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By Ross David Fortner, Jr.

Howl, mighty Wind,
Breath of winter come, knock upon my cabin door.
Beckon my soul to wander
Upon your mighty gale,
To enter into myself,
And find some solace, real.

Blow around my shuttered window,
Rattle every loose latch,
Remind me of my mortality,
That this life won’t last,
Not forever, anyway, but in time
Enjoy that which, for
A short while, is mine.

Sing Wind, sing through the trees,
Where my bird friends visit
And sing to me.
Sing a mighty song
As only you can,
For all creation bows
Before you, the Wind.

Blow, Wind, blow my old hair,
As it seeks to find my shoulders,
And finding more gray
Than the red of the sun,
Once it were, when I was younger,
And stood with her
And my children, in mountain air.

Oh, mighty Wind,
As you encircle my cabin,
Blow to my soul the spirits
Of my kinfolk now in Heaven.
Resting in the mighty four winds
Flowing o’er my soul
Calling on me.

The Wind at my cabin door,
Speaking, singing, bringing memories.
It would seem that I am
Always in the Wind.
On moon nights I have stood
In the cool night breeze,
And sang ancient songs,
Unknown to me.

Thank you, Great Father,
For the Wind-Spirits,
As they come to call,
Make my soul still,
To understand all, all they bring to me,
Just a man.

Winter has descended upon our hills, bringing frigid temperatures and snow. The bare limbs on the trees shiver in the cold, while we seek the glow of the fire and sanctuary from the elements. The farm chores still must be done; chickens fed and watered, cows grained and hay forked down from the barn loft. Wildlife scurries to burrows in the ground and our feathered friends roost in pine thickets.

Songbirds are thronged on the bird feeder-so many that the bare rose-of-Sharon bush behind the feeder is festooned with a multitude of colorful birds. There is a dozen or more of bright red male cardinals and almost as many females. There is nothing as cheery as these songbirds on a background of soft, white snow.

Cold winter weather is hard on farm folk and their animals, but not as hard as it was years ago. I can remember when I was a youngster, getting out of bed to find a thin skim of ice on the water buckets. Yes, we carried our water from an old pitcher pump down in the Virginia office yard in two zinc water buckets. That was a cold chore. The pump handle would be so cold you could hardly touch it. One of my brothers (Larry?) stuck his tongue to the handle to see what would happen. What happened? He lost a strip of skin from his tongue. I always slopped the icy water down my leg before I got home.
The water buckets were placed on the “water table” with a long handled dipper plunged into one. Of course the water had to be heated in big zinc dishpans to wash the dishes, and some poured into the wash pan for the washing of hands and faces. The wash pan sat on a round wooden stool (made by Grandpa O’Dell) and was a permanent fixture all my growing-up years.

Now we get out of our bed (heated with an electric blanket) and turn on the hot water tap to wash our hands and face. The furnace kicks on with a humming sound and the house is warm and cozy. In my youth, we crowded around an open gas stove and warmed one side while the backside was cold. The old Jenny Lind house was drafty, and the wind whistled around the window facings and crept through the cracks.

We won’t go into detail about the old Johnny house out back (Grandpa called it the “back house”) that had to be visited no matter what the weather. The farm animals didn’t fare much better. The chicken’s watering pan would be frozen solid, and the ice pounded out before it could be refilled. Now our chickens have a heated coil in their water that keeps it thawed. Sometimes the good old days were not so good!

This has been our first taste of real winter weather, and yet most of us are already longing for spring. The first of the seed and flower catalogs are arriving in the mail and gives us a hankering for warm soil and planting time. We always looked forward to February and sassafras tea, when the ground thawed enough to dig the roots. Since the ground didn’t freeze hard this year, we are already enjoying the rich, fragrant brew.

Mom swore by it as an excellent spring tonic, but we drink it for the robust flavor. She claimed it thinned the blood (does blood need thinning?) but it was a whole lot better than the sulphur and molasses that lots of folks took. Well, we did get a hefty dose of castor oil occasionally for general malaise, (Daddy sat on me the last dose I took and forced it down my throat.) I never inflicted it on my children.

And so, the month of January is almost gone–we will make it!

By Robert Louis Stevenson
Late lies the wintery sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When I go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house and hill and lake
Are frosted like a wedding cake.

In my mother’s winter advice, “Stay in and stay warm!

Latest posts by Alyce Faye Bragg (see all)

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