Last week, I had a chance to drive past the state fairgrounds just a few miles from my office. I gazed across the field thinking that it was just a couple of weeks before the State Fair starts, and sure enough, the place is a bee-hive of activity. The carnies are erecting the rides and the vendors are setting up their sheds and tents, the workers are preparing the animal barns and pens, stringing up the lights and sweeping out all the spaces. The South Carolina State Fair starts on October 10th this year.
Around the end of the first week of the fair is about the time it turns cooler here. I was thinking that since the fair is opening a little early this year that it might be the last weekend before the cool weather came but we have already had a couple of cool mornings. Mother Nature must be adjusting her calendar to the fair schedule. One or two of the trees in my yard have already begun turning and shedding their leaves. That too is a little early; they must be caught up in the grand scheme of things.
Back in the day, October was also harvest time. For us kids, growing up in Suburbia, it was time to go out to the fields of the dairy farms in the area and participate in a hayride or two. There was something magical about riding around under the harvest moon in a farm trailer piled high with hay holding your best girl’s hand. If you were lucky, there would be no families with little kids along for the ride. If you were REALLY lucky, that noisy old tractor was replaced by a team of horses. Now that was the gold standard of hayrides.
Looking down the calendar, I see that one of my favorite holidays is coming; of course I am talking about Halloween. Around this time of the year back in the day, I would be feverishly scheming about what costume I would be wearing and getting all the pieces parts together for my creation. Wait, you say, didn’t you just go down to the store and buy your costume? Well, no I didn’t, not since I was about 10, I was on my own. Those lame store-bought masks and an old sheet were not going to do it for me anymore. I was planning for the big time and making my own. One year I found some old WW II army gear and went as G.I. Joe; that was before G. I. Joe was cool. Heck, I even had a set of real sergeant’s stripes. The next year I was in the navy, complete with a real navy hat and uniform that I scrounged from someone in the family. Getting ready for Halloween was a month long journey for me.
There was a year or two when I was too old to go “Trick or Treating,” but that didn’t stop me from planning to be involved in the scene. One year I covered a basketball with a sheet, put a scary mask on the outside and hung it all in a tree. But I wasn’t finished with it yet. I hung a speaker under the sheet connected to an amplifier and a microphone. My bedroom was a converted Florida room at the front of the house and it was easy for me to hide behind the jalousies and watch the kids come up. When the kids would pass by I would speak at them. I quickly learned that I could really scare the littlest of them. I ran out and showed them the apparatus and sent them on their way with a little extra candy.
October was a prime month for parties in my late grade school and high school years. It seemed there was a party to go to most weekends. I think this peak season happened because September was when everybody was getting to know each other again after the summer away from school and November tended to be more family oriented getting ready for Thanksgiving and the Christmas season. Some of the best parties were garage parties. The parents would park the car out front, clean up and decorate their garages, place a 45 rpm record player in the middle of the floor, a bucket of cokes in ice and a table full of goodies and then sit back in their yard chairs and make sure we didn’t get into too much trouble. I can tell you that every once in awhile we would get into games of “spin the bottle.” That led to those first tentative and awkward kisses right out there in front of everyone. It was wonderful and terrible all at the same time when the bottle matched you with that girl you had your eye on.
So October is here, with all its memories and promises of the upcoming holiday season. I lift my glass to you, October and say “Bring it!” Oh MY!