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A silvery, lopsided moon shone down last night out of a clear sky, highlighting the darkened woods and trees that are fast becoming bare and leafless. It was full last week, known as the Full Beaver Moon or Full Frost Moon. Our Native American Indians called it the “Beaver Moon,” as it was time to set traps before the water froze over.

Today the sky is as blue as “October’s Bright Blue Weather” (Helen Hunt Jackson) with nary a cloud, while a wayward wind blows the last few yellow leaves from the maple tree. It is as warm and sunny as a summer day, and a yellow butterfly flits across the yard. The songbirds are gone, although a sassy blue jay quarrels from a tall tree top.

It could be our Indian summer weather, which we long for each year and enjoy its fleeting presence. There are lots of theories as to how this autumn offering acquired its name, but most agree that it doesn’t come until we have a hard frost and a freeze (which we have had.) It is a spell of warm weather occurring after a cold spell, and usually is characterized by hazy and smoky conditions.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac states, “If All Saint’s Day (November 1 brings out winter, then St. Martin’s Day (November 11) brings out Indian Summer. Some sources think it was the warm season when the American Indians took advantage of the warm autumnal weather to hunt and forage later in the day to build up food stocks for the winter. Others think that they may have taken advantage of the weather to make one more raid on the settlers. We need to enjoy it while we can—one thing for certain, it never lasts!

Whatever the origin, it is truly delightful when it occurs. When we were kids, we used this time to hull black walnuts, sitting flat on the ground and staining our hands dark brown. We liked to gather the shellbark (shagbark) hickory nuts also, although these nuts are smaller and more tedious to crack. All of these native nuts are delicious for holiday baking and candy making. I can’t ever remember Mom buying nuts for cooking.

This is a pleasurable time of year, even though most of the warm weather is gone, and winter winds are beginning to blow around the eaves. I’ve always loved November, with its brown fields and bare trees, because it brings my favorite holiday, which is Thanksgiving. I love the family gatherings where old memories are recalled and new ones made. I love the ritual of giving thanks and gratitude to our Savior (although we need to be thankful every day!)
There is something elemental in preparing food for our loved ones and friends that satisfies the nurturing in women. Food prepared for our family gatherings is more than the need to appease our appetites. It is a symbol of our love and caring that we can express no other way. What better way to say “I love you” than to present the family with crusty loaves of homemade yeast bread, fresh from the oven? Bread is the most basic of our foods and spells “home” in any language.

From the Johnny-cakes that our great-grandmothers baked on the hearth, to the morning pan of hot biscuits, it tells of a mother’s love. (I will have to confess here that it is my husband Criss who bakes biscuits every morning for me and a son (Andy) who stops on his way to work for a hot biscuit.) Criss began making breakfast when I suffered a stroke almost two years ago, and now his biscuits puts mine to shame. That’s another blessing that makes me happy!

We grew up on plain country food that was wholesome and filling—no fancy herbs and cheeses such as are included in our modern recipes. We ate huge cookers of boiled potatoes, seasoned with a hunk of cow butter, iron skillets of crusty corn bread, and the old country stand-by, pots of brown beans cooked with a chunk of bacon. We were healthy and strong, and usually licked the platter clean.

Hospitality has always been a keynote of these hills (as it is in Appalachia) and I remember how my own parents urged any visitor to partake of our regular meals. If a neighbor dropped by at mealtime, it was almost impossible for them to leave without eating. Folks were judged by how “clever” (hospitable) they were to visitors, and my Grandpa used to remark with satisfaction about people who were “clever about the house.” I have always loved “feeding people” but age has made it hard for me to cook big meals.

Southern folks and Appalachian people alike must heed the Bible admonition in Hebrews 13-2 which reads, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

By William Wilfred Campbell

Along the line of smoky hills
The crimson forest stands.
And all the day the blue-jay calls
Throughout the autumn lands.

Now by the brook the maple leans,
With all his glory spread;
And all the sumachs on the hills
Have turned their green to red.

Now, by great marshes wrapt in mist,
Or past some river’s mouth,
Throughout the long still autumn day
Wild birds are flying south.

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer