Afar on the blue horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The ripe, rich tints of the cornfield
And wild geese flying high.
All over upland and lowland,
The charm of the goldenrod,
Some of us call it autumn,
But others call it God.
(In memory of Amma Brown)
Another mild October day, with just a hint of rain, brings red and orange leaves tumbling down from the maple tree on the bank. The foliage has been spectacular this year, although it has reached its peak. Pilot Knob is still gloriously arrayed like a bright patchwork quilt. The hills are still quite lovely clothed in their soft, muted colors, and here and there a scarlet maple stands out among the others.
To me, there’s nothing that can compare with the glory of autumn in the West Virginia mountains. No matter how many seasons that have unfolded before my eyes, it is ever a new, exciting experience. How I love it! This vast panorama of beauty that blesses the eye and feeds the soul! As our daughter Patty expressed it, “it takes your breath!” No wonder the Bible states, “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.”
As Criss and I drove along Triplett Ridge, admiring the magnificent autumn display, I remarked to him, “God has made this world so beautiful, wonder what heaven will be like?” (Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 1Cor. 2:9.)
With the mad rush of summer behind, and winter still at bay, we need to take time to enjoy the glorious season that God has made for us. It seems that we all live at too fast a pace, our lives in high gear, rushing toward what? Eternity? An hour spent with nature-and God-can do much to rest our souls and inspire a deep appreciation for the world around us. Just let the beauty that is all around us seep deep into our senses and calm the stress of everyday living.
This is the time of year that we began having our “play parties”-actually the only recreation that we had besides walking miles to and from church. Through the summer we were much too busy with the serious business of raising gardens, hoeing corn, picking berries, and all the multitude of chores that country youngsters had to do. When fall came, and the gardens were harvested and the corn shocked, we found time to have our parties.
No invitations were given but word of mouth got around that we were going “to gather up and have a party.” We would gather wood for a bonfire and young people would walk miles to play the old ring games that were handed down from generation to generation. I can still feel the excitement of those fall nights, with the firelight casting weird shadows and the smell of wood smoke in the air. A huge gang of us would make a circle and hold hands while we skipped around singing, ‘Oh, the old dusty miller, and he lived on a hill and he worked all day with a pretty good will. One hand in 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!”
We lustily sung the old songs that mom’s generation sung, but they seem to have died out now. As Halloween draws near, it brings back memories of those long-ago nights. When mom was young, one of their favorite places for a party was at the “Mudhole.” This was a low place where the dirt country road dipped on Twistabout Ridge, and it was common knowledge that it was haunted. No one really knew how it had gained that reputation, although it was rumored that a hanging had once taken place there.
One night my mother, who had much more nerve than I’ll ever have, was coming home late at night-alone–and reached that haunted spot. Just as she started through, there came a screeching, cackling laugh that rooted her to the spot. Almost consumed with terror, she heard a weird, louder garble come from another spot. It sounded like two old women giggling and tittering in a strange tongue. After the blood began coursing through her veins again, and she could move, she realized that it was two screech owls communicating with one another. After this she had to pass through a cemetery on the way home!
There were some things that couldn’t be explained. One dark night, one of Mom’s older brothers and two of her sisters were walking past the Mudhole when one of them (I think it was Hallie) decided to call up the ghost. “Come out, Ghost,” she yelled. To this day, no one can adequately explain what happened. A materialization like a piece of gray fabric rose up from the road, and flapped about their legs. They tried to run, but their legs were heavy and impeded by the apparition. The girls almost fainted with terror. They never tried that again.
I am sorry to see the old games fade into oblivion. Our younger generation will never know the excitement of these play parties and the old ring games which are a rich part of their mountain heritage. Just one more time, I’d like to “gather up” the old gang on one of these cool nights and play some of the old games. “Miss Molly Brown” and “Four in the Boat” is ringing in my ears.
A VAGABOND SONG
By Bliss Carman
There is something in the autumn that
is native to my blood–
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the
the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples can shake me
like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke
upon the hills.
There is something in October sets the
gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond