NEWS FROM THE HILLS

The daisies are fading along the roadsides now, to be replaced by the brilliant blue of chicory and bright orange day lilies. Summer has descended upon us with simmering days and humid nights, plus plenty of hot, dry weather.

Kids flock to the swimming pools to endure the sweltering days, and it brings back memories of the old swimming holes of childhood. “In the olden days,” as my grandchildren say, creeks and rivers were relatively clean and we were unacquainted with the concrete and plastic swimming pools of today.

After a grueling day of hoeing corn in the heat, Daddy would promise to take us swimming. He would drive us to a secluded place where the water was clear and sparkling, and rhododendron bushes grew right down to the water’s edge. The water would be sun-warmed and inviting. There was no bigger thrill in childhood than jumping in one of those clear holes of water.

The water honeysuckle would be blooming on the banks of the creek, with its unforgettable fragrance, while the branches of the trees overhead made sun-dappled shadows on the water. That first jump into the water brought shivers and gasps, but the rest of the day was filled with childish laughter and fun.

I’m afraid my grandchildren will never know the joy of jumping into a clean mountain stream. Big Laurel Creek was the source of my mother’s swimming holes, as well as ours when we were growing up. It is not the same now.

Thinking of Big Laurel Creek reminds me of the spring cleaning ritual that Mom’s family did. They would take the split-bottom kitchen chairs out in the water and scrub them. As they dried, the sun would tighten up the woven bottoms like new.

I guess most good housewives have finished their spring cleaning by now—I never get done. What is left can wait until fall. If we think it is a hard task now, consider the housewife of yesterday. I received a letter from Carolyn Knight of Marlinton, who was reminiscing about spring cleaning when she was young.

She writes, “That was a time when I tried to pass myself off as a neighbor’s kid. Ropes were strung from trees and the carpets hung outside and beaten. The old straw and newspapers (our carpet pad) were taken up and the wooden floors scrubbed.

“Since we had coal heat, the wallpaper had to be cleaned. The wallpaper cleaner looked like Play-Doh, and you rolled the dough on the wallpaper and brushed off the black coating, kind of like the crumbs on an eraser. When the walls were done, the baseboards were cleaned and oiled as well as the wooden floor.

The sheer curtains were taken down, washed, and put on curtain stretchers. That was my unfavorite job! The stretchers had rows of sharp pins that held the wet curtains, and it took small fingers to carefully push each pin onto the sheer.

“By the time I finished, I didn’t have a finger that wasn’t pricked—and ‘darest’ you bleed on the clean sheers! Everything had to be scrubbed—furniture, pictures, cupboards (and all the contents)—the house was cleaned from floor to ceiling.

“The heavy storm windows were taken down and replaced by screens, and before the coal furnace was turned off, all the ironware had to be put on the hot coals. This burned off the accumulated, built-up grease on the outside, and then they had to be re-cured.

“Each season had things that must be done—on top of all the everyday jobs. Great-grandmother, Gram and I all worked hard, but together. There was no separation of the generations.”

That was the way it was done in grandma’s day. It makes me ashamed to complain! A friend from Texas once inquired, “What is spring cleaning anyway? I clean every day!” Well, she didn’t grow up in the hills where wintertime mud is a fact of life, and she must not have had a troop of big boys to glob through the house.

One spring we had what I now call “The Great Cow Manure Battle.” We had four strapping boys, but Matthew, the youngest, seemed to get into more trouble. This year Criss had just painted the barn—a bright red that simply gleamed. Matthew, and a few of his friends, namely cousins Eric Perdue and Noel Braley, Jeff Braley and Tony Bullard were playing around the barn. When I pressed him for details, he answered, “I don’t know Mom—that was 30 years ago!” That may have been, but the evidence is still on the barn.

They must have been bored. They began tossing dried cow chips at the barn, and soon they were throwing them at one another. It evolved into fresher cow patties, and the battle grew heated. Matthew picked up one that was pretty soupy, just as Jeff stuck his head up and hollered. He got a mouthful.

He was crying, and they took him down to the creek and washed him off, begging him all the time not to tell. I don’t know how they could keep it a secret. I had to take Tony to the wash house for a shower, and find him clean clothes. Criss had a red barn with black polka-dots—and people want to know what is spring cleaning?

The words to the song I was wondering about were graciously supplied by Anita Holley (from WV, but now in Ohio,) Carolyn Prete of Montgomery, Elizabeth Mann of Elkins, and June C. Jones of Charleston.

 

KITTY WELLS

 

You ask what makes this darkey weep
Why he like others are not gay
What makes the tears roll down his cheek
From early morn til close of day.

 

My story, darkies, you shall hear
For in my memory fresh it dwells
It will cause you all to drop a tear
On the grave of my sweet Kitty Wells.

 

Chorus:
Oh the birds were singing in the morning
And the myrtle and the ivy were in bloom
And the sun o’er the hilltops was dawning
‘Twas then they laid her in the tomb.

 

I never shall forget the day
When we together roamed the dells
I kissed her hand and named the day
When I would marry Kitty Wells.

 

But death came to my cabin door
And took my joy and my pride
And when I found that she was gone
I laid my banjo down and cried.

 

The springtime has no charms for me
Though flowers are blooming in the dell
For that sweet form I do not see
The form of my sweet KittyWells.

The Waynedale News Staff

Alyce Faye Bragg

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