September is like fall’s waiting room

By Bill Shepard

Editor’s note: This Bill Shepard column originally was published in 2016.

It is hard to separate an old man from his memories so here I go again!
We were hardly knee-deep into August before September began knocking at the door.
I have seen a lot of Septembers. Already the signs of its appearing can be seen all about us. Morning glory vines are trailing up everything they touch, and the Rose of Sharon bushes are in full bloom.
Soon I expect to see goldenrods showing their color along the back roads and ditch banks. All of the above are sure signs that summer is winding down and fall is in the waiting room.
Here in the upstate of South Carolina, most folk will be glad to see and feel the cooler days and nights that September and fall will bring. This has been one of the hottest and driest summers we have experienced.
Already the long yellow school buses, filled with sleepy-eyed children, are on schedule. Some are glad, some are sad, but there is a good chance that most are wondering where their summer vacation went so fast. I would be that all will look back when they are older and say, “These were the best days of my life.”
There were no school buses for the village children to ride when I was a boy. We traveled by foot more than a mile to school.
Of course we learned of the shortcuts through the woods and across the fields but most of the time we followed a back road that led to the school where we attended. Every morning and afternoon, a group of the village children could be seen on their way to and from the school building. Ah, what memories were made year after year.
If it rained in the early morning the village children stayed home. If it started raining while we were on our way, we would arrive wet and the superintendent or principal would send us back home for dry clothing. He would always admonish us to return if it stopped raining. I never did that!
It was September 1928; a strong hurricane came blowing up the East Coast. Without radio or other means of communication, few village folk knew what was happening. Most thought that the yearly September Gales had started.
This was the time each year that some village folk started their small fall garden of turnips and collards. That was true at the Shepard house each year that I can remember.
Before the rains stopped there were floods everywhere. The devastation caused by the flooding can be seen in Horace Rudisill’s “Pictorial History of Darlington County.” The house where this writer lived at the time can be seen in that book. I hold vivid memories of watching the trestle being built after the railroad embankment was washed away. The house and trestle are still standing after more than four-score years have passed.
There have been other Septembers filled with memories that have weathered time. Another most memorable is that of 1939. I have written about it before.
That was the year that Battery F of the 178th Field Artillery, National Guard Unit, housed in Darlington participated in three weeks of war maneuvers. I was part of that. What an experience that was!
We traveled from Darlington by train and truck, and covered several states, reaching as far as Texas. For a 17-year-old who had never traveled more than a few miles from the village where he lived, this was indeed an experience of a lifetime!
The picture of the 17-year-old stares back at me from the tiny frame sitting on my desk. He seems to be saying, “You are reminiscing again; can’t you ever let me go?” And something inside says, “No, old men and their memories are hard to separate!”

Bill Shepard’s fourth book and his first children’s book has been published. Shepard and his family worked with an illustrator from Charleston to turn his mostly true story that he wrote nearly 50 years ago into a chapter book for kids. The book, “Fugi’s Great Adventure,” is $14.99 and is available from Amazon. You can order autographed copies from Shepard for $14.99 postpaid. Send orders to Bill Shepard, 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, SC 29673

Author: Rachel Howell

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