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Hello moon
10/5/2012
Arnold Dyre
 
Commentary by Arnold Dyre

   Recently, we were blessed with this year’s Harvest Moon, occurring during the dark hours of the evening of Sept. 29 and the early morning of Sept. 30.
   By definition, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. For those who were not students of Mrs. Joy Marter Tippit at Pope Elementary School (Mrs. Tippit always taught her students about the equinox), the equinox is that twice-a-year time when the periods of day and night are the same, happening once in the spring and once in the fall. This year’s autumnal equinox occurred on Sept. 22 and, thus, the full moon closest to the fall equinox was the bright orange pumpkin-looking moon that shined all night on Sept. 29-30.

By the light of the moon
   As a boy on the Johnson Farm just out from Kilmichael, I remember Daddy combining in the fields by the light of the moon. Later, as a teenager working for Mr. George Williams on what I will always think of as “the Keeton Place,” we once finished up a late-in-the-season day of hay baling by moonlight.
   Other “times of the Harvest Moon” have been spent by me fishing, hunting, or in the company of a cooler of illegal beer and some girl I was then trying to swoon at Grenada Lake’s natural beach near Hugh White State Park.

Don’t waste moonlight
   The Harvest Moon takes its name from the extended period of time utilized by farmers in accomplishing the harvest by moonlight rather than a near wayward youth’s pursuit of foolishness but, to be sure, a Harvest Moon should not be wasted.
   Throughout time, the full moons of autumn have appeared mystical to mankind. Creatures of the wild probably understand the phenomenon fully and, without doubt, learned scientists and Mrs. Tippit have it all figured out.
   As for me, I prefer it to be mystical, though I have spent enough time outdoors to acquire at least a little understanding of what is happening when we are bathed in the light of the full moons of autumn.

Autumn has arrived
   While most folks might not notice at all, farmers, fisherman and country boys notice that around this time of year, the sun begins rising later and nightfall comes sooner. These are the days to enjoy the cooler days of autumn, and the wise among us start preparing for winter.
   While not claiming to be very wise, I have already converted a back porch into a makeshift greenhouse by putting up big sheets of clear plastic and, mindful of past days when I have scurried around at the last moment trying to shelter precious plants from a looming freeze, I already have my “greenhouse” almost full.
   All around us, things are changing. The hummingbirds, preparing to fly to warmer spots for the winter, are in a feeding frenzy at my backyard feeders. Deer, raccoons and other wild creatures are putting on their winter coats, plants are ending their cycle of growing, leaves are changing color and falling. Fashionable ladies have stopped wearing white!

Evening to evening
   Not only is the interval of time between sunset and moonrise shorter at this time of year, the full moon begins its ascent from evening to evening in a shorter length of time than at other periods. A full moon always rises in the eastern sky and, around the time of each full moon, there are several nights when the moon will be bright and full; however, at the time of the true full moon, it will be brighter and fuller. This is especially true at the time of the Harvest Moon. On average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day but, when a full moon happens close to the fall equinox, the moon rises in a shorter time daily for several days both before and after the full Harvest Moon.
   As the lag time between successive moonrises decreases to the yearly minimum, it seems like there are several full moons in a row that  causes us to notice the Harvest Moon and bestow on it special significance. We are more apt to see it begin to rise and, when a full moon is viewed near the horizon, it will frequently appear orange or reddish in color.

Precious Light
   In the days before tractors had lights, the Harvest Moon certainly provided precious light for farmers to finish gathering their crops despite diminishing hours of daylight. Nowadays, the Harvest Moon is still wonderful to look at and the fishing gets considerably better during the time of the Harvest Moon. My friend Elwood Bright out at Gore Springs has been mopping up on the crappie!

Hunter’s Moon
   There’s a special name for the next full moon following the Harvest Moon. It is called the Hunter’s Moon and is very similar to the Harvest Moon. The weather will be even cooler, perhaps even cold. Traditionally, most of the harvest would have been finished and there was more time to hunt provided it could be done at night under the light of a good moon. The full moon following the Harvest Moon was first called the Hunter’s Moon long before most night hunting became illegal. However, coon hunting is done at night, and the Brown Boys and I did our best coon hunting by the light of a Hunter’s Moon.


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