When I was 6 months old, we moved to another small southern Illinois town - 25 miles from the Mississippi river, 30 miles from the Ohio River, situated in the rolling foothills of the Ozarks with forests and lakes everywhere. At 4,400 people we were one of the biggest towns in the area. Our claims to fame were the state mental hospital and the Bunny Bread factory.
In the spring the countryside was a plethora of color. The acres of budding apple and peach orchards were breathtaking and the fragrance of their lovely pink and white blossoms filled the air and promised delicious fruit in the fall. Wildflowers grew everywhere and fields of happy daffodils greeted you. It was a wonderful time of year.
Summers were incredibly hot and humid. We were lucky because we had huge trees to shade the house and a window-mounted air conditioner. When we were home, we pulled down the shades on the sunny side of the house, closed all the windows and doors and let that sucker run on high. For cooler days or nights, we had a big attic fan to keep the air circulating. But we were used to the conditions so the weather never stopped us from living our daily lives.
Tornados were common during the summer. You always knew when they were coming because everything would get deathly silent - the birds wouldn’t sing and the air would be absolutely still. Like clockwork, the sirens blared and we ran into the fields to watch the funnel clouds go by on their way to strike one of the neighboring towns. For some reason they never hit us, so as kids we didn’t worry about them. Even so, during the school year we had tornado drills where we would all go into the hallways and duck and cover.
Late summer was the time to harvest the orchards. The peaches in southern Illinois seemed sweeter and juicier than anywhere else in the world. We stopped at roadside stands and bought baskets of them and the owners always gave us samples. Then we gorged on delicious peach pies or cobblers. Sometimes we canned or froze them to be enjoyed later. Because we had orchards close to our house, I always managed to sneak in and eat my fill of peaches straight from the trees. They were and still are my favorite fruit.
This was also the time for the county fair – a very big event in our town. There were rides, animals, exhibits, demolition derbies, trotting races, entertainment and lots of good food and events to keep everyone’s minds off the impending start of the new school year. By fair standards, this was a very small one, but it sure seemed big to us growing up.
Autumn was always beautiful. We had lots of deciduous trees that turned brilliant colors. When the leaves fell off, we raked them into huge piles then ran and jumped on them like they were gigantic pillows. Autumn was always my favorite because my birthday was in early October. I was just under the cutoff for school, thus always one of the youngest in my class. I started Kindergarten when I was four.
Winters were usually mild. On the extremely rare occasions when it did snow, we pulled out our rusty sleds or cardboard boxes and went hurtling down the hills and then built snowmen before it had a chance to melt. That usually only lasted a few days. Everything stopped when it snowed because it was such a rare occurrence and there was no equipment to clear the roads.
It wasn't a fancy town, but it was where I grew up.
ETA: This post has been brought to you by Travis Erwin's "My Town Mondays". Check his site for more blogs offering up information on their home towns.