Florida doesn’t have much of an autumn and I do miss the autumn days of my childhood. The first thing that comes to mind is change in the leaves and harvest time. The second is camping and Halloween. The final is the preparation for Thanksgiving. These were family times, when my sisters and cousins were most active on the farm and we joined together for autumn events.
In Georgia, September in the foothills of the Appalachians meant the landscape changed from lush green to a palette of reds, oranges and yellows. We would go on top of Pine Mountain and look down below onto the colorful valley. You could see for miles and it made the world seem so big. On the farm, summer days fading into autumn brought harvest time and that was always a most busy time.
The fresh garden vegetables had already been frozen and canned. The sweet potatoes had to be dug, the dried corn had to be shelled for the livestock, and the fields and garden spots had to be plowed under. The apples were the first tree crop to be welcomed. Grandmother would pare the apples that we gathered from the orchard. Bushel baskets of them would be peeled and sliced to lay out onto aluminum panels to dry in the sunshine. Grandmother bagged the dried slices into old flour sacks and pillowcases to hang in the pantry for fried apples pies. Later, the dried apple slices would be soaked in syrup of water and sugar, laid out on circles of pastry dough, folded over, and then deep fried to a golden crispy crunch filled with juicy sweet goodness. The whole house smelled of cinnamon and apples when these were prepared.
We would pack the fried pies in our knapsacks to take camping. Sometimes we camped in our own back yard which covered acres and acres, and sometimes we would go into the mountains or out by the Chattahoochee River to camp. The older cousins would pitch the tent and prepare the site, while us younger ones gathered firewood. The nights would bring songs around the campfire with my cousin playing the guitar, and then ghost stories to make us shudder and cling to each other in fright. The stories got creepier the closer we got to Halloween. Come October 31st, we were ripe for the horrors of Halloween and spent hours planning our costumes and making them ourselves. Nothing much was store-bought except the makeup we creatively applied. Door to door trick-or-treating was done between neighbors and family without any thoughts to stranger abduction or individually wrapped candy or treats. Some would give homemade popcorn balls or candy apples, and others would give store-bought candy bars. We gladly accepted either without question.
Once Halloween was over, we would start preparing for Thanksgiving. The hired help from summer was mostly gone for the season. After pulling weeds from nursery plants for a quarter a row on hot summer days, we were glad to see the cooler nights and the frost covered mornings. The cold mornings meant that the pecans would fall soon. Once this occurred, if we had a bumper crop, we would get paid a quarter a bag to pick up pecans. We truly learned the value of a dollar. Cousins, aunts, and uncles were all involved in this process as the pecans were gathered up from the orchards for sell by the truckloads to the local pecan warehouses. They would then be sent to Westin, GA, where they were made into pecan brittles, divinities, fudge, fruitcakes, and other candies & cakes that would be sold at Christmas time. Again, the pecan pies would be made that were always served with fresh whipped cream at the Thanksgiving feast.
Thanksgiving was a huge event where family gathered from all over to give thanks for such a bountiful harvest and the blessings that had been bestowed throughout the year. The season of autumn was a long and busy season, but brought family together to work and to play. We all seem so distant now with everyone living miles and miles apart, and families dividing, growing too large to keep up with. Reunions are a difficult thing nowadays. I miss the autumn of my childhood, but was glad to have raised my own family on a farm in GA, so my children had some taste of what my own childhood was like and the happiness found in it.