NEWS FROM THE HILLS
No one can deny that we have had a genuine, old-fashioned winter thus far. We have had so many mild winters that we are spoiled, and these Arctic clippers that sailed through our hills the past couple of weeks have chilled us to the bone.
Snow still covers our hills and valleys, although weak sunshine today is striving to melt the south sides of the hills. Bitter air surrounds us and clumps of snow hang on the hemlocks. Winter has settled in like a guest preparing for a long stay, bringing all the baggage needed for his prolonged visit.
His frigid breath hangs over the land, and his chilly hand holds us in an icy grip. The edges of the creek are bordered by white ice, and long icicles hang spear-like from the rock cliffs. Snow flurries come furiously and erratically, blotting out the sky and spreading another skim of snow on ground that is already white.
There is hope buried beneath the ice and snow. Deep in the ground, down in the frozen dirt and humus of the woods, tiny seeds and roots are patiently waiting for spring to call them forth to new life. Now at rest, and gathering strength for their new growth, they await their season in the sun.
It is a miracle that earth so frozen and snow-covered now can be transformed into green and verdant fields of lush growth. Even now, down underneath the covering of ice and snow, there are green plants hidden beneath clumps of dried grass. Bright green chickweed will spring forth as soon as the soil begins to thaw.
Just thinking of the fresh wild greens of spring makes my mouth water. We can always buy a variety of fresh vegetables and greens from the supermarket, but there is nothing that can take the place of greens that grow in the wild.
Here in the dead of winter, I am already hungry for poke greens. It reminds me of my great-granddaughter Katie, who sat down at the dinner table recently and gazed at her plate of food with a critical eye. It was the ordinary fare—meat loaf, mashed potatoes and peas. She propped her chin on her hand and sighed. “I was thinking Arby’s!” she told her mother. Well, Katie, I’m thinking poke greens!
We had an interesting letter this week concerning last week’s column. It was from Cathy Shuler, who lives here in Lizemores, and she writes, “I was glad to see the poem about little Kathy Fiscus. I am 58 and was born after this little girl fell in the well. My dad, James Moore, was a coal miner at that time and went to help rescue her from the well.
“It was so sad. He came home and told my mother, Eunice, who was expecting, that if the baby was a girl he wanted to call her Cathy after the little girl who perished in the well. I was born later on and named Cathy Ann (at that time they didn’t know how her name was spelled.)
“Grandma used to sing, ‘Oh, Kathy, oh Kathy, where could you be?’ I would love to have the words and music to that song. My dad died when I was young, but I remember him saying, ‘You are as pretty as the little girl named Kathy who fell in the well.’”
I am wondering if there is a song in addition to the poem printed last week. If anyone knows, we’d love to have it.
Harlan Hensley, an old friend of ours, inquired about a song called “Deck of Cards.” Actually, I believe it is more a recitation than a song.
Here is the version by Tex Ritter.
DECK OF CARDS
Friends, this is Tex Ritter with a strange story about a soldier boy and a deck of cards. During a North African campaign, a bunch of soldier boys had been on a long hike, and they arrived in a little town called Casino.
The next morning being Sunday, several of the boys went to church. A Sergeant commanded the boys in church, and after the Chaplain had read the prayer, the text was taken up next. Those of the boys who had prayer books took them out, but this one boy had only a deck of cards, and so he spread them out.
The sergeant saw the cards and said, “Soldier, put away those cards.” After the services were over, the soldier was taken prisoner and brought before the Provost Marshall. The Marshall said, “Sergeant, why have you brought this man here?” He answered, “For playing cards in church, sir.” The Marshall continued, “And what have you to say for yourself, son?” “Much,” replied the soldier.
The Marshall said, “I hope so, for if not, I shall punish you more than any man was ever punished.” The boy said, “Sir, I have been on a march for about six days, and I had neither Bible nor Prayer Book, but I hope to satisfy you, Sir, with the purity of my intentions.” With that, the boy started his story.
“You see, Sir, when I look at the Ace it reminds me that there is but one God. The deuce reminds me that the Bible is divided into two parts: the Old and the New Testaments. And when I see the trey I think of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. When I see the four I think of the four evangelists who preached the Gospel. There were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
And when I see the five, it reminds me of the five wise virgins who trimmed their lamps. Ten of them; five who were wise and were saved; five were foolish and were shut out. And when I see the six it reminds me that in six days God made this great heaven and earth. And when I see the seven it reminds me that on the seventh day God rested from his great work.
When I see the eight I think of the eight righteous persons God saved when he destroyed this earth. There was Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives. When I see the nine, I think of the lepers our Savior cleansed, and nine of the ten didn’t even thank him. When I see the ten, I think of the Ten Commandments God handed down to Moses on a tablet of stone.
When I see the King, it reminds me there is but one King of Heaven, God Almighty. And when I see the queen I think of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is Queen of Heaven. And the jacks, or knaves, are the devil. When I count the number of spots on a deck or cards, I find 365—the number of days in a year. Fifty-two cards—the number of weeks in a year. Four suits—the number of weeks in a month. Twelve picture cards—the number of months in a year. Thirteen tricks—the number of weeks in a quarter.
“So you see, Sir, my pack of cards serve me as a Bible, and almanac and prayer book.”
“Friends, I know this story is true, because I knew that soldier.”
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