NEWS FROM THE HILLS

Summer has become a blowsy old lady, trailing ragged gardens like tattered petticoats around her ankles. Weeds run rampant through the once neat, orderly rows, where lush, red tomatoes lie partly concealed. Dry corn stalks, relieved of their burden of golden ears of corn, lift brown, dead arms to the sky as if in supplication.

She still retains a trace of her former beauty however, in the wild morning glories that twine from corn stalk to bean pole, making splashes of brilliant color. This trailing vine, with its velvety, trumpet-shaped blossoms of regal purple, varied shades of blue, and deep rose, herald the ending of summer.

A fat orange pumpkin peeps through the weeds and dying vines, a symbol of autumn goodies yet in store. The ranks of the humming birds are thinning, as they come less frequently to the feeder. Summer is at a standstill.

Fall flowers have been making their appearance for some time now. Spotted Joe-Pye weed hangs heavy heads over the road banks, as if mourning the passing of summer. Purple ironweed stands tall above its more lowly brothers, while the wild sunflowers tower above them all.

“The charm of the goldenrod” shines from road bank to meadow, and will be among the last flowers to fade when cold weather comes. The evening primrose, with its paler yellow and sweet-scented blossoms opens at evening and blooms until noon the next day. Autumn is slowly settling in, and soon the summer will be ended.

School begins again, and now some of the great-grandchildren are starting. It always brings a pang to the heart to see these little ones start out on their Great Adventure in learning. They seem so little to be starting, and yet they are eager to go. It feels as if we are turning them out into a wicked world, and they are never the same after they take that first step toward independence.

It has been 65 years since I started to the two-room grade school, and I can’t account for the years that have passed.

The first day of school is still vivid in my mind. It comes back to me now in the memory of stiff new shoes and stiffer pigtails, in the remembered smell of school trash burning in the barrel—that unique and not unpleasant odor of pencil stubs, bits of crayons, and scrap paper.

The new textbooks, with their clean fragrance and unexplored mysteries, were exciting. Blackboards lined the walls, with dusty erasers and sticks of chalk lined the ledge beneath. Large pictures of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington gazed down upon us from opposite walls, and witnessed our very first wobbly ABC’s.

My first grade teacher, Imogene Carper Stalnaker, presented me with a copy of the old song books we used back then, a green-backed book called “The Music Hour.” We surely have come a long way from the songs in this old book, and I can’t see that the path has bettered us any.

There are responsive readings that begin: LEADER; “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” ASSEMBLY; “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” LEADER; “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice, but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. If thou hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, the Lord thy God will set thee high above all nations of the earth.” (Psalms)

The first page contains the flag pledge, and the responsive reading. UNISON: “The flag means universal education—light for every mind; education for every child. We must have but one flag. We must also have but one language. This must be the language of the Declaration of Independence.”—Woodrow Wilson (Can you see a room full of school children reciting this today?)

The patriotic songs were printed next, songs that we learned as early as the first grade. “God bless America,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and of course, “The Star Spangled Banner.” We sang these lustily, and from the heart.

As I leaf through this song book, and read the words to “Love’s Old Sweet Song,”: I can feel myself back in the front porch swing, with Jeannie and Susie cuddled beside me. I would sing mournfully, “Once in the dear, dead days beyond recall/When on the earth the mist began to fall . . . ”

I was six years old, and had no idea of what the “dear, dead days beyond recall” were, but the sadness of the melody and words would have us all in tears. It makes me want to relive just one of those “dear, dead days” and sit on the porch swing with my baby sisters.

Dusk would be gathering, and the lonesome chirp of the crickets would join the chorus, “Just a song at twilight/When the lights are low . . .” How can so much time have passed?

Tom Samples, who had the pressure canner lid stuck, has had a lot of responses. The first came from Sharon Shirley (sorry about transposing your name, Sharon) who sent a printout with several suggestions. One was to reheat the canner, and run cold water over the lid.

Dave Begler from Newton wrote to peck gently on the lid, near the sealing ring. Lots of folks have had similar trouble, and Thelma Lambey Helmick of Gassaway said that they used WD-40. Carol Kerns of Delaware suggested putting the whole canner in the freezer.

Vernal Taylor of Bickmore sent word to heat the cooker, and Liz Richard of So. Charleston said to use cooking oil spray around the rim. Judy Dean of Marlinton also suggested heating the canner, but Bernard Fulks said to drill a little hole in the top.

The good news is Tom removed the lid. He didn’t do anything except let it set overnight, and the lid came right off. The jars were all sealed, and the story has a happy ending!

The Waynedale News Staff

Alyce Faye Bragg

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