Fall time on the farm was many things while growing up. First off, not long after the dog days of summer, cooler weather was upon us in Minnesota. The county fair signaled the end of summer break and the first thoughts of the new school year.
Sometime around the fair time our family, when us kids were younger, all drove to a larger city about an hour from the farm and shopped for school supplies. I also remember a time in the late 70s when I bought my first pair of Levi’s on this trip and my first bottle of cologne called Love’s Baby Soft. Walmart’s weren’t around back then, at least not in Minnesota, so everything we needed for school was purchased at one store and that was called Osco Drug. When we were younger and had less school supply needs we most likely could get everything at our local Ben Franklin.
When the fair came around, sometimes if I was lucky I’d be able to wear a piece from my new back to school wardrobe—which in the 70s comprised new jeans or cords, new turtleneck (always), a new shirt, socks, and underclothing. That’s it! If we needed new jackets, mittens, and caps then we got those right before the first snowfall. For years fair time meant baking cookies, arranging flowers, and trying to find just the right vegetable from the garden to show at the fair. My mom helped me with the cookies, and my grandmother taught me flower arranging and some gardening. I remember receiving several red ribbons (2nd place) and a few prized blue. Fair time meant hamburgers at the 4-h building, rides, and trying to win a big stuffed animal. Though I usually came home with a stuffed snake or banana.
Living out in the country some thirteen miles from town we had to catch the bus every morning for school. I think at one time we were first on the bus—where we were picked up right in front of our house at 7 am. Then after a while we had to hoof it up a hill that was maybe an 1/8th of a mile from our front door. The bus, give or take 5 minutes, would then pick us up at 7:20. We would be alerted when it was time to run when mom could see from our front door the bus approaching a certain spot in the road. Many a day I remember running as fast as my legs could carry me because missing the bus was never an option. Once school started it wasn’t long before the time changed and we would be waking in the pitch dark and the sky would just be lighting up about the time the bus approached us.
Fall time on the farm meant the last of lawn mowing but more raking leaves. Also every fall I helped to put all my mom’s gardens to bed. This involved raking the ground smooth and then mulching it with leaves. Eventually my bike would be put away for the winter by washing it up good, drying and buffing it, and throwing an old rug or blanket over it until spring. Our momma cats were usually all done having kittens for the year so trying to find them and “help” to take care of them was over for another season. No fall would have been complete without my mom offering out my services to pick up the walnuts off my grandma’s front lawn and the lawn of a close neighbor/friend.
It should be said I did not like school at all. I literally counted the days until graduation. I was the picked on kid for several years starting in 3rd grade and ending in my freshman year. My not liking school is not a direct reflection on my teachers. I had some wonderful teachers and a nice school to go to. Bullying back in the 70s was unheard of unfortunately it still happened rare or not and my being bullied eventually stopped when the bullies graduated or moved away. There was, however, an aspect of school I loved and looked forward to and that was when I could order books from The Weekly Reader. To this day those memories are still some of my most favorite memories growing up.
No fall on the farm would be complete without remembering dressing up for Halloween. I’m not sure there were any factory made costumes back then—I never saw any that’s for sure. Everyone wore whatever they could come up with from whatever silly clothing that could be found. So, there were always hobos, farmers, moms, grannies, clowns, and wearing pj’s (the best of all) or curlers in your hair (very popular). I think I was a hobo every year lol. Trick or treating in the country meant about 5-10 houses and only the ones with the porch light on. We didn’t have fancy pumpkins or bags to throw our candy in instead we used an old pillow case. Seventy percent of what we got trick or treating was popcorn and apples with an occasional Hershey candy bar or lifesavers thrown in. The one thing all kids in the 70s were looking forward to receiving that night were full size Snicker bars. We never went to town trick or treating because of how far we were from town, the amount of candy we would have got, and last but never least the tom foolery usually going on like toilet papering houses and egging cars.
Shortly after Halloween all you would hear in the valley that I grew up in were corn pickers and harvesters as the farmers harvested their corn crops for the year. Every night after supper the ground would have a covering of frost. Sometimes I would sit on the swing in our front yard and listen to the corn stalks rustling together and smelling the distant smoke from our neighbor’s woodstove.
Fall on the farm brings back memories of hot summers gone and the coolness and colorful beauty of the next season beginning. Leaves, hot cocoa, candy, wood smoke, and harvest. These are the memories I have of fall on the farm.