Spring is getting ready to depart from our hills, while summer is impatiently waiting to make her appearance. With the dignity of a queen, she will move into our hills and hollers once again. Crowned with daisies and smelling sweetly of clover blossoms, she will blow her humid breath throughout the day and sometime far into the night. She will offer the first fruits of her garden-tender green peas and new potatoes; lettuce and green onions, with promises of more to come.
Another Father’s Day approaches, and it has been more than 38 years since my father was here on this earth. I can’t account for the fast passing of these years, as it seems almost yesterday that he was so much a part of our lives. Sometimes his memory is like a sharp pain in my heart. It’s not just because of Father’s Day that I am remembering, but almost every day something reminds me of him.
The years flow by like a swift mountain stream rushing down the hillside after a summer thunderstorm. Diverted momentarily by huge boulders, sidetracked by fallen logs; it relentlessly continues its way headlong toward its destination. The past years flow one into another, sometimes marked by rocky places and sidetracked by unexpected events, yet time continues to roll onward to eternity.
When mountain children marry and build houses on family land, (often on sight of their parents’ home) and raise families there, their lives are so intertwined that separation is particularly hard on them. I never lived far away from my parents (except for a year in Kanawha County and one in Jackson County) but almost all my life has been lived in the shelter of their love. In turn, several of our children have established their own homes near us. We give each other space, but it is comforting to know there is always someone nearby when the need arises.
I think about Grandma Ellen and how she left her Nicholas County home where she and Grandpa Andy had their seven children. Grandpa was a “boss in the woods” or a foreman in the logging industry, and worked in various sections of Nicholas County. He would reminiscence in later years of working at Muddelty, Centralia and Tioga (only he called it “Ty-oggy.” We would listen to the odd names roll musically from his tongue, and try to visualize the deep woods and logging camps. It was hard to imagine Grandpa as a young man. To us, he had always been old and toothless, but beloved.
When Grandpa and Grandma O’Dell migrated from Nicholas to Clay County, they traveled across Peach Orchard Road, which was called Devil’s Backbone Mountain then. We travel it routinely now, but then it was a long, hard journey. They came by horse and wagon, with all their household goods piled high. The baby, my Uncle Myles, was barely two years old when they moved to the farm where we live today. Our lives are a direct result of our ancestor’s plans and decisions. Sometimes I wonder that if my forefathers had migrated in a different direction, and settled in another area of our country, would I feel the same love and loyalty for it that I feel for these hills? Somehow I doubt it.
I am thankful for the rich heritage that has been passed down through the years, from generation to generation. Daddy left so many good memories behind that will never be forgotten. He reveled in the things of nature, and made us children aware at an early age of the beautiful world all around us. He taught us a reverence for the things that God has created and I feel that the deep love I have for nature is a direct result of his example. Almost every day I see something that I would like to share with him.
I always think of him when I see a rainbow. He couldn’t enjoy a rainbow by himself, but would call us out in the misting rain to enjoy it with him. Spectacular sunsets thrilled his soul, and I have seen him in a thousand sunsets since he has gone. I see him in simple things; the nest of baby bluebirds, a clump of Sweet Williams growing by the creek, and in the velvet-horned deer that dashes through the woods behind his house.
The most important heritage of all was the spiritual one that he passed on to us. His deep faith in God and the godly life that he lived before us has had a bearing on our lives. Daddy didn’t have a lot of earthly possessions to hand down to us, but I wouldn’t trade the example of living faith that he left us for anything the world holds. There is no better gift that a father can give his children than to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Col. 6-4)
I have had a lot of feedback on the column about cicadas (mostly about cooking them) so maybe I can redeem myself with a recipe made with wholesome ingredients. I have made this recipe, and it is delicious.
1 ¾ cups flour
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
Dozen or so of elderberry blossoms with stems attached
(Wash and dry on paper towels)
Oil for frying
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Mix flour, eggs, salt and milk with a whisk. Heat oil on medium high.
Dip elderberry blossoms in batter and fry in hot oil. Drain on paper towels and dust with confectioners sugar.
Harking back to Father’s Day, I want to dedicate this poem to all the Dads out there. If you still have your father, be so thankful and treat him with respect and devotion. If he is gone, like mine, remember all the good things and be blessed.
WHAT MAKES A DAD
God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle’s flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
He called it . . . Dad