Original Leisure & Entertainment


by Hazel Bias Browning
(With apologies to Thomas Hood)
Ah, I remember, I remember
That company house where I was born
Deep in a coal camp hollow
Upon a windy March morn.

I remember, I remember
The hardships that we knew
That only brought us closer
As a family proud and true.

I remember, I remember
Walking proud and tall
Going to a three room school
That would mean education and prosperity
For us all.

I remember, I remember
Where I used to swing
And through the fresh air I would go
Like swallows on the wing.
The summer pool, of dammed waters
Flow o’er the stony creek
To still crevices underground
At times would cause my soul to weep.

I remember, I remember
My Daddy’s gentle words
Your little head’s so hot
With calloused hands upon my brow
Would cause the pain to stop.

I remember, I remember
My Mother’s nighttime prayers
Asking the Almighty to look after us
Until the coming hour.

Gentle April sprinkles our hills with burgeoning springtime beauty, and adds a few misty showers for good measure. She runs soft fingers through the flowering crab apple trees, loosening the fading petals to fall in a pink shower upon the greening grass. She has blessed the fruit trees with bountiful bloom this year; the scrubbiest of apple trees boast a crown of pink and white blossoms that perfume the air each time the wind blows.

The pear and cherry trees are a white confection, but the splendor of the woods are the redbud and dogwood trees. On near and distant hillsides they march; pinkish-purple flowers blending with simple white. The drive up Elk River is now spectacular; the sarvis (serviceberry) is fading but the redbud and dogwood has come into its own.

It is ramp season. Some folks feel that springtime is not complete without a good mess of ramps. Ramps are a true mountain food, relished by many but scorned by some. I belong to the former group. We have already enjoyed a mess of them cooked with bacon and eggs, and now feel ready to meet spring head-on.

The dictionary tells us that they are a wild onion-like plant, found in eastern North America, with a characteristically strong odor; eaten by mountain folk during some of their festivals in the latter part of April. As the Queen of Sheba said to King Solomon, “The half was not told me.” Ramps cannot be adequately described; they must be experienced.

They are an innocent appearing little plant, with flat, broad leaves and a tender, white root. Ramp addicts have been known to dig under the dead leaves and unearth these delicacies before the barely formed leaf bud emerges through the ground. I think they are best when the leaves are three or four inches tall.

As for eating them at festivals, I suppose that you could call ramp-eating a “festival” at any time. Criss and I have enjoyed them as a cozy twosome; the “piece de resistance” of a romantic, candle-lit table. (This was in a camper where the only source of light was a candle stuck in a soda pop bottle.) And it is a festive occasion when we get together on our camping and fishing trips and cook ramps for everyone over the open campfire. As you drive along the road paralleling William’s River, the aroma from almost every campfire mingles together in one great odorous homage to the lowly ramp.

That is another peculiar feature of this wild plant–when you feast upon these seasonal victuals, you cannot smell the odor of them on anyone else. That is why we like to imbibe when we are out in the open country; fortunately everyone in our large family likes this food. I wonder if this is an acquired taste, or do you fall in love with them at the first bite? I’ve been eating them for so long that I can’t remember. When you grow up with them in your Pablum, it is hard to pinpoint that first taste.

The Easter season is over now, the excitement of the children has died down and the baked ham and potato salad has vanished. Those who put their emphasis on the colored eggs, fancy Easter outfits and chocolate bunnies must feel bereft. For the ones who know the glory of our Savior’s resurrection, there is a lasting joy. It is not only at Easter that we rejoice in a risen Christ, but every day of our lives we are grateful for the One who gave His life a ransom for us. He lives! And because He lives, we can live also.

Praise His Name!

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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