Last week my wife Beth began preparing some items she had obtained from the local dollar store to decorate the living room in a fall motif.
Which is kind of tough to do when it’s been 90-plus degrees for days and it looks, as of this writing, to continue so until this weekend. The calendar may have turned to September, but forget all that Labor Day hooey about summer being over — it still has two weeks to go as far as the season is concerned, and the heat has a tendency to linger for a few more weeks.
So don’t be surprised if you open your front door one of these mornings and still find yourself gagging on the stuffiness the night air failed to dissipate. Now there are enough warm weather fans around to remind us that we had better enjoy the heat because of what’s coming in a few months. Don’t know what the Old Farmer’s Almanac has predicted for winter, and frankly, would rather think about something else.
Like autumn — that time of the year when the heat recedes, leaves on trees turn from deep green to beautiful hues of yellow and orange, and the comfort zone gets considerably more pleasant. Chilly mornings turn to pleasingly warm daylight hours, followed by remarkable sunsets and cool evenings. And with all that comes a certain frame of mind as we shift from the slower, more languid atmosphere of summer to a renewed enthusiasm for what we happen to be doing.
This yearning for fall can be traced to it being one of those years when we slid from winter into summer, with hardly any spring to speak of. Hotter days took over after the first half of May and have stuck around the Ohio Valley ever since. I enjoy warm weather too, but not to the extended length of time, or intensity of heat and humidity, we’ve experienced in 2018.
I’m reminded of the summer and fall of 1999 when heat and lack of rain took its toll on the region. Beth and I had lived in Vinton for close to a year that October as we awaited a break in the weather and saw a pile of leaves across the street from our abode go up like the proverbial house afire thanks to some passing pyromaniac. The thrill lasted only seconds though — the leaves were so dry they swiftly burned to ash.
And on a personal note, I realized some years later that I’d been around here for too long when one of my weather-related articles from that period was quoted in a James Sands historical column about Gallia County. Not from such celebrated newspaper scribes of another day as J. Sherman Porter, Harry Hurn or even Squire Mauck, but something I’d written. Used to be that when you were quoted in a Sands piece, you became an unofficial part of local history.
No, I prefer the look and feel of autumn, as the season has provided me with a good many memories tied to that particular time of the year. It’s something to be enjoyed because for me, it seems so short — fall is pretty much over by Halloween although conditions may still be mild for a few weeks or even through Thanksgiving.
But by All Hallows Eve most of the leaves have fallen, the days have become shorter and heavier clothing becomes welcome. Fall reaches an early peak in October that can’t be matched by the other seasons. Sure, things may die during fall, but with that comes a renewal of hope and spirit to see us through those long winter nights.
For others, autumn and its spookier element are “where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay,” as Ray Bradbury noted in a mood-setting preface to his macabre short story collection “The October Country.” A nice, evocative thought to accompany you on a nighttime tour of the TNT area near Point Pleasant during this month’s Mothman Festival, or a nocturnal wagon ride to the reputedly haunted Moonville Tunnel in Vinton County.
As rainfall from Tropical Storm Gordon passes through our area this weekend, with an expected decrease in the equatorial temperatures we’ve endured, we can all start looking forward to a change in season.
Two individuals have been lost to us in recent weeks, persons who were passionate in their own way about their areas of expertise. One was Pat Stout, the last principal of his alma mater, North Gallia High School, from 1985 until 1992, and the first principal of River Valley High School from 1992 until his 2002 departure to serve the Gallia County Local Schools as its curriculum director, a post he held for eight years.
Another was Chris Oiler, a 2013 graduate of Gallia Academy High School with whom I shared some enjoyable front porch conversations the summer prior to his senior year when he performed lawn care for us and my in-laws.
Pat Stout was intense about education and proud of the schools he oversaw during his career, yet approachable and willing to give you the benefit of his accumulated wisdom. Chris Oiler was sharp, eager and easy to share a laugh, a sidelight to his own enthusiasm for music and its creation.
You can honor these two men — both gone too soon — and the ruling interests of their lives by donating to the Patrick D. Stout Memorial Scholarship Fund, designed to benefit graduates of River Valley and South Gallia high schools, in care of Farmers Bank, 164 Upper River Road, Gallipolis, Ohio 45631; or to the Christopher Scott Oiler Memorial Scholarship Fund, in care of Ohio Valley Bank, 420 Third Ave., Gallipolis, Ohio 45631.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.