By Joe Rector

After an extended summer, something which I thoroughly enjoyed, fall arrived in East Tennessee. Cooler temperatures, along with much needed rain showers, replenished the area this week. With the new season’s arrival, people began stocking up on a variety of decorations for special days.

I’ve noticed houses in some of the newer subdivisions have decked out their facades and yards with fall items. I understand the desire to make places look more festive. Still, I’m not sure why people are paying good money for corn stalks, bales of hay, and, in some cases, colored leaves. All my life, fileds of corn have been scattered throughout communities in Knox County and surrounding areas. Isn’t it possible that the farmers who own these plots might give away a few stalks? Surely to goodness decorators can find hay bales that cost less than those at big stores, where prices range from $8-$20.

Those stalks and bales might look nice, but by the end of the season, they’ve lost their appeal. Corn shucks litter the yard, and stalks have melted into sticky, gooey messes. A bale of hay is easy to toss into the front yard, but after it’s sat in the rain and cold for a month or more, the darn thing is so heavy that it takes a Bobcat to heave it toward a final resting place. Most often, that area is some side part of the yard where the rotten hay will slowly decompose. The string around the bale will lie on the ground until spring when mowers will wrap them around blades.

Neither do I understand the contemporary craze over Halloween. Stores are packed with all sorts of decorations. Spider webs and paper bats are offered for doors; scrolling images of ghosts or witches can be projected on the sides of houses. Some people spend days constructing decorations throughout their yards that carry out themes of death, fear, or ghosts.

Costumes are also a big deal. Okay, I understand that small children enjoy dressing up as their favorite super heroes or as cartoon characters; however, I fail to comprehend why adults do the same thing. The costs of outfits are enough to have kept me from ever participating. At the same time, I’ve always considered Halloween as a child’s celebration. Moms and dads don’t need to join in.

Of course, much of my lack of understanding comes from my childhood. The only yard decorating that we did included rolls of toilet paper. With them, we “rolled” the yards of friends and enemies alike. Some folks would carve a single jack o’lantern, stick a candle in it, and set it on the front porch. That orange orb might last the night without being smashed on the road out front.  It was cheap fun that was over quickly.

We never bought a costume for Halloween. Old clothes or bed sheets and a little shoe polish and lipstick were all we needed to make ourselves ready for trick or treating. The biggest expense I ever remember was one for a mask like the Lone Ranger wore. We walked miles for modest amounts of treats. Halloween was confined to about a 4-hour window, and then it was over. Period.

This is just another example of how I don’t get things anymore. My ways are no longer the ways of the world. Younger folks have different interests, and I accept that. I suppose spending money for things that I consider common around here is what baffles me most. Other families don’t care what I think, so I’ll just let things be and wait for fall and winter to give way to the seasons which I enjoy much more. Of course, then Easter will be another event that is filled with extravagant decorations and will be more about bunnies and eggs and candy than the resurrection.