As interpreter at Clifty Falls State Park on the Ohio Valley, Dick has been reporting on the cycle of the seasons for over thirty years. He grew up in the glacial fields surrounding Kokomo at a time when central Indiana deer sightings made the newspapers. Hoosier wildlife and the state’s varied geology and land forms, including Clifty’s fossils and waterfalls, are among his greatest interests.
With these first cool days of September in the Ohio Valley and here at Clifty Falls State Park autumn’s color has already begun…not in the tree tops but waist high along the roadsides and in sunny places. I’m speaking of the flowering purple and gold of ironweed and goldenrod! These striking flowers represent one of the first signs of seasonal change in my memory.
Allow me to explain. In grade school days growing up in central Indiana we kids considered summer at an end and fall at its beginning pretty much with the opening of school…around Labor Day and just when these companion flowers are in a profusion of bloom. It is really late summer perhaps, except for the fact that schools now start so much earlier in August it’s easy to imagine today’s kids making the same call. When school starts…fall starts! So it is that I associate the saturated purple of ironweed and the glowing gold of goldenrod with fall and its cavalcade of color…just around the corner!
It happened in those days that Pauline’s Dairy Bar, long since gone, on the corner of Deffenbaugh and Webster on Kokomo’s southwest side served a matchless raspberry ice cream: Black Raspberry with walnuts. It was a nickel a dip… six for a quarter. Pauline’s black raspberry ice cream was exactly the color of purple (tall) ironweed and as delicious to my tongue as the flower is to my eye! I have yet to find an ice cream to compare. It was and remains my favorite ice cream of all time. Would that I had some now.
We travel far and wide for our favorite things. For the next few months I’ll be reporting on the spectacle of fall colors and associated tidbits here at Clifty Falls State Park and the surrounding area. I invite you to join us on our hikes and outings to take in this year’s seasonal joys. And for now, you can drive the park’s upper road between Clifty Inn and the park office to see the purple and gold of ironweed and goldenrod. And while I’m still wondering when that perfect ice cream will appear I know for certain we do not have long to wait for the eye candy of fall colors.