For me, October is about new beginnings. It’s the month Kit and I moved from Washington, DC to Missouri in 1988. It’s a month of seasonal transition, brightened by a Hunter’s Moon, autumn festivals and jack-o’-lanterns. It’s a time to carve pumpkins, gather ripe persimmons, harvest soybeans, and prepare for the first frost. Around the yard and in the garden, it’s the month of zinnias, mums, acorns, black walnuts, and autumn leaves in brilliant shades of orange, yellow, red, and rust.
A week ago, Kit and I rose early and drove down Christian School Road to the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival. This back route to the Hartsburg bottoms is an October postcard at every bend in the road. Soybean fields have almost completed their cycle from green to yellow to bean brown. Soon they will be combined and hauled to grain bins where they will be dried and stored. Near the town, we passed a field near the river filled with acres of orange pumpkins ready for picking.
Once parked, we strolled past vendors bundled up against the frosty temperatures, eager for the sun to warm their bones. For two hours, we volunteered at the Peace Church Good Samaritan station inside the American Legion Hall. We love this Sunday morning assignment because our church choir drops by for a final rehearsal before performing at the festival’s Sunday morning outdoor church service at the gazebo on Main Street. One year Hartsburg’s Baptist Church provides the sermon, and the next year the Peace Church pastor and choir provide inspiration for the festival attendees seated on straw bale pews.
Our assignment done, we strolled past vendors selling handicrafts and food trucks selling kettlecorn, brats, and Cattleman’s ribeye sandwiches. At Bush Landing Road we crossed the rise where former MKT railroad tracks have been replaced by the KATY walking and biking trail. On this glorious fall day, this road that ends at the Missouri River was alive with families pulling toddlers and pumpkins in strollers and red Radio Flyer toy wagons. Many had come from the Hackman farm where they’d bought pumpkins, gorgeous mums, and bags of Granny Smith apples for Halloween decorations and autumn pies.
Over a dozen years ago, I bumped into my friend Marjo Price who’d driven to Hartsburg in search of pumpkins for her grandchildren. We perused the piles stacked here and there around the Hackman’s yard and did more talking than selecting. Finally, turning back to the task at hand, we agreed that there is nothing easy about choosing a pumpkin. Each one has its own special personality. Choose me, they each seem to be saying. This year, I chose a white pumpkin for Marjo and took it to her as a reminder of a time when an annual pilgrimage to Hartsburg was always on her October calendar.
Today, my 74th birthday, I’m also remembering my mother’s October clothesline, filled with freshly washed summer cottons that she would fold and store over the winter season. As she did when I was a child, I’ll spend a sunny October day gathering flannel shirts and winter sweaters—stored in bags with moth crystals over the summer months—and hang them outdoors on our clothesline to air before moving them inside for the season ahead.
In the Northern Hemisphere, October’s full moon is called a Hunter’s Moon—the first full moon of autumn. Last weekend, I looked east after sunset just as a Hunter’s Moon rose like a giant white lantern that had broken free from its earthly bounds. Earth’s shadow—a deep blue-gray band moving opposite the sun—hung along Earth’s curve. Above the shadow, a pink band known as the Belt of Venus was visible. The next morning, Kit and I began our walk before sunrise under Orion’s belt and twinkling stars. High in the western sky, a white Hunter’s Moon illuminated the rural landscape below.
Reflecting on the phases of the moon and changing cycle of the seasons, time moved both backward and forward. At that moment, I traveled on a band of light to a place where I played hide-and-seek as a child, moving between sheets hung on my mother’s clothesline—many, many Hunter’s moons ago.
By Cathy Salter