Kentucky memories, V

More thoughts on an ergly fall


It’s definitely an ugly fall this year at Butterfly Bottom, the aftermath of months of hot, dry weather and very little rain. Not only can I feel and see its presence along the creek and just over the brow of the hill, but I can hear it in the trees, in the leaves that died suddenly with no farewell gift of color and now rattle harshly on sycamore and locust; on walnut, sassafras and hedge apple. Every now and then the wind brings to the Daniel Boonery – the patch of remnant forest that guards the hill – a foretaste of what’s to come and its trees respond with a collective shudder, shedding worn fragments of summer’s glory in showers of brown and ochre, grave clothes for the butterflies that just a few short weeks ago danced in their hundreds over our hillside medder. This is my second fall in Kentucky and I’m still finding it exciting, coming as I do from a country where the seasons merge rather than change. I know that Winter’s just behind the hill on Deputy Riddle’s place, urging Fall to get on with it so that he can grab the country by the throat, but I don’t care, for I’ve just finished stacking firewood and there’s only a couple of loads still to come. Writing in Cottage Economy, that great curmudgeon, literary hammer of Irishman and Methodist alike but oh, so forward-thinking William Cobbett noted:
A couple of flitches of bacon are worth fifty thousand Methodist sermons and religious tracts. The sight of them upon the rack tends more to keep a man from…stealing than whole volumes of penal statutes…They are great softeners of the temper, and promoters of domestic harmony.
Well I’m very partial to a bit of smoked hog jowl myself – especially with a few green onions – but when reminders of winter or the state of the bank account trouble my thoughts, all I need do is stand in the doorway of the old tobacco shed and my equilibrium is restored. It might’ve been bacon for you, Bill, but for me it’s firewood. A big, fat, stack of firewood.

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