Ancient History

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The trees shed ugly where I grew up.

A few bright and glorious autumn examples dotted our town. Historic older homes hugged orange and yellow trees to their eaves. The fallen were quickly bagged in black for mourning. In my newer neighborhood, the trees hadn’t grown stately. Still in their adolescence, they wheezed by the end of summer. The bigger limbs grew up, as if gesturing to God they surrendered.

The three elm trees in our backyard no longer sang the glories of green strength by late September. The leaves which fell were built from ashes. They crumbed under the rake into dirty donkey-grey dust which rose into the air for one last try at the sky. Only the stem upheld in the numerous piles. On TV or in my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens, children everywhere else bounded into mountains of crimson and pumpkin and golden delicious leaves. In handsome sweaters, they launched armloads into the air as their bodies collapsed onto the pile with sheer trust. The tender part of the tree, gathered into confetti beds, smelling of smoke long before the match is lit to burn them away—this I never had.

I settled for other autumn revelry. The local state college football team played on Saturday afternoons. For awhile, they did very well, making the playoffs of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference several years in a row. My grandparents would drive 65 miles to watch the games played at Stocker Stadium. A little wire came out of my grandfather’s ear, connecting to a tiny transistor radio set to an AM station’s broadcast of the very same game we shivered to see. Thin, worn jeans on metal bleachers meant finding excuses to walk the track around the field. Nobody minded the kids circling lap after lap as the game raged on a few yards away. Wild cheers erupted for touchdowns and fumbles. Windblown hair had to be pushed aside to see the scoreboard. Another six points, make that seven. Hope the snack line isn’t too long.

The drum and trumpet-heavy band would take the field at half-time, or permed girls in homecoming dresses addressed the distracted crowd over a shrill PA system, thanking them for votes or kindness or votes of kindness. I’d rejoin my dad and grandparents in the maroon and white speckled home team stands, handing over the change from the dollar from my grandma that bought my gritty and sour Lollie. It was the same kind the snack bar at the swimming pool sold every summer. You couldn’t chose which flavor you wanted. The snack bar worker would reach into a plastic bucket and pull one out. It was what you were stuck with, no trades. No refunds. Next!

You’d shuffle out, pull off the clear plastic wrapper, and bite. You didn’t chose it, but it was still good.

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