The sounds of the country change with the seasons, especially here in the Midwest, where seasonal change is often dramatic. The sounds of winter are the northwest wind sifting across my prairie, picking up wisps of snow and dropping it again in intricate patterns, rills and ridges, swirls and squiggles. On a cold night in January, the sound of winter is the wind tearing at the cabin, trying to seep in around the windows and doors, challenging my woodstoves, and making a most mournful sound in the process.
Winter sounds can also be the most subtle. On a still day in November, when the temperature is just below freezing and the first heavy snow of the season arrives, the snowflakes, some of them huge, fall ever so lightly on naked tree limbs and dead prairie grass.
An unexpected sound is that of tree fibers exploding on below-zero days. I remember walking in our oak woods one quiet January morning, when the temperature was ten below zero. The only sound was the occasional crow calling in the distance, until I heard what I was sure was a rifle shot. I learned later from my father that it was tree fibers loudly protesting the cold. The sound happens infrequently enough to surprise the cold-weather walker in the woods each time he or she hears it.
The most mysterious of winter sounds might be the northwest wind shaking the dead leaves of the black oaks that still hang on the branches. Some have called this sound a death rattle and in a way it is. The oak leaves hang on until spring and then finally fall off to make way for new growth and the summer sound of warm breezes moving through green leaves. (From OLD FARM: A HISTORY)
THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Doing something hard gets a lot harder if you do too much thinking about it.
December 9, 6:30 PM, Watertown Public Library. Old Farm and other stories.
December 12, 2:00- 3:00 PM, Book Signing, Fireside Bookstore, West Bend (December 6 was canceled because of weather).
December 13, 9:30-11:30 AM, Sheboygan Falls, Library. Sheboygan County Historical
Research Center. Old Farm: A History.
December 14, 1:00-3:00 PM. Barnes and Noble West, Madison. Books signing. Old Farm.
January 14, 9:00 AM, WTMJ 4 TV, Milwaukee. Old Farm featured.