Here it is again, the prettiest month/time of the year, possible exception of April. Beautiful as it is, there’s a bitter/sweetness about it. I mean, the reason those leaves are so awesome is that they’re dead or dying. Al Dubin sums it up very well in his lyrics for Victor Herbert’s “Indian Summer.” “…You’re the tear that comes after June time’s laughter.” Or, “You are here to watch over a heart that was broken by a word that somebody left unspoken…” It’s a song to hold in your heart, to remember forever. Sammy Kaye has a version of it I’d tried to find for many years. It’s as good as I’d remembered.
Then there’s “Injun Summer.” It’s a double cartoon. An old man and a boy are looking out over a field of shocked corn. Smoke is coming up from burning leaves. As the old man tells the boy about when Indians used to live there, in the boy’s mind, the shocks turn to tepees, and in the smoke, Indians are dancing around. Call it up on Google
It should be pointed out that, though we ordinarily use autumn, fall and Indian Summer interchangeably, there really is a certain time for Indian Summer. The Old Farmers Almanac tells you when. It is traditionally the warm spell that comes after the first cold snap in the fall.
There are songs, oh, there are beautiful songs about this time of year: “Early Autumn, Autumn Nocturne,” “Autumn Serenade,” Falling Leaves,” “September Song,” etc. That last one, by the way, is a very good picture of the getting old process. Actually, September is much more a summer month than a fall one, just as December is much more a fall month than a summer month; we can’t wait about these things and try to hurry them up. For instance, Fall does not start on Labor Day, and winter starts just a couple of days before Christmas, in spite of all the snowy cards and decorations.
November keeps trying to steal some of October’s beauty. It has become just about as pretty.
Do you know Corey Ford? Get to know him. I met him years ago in the pages of Field & Stream. He wrote a regular column called “The Lower 40,” which was about some geezers sitting around the stove in stingy old Mr. McNab’s hardware store, telling lies and fishing and hinting stories, and figuring out how to get on somebody’s property where there was a wonderful trout stream. But there’s much more to him than that. He wrote one of my favorite short stories of all time, ever, called “The Road to Tinkhamtown.” An old man is dying, and remembering the gorgeous autumn days when he and his faithful dog would go grouse hunting. You can call it up on Google, to, along with the perfect illustration that went with it when it first appeared in a special anniversary issue of F & S. You’ll never forget it. I think it should be in high school Literature books
I don’t know if you can get this on Google or not. Worth a try. I’m talking about the eighth chapter of Bambi. I don’t mean the little Walt Disney versions, but the real Bambi. Read it all, if you like, but for dadblamed certain, read the eighth chapter. It’s part of a charming book, but it also stands alone well. It’s another one you’ll never forget.
Happy fall, y’all. Or, if you prefer, Happy autumn or Happy Indian Summer.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note.