A too familiar scene greeted us this morning as we looked out the window and saw more snow drifting down from a leaden sky. The whole last month was a wintry scene from start to finish. Many folks in our area have had to revert back to the “good old days” of country living, with power outages, lack of water and telephone services, and impassable roads. Folks back in the good old days had it better, as they were prepared to deal with rough winter weather. It was their way of life.
We have become so accustomed to modern conveniences and comfortable living that it is a shock (especially to the younger generation) to experience the breakdowns in our system. As my friend Lola Given of Frametown expressed, “We pioneer women will make it!” Yes, people of our generation knew how to survive without the things we take for granted, and learned to “make do.”
Lots of folks have learned to “make do” during this last siege of bad weather. My baby sister Susie was stranded out on Jim Ridge in Jackson County without electric power, water or telephone service. As a lot of other people were doing, she melted snow to obtain water. She wrote: (and thank goodness, the mail still went through!) “This is our fourth day without electric, water, or phone. I really don’t mind it that much; it is a lot like camping out. I have a gas stove to cook on (no oven), a wood stove for heat, a Coleman lantern and candles for light, and we catch rainwater for the bathroom.
“When the storm first came, it covered everything in a thick sheet of ice — it was beautiful! Then a snowstorm came on top of that. The power lines are down everywhere, and trees are across the road. Telephone poles are snapped in two, and every few seconds you hear a sound like a rifle shot, and another big tree comes crashing down. “It is fascinating, and I can hardly stay inside. Charlie [her husband] is not nearly as thrilled as I am. The most beautiful sight of all were the bean vines in the garden. We had left them around the beanpoles and ice had encased them in crystal curlicues. It looked like an enchanted forest.”
What I like best was her account of heating bathwater. Toward the end of their ordeal, the water was turned on for a couple of hours. She ran out a tub of water so she could have a hot bath. It wasn’t heating fast enough in cookers and containers on top of the stove, so she heated iron skillets and plunged them in the bathtub. Don’t tell me our mountain women aren’t resourceful! Remember how the Indian women heated rocks and dropped them in their cooking pots? This was a similar procedure. If her iron skillets were like mine, she wouldn’t have needed any bath oil either.
Tales of survival in the hills will surface in days to come. We have always been a people known for overcoming adversity and exhibiting true grit. Daddy used to tell us the true story of Grandpa Green and the bear, although we never did figure out just who Grandpa Green was. The men in that family went out in the woods to cut firewood for the winter. While they were there, a bear came into their camp and attacked Grandpa Green. The men fled, knowing the old man was dead. The next spring they went back to that spot to gather up his bones and give him a decent burial. Coming forth to greet them was Grandpa Green, minus his nose. Seems that he had killed the bear, although it had bit off his nose in the melee. He had wintered in a cave sheltered by the treetops they had cut down and lived on bear meat all winter. I don’t think anyone has had it that hard during this prolonged cold spell. Probably the worst thing for the youngsters was being deprived of their television shows and computer games. It was a fine opportunity for family time together, playing card games and popping corn by candlelight.
It sure feels good when the electricity comes back on though. As we watched the snow still sifting down, Criss laughed and said, “All I heard was old-timers, and he was one of them, wishing for a good old-fashioned winter, with a lot of snow and freezing weather to kill out the pests so we could raise a garden next summer. Well, we got it — and now they’re hollering, “Enough already!”
February left, and hopefully took the worst of winter weather with her. March will usher in spring, and we anxiously wait for the first tiny coltsfoot flower, the first spring peeper, and the first butterfly. It will be sweet when it comes.
Will you be coming in for our Annual Spring Ramp, Pinto Bean and Ham Dinner at our church? It’s our main fundraiser for our church here in Wevapa.
Cousin Alyce Faye
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