Choccolocco Valley, tucked alongside the Appalachian foothills, has become host to subdivision housing of sometimes monotonous similarity instead of family farms going fallow in the autumn season.
But here and there you still see flat cotton fields remindful of a valley where it was always summertime, a rich floor where men in faded overalls and women in homemade bonnets spent days with little thought of the beauty.
It is still beautiful and, to the left, the purple mountains of summer are beginning to color.
In a fading October, that is good reason to roll down the car window and take what I’ve long considered “The Small Scenic Route.” Oh, there’s the Skyline Drive to Cheaha and just a couple of hours north to the mountains of East Tennessee, but this drive is on my doorstep and besides, at the price of gas, it is a cheaper look at the colors of autumn.
It begins at the red light in “downtown” Golden Springs, rolls over a few gentle rises, and flattens out as you reach the entrance of the valley.
I never make it to White Plains. Instead, I turn left on Bains Gap Road. At the Bains Gap Road intersection, my great-great grandfather lived his years. On the right, as you turn, is where a grandfather lived his years.
But long-ago family farms are not the reason for Friday morning’s drive. It is sort of a homage to that gentlest of all months, October, that I take this drive each year.
Somewhere along the way, I slip Willie Nelson into the stereo and get lost in the lovely “September Song.”
Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few,
And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.
I’ve often wondered what Kurt Weill, who wrote the song in 1938 for a Broadway play, had against October. September is the slow closing of summer and November is the opening crack into the cold months of winter.
October sits right between the two and is the gentlest and perhaps the loveliest of all the months. I have a hard time deciding between May and October, but at this particular point in time, I don’t get a vote on that.
And yeah, I know “September Song” is a love song, but since I have that love affair with October, it is a very nice mood-setter for my October drive up Choccolocco Valley and across the mountains via Bains Gap.
I will tell you the colors are getting there, perhaps not at peak yet, but gorgeous still. If you don’t have the time for Cheaha, you still have a week or so to take the short drive up the valley and across the mountains.
Another reason I write about October each fall is wrapped in a story I’ve told you before … but not today.
The late Cody Hall, who was executive editor of The Star at one time (and my boss) also wrote a delightful weekly column.
In early September, he would write about September, each and every year. In that he was also one of my idols, I decided to take on October.
Thing is, I feel I got the best of the deal, but I’ve always known there was no match for Cody’s easy way with the language. He somehow managed each September to write different from the year before.
I hope I managed that this morning, but if not, I do hope you’ve enjoyed the conversation as much as I have.
Thank you …
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org