Rain falls today out of a sullen, gray sky, to swell the creek and gush into Elk River, by the way of Big Laurel. March is making an entrance. She was mild, with plenty of rain and the subsequent mud that was inevitable, but she leaves behind some subtle hints of spring. Yellow Easter flowers (jonquils) are showing their sunny heads in lawns and borders, and the merry little crocuses smile alongside.
If there is anything to the old adage that fog in February means frost in May, we can expect plenty of the chilling white substance during the merry days of May. I miss Clarence Brown’s weather forecast. He was our former neighbor, now deceased, who would count the frosts in February and tell you exactly how many frosts we could expect in May. He could also take note of how many days the unmelted snow lay on the ground, and calculate just how much more we could expect.
One of our “younger” weather prophets here in the hills tells us that the fruit will be killed again this spring. I don’t know whether to believe him or not—I don’t think he has enough age on him to be a genuine “old-timey” weather prophet. Time will tell.
These early spring days are an ideal time to peruse the seed and tree catalogs and dream of planting time. When I was a kid growing up (there I go again!) you could always tell the advent of the spring season by the young’ens going from door to door selling vegetables and flower seeds. This was no easy task in the days of no telephones, and the houses were sometimes as much as a mile apart. The dirt road was either muddy and nasty or cold and frozen. The wind would whip through our clothes and redden our already chapped hands and faces as we trudged along from house to house.
We faced unfriendly dogs, slippery footbridges and frozen feet in the hopes of obtaining one of the fabulous prizes awarded to the faithful salesman. How I remember that colorful prize booklet that came with the American Seeds—the radios, the cameras and the impossible dream—bicycles! We usually settled for the cash award that amounted to a couple of dollars—many times less. And, Mom was stuck with the seeds that didn’t sell!
We sold Cloverine and Rosebud salve for the colored prints to pin on our walls. I still remember the one I received, “The Guardian Angel” which depicted a heavenly being with gauzy wings hovering over a couple of small tots on a high bridge, with rushing, dangerous water beneath. We sold the Grit weekly newspaper, and if we failed to collect from one customer, we could easily go in the hole.
When our own boys got old enough, they too sold seeds and Grits. I guess it was good for all of us, and taught us many things. One thing it taught me is, I could never turn down a cold, bedraggled youngster, hopefully toting their goods from door to door. Perhaps that is why we never failed to make a sale at the more modest homes, while those with more affluent means would sometimes turn us down. Many people had walked in our footsteps.
We had things to occupy our time in cold weather, even without television and electronic games. I remember Mom telling me the things they did down on Big Laurel Creek, when the weather was cold and wind howled about the eaves of the house. She wasn’t able to go on to high school, so she repeated the eighth grade more than once. The family was gifted in learning, and they memorized much poetry and was able to recite it after they were old.
There are so many things that I learned from Mom, just from hearing her recite it. One of her favorite poems was “Somebody’s Mother” and she recited a portion of it the day before she died. Aunt Addie knew and could recite reams of poetry, as she did many times at the Senior Citizens’ Group and other places. Aunt Verba could recite chapter after chapter of the Bible, and I am sure the other siblings had memorized many things.
Something Mom recited occasionally kept running through my mind, and I couldn’t remember the last two verses of it. I looked it up on the internet, and to my surprise, it was an old English nursery rhyme. It was from “The Real Mother Goose” (1916). I wonder if any of our old timers remember it.
“THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN AS I HEARD TELL”
There was an old woman, as I’ve heard tell,
She went to the market her eggs for to sell;
She went to the market all on a market day,
And she went to sleep on the King’s highway.
There came by a pedlar whose name was Stout,
He cut her petticoats all round about;
He cut her petticoats up to the knees,
Which made the old woman to shiver and freeze.
When the little old woman first did wake,
he began to shiver and she began to shake;
She began to wonder and she began to cry,
“Lawk a mercy on me, this can’t be I!”
“But if it be I, as I hope it be.
I’ve a little dog at home, and he’ll know me,
If it be I, he’ll wag his little tail,
But if it be not I, he’ll loudly bark and wail.”
Home went the little woman all in the dark;
Up got the little dog, and he began to bark;
He began to bark, and she began to cry,
Lawk a mercy on me, this is none of I!”
Blowy, windy March is here, and I love it! I like the beginning of each new month, or a new week, and even each new day. When I awaken, I think of how the stretches out before me, unused and brand new. Our days are mostly happy or sad mainly because of our attitudes. I must pray every day for God to guide my body, heart and mind.