September has arrived. We are in the final third of 2013. And while it’s still hot and fall won’t officially arrive until the 22nd, there is anticipation of its arrival. Each morning during the weather, fall weather is mentioned. It hasn’t arrived in Houston, but we are READY. We dream about crisp morning air, cooler days, open windows, lower utility bills that are coming. I’ve heard that we don’t have much of a fall in Texas. And, I guess that may be true if we are talking about changing leaves and such. But to me, fall in Texas means football and hayrides, band contests and festivals, fresh peach cobbler and shelling pecans, harvesting and sowing crops.
I was raised in north Texas. This is the time of year when cotton strippers are seen along the country roads. Fields that were once covered in fluffy bolls of cotton were methodically stripped of everything, leaving few remnants of the harvest. This is also the time when wheat crops are sown. My dad farmed wheat. He wasn’t good at remembering the actual dates of birthdays or anniversaries, but he knew I was born during wheat sowing time, my sister was born during harvest and my brother came around Christmas. When I decided to get married in October, I warned my future husband that Daddy would complain about it being during sowing time. And, we discussed the inconvenience of having our first child during wheat harvest, too.
My grandmother had peach trees. Beginning in the late summer, she would bring bags of peaches to us. They weren’t the big, pretty peaches you see in the grocery store. But, the taste was incredible. Granny canned lots of peaches. She made peach jelly, pickled peaches and peaches for cobblers later. We ate fresh peaches for dessert, made peach ice cream and when the peaches began to get soft, we made peach cobbler. I loved to prepare the peaches and the pie dough to make cobblers. And even though we ate LOTS of peaches in the fall, it was always sad when Granny would say “this is the last of the peaches.” We never got tired of them.
My parents had a pecan tree in the front yard of their house. According to my dad, his father transplanted that native pecan tree from the country the year my dad was born. It grew and thrived for 21 years, but never had any pecans. Until the year my parents got married. That was the first pecan crop. In the fall, I remember being told that it was time to pick up pecans. Not one of my favorite activities. We would all go outside and look for the pecans laying on the ground. And that tree did produce pecans. Then, we would sit and crack pecans. And, then pick the meat out of the shells. In later years, my mother got a nut picker device. You pushed it down over the pecans and they went inside the “basket”. That was certainly better than bending over and picking them up one at a time. And, these days, there are places that will crack your pecans for you. Then all you have to do is separate the meat from the shell.
And fall means FOOTBALL! Growing up, it meant getting the perfect black and gold outfit to wear to school on Fridays. It meant bus rides to Paducah, Munday, Knox City, Quanah, Memphis and other area towns. It meant wool band uniforms that were too hot to wear at the beginning and not warm enough by the end of the season. It meant practices and pep rallies and memorizing music and drills. It was marked with Frito Pies and Hot chocolate and baked potatoes from the concession stands during 3rd quarter. It was about school pride and the pomp and circumstance of the school song and the fight song.
Fall encompasses so many memories. My birthday and wedding anniversary are in October. It was in the fall of 1988 that we heard our first baby’s heartbeat for the first time. The fall marked the beginning of our family. We decorated our first apartment in the fall. All of our dreams and hopes began in the fall. And, it’s in the fall when the dreams died.
I don’t anticipate the fall in the same way these days. I’ll drag out the scarecrows and the pumpkins in a few weeks and decorate the front yard. I’ll have to replace a few that just were too worn out to save last year. I’ll remember the fun from the past and my kids and I will make new memories. But, there will be no football games this year. At least not ones that involve any of my family members. No black and gold or green and white themed clothing. There are no tractors to help move from one field to another. The peaches and pecans will have to come in small batches from the farmers market. Birthdays will be quiet and low-key. And, anniversaries will be mourned.
I’m ready for fall.