October typically brings cooler temperatures, the first hint of colorful foliage and cotton harvest.
It also brings back memories. When I was growing up, every October we gathered at my grandparents’ farmhouse one Sunday afternoon for the Griffith family reunion, my mother’s kinfolk.
As soon as church let out, we piled into the car — seven of us — and rode the few miles to Slabtown, a mostly nonexistent remnant of a one-time lumber yard community.
By the time we arrived, cars from several Upstate South Carolina counties took up much of the yard, the area in front of the horse barn and spaces alongside the pasture fence.
The table took up most of the driveway under the shade of a giant oak tree. Let me explain table. Several lengths of plywood and some 2-by-6 planks lay atop strategically placed saw horses.
Plates of fried chicken, roast beef and more fixin’s than I can remember threatened to buckle the boards and dump the feast on the dirt driveway. It never did. One long section held only deserts, thanks to aunts, female cousins and a few in-laws we barely knew.
Tin tubs of iced tea and Kool-Aid took up another plank.
Our biggest challenge was getting near the front of the line before the chicken legs were all gone.
Occasionally, someone would bring a unique dish — roasted raccoon, for instance. I was never tempted to sample any of that.
We visited with people that October Sunday afternoon we only saw that one day of the year. Being fall, we usually got up a football game with cousins — second, third and farther off. A few came in from town, conveying a hint of mystery and, perhaps, a tad of suspicion.
Frequently, I sat and listened to the grownups. My grandfather was born in 1883, youngest of several (memory fails me) brothers. Their stories, enriched over the years from one telling to the next, captivated me. They talked about hunting dogs, large stringers of fish and strange beings lurking in the darkest recesses of the woods behind the barn. Spellbinding.
The language sometimes included words and phrases inappropriate for young ears, but no one censored them. Who would dare? These were the patriarchs, the revered grandfathers and great uncles who had witnessed events we could only imagine. They survived war, hardships of farming in the early part of the 20th Century, and the Great Depression.
They witnessed the progression from horse and buggy to space travel. They deserved attention, had earned the respect of their offspring’s offspring. I wish I had taken notes.
My grandfather died in 1965. The reunion ceased soon after his death. He was a farmer, a blacksmith and a fiddler. A teller of tales. October reminds me of reunions and his amazing stories. Some were probably true.