Appalachian Thursday–Summer’s End

Laurel Fork
Laurel Fork–the creek we were meant to stay out of.

Can you believe tomorrow is September?

My grandmother was right when she told me time picks up speed as you age. She was right about a lot of stuff.

When I was a kid, Labor Day weekend meant it was time for the annual wiener roast at Toad and Berle’s. Yes, his name was Toad and no one thought it the least bit odd. Toad and Berle lived in what had been the community schoolhouse when my dad was a kid.

The wiener roasting happened over an open fire using sticks with sharpened ends. (I can only imagine what those men and their pocketknives would have thought of manufactured, metal hot dog sticks with wooden handles.) The women would bring every side dish you could think of and some you couldn’t. And oh the desserts! My goodness the desserts. Plus marshmallows for toasting on the hot dog sticks (a taste sensation, indeed!).

The creek was nearby and we were meant to stay out of it but never did. There was also a cliff over on Uncle Willis’ land (not nearly as high as I remembered). We were meant to stay away from there, too. Of course we didn’t.

After eating, folks would sit around smoking cigarettes, talking, telling stories (otherwise known as lies), and playing music. We kids would set fire to the hot dog sticks and write our names with burning embers against the night sky. Until someone made us stop. And then we’d do it anyway and sometimes we’d get in trouble and sometimes we wouldn’t. We’d go to bed late that night, smelling of smoke and hot dogs, hearts and bellies full.

I guess people still have picnics on Labor Day weekend. I guess they might even have hotdogs. But I’ll just bet they don’t cook them on a sharpened stick over an open fire outside an old schoolhouse while dusk settles like a soft blanket and the voices of just about everyone who’s ever cared about them hums in the background.

This Labor Day I might have to build a fire out back and roast me a hotdog. But I have a feeling it won’t taste the same. Not even a little bit.

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