NEWS FROM THE HILLS

Alyce Faye BraggA lone cricket chirps outside the kitchen door, a song of longing and sadness and foreboding. He knows his days are numbered, and summer is on the wane. The withered and dry grasses tell him so, while a cooler breeze is threaded though the yellowing shrubbery.

The gardens are fading away, with brown cornstalks rustling in the breeze. The last of the vegetables are being harvested and put away, with the diminishing tomatoes being processed into spaghetti sauce and salsa. The half-runner beans are being replaced by turnips and golden pumpkins, as autumn marches toward us.

It has been an extremely hot summer, with many days so humid that it felt like wading through warm water. There is another month of summer, but autumn will be more than welcome with its cooler days and lower humidity.

It is a blessing to live where the seasons change, but I have always loved fall best. Memories of this season are sweet. Daddy would take us on an excursion up Hick’s Holler, in search of wild grapes and persimmons. Mom would mix wild grape juice with apple juice and make delicious jelly. These are the things that money can’t buy.

I can see us filing through the woods now; Susie perched on Daddy’s shoulders, and Mom leading Jeannie. We older children were at home in the woods, and would chew spicewood and sweet birch twigs as we walked along. Sometimes we were fortunate enough to find a ripe Mayapple, a yellow frui t flecked with brown spots.

Daddy would take us to Buzzard Rocks every fall, and we looked forward to this trip. I remember one time he saddled up old Topsy, our work horse, so that we could take turns riding her. It was quite a distance from our house to Buzzard Roc k, on a narrow path through the woods and over rugged places. I was afraid to ride her—I thought she might “turn over” on one of those rough places.

Buzzard Rock is an immense outcropping of rock out in the middle of nowhere. Now it is accessible by an RV vehicle, and a road has been made right up to the crest of it. When I was a kid, the only access to it was through a crack in the middle of it, straight up the sheer face.

My cousin Leo told me that at one time revival meetings were held on it, and an obese man got stuck in the crack. I don’t know if that was true or not, but it would have been very possible. We were sure that American Indians must have made use of this huge landmark, perhaps using it as an outlook or hiding in the cave beneath it.

There once was a cave, filled in since I was a kid, with steps carved out leading into it. We were always afraid to go back in it. One of Daddy’s friends, when he was a youngster, was supposed to have left an iron shucking peg on a lower step to prove he’d gone that far in it.

The whole top, since weathered and partly obliterated, was covered by the initials of those who had visited there. Daddy had carved DMS and GAO (Delphia Marie Samples and Gay August O’Dell) more than 76 years ago. Moss and lichens have covered many of the initials.

We visited Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio last week with my sister Susie and her husband Charlie. We toured Old Man’s Cave and some of the other famous sites, and they were indeed majestic and awe-inspiring. Still, it was a greater thrill to find our parent’s initials carved so many years ago on Buzzard Rock.

An old friend, Eloise Boggs of Charleston, sent an inquiry concerning “Jenny Lind” houses. They had just enjoyed a family reunion, and she remarked that their parents had lived in a Jenny Lind house the first ten years of their life. Someone asked what a Jenny Lind house was, and Eloise explained it to them. Most old country houses were made in that fashion—a board house made without 2×4’s or studs.

There was no sheet rock of course, and I remember Mom tacking cheesecloth on the boards in order to hang wallpaper on the walls. (Wallrite wallpaper always had a gray background and was heavy.) What she was wondering was why it was called “Jenny Lind.”

There was a real Jenny Lind, a singer who was called “the Swedish nightingale.” I couldn’t find any reference to the construction of a house though. If anyone knows the answer, I wish they’d let us know.

Vera Webb of St. Albans is looking for the words to a gospel song that includes this line, “When you have someone to talk to . . .“ Hopefully, someone knows the song.

We had an interesting letter from Larry Garrett of Hurricane, who recalled his experience with a neighbor who removed the seed warts from his hands when he was five years old. It was said that this neighbor had “the power” to do such things.

He wrote, “This action required me to be in my neighbor’s presence when the moon was full. The almanac gave the exact hour and minute when the moon became full. At exactly 10:33 on a summer evening, words were spoken over me. I could not hear what he said, but later I was told it was a Bible verse.

“He wet his index finger in his mouth and touched each seed wart (there were several) and told me to forget about these warts and in two weeks they would be gone. I did as I was told and in two weeks, almost to the hour, I looked at my hands and they were wart-free. I ran to show everyone my hands, and also my neighbor.

“Years later, I learned that this was the devil’s work and he could only pass the power to a certain individual and that he could not tell me the words or pass the power to me. When I was a grown man, I questioned him about this power, and he grew very uncomfortable. His wife got even more upset that I even asked.”

God or the devil? You be the judge.

Larry added a paragraph that I liked, “As for signs of autumn, for me it is the yard grass covered with morning dew outlining hundreds, if not thousands, of spider webs. That, and the black-eyed Susan’s in bloom, here and there, along the graded ditch lines of country dirt roads.”

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer