The first day of October enters our hills with blue skies and sunshine, and is welcomed by those who regard this as their favorite month of the year. These early days float by as gently as milkweed floss on a breeze, and more impossible to catch and to hold.
The green of our hills is studded with rapidly yellowing poplar and basswood trees, while there is a yellow tint to most of the trees. The lack of rain is causing leaves to turn brown instead of their usual glorious tints, but some of the maples are showing crimson here and there.
While driving along Elk River, you can see the underbrush is turning fast as the sumac reddens, and the lowly Greenbrier vine flaunts bright crimson leaves. The detested poison ivy vine, eager to make amends, twines red and yellow leaves around tree stumps and fence posts. Sourwood also turns red, as does dogwood, and it also has bright red berries.
Lawns are decorated with brown fodder shocks and bright orange pumpkins, while neat stacks of stove wood are piled high beside sheds and barns. The faint smell of wood smoke mingles pleasantly with the warm earthy odor of brown leaves and late fall flowers, and makes roaming the woods on a mild October day a rare pleasure indeed. The garden is gone, and harvest is over.
It was this time of year that we eagerly looked forward to when we were young. With the hard summer’s work behind us, and the crops harvested and put away for the winter, we had leisure time to play. It didn’t take much of an excuse to plan a “play party.” Sometimes it was someone’s birthday, or a “farewell” party for one of the young men who was joining the armed forces. Or, on the spur of the moment, someone would suggest that we “gather up” and have a play party.
Sometimes it took place on the flat known as the Ball Diamond, but most of the time we got together just below the Virginian Office building. It didn’t require a lot of fancy trappings or party food, just a warm bonfire and a large group of boys and girls.
There was no age limit either; no one was too young or too old to join in the ring games that we played. My generation must have been the last to play these old games that were handed down from generation to generation; in fact, my own children regard them as strange.
Just a few years ago, I was invited to the Clay Elementary School to teach the youngsters there how to play these old games. They were so enthused about them that they kept me playing and singing with them until I was utterly exhausted. Some things we just cannot do as we used to! It seems such a shame that these old games have died out, and are alive only in the minds of an older generation.
What fun and excitement we had playing those games! Dressed in our broomstick skirts and kicking up our heels that were clad in bobby socks and saddle oxfords, we would skip and twirl until we were breathless. Yes, we dressed up for these parties! Floating in a cloud of “Evening in Paris” cologne (and some of the girls sported “Blue Waltz”) we felt irresistible. Cheeks red with excitement, we skipped and sang to these games.
We were not allowed to square dance, but there was not a whole lot of difference in these ring games that we played. “The Old Dusty Miller” was one of our favorites. The boys went in one direction, and the girls circled them in the opposite way, while we sang, “Oh, the old dusty miller, and he lived on a hill; he worked all day with a pretty good will. One hand in the hopper, and the other in the sack, the ladies step forth and the gents turn back.” Remember how the boys turned in reverse, and we sang, “Here we go a-sowing oats, here we go a-sowing oats, here we go a-sowing oats, and who will be the binder. I’ve lost my true love, I’ve lost my true love, I’ve lost my true love, and right here I’ll find her!” Then we stopped, and were partners with the one beside us.
After all these years, the tune still rings in my ears just like yesterday. I wonder how old these games are, and if some of them didn’t come over with our forefathers from another country. I know that my mother and father both played these same games when they were young. Do you remember playing, “Oh, here comes Miss Molly Brown, show me the way to London town ...” I am sure that one has roots that go way back. I must confess that I loved the kissing games, and “Take a little hug and swing your lover!” “Four in the Boat” holds a special place in my heart, for it was at one of these parties that I met my true love and future husband. He literally swung me off my feet playing that game. The marriage has lasted almost 65 years now.
I am happily content in my role as wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother — and great-great too! I have no desire to go back and live my life over, as I have heard others express. But one of these fall-scented nights, with the turning leaves drifting to the ground and the orange harvest moon coming up over Pilot Knob — just for one night I’d like to be 16 again. I’d like to join hands with Betty Marie and Avis June, with Coda and Allen Wayne — exchange an innocent Juicy Fruit kiss and sing lustily, “There goes a bluebird through the window ... old Virginia style!”
I was honored to meet Mrs. Dorcas Meeks from Cross Lanes this week, who was assisted by Mrs. Rose Griffith. She is 97 years old, and attends every church service. Also, I wish to say “Happy Birthday” to Mrs. Katheryn Fay of Eighteen Mile Creek, who turns 103 this month. These ladies inspire me to keep active at my age, and stay in my Lord’s service. May God richly bless them.