I love everything about Fall. The start of the holidays, the crisp snap in the air, the smell of smoke in the air, nothing beats Fall. I grew up in a wonderful home that faced the mountains of Fort and Grassy. I loved watching the mountains change from summer green to a patch work of colors. I loved sitting on the front porch gazing at the colors in the mountains. Fall also brought preparing for the winter. Fall meant going up past Cisco church and past Jack’s river to pick black walnuts. My grandparents and I would go up there after Sunday church. Mamma (my grandmother) would pack a lunch, sometimes left over biscuits with sausage, a jar would hold ice water, and maybe some slices of cake. We would get in the two toned blue Ford truck, go up the dirt road, dust flying inside of the truck and the coolness of the air as we got higher up the mountain.
Papa (my grandfather) would park the truck and grab a few feed sacks for us to gather the walnuts in. Walnuts come in two shells, the outside one is usually green turning brown, paper like to release the second shell the walnut. We would try and pop off the outer shell as to not take up so much room in the feed bag. Doing this meant your hands were going to get stained from the walnuts shells. The stain was well worth it when mamma would use these black walnuts (much better than those English Walnuts) in her fudge, cakes or just sitting by the fire cracking them open on the hearth. We would also gather hickory nuts. Hard little nuts which were a pain to get the meat out of them. Mamma would sometimes use a bobby pin to scoop out the meat.
Another chore we had to do before winter set in was gather firewood. Now this was not some Little House on the Prairie where Laura would gather a few sticks and bring them in the cabin. This involved my grandparents, my Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Emmett, along with their daughter Tammy. (Now Tammy is my first cousin and we had our fair share of adventures (we’ll talk about those in future stories.) We would get up early on a Saturday (there was never sleeping in while I was growing up), Papa would have already taken care of the chickens (we raised chickens for several years) and had sharpened his ax and chain saw for the day ahead before coming in for breakfast. I loved my Mamma’s breakfast. Growing up in the south we had great breakfast. There were always biscuits, sausage, bacon or ham. If we had sausage, there would be gravy (some called it sawmill gravy) if we had ham, there was a good chance we would have had red eye gravy. But, the best gravy to have was chocolate gravy. Mamma’s biscuits were the best biscuits in the world to sop up gravy with. She always dabbed bacon grease on the top of her biscuits before putting them in the oven. They were warm and soft inside but had this great hard crusty like bottom to sop the gravy with. Dishes were washed and put away. Leftover breakfast was wrapped in tin foil and/or wrapped in a kitchen towel to eat later on. About that time, Bobbie, Emmett and Tammy would be pulling up in their truck ready for the long day.
Tammy and I would ride together. We loved spending time together, we were (and still are) close as any sisters could be. Don’t get me wrong, we had our share of fights and different friends. Tammy is a year younger than me and half my size. I always said we looked like those pictures in the back of comic books for weight loss, I was the before and she was the after. We would get to the designated area somewhere deep in the woods. Papa and Emmett would get out their chain saws and their axes from the back of the truck and start marking trees to cut down. Hardwood is the best for the winter, slow burning meant less trips out to the wood pile. Tammy and I would go running off in the woods playing tag or trying to find trails. As long as we could here the sound of the chain saws we could always find our way back. Mama and Bobbie worked side by side with Papa and Emmett loading up the cut firewood into the back of the trucks.
This would be the first of many visits out into the woods before Papa felt we had enough wood. We heated the house with only the fireplace, oh we had a gas furnace but we never turned it out on. So, that meant you would burn up in the den with a roaring fire then, run down the hall and jump into bed before you got cold. Mama would pile so many quilts on the bed you could barley move. In-fact, some nights you could watch your breath when you breathe out of your mouth. Anyway, I love the smell of fresh cut wood; funny how smells trigger your memories.