For six months out of the year, living on the coast in the Florida panhandle reminds me of the way the Norwegians take their saunas--only in reverse. Instead of lingering in the sauna and taking quick plunges in the snow outside, we hyphen-Floridians (there aren't any native Floridians left in the state--only New York-Floridians, Canada-Floridians, and this Mississippi-Floridian) linger in the cool of our air conditioned homes and vehicles and take quick plunges into the heatumidity (heat and humidity are one word down here) out of doors. But along about the end of October the air begins to cool slightly, the humidity drops below 80%, and it is actually pleasant enough outside to linger and survive.
The past two days have been as Fall-like as it gets around here and I spent each afternoon indulging my favorite hobbies--hunting and fishing. Actually, hunting and fishing is my life and work is my hobby. I once made the mistake of half-jokingly telling my Sergeant Major that hunting and fishing was my life and the Marine Corps was my hobby. He started breathing again and the red left his face when I added, "But I'm passionate about my hobby!" But, I digress...
Yesterday afternoon I sat on a field planted with brown top millet and scanned the skies for fleet-winged grey darting mourning doves. At least I remember that they are fleet-winged grey and darting. I didn't see any to prove the description yesterday. Typical of most of my forays afield, I saw everything but what I was hunting. A mature bald eagle flapped low across the field and at the far end swept up in a climbing turn that reminded me for all the world of one of the fighter planes attending the base on which our field was located. He seemed to know exactly where to catch the thermal that quickly vaulted him hundreds of feet up into a lazy upward spiral. When he drifted up and away so far that I strained to focus on his speck, I dropped my gaze back to ground level and caught site of movement entering the field to my right. Not fifty yards away a flock of hen turkeys and young of the year strutted on to the field and froze, a dozen pair of beady eyes locked on my form. We all remained motionless for a minute or so and then one of the mature hens put-putted and Ben Franklin's choice for our national emblem disappeared so quickly back into the brush that I wondered if I had really seen them at all.
This afternoon, the wind eased up enough to lure Semper Fish and me onto the water and we cruised boat docks and creek channels in the local bayou casting for reds and speckled trout. A pair of dolphins joined us as the sun began to set and I put down my rod to watch them frolic in the oranging light.
Most days I don't think I like Florida--most days, but not today.