Through the darkness, the damp drab scent of fallen oak leaves floated on a cold November breeze. The few limbs not yet empty rustled and pine boughs swayed. It would be several more minutes before the first squirrels would stir, but owls still hooted as stars began winking out behind the low, orange glow building in the east. A wood duck whistled from the headwaters of a nearby slough.

They say Arizona’s is a dry heat. Likewise, Mississippi’s is a wet cold. You can have Alaska or the highest frigid mountain range. For sheer challenge among those who’ve experienced it, there’s not a much less comfortable place to sit than a scope of Mississippi hardwoods in a breezy 34 degrees.

Slowly, differing degrees of darkness all around began resolving into shapes. Visible distances increased. A lone crow called, drawing answer from another just inside the limit of hearing’s range.

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