Words of Gold

Jeannette Buck

The fall colors are a bit muted this year, it seems. I have waited for the gaudy autumn hues that I always look forward to, but I guess that isn’t going to happen.

However, around my home there are bushes, both along the road and up on the hillside, which are doing their level best to take the season out in style. We called them “shoemakes” when I was a kid. I was long into my adulthood before I was informed that the proper name was sumac. Really? Soo-mack? I think “shoemake” sounds much better.

Well.

As much as I dread the winter that is just around the corner, I love this time of year. I love the color of the leaves on the hillside across from my house as it changes. And, yes, as much as I enjoy the long days of summer, I like the pretty sunsets and showy sunrises that seem to occur more often this time of year.

Although I haven’t ventured out to pick berries in a “good while” as folks used to say, I do have great memories.

Blackberries hung heavy on wild bushes along the road as my sisters and I walked home from the school bus. Somehow, they tasted better when we picked them that way than they did later. It never occurred to us to wonder about the possibility that maybe they should be washed before we ate them.

Transparent apples hung heavy on the tree near our house. They were wonderful to eat right off the tree and could be cooked up into delicious applesauce or pie.

Another apple tree, just up the side hill beside the house, hung heavy with a crisp sweet fruit. Our mother sometimes baked them with sugar and cinnamon.

Our grandfather loved huckleberry pie above most any dessert and would walk for hours along the railroad tracks where the best wild huckleberries grew. Grandma’s pies were sinfully sweet and seriously good.

Elderberries grew on bushes near the crick that ran by our house from the spring above the barn. They, too, were delicious in pie not to mention the sharp tangy jelly our mother made from their juice.

Yes, the “shoemake” bushes are brilliant on the hillside. The leaves from the trees will soon begin to fall leaving the branches barren for another winter. The time to harvest Ma Nature’s bounty is here. Although I don’t pick fruit or berries for my own use these days, many do. Freezers are being filled to capacity. Shelves in basements and pantries are rapidly filling with jars of fruit, vegetables, soups, sauces, jams and jellies. And winter meals in those homes will be delicious in a way that just doesn’t happen with commercially-preserved produce.

That’s another of the many reasons I am so glad I continue to live where I do.

Jeannette Buck is a lifelong resident of the Gold area who, since listening to her Grandma Williams’ stories as a child, has been deeply interested in local lore and history.