This morning, as I walked the usual route, the temperature was 27 degrees, with gusting winds. Seeing that The Hawk was making its first appearance since spring, I had dragged out my sweat pants, woolen cap and painter’s gloves — the basics for cold-weather walking.
It was a beautiful, clear morning as I walked on streets on either side of which were piles of leaves waiting to be picked up by men with front loaders, dump trucks and rakes.
I remembered as a boy how much we loved to play in piles of leaves, which often included pitched “leaf fights” (probably not making the person who raked them very happy). We would also completely bury ourselves in piles of leaves during games of hide and seek. That practice came to an end when we were told that a kid somewhere was run over and killed by a car when the driver thought he was only passing over a pile of leaves.
One of my fond memories of autumn was the smell of burning leaves. It was quite common back then to gather the leaves into a large pile and set them on fire. In fact, you couldn’t go anywhere in the town during the fall (especially on the weekends) where you wouldn’t smell burning leaves. The fathers seemed to take pride and no small measure of enjoyment in burning their leaf piles. They would stand by with a rake and a garden hose, lest the fire get out of hand.
These days, anyone setting a pile of leaves on fire would receive an instant visit by the Fire Department, and the Police Department, the latter being armed with a Summons. Hell, I would not be surprised if a Department of Environmental Protection Swat Team were to show up in space suits looking for the enviro-criminal polluting the air and contributing to global warming.
I suppose that it makes sense to pick up the leaves and cart them off to their final resting place, which doubtless is a giant compost pile somewhere, but I miss the days when they were given a something more like a Viking Funeral and I could smell the smoke.