“There shall be showers of blessing, Send them upon us Oh, God . . . “
We received them last week with thanksgiving, and the thirsty ground soaked it up greedily. Although the lawns and meadows are parched and dry again, it was a welcome drink of water to the flowers and gardens.
We are experiencing an extremely dry summer so far, with day after day of hot sunshine. The wild blackberry crop is scanty, with many of the berries drying up on the vines. Elderberries are forming hard green clusters of fruit on their branches, which will turn to a glossy black when ripe. These make excellent jelly, especially when lemon juice is added.
We used to scour the woods and fields for any available fruit to make jellies and preserves for the winter. We would gather pods of wild grapes (fox grapes, wild blue grapes) which Mom would mix with apple juice and make delicious jelly. The wild grape juice was too strong to use by itself.
With so many mouths to feed, Mom canned and preserved everything she could get. I have been reading her journal written back in the forties, and it is a chronicle of hard work. A typical entry reads, “Monday, July 5, 1944—Picked eight quarts of blackberries today and canned one quart of pickles. Churned and made a cake. Reva here; Hallie and Verba here.”
One day she canned two bushels of peaches, and over and over it was “washed all day, ironed, scrubbed the kitchen, baked three pies, etc,”—this was in addition to her regular chores of cooking, washing dishes, and all the rest. She made almost all of our clothes, including the boy’s, on an old treadle Singer sewing machine. Almost every day she had company, often for dinner or supper. Poor Mom! When I was a kid I didn’t realize that all she did was work.
There was one entry I had forgotten. It read, “Alyce Faye ran away from home today and went to Everson’s.” Oh, I remember that! I was about 10 years old and got mad about something, so I decided to leave home. I packed a dress in a paper poke and left in a huff. Mom calmly watched me go.
I was ashamed to tell them I had come to live with them, so I stuffed my bag behind some vines on the front porch. I played all evening; happy as a coon in a cornfield, but when dusk came I began to get uneasy. Mom sent my brother Larry after me, and I was so glad to see him coming. I retrieved my dress and went home, feeling sort of sheepish—but happy.
In addition to all her hard work, Mom had to endure seven children. It is a journal of sick babies, and measles that went through the whole family, including her. She was pregnant with one of my brothers, and almost died. It was toothaches and heartaches, tantrums and adolescent pains.
Hard work was no stranger to her—she grew up on it. As one of eleven children growing up on Big Laurel Creek, she was introduced to work at an early age. I have a poem that was sent to me some time ago by Elma Jarrell of Danville, which is descriptive of yesterday’s children.
LITTLE BROWN HANDS
They drive home the cows from the pasture,
Up through the long, shady lane,
Where the quail whistles loud in the wheat fields
That are yellow with ripening grain.
They find in the thick, weaving grasses,
Where the scarlet-lipped strawberries grow;
They gather the earliest snowdrops,
And the first crimson bud of the rose.
They toss the new hay in the meadow;
They gather the elder-blooms white;
They find where dusky grapes purple,
In the soft-tinted October light.
They know where the apples hang ripest,
And are sweeter than Italy’s wines;
They know where the fruit hangs thickest,
On the long, thorny blackberry vines.
They gather the delicate seaweeds,
And build tiny castles of sand.
They pick the beautiful seashells—
Fairy barks that have drifted to land,
They wave from the tall, rocking treetops,
Where the oriole’s hammock-nest swings,
And at nighttime are folded in slumber
By a song that a fond mother sings.
They who toil bravely are strongest;
The humble and poor become great,
And so from these brown-handed children
Shall grow mighty rulers of state.
The pen of the author and statesman—
The noble and wise of the land—
The sword, and the chisel, and palette,
Shall be held in the little brown hand.
Elizabeth Mann is looking for an old song that her mother sang to them when they were little, about 70 years ago. It was called, “Babes in the Woods,” and the first verse begins, “Oh, dear, do you know a long time ago/Two poor little children whose names I don’t know . . Can anyone help?
Lola Alderman of Renick remembers part of an article or poem (she doesn’t remember which) about God looking down upon the earth and seeing how we took out what He made here and only added work for ourselves to keep it up. (Sound familiar?)
Phyllis Stowers of West Hamlin writes that a friend of hers, now deceased, played the guitar and sang a song called, “The West Virginia Waltz.” She can’t locate the words or music to it, and wonders if anyone has it. Hope someone can help.
I received a letter from Mayme Smith of Charleston, who wants me to settle an argument–when does Dog Days start and end? To the best of my knowledge, it begins July 3, and ends August 11. The Old Farmer’s Almanac verifies this.
(I wish to apologize to anyone whom I have offended by using the word “darkie” in the song in last week’s column. Living in this “politically correct” world, I debated about it. However, the old song was composed this way, and I have always loved its sad-sweet sentiment. I had no intention to hurt anyone. Just for the record, some of my best friends are black.)
Isn’t it wonderful that God loves each and every one of us?
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