Country Whispers

Country Ramblins' text in fall colors.

By Tamara Hillman
Oct. 2014

October, beautiful October! Yes, I’ll admit its my favorite month of the year for several reason of which I will try to relate here…
First of all, for its extreme beauty across this country and others—who can resist the glorious reds, orange, browns, and golden hues trees turn in Autumn?
Where I was raised, the tree-lined river ran right behind our small town, and by October they all were splendid in their new coat of a bright array of colors.

After a long hot summer, I welcomed the cool crisp mornings, and would hurry off to school bundled in a wool sweater I’d have to shed by noon with the coming of warm afternoons.
My mother had a different attitude about fall because she dreaded the five months of snow that would start soon, but as a child, that only meant more fun outside wading deep drifts, and sleigh riding down cemetery hill. And I must admit, those feelings have remained with me so strong I’ve continued to love October weather to this day.
By this colorful and cool month, work on the farms had slowed to a crawl, cows were sleeping inside warm barns, and chickens were taking to the roost with darkness coming earlier promising those short winter days Mom dreaded.
October meant warm evenings by the heater doing homework, or playing games with my two brothers. Yes, and there always was some pestering and poking going on too when we got bored. But for the most part we stayed pretty well entertained with card games and picture puzzles if our school work and chores were finished.
When we had real ‘Donnie-brooks’ it was mostly over who would clear the table and do the dinner dishes when my folks would choose to go bowling in town on one of the leagues they were assigned, (the only outside entertainment for 50 miles in any direction.) They went only a couple times a week in the fall and winter, but those were the times we’d stall until the last minute to get everything ship-shape before their return. Oh what fights we had then just to see who was boss of the kitchen. I won most times because I was eldest, but for those of you who have siblings, you know how soon that ended since boys have a tendency to grow tall and strong before long, and no matter how much older a girl is, she’s overpowered. Just one of the many lessons in life I learned the hard way.
October was a time to store the tractor in the shed, grease everything good including harness, bridles, saddles, and such to endure some unused months. You could see farmers and ranchers everywhere rushin’ about to store their hay, getting everything under cover that needed protection, and making sure roofs were repaired and cracks sealed in old buildings.
Does anyone not love the smell of burning leaves in October? Oh my, I can smell them this very minute in my memory of most wonderful things to be stored in the recesses of my mind. (To me, only fresh baked bread is a close runner up.) By late fall, most every inhabitant of any house in town, or out on the farm was busy raking up oak and maple leaves dropped liberally around their yards, and burning them in great piles, (this process only to be repeated in spring with all the dead grasses and underbrush that had accumulated during blustery winter storms.)
Then came Halloween, and it was always a fun time, but not the huge celebration and expensive costumes of today. Our meager celebration, (a big deal to us) would start with a school party hosted by some Mom’s who would bring in treats from the oven, and once in awhile, if Mom could eke extra out of her grocery money, she would buy each of the boys a ‘Lone Ranger’ mask to cover just their eyes, then add their last Christmas guns & holsters to the outfit to be what was an everyday costume of all the male adults in our region—A COWBOY!!!  I, on the other hand, might get a rag-mop on my head and red lipstick paint to be a clown, or Raggedy Ann doll. Most times, we all just got a paper grocery bag to cut eyes and a mouth out of, and draw with color crayons whatever other features we wanted on the outside of the mask before we pulled them over our heads, and ran to the neighbors after dark for some homemade cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, a sometimes caramel apple, fudge, or other delicious treats. (You must remember Moms cooked from scratch, and baked constantly for their families and any company that may drop by back then.) No one had extra money jingling in their pockets for frivolities such as bagged candy, but they always had flour and sugar in the bin to create treats for us, and at Halloween that’s what they did. No one was so jaded in those days either that they would want to harm a child with razorblades in apples, or poison and drugs added to candy as in modern times. We led such a warm, and yes, naïve life in the country in the fifties nothing like that would even be thought of, let alone enacted. Everyone knew everyone’s children, and kept a watchful eye that no harm would come to any, plus, told your folks if you were misbehaving out of their sight. No escape in a small town. (As teenagers, we really hated those watchful eyes, but looking back, I’m grateful for them. It kept us on the straight and narrow.)
I’m afraid my three kids suffered the same fate in their early years because I was a single Mom running my own beauty salon in that same little town I grew up in, and funds were tight with no child support coming in, (as was par for the course in those days if you were divorced, and I was.) I was always artistic, so I painted the kid’s faces with whatever washable paints I could find. My daughter still reminds me of the time when she was about eight, and I got the brilliant idea to mix cocoa & lard together making a brown paste I could smear on her face, topping it with a black curly wig on her head I’d retrieved from the beauty salon to go out as a little negro girl in a red plaid shirt. I personally thought it was quite ingenious, and so did she then, but THAT is the costume she teased me most about in later years. Hard tellin’ what I figured out for my two boys that Halloween. Oh well, I was doin’ as best I could, and making everlasting memories I wasn’t even aware of at the time.
Because I love October, I’ve written many, many poems about Autumn—here is my favorite of them all…

October Mist

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