The lawns and housetops are white this morning with frost, and though the calendar still says autumn, a polar blast has dropped temps into the teens and there was a coating of ice on the car when I went out pre-dawn. Brown leaves, blown from the oak trees by fierce north winds, litter the lawn.
Where did summer go? Those l-o-n-g days of warm sun, with nary a thought of chills and coats and heating bills. The masses of growing and blooming things that, in recent days, I’ve been pulling up and piling on the street for the trash crew to carry away. Farewell red ripe juicy tomatoes — you will be muchly missed the next six months, when all that’s available are mushy, tasteless cardboard supermarket excuses.
Sayonara begonias and hibiscuses and marigolds and other annuals. I will remember fondly your bright sun-splashed color in winter’s cold and dark and drear.
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A few nights ago, I sat in the bleachers at the high school stadium, a gale force, bone-chilling wind straight from Alaska whipping the flags on the poles, and watched our 17 year-old granddaughter and other senior band members being honored at their last home football game. In another few short months she and her classmates will be graduating and starting a new chapter of their lives as young adults.
Only an eye’s blink ago, wasn’t it, that her late father, face beaming, held her in the hospital nursery window for us to ooh and ahh over. Where have the years flown? Almost nine years now that he’s been gone, his killer never caught, his daughter growing up with only childhood memories of her dear daddy.
It was in another autumn, cotton harvest in full swing, that I drove west into the Mississippi Delta, a giant red setting sun backlighting seemingly endless fields of white, to meet Bill McNamee, then publisher of Farm Press, to discuss my joining his booming, expanding agricultural newspaper operation.
And it was, with no little trepidation at making a major career change, that in a long-ago November I joined the editorial staff here. We’ll give it a year, my wife and I agreed, and if it doesn’t work out we’ll go someplace else.
Jim Lacey, then editor/publisher of the Leland, Miss., newspaper and a long-time friend in the Mississippi Press Association, sent me a note: “I’m sorry you’re leaving the real newspaper world.”
Truth be told, I was a bit sorry, too. Could writing about agriculture be anywhere near as interesting and challenging as chronicling the goings-on in small-town Mississippi in an era of sweeping social and political change? I had my doubts.
A few years later, Jim Lacey himself left the real newspaper world and joined his family’s chain store business. Some years after that, Bill McNamee sold Farm Press, and he departed this life in 2003.
Four decades of Novembers, all too quickly come and gone. And in this anniversary month, I reflect anew how fortuitous that long-ago decision. I could not have hoped for more interesting and challenging work, or finer, more real folks than I’ve encountered on this journey in the world of U.S. agriculture.