Although Autumn was “officially” the third week of September, signs of nature say that it really IS Autumn now! The Sassafras tree in our back yard is beginning to change from the light gold and orange color in this picture to a dark red-orange. We have a baby Sassafras this year that has sprouted to about 3 feet tall. It is welcome to stay in our yard for a lifetime! The Virginia Creeper is showing off its red as it makes its way up the taller trees, and the Hackberry leaves are turning yellow and falling all around. Soon Maples will turn orange and yellow, the purplish-red color of Ash trees, the dark reds and browns of the majestic Oaks. The last one to change is a Sweet Gum tree which we call our “Grandma Tree ” planted in honor of our Grandma Hildred. Just when I think all of the fall colors are gone, the Grandma Tree shows off its brilliant red star-like leaves, and the prickly balls are formed on the branches which later dry & drop to the ground. The prickly balls make a great addition to a wreath or other crafty creations a person might come up with. The Mums are decorating our yard in their colors of rust, burgundy, and cheery yellow. The gold Zinnia are flourishing in the cooler weather and really brightens up the place. The colors that God created for us to enjoy during Autumn just puts a smile in your heart, and sometimes the smile spills out onto your face! The days are warm, the evenings cool, and the sky is a very deep blue. Yes indeed, Autumn is here!
We are preparing for our annual October family camp out this weekend at Sassafras Hollow even though the weather forecasters are calling for 50% chance of Saturday morning rain. My husband says that is 50% chance of NOT raining, so we are going ahead with our plans! This is the 6th year for this event and is a time our family can be together before winter winds howl & snow comes to visit.
The menu is “Bring Yer Own” and “K.I.S.S.” which means Keep It Simple, Stupid! It is hot dogs or brats, buns, chips, maybe a can of pork & beans, and of course the makings for S’Mores!
Before darkness falls upon us, the youngers have fun choosing a spot to set up their tent, make their beds, being sure they have flashlights & whatever electronic devices they can get away with. A few of us olders have bodies that say “NO! NO!” to the thought of sleeping on the ground, so we eventually sneak off to the “comforts of home.” With sleeping spaces established, we all sit around the campfire, hypnotized yet engaged in one (or many) conversations…sometimes light and joking, other times we solve the world’s problems. Someone is softly playing a tune or two, then passes it to the next talented one. At no designated time during the evening, the sacrifice of at least one marshmallow to the fire has to be executed. This is a RULE! A marshmallow (or two…or three) is tossed onto hot coals so as we watch the thing come alive and grow into a mini-monster twice it’s original size, and then finally disintegrates.
The olders begin to yawn and fight to keep eyelids open…one by one going off to find that place determined earlier to lay our heads down. The bonfire is left to the younger generation with, of course, the usual Smokey the Bear-type fire safety instructions; “Don’t make the fire too big”, “Don’t play with the fire” (sure!), and as always…”there’s a bucket of water over there and here is the hose in case the fire gets out of control.” Then the kitchen patrol comments of “put the food up when you are finished with your midnight snack.” In past years MO the Dog and Maggie the Beagle had their own party after everyone went to bed! The olders are finished with our part of the evening and climb into beds smelling of wood smoke which permeates clothes and hair, but does not hinder sleep. It comes quickly and so does the morning light.
Sunday mornings are at a turtle’s pace. We all look (and smell) like we have been camping…it’s a bad hair day, sleepy eyes and stiff bones. A few burning charcoal bits are discovered and the fire is revived. The morning breeze seems to keep us moving our chairs from place to place to avoid the smoke. But wait…smoke follows beauty, remember? I sit right in the midst of the smoke trying to make a point, but my eyes begin to burn and water, my nose is dripping…now coughing, crying and sniffing…not a beautiful sight! Haha!
The smell of the Hollow is now changed from wood smoke to one of the best smells ever…bacon, eggs, & coffee wafting in the air! Campfire breakfasts can be a pain to prepare and can take quite a while, but the experience can’t be skipped and “Oooh it TASTES SO good!” Probably because it is about noon-ish already and we are starved! Nevertheless, it is the journey and not the destiny.
After breakfast, the family congregates around the campfire again for as long as we can stand ourselves. With our smoky-smelling clothes, our bad hair day, and the thought of being able to sleep in our own beds again, it is motivation enough to begin breaking camp. The work is slow…taking down the tents, packing (or returning) pillows & blankets, picking up leftover sacks of marshmallows, empty boxes of graham crackers, and Hershey wrappers, throwing away cans, cups, and other unidentifiable objects left around. Soon enough, the area is policed and one by one each family makes that journey home.
Some of us olders may not get very excited about our Annual October Camp out Weekend and I do have to admit that it is a bit of work. But for the youngers & the little ones…I am hoping they learn to love the natural surroundings of the countryside that God blessed this family with. I hope they look forward to seeing brother & sisters, cousins, aunts & uncles, great-aunts & uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents. Last but not least, I hope we all have helped to make warm memories that can be carried onward from generation to generation in Sassafras Hollow.