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This fall season is shaping up to be one of the most colorful in recent years. Warm days and chilly nights with no frost are optimal conditions for turning leaves into various shades of red and gold. Persimmons are beginning to ripen, but many are infested with bagworms. The dogs are playful, energized by the cooler temperatures and lower humidity.

These are the days when you can sit on your back porch or deck with a cool breeze keeping the insects away from a glass of scotch. The days are shorter, but sleep seems to come easier at night. The garden has given up, the squirrels are hoarding acorns, and the caterpillars are showing up. Will the winter be harsher this year? We haven't had much snow these past few years; maybe this winter will make up for it. Better get that firewood split and put up.

This is the time of year when we can relax a little before the onslaught of holidays. Much as we enjoy them, they can be hectic and tiring as well. Our little granddaughter now knows about Christmas and is making sure Granny and Papa know what she wants under the tree.

The stores started putting out Christmas material along with Halloween decorations in mid-September. For the sake of efficiency, perhaps we should just call it Hallowmas. Thanksgiving is getting little attention this year. Probably because it's easier to make a buck off toys, gifts, and decorations than turkeys and pumpkins.

It's been a strange year.

That's an understatement, I know. Divisive politics, deadly epidemics, fires, hurricanes and global economic depression dominated our lives. I've shared my opinions on all of it. Some of you agree, but others do not. Most of the disagreement was civil; some were not. Some have expressed disappointment that I don't write more humorous stories and anecdotes. I wish I could. But it is difficult to do so when serious matters weigh on the mind. Some said that they prefer I don't "get political" with my writing. They long for my father's stories, which were funny, nostalgic or sad.

I don't mind the criticism. I really don't take offense. Some write to please the readers, not wanting to stir up trouble for fear of being thought the worse for it. I'm not one of them. When I write, I often don't know what will pour forth from the keyboard. What I don't want is to be irrelevant or uninteresting. I want to make you angry, curious, sad, or amused. I've succeeded if I made you think or question your own views.

I write to convey views that many in this community hold, but do not express for fear of judgment by the majority. Siloam Springs is a small, tight-knit, conservative and religious community. Those attributes are what makes our town so appealing to many. We are blessed that the calamities befallen us this year are somewhat less impactful here than in other parts of the country. But perhaps we sense that could change. We may have an influx of people wishing to escape to a more peaceful place. Will we be warier of "others," those not recognized as our "tribe?" Maybe we don't want the change they may bring. Perhaps we don't want those that don't think like us, or hold the same values, to come to our community.

This town is so different now, for better or worse. I hardly remember the businesses here in the 70s that are now gone. Subdivisions sprawl over what were once farm pastures. I drive past abandoned family-owned dairy farms where once I hauled hay. The gas stations I spent summers working were replaced with parking lots and rented offices. Change happens, and I'm hard-pressed to know if it's better or worse. I know Siloam Springs changed me more than I changed it.

My hope is that once the election is over, this nation can become more civil. Once covid is controlled, we can socialize without the worry of harming others. Once this year is over, perhaps we can be better prepared for the changes that will come. I hope this community will keep those attributes that make it so desirable and strive to expand the circle of acceptance to those who hold different views. Who knows, perhaps Siloam Springs will change them?

-- Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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