Although spring showers brought the May flowers that I love so much, fall is my favorite season of the year. Fall means harvest time here at the vineyard. The black ruby berries hanging on the vines are now begging to be picked. It is also the season when birch, pine, and maple trees rustle with the hillside breeze, its sound doesn’t fail to evoke memories about my first home and my childhood.
In my youth the rustling sound the bamboos in our huge backyard made during autumn-like weather such as this, was somewhat soothing. After a hard day’s work of planting rice stalks under the drenching rains and harvesting palay, vegetables, and huge watermelons, when months in the calendar ended with the letters BERS. The swoosh carried by the evening breeze had often rocked me to sleep.
I had my first thrill and chill when a boy in high school stole a kiss from me. Instead of tears I spewed out anger. I ran after and threw stones at him because I thought that I had lost my virginity from the kiss. Because the kiss was against my will!
Christmas lanterns, firecrackers, rice cakes, moonlit serenades enjoyed with my firewood buddy and best friend, Naty. She believed in Santa Claus because she was too young to understand and that’s how her parents rewarded her for being the token mother to the rest of the children. They were often away peddling wares in different towns. Poverty made me a nonbeliever in Santa Claus.
It was the first day of fall! Daylight had noticeably gone shorter and temperature had cooled down considerably from the August/September average temperature of 104/50 degrees Fahrenheit. Wet chill in the air and the fog-shrouded vista of low cloud cover on most mornings showed signs of the emerging autumn season. The microclimate of hot days and cold nights where I live was akin to the process of hastening the ripening of bananas and mangoes when I was growing up. of the process was helped along with a chemical named kalburo or carbide, tightly wrapped in cotton fabric and placed in the middle of the pile of fruits held inside a big container. In a couple of weeks or so, the fruits would ripen into a flawless yellow color with a very sweet smell.
I haven’t heard my husband curse the birds, or sometimes snakes, trapped inside the net that kept the berries snack-proof. No matter how thorough the workers wrapped the net underneath the trellis and closed the bottom of the net by tying it with a twine, hungry birds would squeeze through even small openings. Protecting the berries from the snacking birds is a must if you don’t want them to decimate your future harvest.
We didn’t notice any snake prints on the hillside or on the vineyard floor terraces when my husband and I made rounds to check the irrigation almost daily, neither did we hear even a hushed woof from our dog Lucy, which would clue us in on the presence of a predator skulking around.
The plump berries in the black ruby color looked ready, almost begging to be harvested in a few days. If not harvested during this time,the birds would take them away tucked into their thirsty beaks.
It’s starting to look like it would be an enjoyable and stress-free harvest. Normally it would be at this time that we start cleaning the small tools and equipment we use for harvest.
“Come,” my husband exclaimed and waved at me as soon as he saw my silhouette down from where he stood. “Help me clean the bins. Harvest will be in a couple days.”
“Coming,” I shouted back.
In the midst of cleaning the bins, nature called. I dropped everything and heeded the call. The building that houses the winery has two restrooms so I dashed to the one closest to my working area; the one that the workers used when they worked in the vineyard. I didn’t give a thought of what I would find inside as the restroom hadn’t had any traffic since after the workers came and pruned the vines last spring.
The cemented ground entrance to the restroom was uncluttered. I didn’t have to jump over shovels, bins, and other small harvest equipment as my husband had stacked them at the cleaning area. Including the time spent washing my hands and drying them with a paper towel I guessed I spent maybe five minutes inside the restroom.
I opened the door and lifted my right foot for my first step out, but quickly retrieved it. A couple of feet outside the door I saw a long stick blocking my way out, but then it moved! The moving stick had a wide head, a narrow neck, a wide body with keeled rough scales, and a rattle on the tail.
I heard my husband’s voice in my head warning me about snakes, “Don’t move until they move out of your way.”
After assessing the situation, I reached out for a shovel inside a drum anchored on the restroom’s outside wall. “IT’ felt the stir and responded by wagging his tail with a hiss audible enough for me to hear.
Now feeling mighty and brave, I thrust the shovel up handle first. Like a sword I hewed “Its” skull with the sharp nose of the shovel. My hands felt the thud from the hardness of ITS skin. I pressed the shovel harder to the ground. “ITS” head lurched backwards, its mouth wide open with its tongue out. You @#$%&*^, I will mince you with my sword! You @#$%^&* of a rattler, what is your business being on my way when the mere sight of you makes my skin crawl and makes me vomit! I was crazy, wild, and unrelenting as I continued to pounce on “IT”. I didn’t stop until it was cut in half.
My husband heard my earsplitting screams. They were louder than when I watched him attempt an Evel Knievel stunt down the steep hill with the ATV following behind him. Both ATV and my husband landed on the ground, with the ATV on top of him. Miraculously, both my husband and the ATV survived the fall with minor bruises only.
It has been over a week already, but I haven’t gone back where “IT” met its Waterloo. In the future, I’d rather make a small puddle than use that restroom outside the building. An encounter with another “IT” might send me screaming to the couch!
When amber October leisurely wanders in
Sodothe icy cold and gray, hazy mornings
As the morning dew turns frosty from the chill
Clouds gather and hang low draping the brownish hills.
The dawn to dusk summer will be soon forgotten
When autumn breezes in with a musical rustling
Like it was rejoicing because summer is leaving
And to fall’s frosty chills are very welcoming.
Up, vistas of tree leaves are changing their colors
From a couple shades of green to russet-orange-yellow
Down on the deep forest and vast open meadows
Flowers wild with rich hues have already gone mellow.
From the mist that hangs over our vineyard
The grapes’ intoxicating scent rises above
Fruit of the vines with deep purple shine
Ready to be picked and crushed at 25 brix in sugar.
Hurry! Oil change the tractor and bring out the scale
Clean all the shears and buckets, small and large bins
Before the sun rises early in the morning
Blissful folks are coming, and harvest shall begin.
Nieves CatahanVillamin, a retired state employee, and sometimes writer, lives with her gentleman farmer husband in Creston, Ca. USA. She was born and raised in Sumacab, Cabanatuan City, Philippines. She immigrated with her family to the United States in 1972.
Author: Bittermelons and Mimosas, a Philippine memoir
When Thunderclaps Is Rain
Taguan With Eden and Friends
A Rainbow Feast
One Moonlit Night of Magical Creatures
Available at Amazon.com