From the archives: Ode to Autumn, by Floss Ronald, October 1960

A branch full of red leaves is illuminated by the sun earlier this month at Kiwanis Woodlot Park in Mitchell. (Chris Huber/Daily Republic)

Recently I had the opportunity to have lunch with Joyce Ronald Smith, whose family owned The Daily Republic for decades before selling it in the 1960s. Her father and mother, Malcolm and “Floss” Ronald, and her grandfather, W.R. Ronald, all had stints running the paper.

Joyce emailed me the following column that her mother wrote in 1960, which Joyce said she always thinks about at this time of year. It’s a great example of the kind of lively, colorful writing that used to be characteristic of newspapers before we all started taking ourselves too seriously.

Ode to Autumn

That Old Strumpet, Dame Autumn, has finally met her destiny.  She has been flaunting bright makeup and wearing gaudy raiment for the last few weeks.

This, together with the unnatural warmth of the old girl, fooled us into believing that the end and winter are a long way off.  In fact, only a few short days ago, she seemed to be indestructible.

But a couple of cold nights and a sharp northwest wind and the Old Strumpet begins to look rattled.

Makeup fades and the gray hair of the bare trees, which she carefully kept covered with golden leaves, is showing through.  She can no longer keep up the pretense of immortality.

It was such a little while ago the Old Strumpet started the year as a prissy type girl.  Everyone went mad over the delicate and mincing creature and she was named “Miss Spring of 1960”.  She floated about in gossamer, lacy green, too fragile to touch, too unearthly for mere mortals.  She was every man’s young love and every woman’s romantic inspiration.

But the adulation she received went to her head and she matured too soon.  The warm sun and soft summer rains took advantage of her youth and innocence and she discovered herself to be prosaically involved in the responsibility of growing crops.  Poor thing, she had lived too fast and there was no time for fun.  She worked hard through the summer, fighting sun and weather to bring her crops to fruition.  She lost her delicate looks and became a hardened grim thing.

After the harvest was over, she had a renewal of her youth, but what a difference!

This time she appeared on the scene as the “old Strumpet” and did things the vapid “Miss Spring” would never have dared to do.  Her last fling, she announced to the whole world, was going to be a good one.

She became perky, sparkling, gaudy and gay.  She painted up in bright colors and whirled around in brilliant petticoats.  She danced and sang her swan Song and fought off getting old.

But alas, the old girl was fated to lose the struggle.  It was inevitable that at her age, she couldn’t keep up the pace.  Her bare limbs, shorn of their bright coverings, shivered in the cold winds and she drooped now, an old woman.

But the spell she wove was wonderful while it lasted.  She carried us all along with her vulgarity and false vigor.  We responded  to her siren call of piety and we took her to our hearts and as the “old Strumpet” we loved her best of all.

Floss Ronald,
October 1960