When the Frost Is on the Punkin

It’s fall! Fall is not my favorite season (I’m all for warm weather, and I don’t like eating pumpkins or squash), but the colors are so vibrant and beautiful, and, when it’s not too cold, the air is so refreshing and invigorating, that I cannot help but enjoy it — especially in the morning when I go out to feed the animals, or when I’m taking country walks in the afternoon or evening. Haying is over and the barn is full. The garden is nearly cleaned out. Canning, freezing, &c. are nearly over. It’s not too hot to bake anymore. It’s time to enjoy dried fruit, hot soup and bread, warm molasses cookies, scarves, and three-quarters length sleeves.

Jane Austen’s heroine Anne Elliot was fond of autumn. She considered it “that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which had drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.” (Persuasion by Jane Austen, Chapter 10). It probably is not as elegant as the poetry that Anne Elliot read, but here is one of my favorite poems on the autumn season:


“When the Frost Is on the Punkin”
James Whitcomb Riley (1853–1916)

“When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.


“They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.


“The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries–kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!


“Then your apples all is getherd, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me
I’d want to ’commodate ’em-all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!”


James Whitcomb Riley was an American poet, born in Greenfield, Indiana on October 7, 1849. His poems were popular and well-loved. Most of his poems are written in the nineteenth century Hoosier dialect. “Little Orphant Annie” and “The Raggedy Man” are two of his most famous poems. He died on July 23, 1916.

During 1883 he began writing his “Boone County” poems under the pen name “Benjamin F. Johnson of Boone.” The poems were almost entirely written in dialect and focused on topics of rural life during the early nineteenth century, often employing nostalgia and the simplicity of country life as key elements. The Old Swimmin’-Hole and When the Frost Is on the Punkin’ were the most popular, and helped earn the entire series critical acclaim. (Quote from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: James Whitcomb Riley, 24 September 2011 at 10:20.)

You can hear a recording of James Whitcomb Riley reading his poem “When the Frost Is on the Punkin” here: The James Whitcomb Riley Recordings.



Images: The photo of James Whitcomb Riley is in the public domain. I obtained it from Wikipedia. The rest of the pictures I took myself and are not copyrighted.
This entry was posted in Housekeeping, Literature, Nature, Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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