I enjoy three seasons of the year, never having been a big fan of winter.

I enjoy three seasons of the year, never having been a big fan of winter. January, February and March is little more than a bridge over the void between hunting and fishing.

Growing up in the South, winters weren’t much fun, but the remaining three more than made up for it. April thru December were crammed full of bare feet, beach music, holidays and gun smoke.

Autumn 2016 has been perfect. Often we leapfrog from hot days directly into slushy cold, but this year has produced a slow and delicious transition. The idyllic weather has brought me a flood of nostalgia. My personal experiences of long ago become even more poignant year over year because that world I remember is disappearing. “Childhoods” aren’t the same now as they were when I lived through them.

Watching leaves falling in our backyard made me remember spending hour after hour daydreaming in seventh grade at Graham A. Barden School in Havelock. I’d watch leaves float down like rain, craving to be outside in the woods.

By today’s standards, we kids weren’t very domesticated in the vernacular of “Wild Kingdom.” School times, suppertimes and bedtimes were merely pauses in our “real” lives that were lived outside.

In season, we hunted almost every day. When me and my friends got off the school bus, we fanned out to our respective homes to retrieve guns and ammo and meet in the woods.

The term “hunting” is accurate. We hunted a lot more than we killed, but it all was a total hoot. I came to understand the pleasures were in the company and the chase, not the capture or photos.

Those were good times indeed. Who knew that more than 60 years later I’d be remembering taking midday naps against a tree after a lunch of Vienna sausages and crackers? In all my life I’ve never had better food from Rome to Vegas.

When old enough to drive, we went directly from school to the woods. Almost without exception, every guy’s car in the Havelock High School parking lot had at least one gun in the trunk or rear window.

Today when I think of hearing Kelton or Steve fire a shot and wondering what they’d bagged, I understand memories are made wonderful because of the journeys, not necessarily their destinations.

If it’s possible to love a smell, I’m head over heels for the aroma of hot coffee and gun smoke. It’s a magical combination.

All except one of my “hunting buddies” are long gone but truly not forgotten. November has been very kind to me this year with its amazing weather and political outcomes.

I can’t pass a stretch of woods without scanning the trees and branches for squirrels and still getting a little adrenalin kick when I spot a limb moving. I’m thankful and protective of my “Hallmark” moments of nostalgia that mean nothing to anybody but me.

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of silly, ridiculous young folks acting stupid - at least I hope their “acting.” I have no idea when, why or how cluelessness overtook an entire generation.

But somewhere down the road, I wouldn’t be surprised if Charles Darwin has a cure.

Otis Gardner can be reached at ogardner@embarqmail.com.