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10/10/2005

Fall Ambitions

Fall is a magical time of year. Come to think of it… all the seasons have their own kind of magic. There is something about the cool, crisp mornings and evenings that touches the inner workings of us human-type characters. Maybe we aren’t all that disconnected from nature after all. Suddenly something clicks and I’m thinkin’ nostalgically about the past.  
 
Times are always changing, but I guess I’m getting to an age that slaps ya across the face an’ says “you’ve seen some things, ol’ boy!” I thought that was only for my father.  
 
Cooler weather used ta mean silage time. We grew two kinds Sumac and Orange cane. They both filled the silo in most years. We had an upright concrete silo and a couple of trench silos. The chopped feed was brought into the silo by both tractor and truck. We had lots of great fun filling the silos as neighboring families got together to get the job done. Lots of things have changed since then and very few small operations still make silage.  
 
Then there were those classic shocks of feed in the fields. You’ve seen them nostalgically recreated as symbols of Halloween with feed shocks surrounded by pumpkins. They are just another example of an era that has all but disappeared in rural America. I used to grow sumac seed and the best way to harvest the seed from the tall feed was to cut the feed with a machine that would tie an armload of feed together with baling twine. The “bundles” were scattered all over the field in windrows that had to be picked up off the ground and stacked together to create the shocks. In that way the seed could dry down in moisture content and could be preserved in the field without loss to the weather. After the seed was harvested from the shocks there was a great stockpile of bundles left for winter cattle feed.  
 
Butchering was another neighborly fall pursuit that filled the larder with meat for the coming months. Modern bacon and ham don’t even come close to the melt-in-yer-mouth flavor of the homegrown variety. All this activity required physical labor and brought people together in a great collective dance that strengthened the bond of community.  
 
A certain balance fell into place requiring both livestock and cropland. Along with that balance came a level of security that has generally disappeared from the countryside.  
 
America likes to believe that agriculture still provides the security that it once did. I’d like to believe it too, but today our security is all but lost. The cool air brings out a primordial urge to get busy with preparations for winter. But, like so many Americans the measure of my potential is not what it used to be. Perhaps we are in need of a rural revival. I could sure go for a slice of homegrown sugar-cure, apple smoked ham. 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 

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