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Sunday, October 4, 2009

GOLDENROD TIME




The goldenrod of autumn is replacing the Queen Anne's lace of summer. The colors of the flowers of autumn are largely yellow and purple, the same as the colors of spring. The leaves on the locust trees are curled up and brown. Leaves of quite a number of trees are turning yellow. The oaks continue their fullness of dark green. The fields are turning brown, a good Stanley Brothers song. Earlier today I saw somebody with a pickup load of split firewood pulling a trailer load. A pickup behind him with another full load. I thought: Them boys been a-workin. No two ways about it.



Many years I've spent the fall cutting firewood for two houses of the Sterns who liked a fireplace, for Tom Pruitt, who burnt his wood in a wood stove, and myself last. I was usually so tired of the chainsaw and woodsplitting by the time I got to mine, I'd get enough to last until February when the winter eased off for a few weeks, apple tree pruning time in the old days. That letup in the winter during February has changed as all the weather has changed. Those old sayings about the weather, like the date of thunders in February foretells the date of a frost in May for gardeners. That doesn't work any more. Neither does the saying of fogs in August telling snows in the winter.



People went by these and other weather forecast devices that worked for a very long time, and now with weather patterns changing, those old sayings have become meaningless. Now the people that never believed these methods of prediction (without testing any) can be satisfied it's all bunk. It's strange how a fading culture, like old time mountain culture, becomes something to be ashamed of. Parents don't want their kids talking the old country way. Grandma and grandpa are from another world. And they really are. They're odd and funny. None of the young people coming along think the old timey jokes are funny, take no interest in the old time ways that are old fashioned.



When the culture is completely gone, the people look back at it full of praise, start calling it a culture, wasn't it great, couldn't have been better, the good old days, the golden age, a time when people helped each other out, simple living. Only it wasn't all that simple, because you're not going to find anyone now, except a renegade or 2 doing it for a hobby, farming with horses and plows, mowing hay with a scythe, living like the Amish. It's hard work. It isn't simple. Women always pregnant and working in the garden, cooking, washing clothes, taking care of kids and a man.



Since nobody is going to go back before the age of recliners and tv, we have celebrations of heritage, that just a few years before was something to be ashamed of. It brings to mind a time in the hospital in Winston-Salem, a woman doctor looking over the pages of charts of the pacemaker device. I felt mountain in her. I asked where she was from. She said Winston-Salem. I said, before that. She got a little anxious like she didn't want to be in this conversation.



The name on her tag was a name in this county, so I persisted. She said a little place in the mountains I never heard of, like she was anticipating being taken for a hick or hillbilly again. I asked where. Just down the road. I told her I live near Sparta and it turns out she had kin in Alleghany. Then she settled down and was easy to talk with. I wanted to say to her, there is no shame in being from the mountains. But that's getting too missionary or something. Besides, there's no telling how much teasing and getting looked down on she'd been through in the medical school world for being from the mountains. She'd have hated it if I'd told her she stood out in the city as a country girl. I'd be saying it in praise, but she wouldn't be receiving it that way.



I don't like to tell people I'm from Kansas, but when I meet someone from there too, it's like meeting a friend with a common bond. The worst part is, it was a Yankee state. Just barely, but it was Yankee. I have a feeling my greatgrandparents from Pulaski County, KY, took their kids by wagon to the new Kansas territory a few months before the Civil War was over to get away from the South. I have a feeling greatgrandpa was a Yankee sympathizer. A lot of people from these mountains went to Kansas in that time. All kinds of religious bunches from Russia, Germany and other old-world locations like Sweden, every kind of hard core fundamentalist religion there ever was settled in Kansas in that time.



I grew up in Kansas style fundamentalism. Never took to it. I was the church's black sheep among the kids. The one that did not carry his Bible at school all the time, or ever. Then the kid that listened to rock and roll, worst of all that screaming Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, when the other kids were listening to the Lennon Sisters and liking it. My mother made an appeal to the preacher for me to get one of those perfect attendance medals that holds a chain of them year after year. She knew I went all the time, because I went every time she went and she went all the time. So I got my perfect attendance medal. The preacher knew I really didn't want to be there. He was reluctant, I didn't want it, mother insisted.

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