In my youth, Labor Day meant was the beginning of the end of summer. Time to frantically squeeze in all the summer activities we’d delayed due to the heat.
With school only a few shorter days away, our feelings of urgency overrode the heat.
Today, schools begin well in advance of Labor Day. It’s the first “break” of the fall term.
Labor Day signals college football, (finally) cooler temperatures and camping.
Summertime in the south is neither synonymous nor sympathetic when it comes to camping. Heat, mosquitoes, chiggers and other creepy crawlies aren’t camping conducive.
Southern camping means cool evenings around a fire toasting marshmallows, and cooler mornings wrapped in a blanket or sweater drinking hot coffee while watching the world wake up.
There’s still far more green than red, but the signs of fall are undeniable. It may still be hot, but the leaves are showing signs of fall.
This weekend does mean preparing for cooler weather and reluctantly preparing to say goodby to things we cherish: green grass, leafy trees, blooming flowers, songbirds and swimming.
Once the leaves fall and the plants wilt, it’s dull days ahead until spring restarts the cycle. Winter in the south really can define discontent - unless you’re an outdoors-type.
For us, activities aren’t over. We’re just changing outfits to match the weather.
As Paul Erhardt wrote in Wednesday’s Wire, dove seasons opened across much of the country on Thursday, September 1.
You be sweltering in near-tropical temperatures in dove fields this weekend, but you’re getting those hunting muscles ready. Won’t be long before coats, gloves and toboggans replace that bug-stop camo and snake boots. That’s a fair trade because snakes and other biting critters take the winter off.
Later, as you’re sitting in your stand, hiding behind your blind or stalking an animal, you might be shivering, but you’ll be enjoying an aspect of the woods some will never experience.
Me, I don’t care for the cold, but I revel in the quiet.
This weekend isn’t only about saying “sayanora, summer.” It’s the federal holiday established to recognize the work and accomplishments of the American labor movement. If you grew up near the coal mines in Kentucky, you already know that without the labor movement mining would be even more difficult and dangerous. It’s the same story for many other industries.
It’s also high time for me to offer a tip of my proverbial cap to the United Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA).
When they were announced in 2007, I grilled an old friend and prominent union figure, Rich Trumka, about my concern that “the unions” would do what they always did - turn the organization into a political tool.
He bristled (and Rich knew how to bristle), telling me that politics would have nothing to do with USA.
I promised I’d hold him to that and gleefully call him out if/when they did.
Nearly 16 years later, I’m still watching.
What I’ve seen hasn’t been politics, it’s been union workers using their efforts and expertise to fulfill their motto: “Educate. Conserve. Volunteer”
My friend Trumka stepped on a rainbow last year, but the organization he promised me would “stick to the outdoors and avoid politics” has stayed true to their mission.
In each of those years, they’ve repeatedly applied the efforts and expertise of six million current and retired union workers to do exactly as they promised: Educate. Conserve. Volunteer.
Many of us will enjoy public facilities this weekend that benefitted from their efforts. Some of you may be enjoying the outdoors because you were introduced to the outdoors at a USA event or through watching their TV shows.
That’s doing good work, folks.
Have a great weekend…we’ll be back on Tuesday, September 5 and, as always, we’ll keep you posted.
— JIm Shepherd