Autumntime in Our Neck of the Woods

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End of summer … back-to-school … bright, warm, sunny, hazy days … hot-dog roasting… apple pickin’ … County Fair fun … get everything done before it’s too cold. It’s autumn in the country, and this lovely season’s changes are too noticeable for even the casual observer to overlook.

I just love autumn, and especially October, with its mild temperatures and pleasant days. This month is like an extra-special, thirty-one-day, end-of-the-summer gift from God. These shorter, getting-cooler days are almost too beautiful to be true. They are still soothingly warm, and while they’re not really hot enough to go bare-footing through the park, you may get away with donning short sleeves and a pair of flip-flops. You may even be able to go without a hat or a scarf while the sun’s warm rays teasingly tickle your forehead and whisper into your ear that, regardless to how much you wish it wouldn’t, the end of fall looms on the horizon. The trees (with the exception of the pines), vines, and bushes are gradually being stripped by autumn’s powerful hands. They are now as bare as they can be. It’s plain to see that fall will not last much longer.

The place where I grew up is tucked in the Southwestern corner of Arkansas. While it’s nice, it’s a long way from being as enchanting as the postcard-pretty mountains way up in the Northeastern part of the state. As a child, I had never heard of the Ozarks, nor had I seen pictures of that breathtakingly beautiful area with its colorful, autumn landscape. So our neck of the woods was our own pride and joy. With whatever glowing colors we have mingling among the evergreen pines, our area still has a uniqueness of its own.

Before fall was over, Dad always drove down this winding, tree-lined lane that led back into the woods behind our house. It was Mr. “Good Buddy’s” old, long-abandoned homestead. This parcel of land must have been our family’s secret, because we always seemed to be the only ones to hit the “fruit lotto” — or perhaps we simply beat the late birds to the worm. Either way, rather than go for a picnic among the tall, Arkansas pines, we went there to pick those green, oval-shaped ornaments from that sprawling tree … the biggest, juiciest, plumpest, sweetest pears on Earth.

Mother Nature was generous, as always. She worked overtime growing that fruit on every limb and branch, and the branches drooped with those real, organic, Bartlett pears. The gentle autumn winds caused those luscious fruits to graciously drop to the ground, giving us a fun time of picking them up … and fun we had! Whenever we gathered the season’s delicious sweet, ripe, crunchy pears, something told us that summer was long past.

During this end-of-the-year season, the earth cools down a little bit, making it pleasant to be outdoors. The warm sun shines at an eye-squinting angle. Tree limbs do their aerobic dance, shaking themselves until the last brown leaves fall to the ground, leaving the landscape somewhat unsightly, dry, and barren. Squirrels and other hibernating creatures busily scurry around, making sure they’ve got all of their winter provisions stored securely away.

Farmers gather in the last of their harvests. Country kids take their last hay rides. For us, it was when Grandma did her final canning stint. Mother made pear preserves from our batch. But since it wasn’t my favorite fruit, I only ate it if we had eaten all of Grandmother’s delicious peach and apple preserves, which to me are tastier than pears. Produce stands sport winter squash and their first Thanksgiving pumpkins. Winter is on the way.

Photo by Fotolia/hansenn