Crisp recollections of autumns past

From this perspective

The calendar indicates that fall is here. My wife, Elaine, and I so cherish the autumn season. It is the season that we each of us have always enjoyed from the time of our youth and that joy continues today in the life of each of us.

For “yours truly” during my youth, the setting was a dairy and vegetable farm in this rural region of western New York. A colorful and busy autumn season was the time-frame back during the Depression years of the 1930s.

The scene was a white farm house and dairy barn surrounded by cultivated farm acreage, tucked away in the picturesque rolling Boston hills. A glimpse over the hills of the western horizon would often display the glistening sunset streaming across the clear Lake Erie waters. That was my childhood homestead.

Other farm families were our neighbors and when in need, they were always there! And I cherished the four seasons on the farm: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Each season played a unique role in life on the farm. But the fall season … autumn … seemed to be my favorite.

In a sense, autumn is a second spring when every colored leaf is a flower, trees take on a new look, and the animals in the meadow spring into winter preparation. And “fall” plowing gets a heads up on “spring” plowing.

The fall season begins with a subtle change: the skies are a richer blue and the nighttime hours become starlit and chilled. The season comes with frost, the disappearance of the migrant birds, and harvesting of the last season’s crop which marks the end of another growing season. It was time for the soil to go into a winter respite. The barns were filled with fodder for the cattle, and the grain bins were filled for the winter season. The potato cellars were filled, providing there was a productive harvest, and the potatoes were waiting to be sorted and packed for winter market.

The autumn season carried with it many signs: the goldenrod has turned brown, the squirrels busily storing food for winter and birds emptying the bird feeders in record time anticipating what is to come. The winter storm windows were put in place and Saturday mornings was usually filled with stacking cords of fire wood in the woodshed as fuel for the kitchen stove. Most of the farm tools were put away in the tool shed waiting to take on their task the following spring.

And like clockwork, the winter mail order catalogs arrived and winter clothes and boots were displayed in the catalog pages. Only absolute essentials were put on the order list. I remember well trying to fit into last years winter boots into this year’s foot size. So, last years’ winter wear of my older brother seemed to fit me just fine; thus, for me, they were hand me down sort of “new” clothes.

Particularly exciting was when the mail order Christmas/holiday catalog arrived in the fall mail. What an array … five whole pages of new toys and, if we were lucky, a new push truck or windup train might find its way on the special order form. And maybe the order would arrive just in time as Santa made his rounds.

These are the autumn memories. Many things have changed over the years: agricultural practices, farm tools, living styles, and the normal events of each day. And then, on the other hand, there are those October memories which are far more than just a passing thought. These memories live on and are part of the permanent fabric of life: the brilliant sunset on the lake, the beauty of the naturalness of nature, the evolving changing of seasons, and neighbors helping neighbors. And most tender in our heart is the continuing thought of family and loved ones with whom to share my fall-autumn memories.

For you see, these memories live on, not for just a season but for a lifetime.

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and Distinguished Service Professor at SUNY Fredonia.


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