By Bruce Stambaugh
Even before we left to visit our daughter’s family in Virginia’s lovely Shenandoah Valley, signs of fall were abundant.
A casual drive around the Holmes County countryside provided enough evidence to
convince even an inattentive jury. Autumn had no choice but to plead guilty as charged.
Fall’s natural arrival was indisputable. Leaves had begun their annual transformation from green to some color of the rainbow. Others, due to the late summer dryness, simply fell off the trees altogether.
The regular purr of leaf blowers had replaced the regular whine of lawnmowers, further proof that summer had succumbed to fall. Occasional columns of white smoke signaled smoldering leaf piles.
Fall weather arrived just before we left for our Virginia visit. A strong cold front pushed the warm, muggy air out, and replaced it with cloudy, rainy, cooler days and nights. The annual fall fogs had already begun making morning commutes temporarily treacherous.
In my own yard, silky green to purplish dogwood leaves accentuated the trees’ bold, bright red berries. The backyard birds weren’t too pleased with me for disturbing their feasting.
My neighbor was just beginning an early harvest of his field corn, and we had yet to have a frost. Elsewhere, other farmers still resorted to the old-fashioned and nostalgic way of picking corn. They filled their fields with row upon row of shocks, mimicking an encampment of teepees.
A month ago already football had replaced baseball as the primary pastime, whether viewed from the bleachers or the couch. Back outside, squirrels scurried across the road. Some of them didn’t make it, casualty to road kill or a hunter’s sharp aim.
Long before the leaves began to change colors, autumn was being ushered in with human flare. Front porches once home to pots of impatiens, petunias and begonias were now decorated with all sizes of orange pumpkins, gold, white and crimson chrysanthemums and multi-colored and curiously shaped gourds.
For those desiring more man-made symbols, giant ghouls and inflated spiders hanging on webs big enough to catch a bus popped up almost overnight. The business industry had also begun their annual capitalization of fall with seasonal displays and multi-media commercials.
Inventory at roadside produce stands had changed accordingly. Bound bundles of cornstalks and the aforementioned flowers and squash replaced zucchini and tomatoes.
One place banked on a narrow market share. The good folks only offered the scarce bittersweet. By the number of cars in their tiny lot, they seemed to have found their niche.
Fall festivals, often historically annual events, began to celebrate nearly every conceivable aspect of autumn. A town picked a theme, say pumpkins, apple butter, antiques, wooly worms, quilting, or just good old-fashioned fun, and the festival was on.
These endeavors were not unique to Amish country either. Large banners across the main drags of many a town on our drive from Ohio to Virginia announced their particular local event.
Fall even showed its face on menus with fresh pumpkin pie, locally grown apples sliced and dipped in yummy caramel, and of course the seasonal snack mix of candy corn and salted peanuts.
Given all these obvious signs of fall, there can be no doubt. From gardens to town squares, fall is in full force everywhere we look.