When the Frost is on the Punkin

This is my favorite time of year.  The smell of the woods and the turning of the leaves seems to wake something primal inside.  I can't explain it.  Is it that the hot summer is over and cooler weather is coming?  Maybe it is the fact that the harvest is complete and my mind is telling me to relax for a bit.  I may even have some bear instincts; am I supposed to stuff myself full of Fall's goodness to prepare for the long winter ahead?  I am not the only one who feels a connection to this autumnal change.  Anyone who enjoys the outdoors feels the shift.  I have a feeling that poet James Whitcomb Riley shared my appreciation of rural Fall days and earthy, orange hues.

James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) was a top selling author back in his day.  Hailing from Indiana, his poems and other works have a rhythmic, folksy appeal.  I have shared his poem "When the Frost is on the Punkin" here before, but as Christmas carols are to December, I feel this poem is to Fall.  Even though we are a century apart, his work appeals to the midwesterner in me.  I think it appeals to anyone who enjoys the rural lifestyle.  If you have trouble with any of the colloquial words, feel free to ask me for clarification.

"When the Frost is on the Punkin" by James Whitcomb Riley

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!
Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

You may like these posts:

2 thoughts on “When the Frost is on the Punkin

  1. Up here in Alaska, as we have been having some strange weather of our own, I have been watching and awaiting your drought's end. Can't think of a more fitting cap than this post! My MO grandmother taught this poem (and several of J.W. Riley's other works) to me when I was very young and then I won a recital contest with it in high school. Evocative and lovely.

    • I have a collection of Riley's works. There are other good ones, but this is by far my favorite. I have had several people tell me they remember this from when they were kids. Poetry doesn't have the following it had a few decades ago.

      It was too late to up the yields much, but the hurricane did put an end to the drought. We will be short on hay, but at least things are back to green for now. Hope you have a long Fall up North.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *