I am ten years old and in the sixth grade this October of 1948. I have always loved October because of the beautiful leaves. I told Grammy Martin that Rowes Ledge looks like one of her patchwork quilts with all the different colors. Twitchell Pond does not look quite as beautiful blue as it did in the warmer months, with its tinge of gray.
Some mornings there is frost on my attic window when I wake and I know it won’t be long before the sun will not be strong enough to melt it during the day as it does in October.
Grammy asks me to mow her lawn one last time for the year. She always tries to give me a dime, but we do not take money for helping her. If Grampa gives us a nickel during the summer for picking potato bugs, then Dad says it is ok because that is hot, dirty work.
Dad has been cutting some pine boughs from trees on Pine Mountain right behind our house and aptly named, because that is all a person seems to see..pines everywhere! He will use the boughs at the end of the month to bank up the house for winter. Then by Thanksgiving, when we have snow, he will shovel that up around the base of the house with the help of Roland and Rex. The house seems much warmer, once it is banked. Our only source of heat in the winter is our kitchen wood stove.
I said that we have mostly pine trees, but Dad points out the spruce trees. He takes his jack knife out of his pants pocket and slices something off the side of the spruce and hands it to me. “Here, try this, Muff, you’ll like it.” Well, I usually like most things Dad has me try, but there have been exceptions ( like the time he shot the bear and that meat was plain awful). “Spruce gum, Muff. Chew on it. Good stuff.” Well, it really isn’t too bad and since we don’t get to stores too often for the store bought kind, this is pretty good.
Ma said Dad and I were disgusting once because we tried some coon meat. I don’t know where it came from, but Dad said it couldn’t be bad. I thought it tasted like chicken and Dad said the same, but Ma just harummphed around the stove . He shoots rabbits sometimes, but all I can think of are pictures of bunnies in some of Curt’s story books and I don’t like to eat them. Dad does shoot quite a few partridges, but Ma says it takes at least two to feed our family of six. He pronounces it “patridge”.
With the cold mornings, Ma checks last winter’s supply of hats and mittens and says she hopes we have enough left to last til Grammy knits us more at Christmas. Every kid in school has mis-matched mittens at the beginning of cold weather so no one notices. We usually start wearing them the first of November first thing in the morning waiting for the bus.
A few days ago I helped Gram slop the pig. She has a big , big place for their pig to wander around on the side of the barn. He is huge and makes a big snorting sound. I don’t care much for pigs, and I think Gram knows it because after we carried the “swill” she picked up a handful of pretty leaves and told me how she saves them by ironing them on to waxed paper..but only the good leaves ..no holes. Then after that, we went in to her kitchen and she gave me one of her gigantic raisin filled cookies. I can’t describe how good they are. She says she stands over the stove and makes the filling and lets it cool. Then she makes the dough and plops a bit in the middle and covers it with more dough. Sounds like a lot of work to me.
Uncle Louis has pulled his boat out of the pond for another year and it rests upside down in the field. Before he launches it next spring, he will give it a new coat of green paint, getting into every corner until there is not one inch of old paint showing. He is very proud of his boat and keeps it so nice. We borrow it on the Fourth of July and Ma makes sure we do not leave one scrap of waste or dirt clump in the boat, since he is so good to let us use it.
It is very quiet in October. The summer folks are gone and their cottages closed for the season. The plumbers have all come and shut their water off and cleared the pipes for winter. I walk down behind Wagner’s camp once more to sit on the rock where I fish before they arrive in the spring. It’s a good thinking rock.
Ma is pondering whether we should get another charge of her worm medicine, brewed from the poplar bark, but usually we can talk her out of that til spring. She checks her can on the shelf in the alcove under the stairs to make sure she has enough lard saved to warm up and put on Rex’s chest when he has croup. He always has croup every winter and whoops all night. Ma always has bricks on hand she has warmed in the oven for our feet and pieces of flannel saved and stacked near the can of lard for the croup boy.
I think October is my favorite month because it is so pretty everywhere and there is a nice smell in the air. The summer heat has been pushed away and it is like a newness has washed over the little hamlet. Soon the colors will be gone and skeletal trees will stand against the grayness of the sky.
I won’t think of that now. I shall live in the moment.