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The mild days of May that we have always looked forward to and loved, have been blown in by strong winds that lowered the temperature and left us shivering. We move the thermostat from air conditioning back to heat, and dig out the blankets that we stowed away a few days ago. The sun shines brightly on leafy, green hills, however, and masses of golden ragwort reflect back the sun’s rays.

Wild azalea (which we always called honeysuckle) is blooming in brilliant orange and pink patches. Wild geranium, with its lovely lavender flowers, appear in woodsy places, and spreading over meadows and roadsides are the small white flowers of the multiflora rose. The little blossoms are intensely fragrant, but it has become a pest as it spreads into fields and pastures. It was once sold as a living hedge by nurseries, and does provide an excellent wildlife cover. Farmers hate it because it will spread like wildfire all over their pastureland.

Spring is definitely here, however. I remember my mother saying that the surest sign of spring to her was when her father cleaned out the barn, and she and her sisters built their playhouse for the summer in it. Each of them had a stall, and hours were spent furbishing and “playing house.” (That is one of my special memories, too. We always loved playing in the barn anyway, savoring the dry, sweet fragrance of the hay, and the warm scent of the cows was not unpleasant. When the mangers were filled with armfuls of hay, they made excellent beds, although a trifle short. Mary Ellen and I made playhouses every spring in the barn.) Pity the poor city kids who never had access to a country barn!

Mom continued her reminiscing—“Spring brought the peewees—when we heard their birdsong, we knew it was time to go fishing. White suckers would come up Big Laurel Creek from Elk River to spawn; we used straight pins bent into fishhooks, and a rock for a sinker. With twine tied on our “stick” rods, we were in business. Half the time we would lose the fish before we landed it. But when we caught one, we would clean it and bring it home for Mommy to cook for us. They tasted better than any fish you can find today.

Violets would be blooming, and wild greens were ours for the picking—it was beautiful. Icicles were slow to melt on the rock cliffs across the creek, and Mommy would tell us that we could go barefoot when all the ice melted. Most of the time we would help it along by knocking it off with rocks. We were a tough bunch and spring was great on Big Laurel Creek.”

Spring was great on Summer’s Fork of Big Laurel Creek also when I was a kid. We looked forward to the windy days of spring to dry up the mud so we could play marbles. We always wore out the knees of our dungarees from the incessant marble games, and Mom would patch them. Sometimes she had to patch the patches. Marbles seem to be a game that my grandchildren have completely missed out on; I can’t even find marbles in the store now.

We waited anxiously for the creek to warm up enough to wade, and most of the time we waded it while it was still cold. The creek really was bigger then, and contained lots of “horny-headed” chubs which the boys loved to catch. My brother Ronnie would catch them and throw them back in, which prompted our Dad to say that he knew every fish in the creek by name!

After Ronnie retired from fishing the creek, David Morris and James Metheney continued the close relationship with the finny residents of Summer’s Fork Creek. David was the most dedicated fisherman that I ever saw. I remember one Ovapa resident, Lovel Everson, remarking that he saw a sight on the way to the post office that he had never seen before. David was perched on the bank, in the pouring-down rain, with his permanent fishing rod in one hand, and an umbrella in the other.

As I was browsing through some old papers, I came across an essay that I received years ago from Jaelyn Jett Merical. She found it while going through her late mother’s personal papers. Her mother, Shirley Hanshaw Jett, wrote it the year before she passed away at age 62. She was a beautiful woman, and had a beautiful soul.

“I never quite understood the question when Grandma said it, but it is clear to me now being MaMa. Where indeed did time go?

“The days of my youth and the memories they held seem like a dream sometimes. It’s hard to picture me as a teenager. It is as though my life has always been that of Mom and now MaMa . . . and I love both titles. God has blessed me with two wonderful daughters, two fantastic grandchildren, and a man I am so proud to call my husband. I am most truly blessed!

“Time has passed so quickly since I was that 19 year old bride! We didn’t have a clue about marriage and what was involved . . . but after 42 years I can say that I love this man with all of my heart.

“And the joy the two girls have brought to my life is unmeasurable. As I look back on time, sometimes I think, ‘Did I do anything right?’ The mistakes I made! But in two areas of being a Mom I am satisfied I did not fail. I have always given them my love and I have always given them my time. Both of these are so, so important. Love provides security, and time the training and guidance.

“How many times has my daughter heard me tell her as a Mom not to fail to give her children her time? For once gone, you can never go back and make them children again. I often think that must be the greatest concern of parents who don’t or can’t spend as much time with their children as they do. They have missed out on a part of their child’s life that cannot be relived. Time is a precious gift, but wasted, it becomes a fleeting reminder of what could have been.

“Lord, help me to spend my time wisely—to share it with those I love, and use it to bring joy to all I meet. To God Be the Glory.”

May has always been a favorite month here in the hills, ushering in spring in its fullness and barefoot season for scores of children. Mom never set a deadline for our shedding of shoes, and we simply forsook them when the ground felt warm enough. I remember her saying many times that she had tracked every one of us barefoot in the snow. It never seemed to hurt us, and we thrived.

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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