Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
By Robert Frost

One of the most beloved of Robert Frost’s poems, it still strikes a chord in our hearts. Another winter snowstorm has made its way into our hills, and spring seems very far away. It has coated the landscape once more in white, and it seems the heavens has opened and turned loose a deluge of snow.
The Lord had pity on us and sent a day yesterday of sunshine and blue skies. It was merely a preview of warmer weather ahead, but it was a refreshing change and much appreciated. Five dogs (only one was mine) and I took a walk up the “little road,” and although it was muddy, it was wonderful to get outside. The little one, Ruff, was so low on the ground that he dragged his belly in the mud and had to be cleaned up—but he had a good time anyway.
Patty, our squirrel-hunting daughter, took her dog Willie out in the woods and wonder of wonders—found a blooming violet! What a cheering symbol of spring! We watch for the least sign of springs’ coming, and it will be doubly sweet this year after the winter we have endured.
Midwinter doldrums have settled down on many of us when it’s too early to really look for spring, and wintertime has become a drain on the spirits. I am still trying to sort out papers and years of accumulated litter. I find many things that I had forgotten, and they bring back memories of forgotten days and long-ago people.
I found Criss’ brother Ted’s shucking peg, a hand whittled peg with a strap of leather. Criss’ mother had kept it for years, and when she passed away we inherited it. It is a device unknown to the younger generation, and I doubt if my own grandkids could identify it.
It was used to shuck corn when the farmers of yesterday raised huge patches of field corn to feed their livestock, and also to grind for corn meal. I can remember when Daddy would load up sacks of corn on Old Topsy (our farm horse) and go to Jim Wayne’s to have it ground.
Mr. Wayne had a gristmill and a store where the Laurel Creek road meets Route 36, and it must have been there years before. I remember Uncle Myles telling me that when he was a little boy, Mr. Wayne had a little red wagon in the store window. Oh, Uncle Myles longed for that little red wagon! He tried to build one with rounds of wood cut from a log for wheels, but it never worked right.
For years, his heart’s desire was that wagon, but he never got it. He said, “Now I am old, and I don’t need a little red wagon.” Uncle Myles has been gone now for several years, but he never did get his little red wagon. I wonder how many of us have pined for something when we were a kid, but never saw our dreams materialized.
When I was a kid, our dreams were centered around the American Seed Company—not for the gardens that their seeds produced, but for the prizes they gave for selling their seed packets. How we pored and drooled over that seed catalog! Their advertisement read:  “Sell seeds! Make money! Win prizes!”
Bicycles were pictured, their gleaming blue and red models reaching out to us. We had about as much chance of winning one of their bicycles as we did selling seeds to a village of Eskimos, but that didn’t keep us from trying. Pictured also were radios, wristwatches and other prizes. We wore the page out looking at it.
Our dream was realized however, when Cousin Leo came home from the Marines and bought Larry and me a bicycle. It was a boy’s model, and we had to share it. Oh, the hours we spent riding that treasured vehicle. We took good care of it too—if it clouded up, we would run and put it on the porch or in the shed so it wouldn’t get rain on it. I wonder if Leo ever knew what a wonderful gift he gave.
We have been trying to collect some more country dialect, and Cousin Dollie Townsend of Pinch remembers people saying that “so and so is as ugly as homemade sin.” She wondered (and I did too) if homemade sin was worse than any other kind. We used to say that someone was “ugly as a mud fence,” but I don’t know what a mud fence is either.
Daddy used the expression “dumber than a bank mule.” That referred to a mule that was used in the coal mines and they didn’t know any other kind of life.
We also said “dumber than a box of rocks” or “dumber than a sled track.”
I had always wondered what “ballin’ the jack” meant as “He came down the road ballin’ the jack.” I found the definition in my “Whistlin’ Dixie” book by Robert Hendrickson. It means to move or work swiftly. It was originally an old railroad term.
Cousin Bobby writes that his sister Hazel once lived beside a Louisiana Cajun. She saw her small son misbehaving out in the yard, and stepped to the porch and told him, “You keep that up and it’s gonna be too wet to plow!” Mom used to tell the boys that if they didn’t straighten up, “their hide wouldn’t hold corn shucks!”
It is still snowing. Vicky Adkins McGhee reports that Route 60 at St. Albans looked like a winter wonderland. She said she was looking at it in wonder. And so are all of us.
Mom used to say, “Spring will come—it always has!”

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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