Big Chuck

Andy Williams liked to sing, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

Except he was usually referring to the tsunami of commercialism and sub-freezing temperatures that herald the December holiday season.

As for me, I sing that phrase from the first day of September to the final day of November.

I call them my “Favorite 100 Days of the Year.”

The autumnal bliss that blankets our region is a veritable Hallmark ode to rural Americana.

The season invariably takes me back nearly a half-century to when I was growing up in Sidney. I’m sure it is the same for everyone.

My dad and my brothers and I would spend a full autumn Saturday raking the leaves that carpeted our big backyard. The neighbor men were out doing the same thing, each shouting World Series updates back and forth over the fences.

I remember that we all wore flannel. I loved wearing flannel as a kid. It made me feel grown up, somehow. I haven’t worn flannel in 50 years.

Today the signature milestones of the season in our area for me are a trip to the Fly Creek Cider Mill, buying some corn at Johnson’s Covered Bridge Farm in Unadilla, smiling at the scarecrows that will soon dot the Main Street of Stamford, getting a new sweater for my birthday (which falls perfectly within the boundaries of my favorite 100 days), a leisurely drive through the splendor that is Schoharie County in the fall, from Middleburgh all the way up to Sharon Springs, and cheering on our littlest family members at some frosty morning Pee Wee football games on the grounds of the Clark Gym in Cooperstown.

So, why fall?

When I was a kid, winter to me meant sledding at the Sidney High School hill, snowball fights with friends and shoveling driveways with my brother Jim for a “dollar a driveway.”

Today winter means white knuckle drives to work at 5 in the morning, shoveling and scraping out our garage-less car, creaky knees, and hands that never seem to warm up. And too-high heating bills.

Sure, I can appreciate the beauty of spring. Our home has a veritable Lord’s bounty of flowers and trees, which were planted in our backyard by the previous owner.

They pop open as if to say, “Come out, Big Chuck. It’s spring!”

Summer is just a little too hot for me. Even in Upstate New York.

I like it, don’t get me wrong, but I’m kind of an inside type of guy. Never much for a beach or camping or yard work.

I have always been a heavy guy, and that is probably why I am just as happy to do something indoors and enjoy the summer as it passes by in the relative air-conditioned comfort of a car, bar, restaurant, movie theater, deck or porch.

But come September first, when our area is ready for its close-up, I am the happiest guy right out of the gate.

Fall up here is sensory overload to me: The beautiful sight of the crazy quilt of foliage covering the perimeter of our beloved City of the Hills like an old Indian blanket. The smell of apple pies at the farm stands, and the aroma that wafts out of virtually every little firehouse in our area as they hold their traditional autumn pancake breakfasts. The look and smell of everything pumpkin.

Pumpkin candy, carved pumpkins, pumpkin pies, pumpkin beer, pumpkin cookies, I love it all. Some people say that “pumpkinmania” has gotten out of hand. Frankly, I like it.

Although I will admit that pumpkin-scented toilet paper and pumpkin-flavored Spam really crosses the line.

Sometimes our nostalgic thoughts of yesteryear get lost in the humble jumble of today’s busy world.

Spring, well it comes and goes in a minute. Summer is probably everybody else’s favorite. Christmas? Yes, the holiday itself. But the crush of shopping and partying and busy, busy, busy kind of sets it off-track sometimes.

But, fall. Now that is the time of year that takes me back to my youth. Dad raking leaves, my friends and I marching in the tiny Halloween parade in Sidney, Mrs. Logan’s candy apples, Friday night football under the lights and flannel. Real flannel.

My favorite 100 days of the year are here. Let the countdown begin.

I’ll catch you in two.

“Big Chuck” D’Imperio’s morning radio show can be heard weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Otsego County, WDLA-AM 1270 in Delaware County and WCHN-AM 970 in Chenango County. All of his columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns.

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