NEWS FROM THE HILLS

OCTOBER’S BRIGHT BLUE WEATHER

 

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together.
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather.

 

When loud the bumblebee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And goldenrod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

 

When gentians roll their fringes tight,
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;

 

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

 

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields, still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

 

When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

 

When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October’s bright blue weather.

 

O suns and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October’s bright blue weather.

 

By Helen Hunt Jackson

 

When the harvest moon hung in the sky like a huge orange pumpkin, and fodder shocks took the place of rows of green corn in the garden—when the winter’s wood was cut and split, and stacked in neat rows against the corncrib, the potatoes were dug and stored in the bin in the cellar, and the shelves were crowded with glass jars of fruit and vegetables—then we knew that our summer’s work was over.

Youngsters who grew up in the country worked hard all summer long. From the first plowing, with a horse and turning plow, to the dropping of the seeds and placing of tender plants, to the cultivation of the soil and eliminating weeds, it was hard, back-breaking work.

After the garden was carefully tended, harvest time came and crops were gathered. The womenfolk labored to can, freeze, preserve and pickle every scrap of the garden. Blackberry season brought more sweltering labor with each available child and young person picking berries all the hot day long. Then came more canning, jelly-making and preserves.

By the time the corn was picked, shucked, and stored in the corncrib, young people were ready for some recreation. My grandchildren are astonished at the idea that we had no television, no computers, and no electronic games. Also, it was a rare thing for a boy to own an automobile, so all of our travel was on foot.

Revivals and church-going made up most of our social life. It was nothing for a group of girls to get together and walk four or five miles to a revival meeting. Of course, as we walked back, there were boys ready and willing to escort us home. (Why do you think we girls went to church?)

There was a certain ritual to this. As we walked down the church steps and started our homeward journey, a boy would sidle up to a girl and ask shyly, “Can I walk you home?” Like John Alden, some of the shyer boys would persuade another boy to ask for him. It was a romantic time, with dry leave scudding across the road and the bright moon shining down; to walk arm in arm with someone you had been making eyes at in church.

Our fall parties were the highlight of the season. We didn’t need an excuse, although sometimes it was a birthday party, or a farewell party for someone leaving for the military service. All we needed was the suggestion, “Let’s get together for a party,” and the word was spread through the grapevine.

It didn’t involve a lot of preparation, either–just a pile of wood for a bonfire, and a gang of eager kids ready to play. It wasn’t just the young people who played, but everyone from old person to little child. We called them “ring games,” and sadly, no one seems to remember them now.

Daddy forbade square-dancing, and yet the games we played were the same thing. All joined in the singing, hand-clapping, and action. I can feel that balmy fall air, smell the lingering perfume of wood smoke, and hear again the voices raised in song.

 

“There goes a bluebird through the window,
Through the window, through the window,
There goes a bluebird through the window.
Old Virginia style.”

 

“Take a little hug and swing your lover,
Swing your lover, swing your lover,
Step right back and swing another,
Old Virginia style.”

 

Around and around we skipped as we laughed and sung the old melodies that were handed down by our parents, and possibly their parents. One of our favorites was definitely an old game, and we played it over and over.

 

OLD DUSTY MILLER

 

Oh, the old dusty miller, and he lived on a hill,
He worked all day with a pretty good will,
One hand on the hopper, and the other in the sack,
Ladies step forth, and the gents turn back.

 

Here we go a’sowing oats, here we go a’sowing oats,
Here we go a’sowing oats, and who will be the binder?
I’ve lost my true love; I’ve lost my true love,
I’ve lost my true love, and right here I’ll find her!

 

There were certain steps that went with this game, and it was really like a square dance. I can’t remember when I first learned these old games, but I do know that Mom and her sisters, plus their friends, played them at a place called “The Mudhole” on Twistabout Ridge.

I was talking to Marlin Starcher this week about the old games, and although he grew up in another section of Clay County, he’d never heard of some of the games we played—such as “Pig in the Parlour.”

We considered “Drop the Hankie” and “Red Rover” baby games, and never played them at our nighttime parties. Instead we played, “Miss Molly Brown,” “Go In and Out the Window,” “Four in the Boat,” and “Skip to My Lou,” among others.

Those long ago children who played the long ago games live still in my memory, and I see them now—Avis and Betty, Owen and Bill, Gearald and Mabel—skipping and singing, “Right hand to your partner, and we’ll all promenade!”

The Waynedale News Staff

Alyce Faye Bragg

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