Another sign of the times, today while talking to my mother on the telephone, she told me that “the fall crickets are hollerin’.” Grandmaw Mary always said if you counted six weeks from the time you first heard the fall crickets, you would have the exact time of the first frost. By this count, the first frost on the mountain will be September 24, 2008.
A Fall Cricket
Mom always forecasts the first frost by this method and is usually right give or take a few days and never more than a week.
So, it looks like an early fall is on its way, typically we don’t see a frost on the mountain until about the 2nd week of October. The first frost was always a big deal when we were growing up on the mountain, for one, it signaled the end of the growing season and heralded the start of hunting season. The first frost would kill the warbles on the squirrels and groundhogs, so they’d be good to eat. Also, it would make the nut tree’s shed their bounty. God, I love hickory nuts!
With the blast of chilled air that accompanies the first frost, realization that winter is right around the corner gave the impetus for many people to get out and get in their wood for the winter. My granddaddy Don always got his winters wood in about this time of year, he said that way the wood would heat you twice, once while cutting it and again when you burned it. I remember when we used to cut wood when I was a kid, Dad always said we needed 17 pick-up truck loads of wood to see us through until Spring. He was usually right too. Dad would cut the tree’s, me and Jason would load the wood on the truck and Mom would supervise the whole operation (and tell Dad when it was time to take a break, based on how tired me and Jason was…Dad could work a mule to death). When we were kids, one of our chores was to get the wood in every evening that we would bunr that night, and for this we got an allowance of $1 a week! This was big money to us then!
Later, when I was a teenager, I got the job of splitting wood, I liked and still like to split wood. There’s just something about it that is very satisfying. I loved the way you could line up the way the wood would split and the beautiful grain of the wood that was exposed when you split it. I don’t know how good I was at splitting wood though, I was given the nickname of “Lightning” whenever I would split wood because, it seemed, I could never strike the same spot twice!!
Jason and I, about the age we were when we first helped with the wood. Taken at Murphy's photo booth in Elkins, WV.
I should mention that as we got older, my brother Jason got out of the wood helping business by feigning allergies to wood. I still don’t know for sure if he was putting on to get out of work or if he was actually afflicted with wood allergies. I always seemed to me that he used the allergy excuse to get out of a lot of tasks that he didn’t like! I didn’t mind though, he was usually in the way anyway (I’m sure he’ll love that when he reads this!)
Anyway, just thought I’d give you all fair warning, the fall crickets are a-hollerin’ and the first frost of the year is hereby forecast for September 24! Get your summertime canned up and put in the cellar and get your wood laid up because winter is just around the corner!