Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From Our Archives ~ Leoan Madsen Gunderson and her son, David

Introduction to Our Trees

One fall, when my Mom got her copy of a little magazine called "Saga of the Sanpitch", She decided to write her memories of the trees that had grown along the south side of their yard or lot, as they used to say, during her childhood. “Saga” contained stories of life in Sanpete Co. Utah from pioneer days forward and Mom had plans to submit her little article to "Saga" for publication but just didn't get around to it. I recently found a copy of it and I decided to get it into electronic format so that all could have a copy.

I made a few editorial changes, added some explanatory notes, found the words of the two childhood songs she referred to on the internet, and added them in an appendix. I also found the music for the song “Come Little Leaves” on the internet and I added a hyperlink to the website which contains the music so that you can hear it. I hope that you enjoy “Out Trees”.

Some have asked if I have submitted “Our Trees” to “Saga”. I would have done so, but Saga is no longer being published. I think that the demise of Saga is a great loss.

~David Gunderson~

Cottonwood Trees
Our Trees

By Leoan Gunderson

1910 - 1998

Fall Circa 1986

It’s October again, when the fall season comes upon us, with its beautiful trees all dressed up in their finest clothing of gold, red, green, and brown and sometimes even a bit of purple shows up as a background for the beautiful fall scene, When I see it again each fall, I always think of the trees we had at our home when I was a child.

I guess the real thing that is spurring me along to write my feelings today is the little song that I learned as a young student at the Hamilton School in Mt. Pleasant, Utah. The words to the song went something like this …..

Come little leaves said the wind one day.     

Come o’er the meadows with me to play.

Put on your bonnets of red and gold,

For the summer is gone and the days grow cold.

Or perhaps it was the song that goes…

October gave a party.

The leaves by the thousands came.

Oh I do wish I could remember the rest of these beautiful little songs . But today, my memories of them have inspired me to write of the trees that grew along our sidewalk in Mt. Pleasant.

Our trees stretched for the full length of the sidewalk      
 on the south side or our lot, which was one half of
a city block long,
on 3rd North going west from State Street.

I do believe that our trees were pretty during each of their phases of live most all year long. In the spring they were adorned in that striking and welcome color of spring green. It was a delicate green and so easy to enjoy.

Of course, most everything does have one or two little distasteful things about them which we all have to endure. Our trees were cottonwood trees and each spring after the pretty new green leaves appeared they had a habit of bearing cotton. The cotton would catch a little breeze that was passing by and soon would be flying everywhere. Here I must add that at this point in the life of our Cottonwood trees, they became a real problem to my Mother and to my sister Evelyn. They both suffered from hay fever. I remember how they both wore silk masks over their noses to strain out the cotton. But this would pass – until the next cotton season arrived.

[1] See the Appendix for the word to both of these songs

Then came the summer, and our cottonwoods would stretch their strong leaf covered arms out to form an arch over our sidewalk so that we might walk up and down our sidewalk in comfort, protected from the strong glare of a very penetrating sun. Oh yes, I did enjoy this phase in the life of our trees.

But, as one season follows another, soon it would be fall again and our cottonwoods would supply me with another thrill in my young life. Our trees would begin to turn that beautiful golden color that only cottonwood trees do and I would imagine how rich I was with all of that “Gold that did grow on our trees”. One could not believe all of the wonderful imaginary things that I purchased with that easy to acquire gold from our trees.

Of course this beauty came and then gave way to the next phase in the life of our trees. This is when the wind came and sang the little song to the leaves –

Come little leaves said the wind one day        

And the leaves fell but they didn’t all go with the wind. Those that stayed on our sidewalk and in our yard became a shear delight to me, my sister Evelyn, and her friend Helen Jones. Oh we made the most beautiful houses one could ever imagine from those mounds of leaves. I doubt that any contractor could ever build or create for us a more beautiful house than the ones we fashioned for our selves with our imaginations from these leaves.

We had many rooms – they were really mansions, believe me. We had bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and of course, what else but a lovely parlor. And people that were allowed to go into the parlor had to be pretty special. We had furniture also, and it had more beauty than anyone else’s. It’s too bad that we were the only ones that could see all of this beauty.

I am so truly glad that I had a childhood full of fantasy and imagination. I am so glad that I was allowed to create, arrange, and imagine rather than to have everything created for me. As you can see, we were never bored, and no one had to do our planning for us.

But, our trees were not through yet. One day, depending on the weather and usually a short time before Halloween, Mother would tell us, “Tonight after school you can begin to gather the leaves together and soon we will have our big bonfire.”

After we had gathered all of the leavers, which would take us two or three days, we would have a big mound of leaves that would be about like of a small haystack. Then we would go over to the Orchard of my Aunt Hilda (on the south east corner of 3rd East and State Street)

and each of us would get the prettiest big red potato apple that we could find. (I think they are now called Baldwin apples.) Each of us would also get a potato from the garden and put them both into the leaves to be roasted. Kids from all over the neighborhood would join in this fantastic event and bring their own apples and potatoes to go into the big bonfire.

Of course when the fire was out or nearly out, the apples and potatoes would be blackened or burned from the fire and smoke but would only be half done. But how could an apple or potato ever taste so good. Each boy or girl would bring their own salt shaker to shake salt on their potato each time they took another bite. The apples usually didn’t need salt.

That was truly a wonderful day for all of us. We would go to bed that night with visions and memories of the joys that had come this year and the anticipation of the joys that would come next year from our beautiful cottonwood trees.

For the rest of the fall and winter our trees would stand there like sleeping gray sentinels, sometimes beautifully festooned with ice and snow, as if gaining strength to produce more beautiful leaves and useless cotton for the next great cycle of their life. We looked forward to the coming of the leaves in the spring, to enjoying the shade they would produce in the summer, to seeing the leaves turn to that special gold in the fall, to building our dream houses when the leaves dropped, and to having another beautiful bonfire on a late October evening when the moon was there to see it all take place.

This was truly the beautiful life of our cottonwood trees.


The Children’s Autumn Songs

That Leoan Remembered

Come, Little Leaves

by George Cooper,

Come, little leaves, Said the wind one day;

Come down to the meadows With me and play.

Put on your dresses Of red and gold;

For summer is past, And the days grow cold.

Soon as the leaves, Heard the wind's loud call,

Down they came fluttering, One and all.

Over the meadows, They danced and flew,

All singing the soft, Little songs they knew.

Dancing and flying, The leaves went along,

Till Winter called them, To end their sweet song.

Soon, fast asleep, In their earthy beds,

The snow lay a coverlet, O'er their heads.

October’s Party

by George Cooper

October gave a party; The leaves by hundreds came.

The Chestnuts, Oaks and Maples, And leaves of every name.

The Sunshine spread a carpet, And everything was grand,

Miss Weather led the dancing, Professor Wind the band.

The Chestnuts came in yellow, The Oaks in crimson dressed;

The lovely Misses Maple In scarlet looked their best.

All balanced to their partners, And gaily fluttered by;

The sight was like a rainbow, New fallen from the sky.

To hear the music to Come, Little Leaves, do a CTRL+CLICK on: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/lyrics/comelittleleaves.htm

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