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Of all the things I try to introduce to my school kids each fall, I’m pretty adamant about mentioning the fact that they shouldn’t procrastinate getting assignments done, especially the ones that take some extra time and effort, like written book reports, etc. It never fails that the day before the projects are due, a wild rumpus occurs in homes and the classroom as deadlines are rediscovered. Then the weeping and wailing begins in earnest — and that’s just from the parents. The kids aren’t thrilled about it either!

This year I’ve ignored my own advice and am now suffering the consequences as winter-like weather has snuck up and pulled the rug out from under me, putting me squarely behind the 8-ball in terms of winter preparedness. As hot and dry as this summer has been, I’ve subconsciously denied the fact that cooler temperatures and wet weather would eventually arrive in Cache Valley (after living here 47 years you’d think I know better) and I could just go on tending to my crunchy October lawn and dried flower arrangements in pots.

I guess my first clue should have been the amazing fall colors splashed onto our mountain ranges as trees began translating messages from Mother Nature that said, “You’d better get ready because this winter’s gonna be a doozy!” We desperately need the water, but it’s funny that we want to get it on our terms — not too much too early or not enough too late or just the right amount of snowpack to meet the needs of winter recreationists and farmers in the valley. Is it ever truly sufficient according to our wants?

It seems the older I get the more I’m inclined to go outside, look at the yard with its overgrown rose bushes, my cluttered shed, overfilled garage, sinking driveway, untrimmed trees and fences in disrepair and simply shake my head, walk back in the house and take nap. Not very ambitious, to say the least.

Usually the leaves on the trees (at least in my yard) start dropping the last week of October or later, but as of Monday evening they’d shed about 50% of their leaves with 75% of those miraculously finding their way into my rain gutters. Huh, go figure. I succeeded in cleaning out two sections of rain gutter before reminding myself that the last few times I climbed a ladder, I experienced a painful lesson in physics as I crashed backwards into the bushes beneath the bird feeder. I’m sure the birds thought it was entertaining along with the cat who was watching the birds from the window sill in the kitchen and was treated to an extra bonus clip of me disappearing upside down into the window well.

As I retreated to the man cave in the basement Monday night to begin my nightly homework-correcting extravaganza, Lynda came in and told me it was snowing outside. Great, now I’d get to get up even earlier to shovel snow before heading off to school. When the dogs woke me up at about 5 a.m., I opened the door for them to go out and they both just stood there looking back at me as if to say, “Nope, not going out there. We’ll just go back in and pee on the rug in your man cave instead.”

And it was then that I noticed the Christmasy winter scene going on in the backyard and thought of the song “White Christmas,” wherein the treetops glisten, and children listen to hear (chaos) in the snow. Initially it sounded just like gunfire, loud pops and cracks as trees all over the neighborhood began losing limbs under the weight of heavy snow.

Upon opening the garage door to pull my truck out, I noticed the driveway had disappeared! There were limbs and branches from our trees piled on top of each other covering the driveway and on top of our daughter-in-law’s vehicle. Our son’s car was spared since it was under the basketball standard which acted as a lean-to above it. The arboreal carnage in our yard and the yards in our neighborhood was impressive and widespread.

I walked away from taking pictures of a damaged tree next to our driveway only to have a huge branch crash to the ground exactly where I had been standing a few moments before. Time to head to open ground.

We have 10 large trees in our yard, and standing among them surveying the damage was a little unnerving. At least nothing had collided with the house, yet. The chicken run outside our coop had completely collapsed and our poor lone hen was probably so traumatized she’ll be laying hard boiled eggs for a week!

I did notice several big blue flashes of light to the west signaling probable transformer explosions followed by multiple sirens. I have a feeling the line to the green waste this week will be as long as the one at Chick-fil-A.

After arriving home after dark Tuesday night and seeing all the things that needed to be fixed, cleaned up and repaired, I felt overwhelmed and shelved any thoughts of getting started on them right away. As the saying goes, “From a procrastination standpoint, today has been wildly successful.”

So any guesses as to what I’ll be doing for fall break?

Chad Hawkes is a fifth grade teacher at North Park Elementary School. He can be reached by email at

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