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Growing up in Louisa – Fall Again!   

 Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

I was reading a news article the other day and saw a notice that the Autumn Equinox will occur on 9/22/2017. As might be expected, it reminded me that fall is on its way, so the gears of my memories began to move. After wondering for a moment about what had happened to summer, I accepted the fact that the leaves would soon be changing. Our little town will flash colors not seen for so long a time. Those reds and yellows in the trees have been masked in green, but now nature’s own symphony will ring out with brilliance so long hidden.

The moms of the northern hemisphere will be digging through storage spaces in hopes of retrieving jackets and sweaters fitting and suitable for the family for yet another season. It is a time when televisions will show college and professional football between cholesterol-loaded snacks in the man-caves of America. Already, the Little League World Series is finished and Major Leaguers are on the same quest. Our last trip to the beach is over and swimwear is stored away in hopes they will fit next year. Labor Day is over and school is in full session. Those yellow school buses have worked out their routes on the highways, their colors matching and blending with the trees of fiery red and bright yellow. Nature’s camouflage will soon be at work.       

 Years ago, when I took a biology course on the old LHS campus, I was surprised when I learned that leaves changed colors because of the reduction of daylight. Blasphemy! You see, I had always thought it was fall’s cooling temperatures, or even the first frost that brought on the effect. This new explanation about a change in the sunlight just didn’t seem right to me. I was rudely shown that my causal observations weren’t as solid as I thought. It’s humbling to find yourself wrong when just moments earlier things had seemed so right. I had thought my theory was supported until I really slowed to consider the facts. Therein lies the difference in good scientific forensics and a wrong assumption.

My wife recently told me that an expert is someone who can be wrong, but does it with authority. That’s me all over! I’ve always been able to speak with firm conviction and authority on many things. In reflection, I’m sure I’ve unintentionally convinced people of a scattering of ‘false facts’ that I believed to be true. Therefore, I was ‘sincerely wrong.’ Ignorance is bliss, eh? Alas, in the closing years of my life I find myself forced to use more caution and to carefully perform more research before taking a strong position. Rat’s! Due diligence isn’t fun.

Now that I’ve confessed and let that cat out of the bag, perhaps a few readers will disregard anything I say or may have presented as ‘truth.’ With this in mind, perhaps it is safer for me to write about ‘memories’ of the past rather than to deal with the unknowns of the present or future. Maybe it’s better to try and entertain readers and let the ‘facts’ fall where they may. Never mind that our memories are colored by new information stacked over the old, and that we may actually remember things that simply weren’t so. I can’t forget, either, about those who find sport in catching my errors and publicly renouncing me as an expert. Therein lies the rub. The very definition of expert suggests that I might be sincerely wrong, if a bit authoritarian in my presentation. You can relax, dear readers. I do not intend to let up writing about those things I believe to be true, but I may be slightly more diligent in my research. I’m sure I will error, but I am who I am.

Obviously, all of this has risen from that article about the Autumn Equinox. For those who have fallen asleep or are otherwise distracted, the equinox marks the ending of the summer season and the beginning of fall. In fact, that event is closely lined up with events such as the now-famous Septemberfest celebrated annually in my ‘home town.’ A scientific person might look at the signs and argue that leaves turn colors because of the rowdy parties and street celebrations emitting from the crowds of revelers. After all, it can be repeated, measured, and observed. I’m thinking that this idea seems scientific enough for us to take full credit for bringing on the Fall season, at least in the Big Sandy valley.

 Of course, we educated folk celebrate at this time to mark the season. We know that the street parties are relatively new on the scene, yet fall has come every year at least since football was introduced. After all, once fall came without celebrations, so it’s more likely that leaves turn and fall arrives because of cooler temperatures, or maybe cooler temperatures show up because the sun has reduced its impact. In our examination of the facts we must not forget that even as the leaves turn, chrysanthemums (mums) and asters bloom, and pumpkins turn orange. Either they, too, have taken a course in biology, or their internal clocks get signals from somewhere else. Bully! The length of daylight is the cause! Consider further, some Falls are cool, but other wax warm, but leaves begin their slow death by changing colors regardless of temperatures.

Fall colors are wonderful things. College campuses, towns, mountains, and national parks across America glow in the bright yellows, reds, and brown hues. We tried to copy those ‘earthen’ tones in our sweaters, and skirts in my high school days. A favorite old sweater I had was full of flakes of fall colors. It finally faded and for some reason shrunk until finally it was discarded, along with my high school band jacket of scarlet and black. Those meant more than just a season, but reminded me of football games, (Have I already said that?) cold nights, snuggling with a girlfriend (shhh), eating apples, and taking a hayride somewhere. I know they say that in the spring hearts turn to love. As a romantic, love was every bit as strong in the fall. This season is so full of fun. We shared the experiences of starting back to school, attending games, dating, and looking forward to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the winter Holidays. These all built memories upon memories we still cherish.

I continue to picture the wonderful colors lining Lady Washington, Lock Avenue, Town Hill, and the town park down near the Locks, I remember even the side streets are as if a giant brush had swiped each with colors from a Heavenly palette. I remember having fun raking leaves then jumping in the pile. At the end of the day we would finally burn them. The smoke from all the many leaf fires about town sometimes rose and at other times sank depending on barometric lows or highs. What I remember is that it followed me around as I searched for a place I could open my burning eyes and maybe finally catch a smokeless breath of air.

Farmers will remember this time as the beginning of harvest. Sorghum will be made, cider will run off the press, and stew might be made over an open fire. This was also a time when music filled the air. I’m not just talking the band but Gospel sings, Fall Festivals, county fairs, and fiddlers and banjo picking after a hard day’s work. Hunting season is growing near, too, and hay gathering is nearly over. Lofts are full, and mom has put up the last from the garden, whether beans, pickled beets, or tomatoes to last the winter.

Fall also reminds us that a lineup of holidays is not far off. Halloween, or Harvest, parties are in planning, but the main events will be Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a time to plan visits, to maybe remember old friends, and to know another year is nearly complete. Dunking for apples, eating fresh apple turnovers, going to fairs, and filing down the runners on our sled, are things I remember about fall. It is about celebrating harvest, planning for winter and looking forward to a new year.   

The raking and burning of fall leaves marked when the days were noticeably shorter and a chill was in the air. From this, we are reminded that life is a cyclical process repeated with a cosmic measure of rhythm. Just as with the leaves, our lives are cylindrical, too. Whether I am in the fall of life, or dead-winter, I don’t know. Of course, it all depends upon the length of my life. That is something I may never know, if the end comes quickly. It will not likely be because the length of days is longer or shorter, but because of some other reason. I suspect it will be when this old body wears out or breaks. Meanwhile, I will spread colors on the canvas of life in hopes of a masterpiece that will be the sum of seasons I have enjoyed. They are my memories. I can tell you with some authority that I am sincerely an expert on the subject. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.      

 

Comments  

0 #3 Michael Coburn 2017-09-14 13:01
Working on the one-room school article, but need more input from anyone who attended one and has memories. Drop me a note, please. I think I'm 2-3 weeks away from publishing something.
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0 #2 Michael Coburn 2017-09-11 17:34
Here's a comment from a reader:
Hi Mike. I'm amazed again by another of your articles. I love nature which is pure/unadultera ted for mankind to enjoy. I take pictures around my house different times during the year for visual viewing/ comparison later. I take pictures of my garden almost weekly. I heard a speaker once talk about the sense of smell and it's ability to bring memories from the past.........th is article brings vivid pictures/memori es in a way that can easily be seen in the mind for one to enjoy..........
By the way.........I hope he article about one room school life is coming soon ! ! !
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0 #1 Bernard 2017-09-11 16:30
Good article Mike. Yep it's getting to be autumn, fall flowers in bloom, Sept Fest, and Harvest tour just around the corner. Lots of memories of hunting with my dad, older brother & brother-in-law. Leaves turning color makes for a beautiful show of Gods paint brush.
Great job & as always, "Thanks for the memories".
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