Colorful memories of autumn past
From this perspective
A dairy and vegetable farm in this rural region was the setting. A colorful 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 of Western New York.
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, October 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 night time 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.
October autumn 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 clock work, the winter mail order catalogs arrived and winter clothes and boots were displayed on their 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 catalogs arrived in the October 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 October 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. These memories live on and are part of the permanent fabric of life: the brilliant sunset on the lake and the beauty of the naturalness of nature. And most tender in our heart is the continuing thought of family and loved ones with whom to share my October 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 Emeritus at SUNY Fredonia.