Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Hear the Rustle

I love words and tend to play word games with my manuscript, changing words and sentences around until the deadline is upon me. Words are like music, each with its own sound to contribute to the overall effect. A poorly chosen word can sour a piece of writing in the same way a wrong note can ruin a composition, which is why I refer to my dictionary often.

Rustle is one of those words with several meanings. It's often used to explain dry, crackling sounds, yet can also be used to describe the sound clothing makes due to the historic use of silk in the fashion industry, because it makes a rustling sound when it's moved.

Embroided Wedding Dress, 1951, worn by Mrs Hermione S. Ball for her marriage to Mervyn Evans, 23 July 1951.  Courtesy of wikipedia

U.S. Navy WAVE Parachute Riggers carefully folding silk fabric, while packing a parachute at a Naval Air Station, November 1943. Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

Autumn leaves make a rustling sound because they're bereft of moisture. Sometimes they make a soft tapping sound as they're pushed along a hard surface by the wind. Autumn leaves on lawns have a crisp crackle when they're gathered together on a lawn, and sometimes the dried leaves get caught in a corner and make a sweeping rustle noise as they twirl around and around with no way to escape.

Autumn leaves in a corner after the wind died down. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

Due to our hot, dry summer, the leaves of stressed trees started changing in August, but even poplars and other trees make a rustling sound while flecked out in green as long as there is a breeze to move them.

Siberian Elm. Photo by Anita Mae Draper
Cattail heads turn chocolate brown in June and July and start fluffing out in August. At that time, the cattail leaves are turning yellow as they begin to dry. Soon they will have the color of dried field corn with the same papery rustling sound.

August cattails. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

Field Corn, October 2017. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

Any number of grain, seed, and legume crops make rustling sounds when left to dry in the field, a common occurrence at this time of year in my area.

Field peas. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

Canary seed. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

Since the song birds have flown south to their wintering grounds, you'd think the prairie was a quiet place to be these days, but it's not. In every direction something rustles. Sometimes in a symphony like this scene where the different stages of drying produces slight differences in rustling tones, but the end result is still that soft shifting sound of a rustle.

Prairie slough, Saskatchewan. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

On the other hand, one of the pleasures of autumn is hearing the crisp crunch of crackling leaves as you walk over them. The leaves have dried, there's no life left, and that sound expresses the change of seasons.

Draper's Acres, Saskatchewan. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

Here's another meaning to the word, rustle: A rustler is a person who steals livestock, yet a person can rustle up some grub and not be called a rustler. Just so you can tell the difference, I rustled up a photograph of a rustler.

Pssst . . . he's not really a rustler . . . he's my neighbor and I photographed him looking for strays one year.

How do you like to use the word, rustle?


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are written under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details.  Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience.  Discover more at:


  1. I had the biggest response to the corn stalks photo. They make a considerable, unforgettable sound. Definitely taffeta deserves the description 'rustling'! But your post also made me think about those parachute folding ladies. I'd never considered that occupation before. Makes all my bed-making seem very minimal!

    1. I have a video of corn stalks, Deb. It's not the best because of the wind, but you can hear the rustle when the wind pauses for brief periods. I'll embed it in my post.
      Taffeta is a great one for a rustling sound.
      Oh, yes on the bed-making, exceptionally when a wrong fold didn't mean the difference between life and death.

  2. Ah....the sounds of fall. I could just about here the rustle just by looking at your photos. Beautiful!

    1. Thanks for commenting Elaine! We love to see you. Anita's post was just wonderful, wasn't it?

  3. What a fun post! The sounds of autumn...

    Thank you, Anita.

    1. You're welcome, Susie. I was thinking of you and Deb as I searched for a silk dress. And now, at the end of my day, I realize I should have used an image of you in the Regency era dress that Deb made for you, and her wearing hers. Don't know why I didn't remember this before.
      Would it be okay with the two of you if I switch it for the silk dress image in this post?


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