This column was first published by the Lehi Free Press on September 12, 1990.
This is the time of year when we used to worry about ordering a winter’s supply of coal. We’d see to it that there was an adequate pile of wood, and start battening down the hatches for the cold weather to come. The coal house roof was repaired and dad’s heavy ax was sharpened.
Mom would check the shelves of bottles peaches, pears, tomatoes, and then worry whether she had enough. All her bottles would be full, but she’d always think of one more batch she should have done. Maybe she should have put up more fruit cocktail, or made more mustard pickles, or she’d worry about having enough bottles for her grape juice, grape jelly, and one more batch of apple sauce.
Dad and the boys would spend the evenings cleaning guns and getting them ready for the duck and pheasant hunts. Those cleaning sessions would take place right in the middle of our small kitchen, and mom would despair over tiny drops of oil that missed the cleaning cloths and hit the linoleum floor. They’d not only clean the barrels of guns, but they’d polish the stocks until they glistened, often raising the guns to the light to check and see if they were totally clean. It was a fall ritual.
We’d go out and cover the tomato plants, hoping to save the remaining red globes from an early frost. We’d also have to help by getting the cellar ready for grandma and grandpa’s apple harvest. They’d put “number ones” in the first big bin, “number twos” went in the second, and so forth. They never brought wormy apples into the cellar. They firmly believed that one wormy apple would spoil the bushel. The apples that didn’t measure up would be put aside for winter’s feed for the pigs.
There were piles of Johnathons, Rome Beauties and banana apples, and a few winter Anjou pears ripening for a winter treat. The other side of the cellar contained bins with squash, parsnips, carrots, cabbages, and other vegetables. Our supply of winter fruit and veggies was a beautiful sight in that fragrant, cool, cellar.
Then, of course, t’was time for the end of summer neighborhood games. We kids would be outside every night right after supper. We’d divide up for “Run Sheepie Run,” tag, or hide and go seek. It was always so much fun.
Or we’d build a fire in the back yard and invite the neighbors over for a tater roast. We’d put potatoes into the red-hot coals of the bonfire and then play marbles (poison) or charades until our spuds were thoroughly cooked.
Many times, the men of the family would stand around the fire and exchange yarns about their last elk hunt or maybe we’d even share elk-roast sandwiches with our friends. Big thick slices of elk meat, fitted on top of mom’s homemade bread and freshly churned butter. We didn’t have Miracle Whip, but we did have lots of homemade relish, mustard pickles, and chili sauce.
These get togethers were almost always impromptu, and everyone always just sauntered over, anxious to join in the fun. Needless to say, we were best friends with everybody on the block. We were definitely our brothers’ keepers.
I’ll never forget when my brothers were desperately sick with Scarlet Fever, our neighbors, the Boleys, invited me to stay with them so I wouldn’t catch the dread disease from my brothers. They had a family to worry about too, but that didn’t deter them from trying to help us.
I didn’t stay with them more than a few hours though, for the simple reason that I got too homesick for my home across the ditch, and I worried about my mom over there all alone with my sick brothers. My mother hugged me and hugged me with she saw me with my little suitcase at the back door. She brushed away a few tears, one of the few times I ever saw my mom cry, and no, she didn’t send me back.
Those were the days when kids walked to school, carried homemade lunches, and wore well-patched pants and darned socks every day. Those were the days when parents felt triumphant if they could put a balanced meal on the table and have time to hold a home spelling bee after supper. They were troubled times for sure, the depression days of the 30s and 40s, but those were the days when parents told their kids what to do—and the kids obeyed.
September was the month of harvest moons and coolish breezes, the month for new overalls and heavy-soled, lace-up leather shoes (Red High Kickers $5 a pair), which were changed the moment we got home from school.
September makes me nostalgic, can you blame me?