By Tamara Hillman
Ahhhhhh, September! Time to pick the last remnants of garden produce so moms can get their canning and preserving finished for the season. And let’s not forget it’s back to school for the kids… I know summer is great because long winters can be wearing, and we all need some sun on our backs, and hot days to ripen crops in the field, but in September, things seem to settle into a comfortable rhythm again when the last mowing of hay is stored, and winter wood is ready to chop after a few months of drying thru’ the heat of summer.
Trees will be starting to turn beautiful colors soon, and the crisp chill of the coming season will be felt. The coming fall always makes my mind wander to those sweet days on the farm when I was but a wee sprout getting ready for school.
New clothes, even shoes, were delivered to our door in late August after Mom had ordered them from the Sears/Roebuck catalog. I don’t remember her having to send anything back because of a mistake in size, or disappointment in the order received. She ordered our coats a full size bigger than normal every- other-year so we could get at least two winter’s wear out of them. They were considered the expensive item (all of twelve dollars.) Mine would include snow pants to wear under my dresses while in grade school. Sometimes there would be a matching muff for my hands……Do you girls in your sixties remember those cozy muffs? Our coats had attached hoods, and if we didn’t carry muffs, Mom either pinned our mittens to the end of each coat sleeve, or we had a knitted string running from each mitten up and over our necks connecting the two mitts on either side. Those we’d leave in our coats dangling from each sleeve when hanging them in the closet at the back of the class room. All so we wouldn’t lose a mitten. It worked too!
The boy’s snowsuits were one piece with a zipper in front from crotch to neck, and were bought separately from their coats. The folks felt that was not a waste of finances since there were two boys, and the oldest handed his down to the younger brother when his was outgrown.
But I digress….
Being a girl, I always loved school, and getting to socialize with friends again in the fall. I’ll admit, I would be afraid I’d forgotten everything I’d learned the previous year over the hot summer while runnin’ the fields, and swimmin’ in the ditch—not crackin’ a book those three full months. Thankfully, our teachers knew that’s just how we’d be, (a blank slate) so they would give us some review the first couple of weeks of September. In those days, we feared flunking a grade, and facing the humiliation of not being sent to the next grade along with our classmates and friends. That was a healthy fear just as fear of getting a hack (swat) at school or at home for misbehaving was a GOOD FEAR! Good manners, morals, and respect were a must in those days, and are sorely lacking in today’s schools and homes. We knew our place anywhere we might find ourselves because there were consequences if we didn’t learn early on about respect. Even churches today preach sermons only to tickle the ears of their parishioners—fearing they might lose coins in the offering plate if they told the parents from the pulpit, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”
September means we’re going into a time of peace before the rush of the Holiday season. Cattle will be moved to lower grazing soon so the high snows don’t catch them without feed, and it reminds me of how I looked forward as a kid to the cattle drives both in spring and fall as they came down the highway and through the outskirts of town to get to the high country in spring, and ranches scattered throughout the valley in fall. Those drives made a wide trough of dust, flies, manure, and noise as their brown/red hides gleamed in the sunshine. I swear I can smell them yet, and hear the cowboys and girls herding them along whistling and shouting to the beasts to, “Get on up there!” The crack of a bull whip would cut the air often over the heads of the bawling mass as they trod on mile after mile. To a little kid with dirt on her nose, it was pure excitement to see. My brothers and I would be spell bound watching them pass by our place until the last tail could be seen swishing side to side down the dusty road, the cowboys riding drag with handkerchiefs covering their mouth and nose like train robbers of old. I saw in the Methow paper recently, they were still herding cattle right by the high school in Twisp, just like they always have done. Let’s pray fall and winter will be mild this year since this past year was NOT!
Below is a poem I just scribbled down since I am still on the road, and don’t have access to my list at home….