Monday, October 29, 2007

213. When the frost is on the punkin'

The weather forecasters promised overnight lows in the 30s and some frost in the outlying areas along The Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. They delivered. It is 38 degrees here, 35 in Shelbyville, and 33 in Salem, Indiana a few miles north of Louisville. I mention Indiana because this is one of the times of the year that the Hoosier state provides a horn of plenty for the rest of us. Corn, soybeans, gourds, and specifically for this time of year, pumpkins.

Living in Louisville one easily becomes familiar with the large commercial pumpkin patches growing up in Starlight, Borden, Scottsville, and Navilleton, just a few miles north of here. Stumlers, Hubers, and their in-laws and ex-laws all have huge operations on top of the hills just north of Floyds Knobs, between US 150 on the west and IN 60 on the east. But a simple drive anywhere not too many miles away from here, out IN 62 or I-64 to Corydon (part of the route written about some time ago), IN 64 to New Salisbury and Milltown, or US 150 to Palmyra, or IN 60 to Borden and Salem, yields acres and acres of pumpkin patches grown on small farms by individuals and families, who oftentimes will offer them for sale for two or three dollars, regardless of size and shape, with their "store" being an old flatbed wagon sitting at the foot of the driveway along the roadside. You'll even find some of these stands attended only by a bucket with homemade lettering saying "Punkin' Money."

I said at the beginning of September that my favorite three months were the one we are in and the ones on either side of it. Part of the reason is the smell of leaves (or maybe burning leaves, a smell we no longer can legally enjoy in these parts), and the briskness of the mornings such as today's.

When I was 8, I received as a Christmas present from my bachelor-farmer-lawyer-politician uncle, the second oldest of my maternal grandmother's brothers, the book The Complete Poetical Works of James Whitcomb Riley. I've mentioned this before. Throughout the large volume, my uncle Bob had marked poems he thought would be worthy of memorization. One of those, which I did memorize, is the best summary of the season I have ever read or known. I have printed in below.



by: James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)

WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then's the times a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here--
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock--
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries--kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below--the clover over-head!--
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin' 's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don't know how to tell it--but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me--
I'd want to 'commodate 'em--all the whole-indurin' flock--
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!


Enjoy the season.


nils Hammar said...

what does "kindo" refer to in this poem, do you know?

Anonymous said...

Something "kind of" hearty like about the atmosphere.

Just a country colloquialism in spelling.


The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.