An Ode to October

An Ode to October (courtesy of Jim Casada Outdoors)

How can you not like October? Sure, over most of the country it marks the beginning of a time of temporary death in nature’s endless cycle, but even as that happens experience tells us that rebirth and reawakening lie only five or six months down the road. Meanwhile, think about these hallmarks of a month of magic. I’m describing them in a literary style favored by one of my favorite writers, John Parris. Most of you, unless you happen to live in the mountains of western North Carolina, likely never heard of him. But he was a gifted writer who penned a column, “Roaming the Mountains,” for the Asheville Citizen-Times for decades. In it he captured the ways and wonders of the North Carolina high country, and many of his thousands of columns were subsequently collected in books. All his books had the word mountain in their title. Here, with a tip of the literary hat to John Parris, is my feeble attempt at an ode to October.

  • October is hickory trees adorning ridgelines with gold, harbingers of frost and freezes soon to come.
  • It’s a noisy bushytail feeding in one of those hickories and letting a passing hawk know he’s been spotted and isn’t appreciated.
  • The month of magic is a shrewd old buck tending his scrapes and thinking of procreation.
  • October it nutting time, with black walnuts and hazelnuts there for the taking, at least by folks with enough gumption to do the gathering, storing, and cracking. Those who do will enjoy the fruits of their labors in glorious fashion come winter with its short days and long nights.
  • It’s a time of purple asters, goldenrod, and cardinal flowers abloom; of sourwood trees and sumac cloaked in gaudy shawls of scarlet; of sweet gums, black gums, and dogwoods sporting rich and varied hues of maroon and magenta.
  • October is jewel weed lining ditch banks and sporting its final showy blossoms of orange and gold; it’s a mountain boy taking simple joy from touching the plant’s seed pods and watching the seeds jump out like a haint from a graveyard.
  • The month is the time of the Hunter’s Moon, a worthy successor to the Harvest Moon of September. Slung low like a golden ornament adorning nature’s breast as it crests the eastern horizon at turkey fly-up time in the evening, the Hunter’s Moon seems so close, so tangible, you almost feel as if you could reach out and touch it. For the deer hunter walking home by its light, bright enough to cast shadows, it’s a comfort and a friend.
  • October is a wizened old persimmon tree at the edge of a pasture laden with golden globes of fruit, newly ripened and so filled with sugar they are sticky to the fingers. It’s seemingly every critter in the woods—deer, foxes, bears, ‘coons, and ‘possums—competing with humans to enjoy this candy straight from nature’s rich larder.
  • It’s a cathead biscuit for breakfast slathered with home-churned butter and anointed in new-run molasses.
  • It’s a pot of pintos simmering on the stove and a pone of cornbread made with stone-ground meal baking in the oven.
  • It’s a sportsman’s supper of squirrel and sweet taters, with turnip greens on the side and biscuits to sop up the rich gravy made from the squirrel drippings. Maybe, if that particular hunter is truly blessed, there will be a persimmon pudding or mayhap a chunk of persimmon bread redolent of the flavor of bourbon for dessert.
  • October is an old man in his rocker, sitting in the afternoon sun and allowing its warmth to ease his aches.
  • It’s candy roasters and acorn squash, Hubbard squash and pumpkins, gathered from the field and stored for hearty meals to come.
  • October is crops laid by and fields plowed to await spring; it’s a boy gathering maypops and feasting on the sweet-sour pleasure of the seeds found inside this fruit of the passion flower; it’s October beans awaiting hulling and free-range chickens eagerly dining on a garden that’s done its duty for another year.
  • It’s the simple pleasure of a handful of ground cherries to munch on, or maybe a rich, ripe pawpaw for a snack.
  • It’s a boy in love with the outdoors hustling home from school to grab his gun and get into the squirrel woods as quickly as possible, pausing only to grab an apple or two or maybe a raw onion and a chunk of cornbread in case he gets peckish before supper.
  • It’s that self-same boy, whistling in the gloaming as he heads home, two squirrels in his pocket and just a tiny taste of fear of things of the night moving his steps right along.
  • It’s early frost and old-timers checking the signs—the stripes on wooly worms, the thickness of corn husks, the height of hornet’s nests, and countless other traditional means of predicting how harsh or mild winter will be.
  • October is a wizened and wise old hunter sharing tales of yesteryear with a star-struck boy, smiling as he reminisces and reckons “Ah yes, those were the days.”
  • It’s the inexpressible delight of Indian Summer, with chilly mornings putting pep in your step, bluebird skies filled with blackbirds flocking up, and monarch butterflies floating in zephyr-like breezes
    • And it is time for the Granddaddy (or Grandmother) of barbecues.. the Mallard Creek BBQ… sponsored by Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church on the fourth Thursday of every October.  Come join us!

       

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