Author: Daniel, Bert

Fallen Leaves

Face it friends, the long days of summer are over. Itís time for me to rake up some leaves and put them in a big bag so I can put a top layer on my compost all through the coming year. Raking leaves is not unpleasant work, especially if you have Indian summer weather like I had just the other day. I went for a chilly bike ride early and admired all the beautiful changing leaves along the way. Thereís a nice stand of yellow poplars on Asti Road. Some of the Zinfandel vineyards have deep red hues and the yellow and greens of the Cabernet plantings can almost take your breath away if the light hits them just right.

After the bike ride I was in a good mood so the work went easily as I gathered the leaves. I had been rueful over the prospect of having to wait through another winter for the next Bluegrass campout, but the exercise outdoors in the fresh air lifted my heart and I broke into song:

When the moon shines on the Blue Ridge mountains
And it seems I can hear my sweetheart call
How I long to be near to my darling
When the golden leaves begin to fall

I grew up about a hundred miles from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and when I was a kid, my family would often drive up there while the leaves were changing. That part of the world has what is said to be the most varied broadleaf deciduous forest on the planet. And I was in awe every time we made a trip to the mountains at that time of year.

Years later I lived in New England. Tourists, (the locals call them ďleafersĒ), flock there every season to see the autumn colors. The fall colors were very good where I lived, but a few times I drove from Connecticut up to the mountains of Vermont to see the forested ridges in all their splendor. Itís nice, especially since there are so many maple trees, whose colors are so vibrant. But for me, a drive through the southern Blue Ridge is even better. My Aunt Lucia used to call it ďa riot of colorĒ.

In the South, the fall is the best time to go hunting, as Uncle Dave Macon sang:

Get my dog, letís go hunting.
Get that rabbit out of town
Well Scratch on the hillside raking up leaves,
Rabbit in the pea patch eating all day

Bill Monroe was also prone to mention fallen leaves in his songs. Everybody knows the song we started with, When the Golden Leaves Begin to Fall. Here are a couple more :

What will I do when the leaves start falling?
The far distant hill will make me feel blue
Soon the flowers will die, donít let love die with them
And with you gone dear what will I do?

And this verse from Stay Away From Me:

Oh, the sky is blue and the sun is shining
And autumn leaves have turned to brown
I loved you so, but I canít have you
Stay away from me, stay out of town

I had a good time the other day, gathering leaves and singing. I sang a little bit of When the Golden Leaves Begin to Fall, but unfortunately I donít know all the words. But I do know all the words to my favorite leaf-falling song of all time. It mentions leaves in every verse except the last. So now Iíll share with you just what I was mostly singing as I bagged all those leaves:

Fallen leaves that lie scattered on the ground
The birds and flowers that were here cannot be found
All the friends he ever had are not around
They are scattered, like the leaves upon the ground

Lord, let my eyes see every need of every man
Let me always try to lend a helping hand
And when itís time to lie beneath that grassy mound
Thereíll be more friends around than leaves upon the ground

Some folks drift along through life and never thrill
To the feeling that a good deed brings until
Itís too late, and they are ready to lie down
There beneath the leaves scattered on the ground

From this earth thereís no use taking any gold
You canít use it when itís time for hands to fold
And when you leave this world for a better home some day
The only thing youíll take is what you gave away

Porter Wagoner recorded Fallen Leaves and credited it to Grandpa Jones, but I think the tune is traditional (just like Eight More Miles to Louisville which is also associated with Jones). I heard it first from the Seldom Sceneís Baptizing CD. The Kruger Brothers now have a good version on their gospel CD.

Food for thought: weíre all just food for worms in the end. Just like the compost under the leaves in my compost bin. But Iíll be danged if Iím not gonna have a good time before I become food for those worms. Whenís the next campout? Not till spring? Oh well, I might just have to drive all the way down to Bakersfield for the Great 48. Life is way too short.
Posted:  11/10/2013

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