Of all the Octobers, I have ever known, this one may be “the fairest of them all”. The days have been mostly bright and the nights have been cool and very dark. Of course, there was the beautiful “harvest moon” and since then the sky has been splattered with shining silver stars. For a few nights, stars dashed across the sky, though I never saw one. I have seen the “morning star”- and made wishes on it, too.
The countryside fairly glows in the light of October. The air is crisp and sweet and makes it feel sinful, not to take notice. Fields are silent places, for now the soil gets a well deserved rest. I grew up on a small farm. Sadly, small farms are “few and far between” now. My maternal grandfather, known as “Pop” had a few tractors and a huge barn. There were shelters for the tractors and tools. He had a smokehouse and pastures, too. Along with the fields and woods, this was my playground. . . with the exception of the tractor shelter. It was dirty and I could not so much as walk through it, without getting something on my clothes, which Mama declared “would never come out”. Another reason, I steered clear, was there was always a commotion of some sort, which I believe Pop would often start. Something was always broken, it seemed. Pop had a short fuse under such circumstances and was liable to cuss. If my sister and I were underfoot, so were the dogs. If Pop couldn’t find something, he was sure we had messed with it. This was never true, as neither Delores nor I cared for the grime and grease of the tools. We did use the vice to crack pecans and walnuts, occasionally-especially if Pop was on a tractor in a distant field. We were long gone, if we heard the tractor coming. October, was a different affair, though.
The garden was plowed up and the pantry was full, in October. The tobacco had been sold at the warehouse. School had started back and so I had to act civilized on a regular basis. I wore dresses with matching sweaters and shoes not fit to climb in. After school, while Mama was cooking supper, I would visit with Pop and Grandmama. School seemed a very artificial life compared to my “home-life.” I was homesick every day. Grandmama looked at magazines in October-and Pop “piddled”. He was most often in what we called “the lot”. The lot was the territory encircled by all the barns and shelters. A small grove of silver maples grew in the center of it and the edge of the pastures ran around it. While the tractor engines were cold, Pop sharpened axes and fixed kitchen table chairs. He had a burn pile to burn limbs. Pop did not show any signs of a temper- in October.
Pop was born in October-on the twenty-sixth in 1913. He was one of ten children. He went to school til sixth grade, which wasn’t all that unusual for a farmers’ child, in those days. He did all sorts of complicated math “in his head” and was always quicker than those who used paper. I remember him calculating how much fertilizer he needed per acre quickly. He read the “Progressive Farmer” faithfully and listened to country music by people like Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. He ate “gingersnaps” and dropped peanuts in cokes. He rode spirited horses and had a guitar he played around with. He was proud of that guitar and didn’t allow me to hardly touch it. . .but I did every chance I got.
Pop lived long enough to see my first three children. He was in his seventies. Grandmama had passed more than a decade earlier. He died on a frosty morning in March. . . He was in his yard . . .just piddling. In October, when the dogwoods turn shades of red and fields are quiet . . . I always remember Pop.