10-13-2016 Tri-City Area History Page

Paw Paw River Journal

Paw Paw River Journal

Autumn’s Red and Gold

 Ahhhhhh, haven’t you noticed?  Just step outside at night.  There is a coolness, a smoky tang in the air.  And we don’t even burn leaves any more.  Someone is fudging on that rule a little.  There’s something about autumn that makes it my favorite.  Night falls more quickly, and we have the furnace on.  Where did summer go!  There is a beauty about fall that is tinged with regret.  We know the year is slipping away from us.  We are reluctant to put away our summer clothes and start wearing sweaters and sweat shirts.  But now we will go outside and be confronted by Nature’s paint brush.  The trees around our house will be glorious yellow, orange, and red.   And then the leaves come down and must be raked, gathered, and placed in big bags.  No more burning them in piles.  We must not add more incense to the polluting of our atmosphere.  I must confess I miss the smell of burning leaves… but my breathing is better for it. And they do come down.  And they must be raked up.  Robert Frost said in his poem, “In Hardwood Groves:”

The same leaves over and over again!

They fall from giving shade above

To make one texture of faded brown

And fit the earth like a leather glove.

 So we rake them into piles by the street, until the city can come and pick them up.  Of a fall evening we can still smell bon fires… even though we are not supposed to burn them.  It is the smell of autumn and a part of our lives. When we were kids, autumn was a magical time.  We played outside until it was dark, and our folks called us in to get ready for bed.  We had baseball games in the long early autumn twilight.  There was a field just up the street, and neighborhood kids gathered there.  We played a game called “workup.”   Anyone could play.  You had to start out in the outfield, and as batters were struck out, or called out by acclamation on a base run.  This started some arguments that were only ended by booing and ridicule, until the “out” runner gave up and went to the outfield.  We worked our way from the outfield, to third baseman, second baseman, first baseman, then shortstop and finally pitcher.  After another batter was out, then the pitcher became catcher… and finally up to bat.  And there a good player could stay until he was out!  Back to the outfield again!  We ran races too.  On our street we had marked off 100 yards… that was our favorite, and we were always trying to better our time.  One of my friends received as a present two pairs of boxing gloves.  So, under the street lights we had a ring marked out.  Confession:  I never really liked boxing.  If you were a mild mannered kid (I was), and not aggressive or a bully (I was not), you had to take your lumps… which I did.  Every kid learns to get hurt.   The thing I really hated was inflicting pain on someone else.  My Dad was an easy going man… he liked everyone.  Guess it rubbed off on me.  If pain came to me in a game, I took it; but I never liked to dish it out.  I still have a crooked finger from a touch football game injury.  Autumn’s advent meant that Halloween would soon be here.  We did not have trick or treating as such in those days.  That gentle blackmail came at a later time.  But we did go about trying to play pranks on people.  The real ambition was to tip over someone’s out house.  And there were still quite a few in our small town back yards.  I never was a member of one of those successful forays, but some friends were.  I’ve told that story before and perhaps will again in another column.  For some reason, the coute la vec of Halloween pranks was to take down the bell on the old high school that stood where Red Arrow Elementary School is now located.  I know of its happening two or three times in my childhood.  My gang never got in on one of those daring raids, but I watched a couple of times from a safe distance when some of the daredevils did it.  If successful, the miscreants always hid the bell somewhere in town.  But, you know, kids cannot keep quiet.  Someone always has to talk about it.  And in a couple of days, the school authorities would have it back up in place, and calling us all to the halls of learning.  Back in the day, autumn was a magical time… we knew winter was coming… as it always does.  The season’s beauty, which could not last, had a really haunting quality about it.  Now, of a fall evening, when I step outside the magic is still there.  Footballs are in the air.  Our school teams still play their hearts out.  I love to watch the highlights Friday nights on our local TV station.  I always sigh and think, Yes… I could run like that!  How beautiful those kids are!  How full of life!  Autumn has always been just about my favorite time.  Helen Hunt Jackson captured that feeling in a poem which says it all…

0, suns and skies and clouds of June

And flowers of June together,

Ye cannot rival for one hour

October’s bright blue weather.