A cloud shadow passes over Pilot Knob, muting the still-colorful leaves. The sky is intensely blue, with puffy white clouds floating overhead. A warm fall wind is blowing the leaves from the trees, sending them scuttling over the landscape in a merry dance. The foliage has passed its peak, but the bronzes and golds are pleasing to the eye.
November is ready to wrap her brown arms around our hills, as we get ready for colder weather. The woods have a carpet of brown leaves, while each gust of wind brings down more leaves. The goldenrod that glowed with yellow a few short weeks ago now has a filmy gray head, and the last of the fall wild flowers are dead and gone. The Joe-Pye weed hangs drooping, hoary heads over the road banks, as if pleading with autumn to grant us a few more sunny days.
Oak trees are the last to shed their leaves, and they come into their own after the other trees have given up their leaves. The varying shades of mahogany and purple make a pleasing contrast to the bright green of the pines. There is a definite change in the weather, and this warm, sunny day will soon be just a memory. Perhaps the Lord will have mercy on us and send some Indian summer weather.
Veteran's Day is our next holiday, and if anyone needs to be honored, it is our veterans. There is probably not a family in America who has not been touched by the death of one of our veterans. It was formerly called Armistice Day, and marked the end of World War I (called the Great War.) Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.
President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day for Nov. 11, 1919. In proclaiming the holiday, he said, "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."
In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War II. Armistice Day was changed to Veteran's Day in 1954, through a bill signed by President Dwight Eisenhower. The day now honors all U.S. military veterans.
One of Mom's older brothers, Enos, served in the Great War. Mom recalled how the family worried and prayed for his safety. He came home unscathed, married, and fathered 12 children. Then the Second World War started, and many of Grandpa Hooge's grandsons were called into service. He called them "cannon fodder" and grieved constantly. He was old then, and confined to his bed. He had a chamber pot under his bed, which he called his "invasion mug." It was a worrisome time.
I was quite young when my cousin Leo joined the U.S. Marines. He saw a lot of action, was wounded with shrapnel, but came home when many of his buddies didn't. I can remember the gas rationing, and ration stamps for food, and the drive to buy War Bonds. Sugar was rationed, along with many other things, and Mom used saccharine to sweeten our food.
We prayed nightly for Leo, and he came home safely. Death hadn't really touched us until the Korean War. One beloved young man, who was just past 18, was killed in Korea. We were devastated. He was due to come home in a matter of days, but when he came home, it was in a casket. That was when the horrors of war really affected us.
Throughout history, men and boys have marched to war, been wounded, mutilated and killed. The Bible says that we will have wars and rumors of war, and it has always been so. Mothers and wives have always grieved over their sons and husbands. A world without war -- wouldn't it be wonderful?
I am afraid that too many people have taken our freedom for granted, and patriotism is lost. I'm so glad that our children here in Big Otter Elementary School still cling to love for their country and gratitude for our veterans. Every year they have a program to honor the veterans of Clay County, with a child in each family presenting a rose to a veteran. They still sing the patriotic songs, and have pride in their country.
One of their little pageants breaks my heart. Little boys, dressed in military uniforms, march with American flags and wooden guns over their shoulders. I watch them, and wonder what the future holds for them. Too soon, it could be real guns and not play-acting. They are so young and innocent now.
By Sophie Jewett
The water sings along our keel,
The wind falls to a whispering breath:
I look into your eyes and feel