I noticed just yesterday that here in Western Tennessee, there is a just a bit of color in sections of trees. There was a hint of red in some dogwoods just down from our house in a wooded area, and there are some leaves on trees that are part of our campus arboretum that are just a lighter shade of green. There is a dry, dusty taste to the cooler air, and I’m excited about the fall. It’s a time of beauty, a time of festivals and fairs, college football, a time when my ac/heating bill goes down for a couple of months, and a prelude to winter and with hope of a white Christmas.
The full change will be here in a couple of weeks with oaks, maples, gingko, sweetgum, and poplar displaying hues of yellow, orange, and red. When the sunlight hits them just right, it can be overpowering and blinding, but never in a bad way. It’s just a reminder of yet another cycle in nature and one that is amazing and we are fortunate to experience—kind of what I imagine the Northern lights to be like.
Growing up in Hahira, we didn’t have a display of color in leaves so much, and there was little hope for snow. I could count on one hand how many times it had snowed in my childhood, but one could tell fall had arrived because the pecans were dropping in our yard. We had Paper Shell and Stuart, and in good years, we bagged them in recycled grocery paper sacks and lugged them to sell. I don’t recall what we made per pound, but it was more than what we got for raking leaves or pine straw in the fall.
We didn’t save the profits of our labor; we simply reinvested the money in the local economy at the fall fair in Valdosta—buying candied apples dipped in nuts, pink or blue cotton candy spun tall like a bee-hive hair-do on old women in church. We spent what we had on seeing the fattest man in the world and the bearded woman, shooting the target for a stuffed animal, or riding the bumper cars, Ferris wheel, or spinning tea cups.
Mostly, what pecans we didn’t sell, we ate, and as many as we could like squirrels, or our mom put them in the freezer and made pecan pies later for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We loved the Paper Shell ones the most; they were easier to crack, and the nut itself was soft and had a distinct, almost sweet, taste. Last time I was in Southern Georgia, I heard pecans had become even more valuable than they ever had when I was a child. I wanted to pull off the side of the road and pick some up in a pecan orchard, but I was rushed to be somewhere and didn’t. Later, I heard that thefts of pecans have become common and owners have been known to run people off their property with shot guns. Now, I’m glad I didn’t stop. I prefer to order them online, have them shipped, and devour them while watching college football.