August came early this year

The calendar didn’t change, but the weather sure did.

Wheat shocks glow in the evening sun in Holmes County, Ohio.

August came early this year. The calendar didn’t change, but the weather sure did.

The three H’s customarily associated with August, hot, humid, and hazy, have been around off and on since this June. Unfortunately, the dreaded trio has been mostly “on” all across the continent and beyond.

The results haven’t been pretty or even healthy. Record high temperatures fed massive wildfires, more typical for the fall months. The fires have been burning all across the West and in several Canadian provinces. A wildfire completely obliterated the small town of Lytton, B.C.

The wildfires have fed the brilliant sunrises and sunsets in recent days. Brisk winds aloft have spread soot particles eastward, creating that giant orange ball in the sky that we usually can’t look at directly. The August haze is extra heavy from Maine to Florida.

A wildfire-enhanced sunset.

August’s weather seemed both more predictable and tolerable a half-century ago. Global warming and climate change weren’t household phrases back then. They are now.

In those days, the school year ran from the day after Labor Day until Memorial Day weekend. The school district seldom used up the permitted allotment of snow days. So, we knew we had the whole summer season to enjoy.

As a youngster, I always welcomed August even though it was the last month of school vacation. The neighborhood gang of baby boomers took the hot, hazy, and humid weather in stride.

You are never too young to help husk corn.

We were content to sit beneath giant shade trees and play cards and board games instead of more strenuous adventures. We saved our more energetic shenanigans for cooler evenings. I’ll skip the details since the statutes of limitations haven’t expired. No harm to life or property occurred, however.

August always gave us suburban kids pause. August was our reality check. It forewarned us to use our last remaining days of freedom wisely. We usually didn’t.

A few of us, of course, had jobs associated with youth, like paper routes and mowing lawns. My older brother and I both delivered newspapers. In those days, I had ink on my fingers and not in my veins.

County fairs and street fairs began in earnest. Our county fair was always the last week of August and ended on Labor Day. When the fair closed, the schoolhouse doors opened.

Our father usually grew a garden well away from our suburban home. After supper, my siblings and I crowded into the family car, and off we would go to help hoe, weed, and hopefully pick my favorite vegetable, sweet corn.

If we had a bumper crop, we headed to a strip mall parking lot, popped the trunk, and sold our excess at a dollar a dozen. Dad usually threw in an extra ear for free, the gardener’s equivalent of a baker’s dozen.

Back home, our dear mother had the pressure cooker ready. All we had to do was husk the corn. It’s another job that I still relish. My wife says I will be applying that apt skill as soon as the bi-colored corn is ripe.

Occasionally, Dad would also load the family into the car, and we headed to Holmes County. I always admired the platoon of golden wheat shocks standing at attention in the fields of Amish farmers.

I had no idea then that I would be spending most of my adult life living there. It served as a foretaste of many good things to come for me.

I look back on my lifetime of Augusts with pleasant memories. None of the three H’s can bake, wilt, or obscure them.

An August sunrise in Ohio’s Amish country.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2021

October surprises

giant pumpkins
Even giant pumpkins aren’t a surprise in October.

By Bruce Stambaugh

In case you’ve been too busy to notice, surprise! It’s October!

October is famous for its surprises, especially political ones like in the current presidential campaigns. Both natural and human-generated events are said to sway the election’s outcome. Given the tone of this election, nothing will shock me.

That aside, this year has seemed to have just melted away for me. That’s certainly been no surprise at all given the record-breaking heat and the significant changes that cropped up in my life.

Globally, we’ve had 11 straight months of record warmth. When it comes to climate change, misery loves company. No one was exempt.

The transition process of going from living in Ohio to moving to Virginia has been both exciting and fatiguing, especially mentally. After residing in the same house for nearly four decades, a lot of decisions have had to be made, sometimes rather quickly.

We can opine about those situations all we want. That still won’t change the fact that October is here. For me, that’s a good thing. October has always been one of my favorite months.

Our granddaughter would likely agree. Maren turns seven soon.

mums, Ohio's Amish country
Mums the word.
As we begin the year’s 10th month, we know in general what to anticipate. We won’t know the particular details, of course, until they unfold.

In the Northern Hemisphere, harvest season is peaking. Field corn is drying on the stalks or in shocks on some Amish farms. Apples, pears, pumpkins, squash, gourds, fall flowers and the last of the vegetable garden crops brighten kitchens and spirits alike.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the anticipation of spring is over. Our October is their April. That seems only fair. As life ends in one locale, it begins anew in another.

As their leaves unfurl, ours start to drop. The central question reoccurs from New England to the southern Appalachian Mountains and far to the west. What will the persistent dryness do to the leafy colors?

colorful gourds
Fall colors and textures.
Produce farmers earnestly watch the weather forecasts for any hint of first frosts. October is often the scene of that crime. Most folks relish the finer, more favorable weather. It should come as no surprise that I’d be leading that pack.

Start to finish October often is a handsome month. Golden leaves against cerulean skies dotted with patches of cottony clouds create a natural beauty that even the most sullen person can’t ignore. If they do, it’s surely their loss.

Sports enthusiasts are in their glory, too. Football is in full swing. Basketball is about to begin. Golfers revel in the perfect days but curse the cold in the next breath.

For me, October baseball still rules. The Cleveland Indians are playing once again in the playoffs. It’s the first time in three years, and even then that joy only lasted until the mighty Casey struck out in a one-and-done event.

That won’t happen this year. The Indians are Major League Baseball’s American League Central Division champions. I know for many, many folks, that was indeed an October surprise. Not to me, faithful, perpetual, loyal fan that I am. I’m ready for some post-season baseball.

Remember back in June when I sort of tongue in cheek suggested the Chicago Cubs would play the Cleveland Indians in the World Series? Well, wouldn’t that be a magnificent October surprise, the kind that any red-blooded American baseball fanatic could only dream of, except me?

I won’t be surprised at all. But if that does happen, it definitely will be an October for many to remember.

Cleveland Indians scoreboard
Celebration time?

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016