NEWS FROM THE HILLS

ALYCE FAYE BRAGGHot summer days sizzle along in typical July fashion, with droning honeybees visiting the flowerbeds and carrying their nectar back to the hive. Flowers take on a midsummer look with Rose of Sharon bushes putting forth their rose-like blossoms, and dazzling orange of the butterfly weed shines from the road banks.

A favorite flower for many of us is the black-eyed Susan. With its bold-eyed stare and sturdy stance, it rules the fields now in golden splendor. This common flower is useful as well as beautiful, as its roots can be used much like the related Echinacea. It is an astringent, and can be used as a warm infusion for sores and swellings.

The Ojibwa Indians used it as a poultice for snakebite, and to make an infusion for treating colds and worms in children. Juice from the roots has been used as drops for earache. Another member of this family, Echinacea or coneflower, is traditionally used to prevent and treat colds, flu and infections.

Scientific studies are mixed on the effectiveness of this flower. Some believe that it will stimulate the immune system to fight infections. It should be used with caution, as it can cause an allergic reaction in some folks. As with all herbal medicine, your doctor should be consulted before using it.

It is amazing to view these beautiful wild flowers and realize the medical uses that they have. Someone asked me the other day if I’d ever heard of “boneset tea.” Yes, I’ve heard of it, but never used it. When my arms were broken, boneset tea never crossed my mind, but instead a trip to the emergency room.

The stem appears to be growing through the leaf on this plant, thus to early herb doctors this indicated that this plant would be useful in setting bones. They used the leaves wrapped with bandages around the splints. The dried leaves have also been used to make a tonic (boneset tea) thought to be effective in treating colds, coughs and constipation.

The wild blackberries are now ripening here in our hills. The old pasture field where we picked these berries is now overgrown with underbrush and trees, while the blackberry vines are non-existent. It looked so different when I was a kid. We had to climb the hill through the woods until we reached the upper field, where cows kept the underbrush and weeds to a minimum.

The best place to pick was under the sumac bushes where the berries grew sweet and juicy. It was pleasant there in the shade, and the berries seemed to grow larger there. Early in the morning while the dew was still heavy and cool on the grass, it was almost a pleasure to pick berries. Spicy-smelling pink wildflowers, which we called St. Anthony’s cross, would be blooming and scenting the whole pasture field with their fragrance.

As the sun rose hotter in the sky, it wasn’t a pleasure as much as a chore. Sweat bees abounded, and if you made the mistake of swatting one, a dozen more would descend on you. One of the kids (usually brother Ronnie) would spill their berries, and gather them up liberally mixed with sticks, dirt and moss. (Poor Mom!)

We were supposed to stay until we had filled our buckets, and it was a weary, sweaty bunch who trudged down the hill at evening. We were repaid when Mom made a fresh berry cobbler, with sweet juice oozing through the brown crust.

We ate it with rich cow cream, thick and yellow. What a good childhood memory!
We were leery of poison snakes, as we once had a little dog that got bit in the berry patch. Someone told Patty that a person had gotten bitten with a poison snake while picking blackberries recently. Regina Thornton wrote to me last year and was recalling something her aunt told her.

It seemed that they were picking blackberries in the summer, and they realized that something was following them. It would stop when they stopped and go when they went. They never saw it, but they knew something was there and it scared them badly. Maybe snakes are not the only things we have to look out for. I’m afraid that our grandchildren will never know the joys of blackberry-picking.

I’ve had dialect on my mind lately when I caught myself using some of the old terms. One of the kids told me a weird story and I replied, “I never heard tell of such a thing!” That came directly from my dad, only he would have said, “I never heerd tell of sich a thing!” I told a lady from Pennsylvania (formerly) that she didn’t want to buy a “pig in a poke.” I don’t know what she thought.

Phyllis Seacrist from Bloomingrose writes that she was cleaning pinto beans preparatory to cooking them, and told her granddaughter that she was “looking” them. Her granddaughter was puzzled. We use that expression all the time. We “look” berries and lettuce and other things.

One expression she used was strange to me—”runny-go.” It means you get back and take a run at something. I guess that was what I was doing when I fell and broke my arms.

I am happy to report that my arms are healing nicely, and I’m mostly back to normal. I am put to shame by a letter from Almeda Willis of Ansted, who will be 105 years old the 14th of October. She writes, “I live with my foster daughter, but I can still take care of myself. I am a little slow and a little hard of hearing, but I do love to read and get mail. I do dishes and dust and clean the porches.” Amazing!

We have a request from Genevieve Landers of Bancroft who is searching for a poem called, “Jonah and the Whale.” There was another one about the drunken driver that killed a child. She says that Cap, Andy, and Flip sang these songs on the radio years ago. Does anyone remember?

Our funny for the week—granddaughter Abigail was driving on slippery roads this past winter and she told her two children, Katie, age 8, and Wade, age 5, to pray. “Don’t worry, Mama,” Katie reassured her. “I know CPR.” Wade asked curiously, “Who’s CPR?”

I love this thought, “Don’t worry about tomorrow—God is already there!”

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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