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A Day in the Life of Autumn

Fri, Oct 17th, 2003
Posted in Features

Click on the Internets Foliage Network and youll get a forecast of the seasons peak foliage conditions throughout the state. But just step outdoors and youll get an in-your-face blast of what a southeastern Minnesota autumn has to offer.

While meteorologist were predicting a less than colorful season due to summers drought, Fillmore County residents nonetheless have enjoyed a rich palette of orange, yellow, red and green. An early October frost threatened the season and caused walnut trees, in particular, to be prematurely stripped, leaving piles of green leaves laying in heaps on buildings, vehicles and on streets.

For some, fall signals the inevitable and sometimes depressing onset of the big chill. For others, it means something altogether different. Heres what a few area residents had to say when interviewed during a recent autumn day in Fillmore County.

A short distance from Spring Valleys Kingsland High School is an old maple tree that, for many in town, epitomizes the beginning of fall. The tree, on the north side of the home owned by Rhienhart and Arlene Oeltjen seems to be the first in town to begin changing color and one of the first to drop its leaves. The Oeltjens have enjoyed the perfectly shaped maple for some 27 years since purchasing the property just on the outskirts of town. I look forward to this time of year, said Arlene. This tree signals fall and I enjoy looking out at it every day.

According to Arlene, the trees origin was a ditch near Masonic Park, north of Spring Valley. The former property owner, apparently impressed by the tree, rescued it from a ditch and planted it in her yard for many to enjoy. The tree, believed to be around 100 years old, showcases the brilliance of a Midwestern fall day.

Weve been told by people that theyve traveled many, many places but never have seen a tree as perfect, Arlene said.

Indian Summer days, its not unusual to find folks enjoying the outdoors, but tennis?

For Jim and Deb Doherty and their kids, the day was just too nice to stay inside. With tennis rackets in tow, they headed for Spring Valleys South Park to partake in an October game of tennis.

Its a beautiful day, said Deb, who along with daughter Jenny and husband Jim basked in the warm autumn sun on the tennis courts.

Were both on vacation this week, noted Jim who said the family is also planning their annual fall drive near the picturesque bluffs of Lanesboro later in the week.

We like to drive around to look at other peoples Halloween decorations, said 11-year-old Jenny. I like to see people out selling pumpkins, squash, and apples this time of year, Deb added.

Fall hasnt been as pleasant for Kingsland High School sophomore Matt Hinze, a tackle on the Kingsland Football team.

I think about football all year round, but especially during the fall, Matt said. An unfortunate mishap during the teams fourth game landed Matt on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.

I was tackling this kid and he was going one way and I was going the other way and my finger got caught in the middle, he said. After surgery to insert pins in his pinky finger, doctors instructed Matt to stay off the gridiron.

I was pretty mad, said Matt, who now sports a bright purple cast celebrating his favorite NFL team. Matt still supports his Kingsland teammates by helping out, with his good hand, as water boy.

Another fall mishap prompted Kingsland senior Danielle Vogel to proclaim, pumpkins are evil. Fearing her pumpkin might get smashed during the night, the seventeen-year-old went to fetch it inside when she lost her grip. Thats when the 10-pounds of evilness came smashing down on Danielles left foot, breaking it.

To me, fall means a broken foot, said Danielle, who now shows off a high-tech looking fiberglass cast. Im going to be in this thing for eight weeks, which means Im going to spend my 18th birthday on crutches, she said.

Out on a gravel road southeast of Spring Valley, a woman out for a brisk afternoon walk unleashed her dog for a full-throttled run down the dusty road. Up the road a bit, a group of orange-vested pheasant hunters walked parallel to half-picked cornfields in hopes of scaring up a bird or two.

Down at Spring Valleys Historical Society, director and guide Rosalie Kruegel and former director and guide Mary Jo Dathe waited for visitors to tour the towns museums. The sound of crackling leaves underfoot signaled oncoming tourists on the quieter-than-normal afternoon. According to Rosalie, the clientele this time of year are generally seniors who are out for a fall drive. For just $5 and a spare hour and a half, visitors get a guided tour of the church and home museums on weekends in September and October. Both museums are packed full of local history, featuring many unique pieces and exhibits.

Visitors this time of year tend to be more leisurely, Rosalie said. They comment how they love the scenery around here. I think we sometimes take what we have for granted.

For Mary Jo, the fall day helped her reflect on the summers bounty.

At this time of year, work in our summer gardens is over and we can enjoy all the fruits of our labors, she said.

With the leaf drop in our region being reported as moderate by the Foliage Network, and mild temperatures in the forecast, there still is time to get out and enjoy your favorite fall activity.

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