July heat spreads across our hills, tempered by a welcome breeze that ruffles through the trees. The fullness of summer is upon us. The Rose of Sharon bushes are bursting into bloom along with the blue August lilies, while on the meadows and roadsides the black-eyed Susans have replaced the common daisies. The bolder colors of midsummer prevail, with chicory weed and butterfly weed flaunting blue and yellow.
Canning time is almost upon us, with maturing half-runner beans and cucumbers ready for pickling. We had green beans for the Fourth of July after all. Patty found a mess of tender half-runners that evening, and along with new potatoes, yellow squash and fresh-picked, crunchy cucumbers, we had a summertime feast. J. D. Beam of Nevada longs for fried chicken like his mother used to make, and wonders if it would be as good as he remembers. This fresh garden food is every bit as good as when I was a young’en.
Mr. Beam went on to say, “Guess nothing is like it was when we were young. I remember hobos riding the coal cars to Widen to try to get a job. This was during the time of 25% unemployment. I do hope we are not headed that way again.” We hope so too, but everyone who can should raise a garden, just in case.
Raising a garden crop now is easy compared to the way we used to do it. My sister Mary Ellen reminded me of the corn we had to hoe. Daddy raised a huge garden, as Mom canned gallons of vegetables for our large family. On top of that, he would put the whole bottom above us in field corn. It was our job to hoe it, and it had to be hoed three times. We tried to get the last hoeing done by the Fourth of July, as we were promised a trip to Elk River to go swimming.
Those long rows seemed endless, and more often than not we hoed barefoot. Sand briers lurking between the rows were just waiting to stab a bare foot, and the hot sun brought out the sweat bees. When you got stung by one, it seemed to attract the whole family. Between the sand briers, hot sun, and sweat bees, it was one happy group of youngsters when the corn was “laid by.” We always got through at the end of the bottom where two big apple trees grew, and I remember my brother Larry throwing his hoe up in the air and shouting, “We’re finished!”
Elk River was clean then, and so inviting on a hot day. There is nothing as refreshing as diving into a hole of cool water after the blistering heat of the cornfield. No public pool could ever compare with the thrill of swinging from a rope swing, and plunging into the depths of the swimming hole. We always had a contest to see who could hold their breath underwater the longest. We loved catching the fat river tadpoles, and hunting mussel shells along the river’s edge.
Our favorite swimming hole was on Big Laurel Creek. Mom and her sisters had named each deep hole of water, and there was the “Rock Hole,” “Scorpion Hole” and the “Poe Hole” to name some of them. Scorpion Hole was deep then, clear and cold, and ringed about with rhododendron bushes and hemlock trees that draped branches down to the water’s edge. There was a clean, woodsy fragrance that permeated the area, along with sweet ferns that bordered the sand.
Above the hole of water was a sheer rock cliff that rose from the edge of the creek, and was dotted with cave-like apertures. It was too steep to climb from the bottom, or to let oneself down from the top. The children had many fantasies about the caves, wondering if there was hidden treasure in them. One of Mom’s brothers added to the speculation by saying that he climbed up far enough to peep inside of one of the caves, and it looked like sun shining on glass. It always fascinated us.
Most of today’s children will never know the thrill of a clear mountain stream that widens into a deep swimming hole just waiting for a group of eager youngsters to jump into its cool depths. Ah! Those were the days! Except hoeing corn in the hot sun wasn’t really that much fun.
We had a letter from Fred Robinson of Nitro commenting on the “callycanthus” bush mentioned in a previous column. They had one in the corner of their lot, and his brother, now deceased, looked it up in a book and it was called “calcantha.” The common name was “spice bush.” It smelled spicy, like cloves. The roots spread to the point that he had to take it out. My granddaughter-in-law calls it “sweet shrub” and is getting me a start of it. I don’t care if the roots do spread!
We had a request come in from Uniontown, Ohio, from Howard C. Samples. He is looking for the recipe for pork and beans that was served at the school lunch program at Dulls Creek Elementary School during the ‘40s. The late Martha Samples was the cook at that time, and her recipe was different from any he has tasted since. Does anyone remember?
Darren Porter of Kentucky sent the poem “Flanders Field” by John McCrae, and I told him I had the answer to it. Most of us know the original poem, but the answer is not as well known.
REPLY TO IN FLANDERS FIELD
By John Mitchell
Oh! Sleep in peace where poppies grow;
The torch your failing hands let go
Was caught by us, again held high,
A beacon light in Flanders sky
That dims the stars to those below.
You are the dead, you held the foe,
And ere the poppies cease to blow,
We’ll prove our faith in you who lie
In Flanders Fields.
Oh! Rest in peace, we quickly go
To you who bravely died, and know
In other fields was heard the cry,
For freedom’s cause, of you who lie,
So still asleep where poppies grow,
In Flanders Fields.
As in rumbling sound, to and fro,
The lightning flashes, sky aglow,
The mighty hosts appear, and high
Above the din of battle cry,
Scarce heard amidst the guns below,
Are fearless hearts who fight the foe,
And guard the place where poppies grow.
In Flanders Fields.
And still the poppies gently blow,
Between the crosses, row on row.
The larks still bravely soaring high,
Are singing now their lullaby
To you who sleep where poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.