It’s not supposed to be this warm. October is supposed to come with crisp nights and clear days, not with haze and humidity hanging over the day like summer’s slow passing, the temperature edging up too close to ninety.
My mother would call this “Indian summer,” a late season warmth that would make for good traveling across the prairie, a few days of being able to do the things that still need to be done before autumn turns late and winter’s coming breaks into another year’s ending. It also made picking corn an easier thing, working in short sleeves instead of jackets, although the shoveling from wagon to crib would soak a man with sweat in just a short time.
I’d shove the wide mouth of the scoop into the pile, and softly curse—inside my head—at the way the ears would jumble and tangle and catch across the corners instead of sliding smoothly into the catch. Then I’d lift and swing, throwing the half-scoop of corn through the narrow opening. I’d dig down as quickly as I could in one spot so I could get to the floor of the wagon. Once I got a space there, I could shove the scoop in underneath the pile and fill it up every time. It was a man’s work and another way of making a kid feel like a man even before he’s old enough to start shaving.
I suppose there were other things, worse ways of feeling like a man before his time, doing things that neither men nor boys should really be doing. I mostly stuck to the harder ways, sometimes because of character but more often than not from fear of getting caught. And so, the corn was shoveled into the barn, the hay was stacked in the loft and the tobacco loaded and lifted up onto the tier poles.
And now, in the Indian Summer of Life, I find that I had plenty of time later for doing some of those things that neither men nor boys should do. I have learned that maturity is more about responsibility than privilege.
And though I’m not much of one for nostalgia, I do wish that boys still envied the work of grown men rather than their toys.