

We are unable to truly save time. The best we can do is to spend it wisely.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Sunday and Wednesday.