A strong west wind sent fallen leaves racing across the ground while combines kicked up dust in nearby soybean fields. A doe, startled by the noise, and her nearly full-grown offspring loped across the rows and disappeared in standing corn.
The garden produce has come to its end, which led us to exchange surplus for scarcity. Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers were traded for rutabaga, squash, and gourds. I returned home with a warty gourd dressed in pale greens and shades of yellow and placed it as a centerpiece.
Kathy objected to it.
“It’s so ugly,’’ she said. “Get rid of it.’’
Ugly can be beautiful.
Dead leaves piled on the lawn are playgrounds for children; the gray squirrels that have spent recent weeks burying walnuts in the flower beds and pots are annoying but remind us that there is a time to gather.
The gourd that has been ejected from the table made its way to my office. It rests near the John Deere B, which is the calendar’s featured October photograph.
I have a history of gourds that dates to the 1960s, when as a money-making venture, I planted several hills and harvested 70 gourds. Mother thought they might be worth something. They were dried in the low-ceiling attic and lightly coated with varnish. Gourds were meekly offered for a quarter and three for $1. We asked few to buy and there were not many takers. Most rotted before they were given to laying hens.
The lesson learned was that just because trying ends in failure does not mean you should not try again. Mother may have wished I had not heeded the advice since later efforts to raise watermelon, muskmelon and multi-colored Muscovy ducks were less than successful.
She voiced no disappointments with the enterprises, but I lacked restraint when criticizing Mother’s breakfast menu on cold October mornings when the school bus stopped at 7:10 a.m.
Her habit allowed cold breakfast cereal in summer. My favorite was those boxes with toys inside or a coupon that could be mailed and redeemed for a promised exciting prize. Along with bacon, pancakes and eggs, hot cereal was a constant through winter.
I cannot recall ever sending away for a thingamajig on a Malt-O-Meal or Quaker oats box. Malt-O-Meal, with a production plant in Northfield, Minn., produced corn meal, wheat and chocolate mush. Chocolate was my personal favorite, but servings were limited because Mother thought chocolate was bad for both skin and brain.
Quaker Oats was the least tolerable of them all. Dad loved it because he said it stuck to his ribs; I tolerated it when the bowl was covered in raisins or the oats were an ingredient in apple crisp.
I was surprised and not a little unhappy when Kathy returned with old-fashioned Quaker Oats in a large round container sporting a smiling Quaker.
“What is this?’’ I said in a voice that oozed contempt.
“It’s good for you,’’ she said. “It can reduce cholesterol and doesn’t have salt.’’
A cholesterol-control pill is among my 10 daily medications. It has reduced the problem to a borderline level, but healthy food is at least as good or better than a pill. Operating on the principle that a dummy can make oatmeal, I prepared a batch. Without sugar but peppered with fruit, it was good.
Dad thought so, too, if bread thickly covered in Land O’Lakes butter was also available. I do not know what he might think about the cooperative abandoning the Indian maiden logo that it had carried since its rise as a national food company. It is not alone in altering its brand. The Aunt Jemima logo is retired after 130 years, and so is Uncle Ben.
Time and tastes change. How else can my newfound taste for oatmeal be explained?
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.