Before the crisp, golden weeks of autumn merge into the cold, gray months of winter here in Western New York, a solemn ritual must be performed by almost every homeowner: the Raking of the Leaves. There are those in contempt of virtue who have turned it into the Blowing of the Leaves or the Mowing of the Leaves, but they aren't worthy of attention. The rest of us measure our manhood in barrels or bags filled, or tarpfuls hauled, and in this department at least I can stand with the best of any half-acre man. This year I got almost the entire job done in one weekend, thanks to the efforts of my lovely assistant Melany.
In the past, I could count on the "help" of my children: in their younger years, mostly to jump and roll around in my piles to make sure they didn't get too tall, and as teenagers to grumble and amaze me with their magical vanishing acts (which is why I have no photographic evidence of their help in those years).
(UPDATE: The picture of Colin (left) and Robert immediately above has been added so as not to exclude our beloved youngest son from our leaf-raking memories--the leaves around that swing certainly needed raking!)
Then the children left the nest and I faced this enormous task all by myself (except for the aforementioned efforts of my lovely assistant Melany). But this year, I had help from a new source: Frank the Tank, Greyhound Extraordinaire! Melany brought him outside where I was raking in the front yard; he took one look at the blue plastic tarp I was raking leaves onto, and knew in his heart that we had put it all there just for him. Into the pile he dove, thrashing about in delight, and flashed me a look that said, "Try to get me out of here and I'll bite your arm off."
So, we let him stay and even rubbed his belly as he rolled around in the leaves. Just like the children, he lost interest after a little while, and I was able to finish the front yard.
Today, Melany let Frank out in the back as I was dragging myself through the last part of The Struggle. He took one look at the small mountain range of leaf piles I had built up in the empty lot beside our house, and tore into them like a cannon ball--then jumped, rolled, and buried himself in them for a good five minutes before charging out again and shaking off the bits clinging to his coat. It was so hilarious, Melany decided that we should try to "videotape" the scene with our digital camera, if we could get Frank to do an encore performance. After calling my son in Buffalo to talk me through how to do this, we coaxed Frank back into the leaves. Of course, he now adopted a coolly indifferent air as you might expect from a teenager, and contented himself with burrowing into the nearest pile and letting us heap more leaves on him. Perhaps it was just as well that he didn't play about more vigorously, because one viewing this my very first video recording would think we were in the middle of a 9.5 magnitude earthquake at the time. I'll let you judge for yourself below, and enjoy the antics of our latest four-legged "child."