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The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds and naked woods, and meadows brown and sere.
Heaped in the hollows of the grove, the autumn leaves lie dead;
They rustle to the eddying gust, and to the rabbit’s tread.
The robin and the wren are flown, and from the shrub the jay,
And from the wood-top calls the crow, through all the gloomy day.
By William Cullen Bryant

The chill winds of November have stripped the trees of their autumn finery; their bare leaves shiver in the cold. Gone are the songbirds; gone are the katydids. The melancholy chirping of the crickets are stilled; wooly worms creep now where their fiddles once played a mournful melody. Clad in somber garments of brown and gray, November is covered with a killing frost that slew all the flowers and coated the rooftops in white.

Blue smoke curls in a thin spiral above the chimney and scents the frosty air with the homey scent of wood smoke. Piles of firewood are stacked and covered for winter’s use, and inside the house, the wood stove glows cheerily. It is time to move indoors to prepare for the onslaught of winter. The season may seem melancholy to some, but I love the winter days when we begin to stay indoors. The warmth of the house seems to reach out and pull you in from the cold outdoors, and the crackling wood fire is most welcome. The frenetic pace of summer has slowed, and there is time now to relax by the fire, read a good book, or catch up on some mending. If for no other reason, I love November because of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the whole year. At no other time is so much family love and togetherness manifested. I always looked forward to going home to Mom’s for the holiday meal along with my siblings. As the family grew larger and Mom grew older, we began staying home and cooking for our own children and grandchildren.

As time passed, our children started preparing the holiday meal for their own children and their offspring, and we began going to one of their homes. This year we will enjoy Thanksgiving with our oldest grandson, Jeremy, and his parents, Mike and Peggy. It is such a warm family time, and a time of giving thanks to our Creator who loves us and provides our every need. It is a blend of Thanksgivings past, memories of long ago, people and times, and weaving present day happiness into the fabric of our lives.

When I was a kid growing up, Thanksgiving always meant hog-killing time. I don’t know why Daddy always chose that time, but it was traditional to do the butchering then. Mom always prepared a big dinner with all the trimmings, but Daddy spent the day in preparing the pork for winter. I think most old folks chose that time, perhaps to have fresh meat for the Thanksgiving meal. When my cousin Carlos (now deceased) was a little boy, he was walking down the road on Twistabout Ridge when he met a neighbor. “What’s new, Carly?” asked the neighbor. Carlos replied, “Pig for thupper!”

That reminds me of little Jamie (well, he was little then!) my brother Larry’s great-grandson, when he went to the Dairy Queen and ordered a barbecue. The waitress asked him, “What do you want on it?” He looked puzzled for a moment, and then replied, “Hawg meat!”

We had cows, but Daddy never butchered beef. Pork was our main meat for the winter, and we ate a lot of cooked apples with it, as Mom felt it would counteract the fat. She would fix spareribs with sauerkraut and hot cornbread.

We always raised horseradish, which we ground up in an old-fashioned hand grinder, and mixed it with vinegar. Oh, it was good with the fresh pork!

Mom would can a lot of the pork, as we didn’t have a deep freezer, and Daddy would cure the hams and bacons. After it was smoked, he hung it in the rafters of the smoke house. I can still see those big pink slices of ham swimming in “striped” gravy—which is what we called the gravy made from the ham drippings. Mom would pour a little coffee into the skillet containing the residue of the fried ham, and sopping a hot biscuit into this “au jus” gravy is a dining experience never to be forgotten. These were the happy, carefree days before cholesterol, and we ate to our heart’s content. Mom ate like this all her life, and lived to the age of 92.

We did have much to be thankful for. Seven healthy children were grouped around the table, although it was homemade, just like the bench behind it. Time passed so swiftly and soon the seven children had their own children around their tables. The weaver threw his shuttle again, and another generation (all our children) have homes of their own.

We are again making memories, to be re-lived in years to come by our descendants. Let us make happy memories.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us, to guide us, our Lord with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining, His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning, the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord make us free.
Transferred from German to English by Theodore Baker

We had an inquiry from Shirley Cunningham of Summersville, who writes, “Would you have any idea how old timers parched field corn? I remember my Dad making it for us in the early ‘50’s. Any ideas would be welcomed.”

I remember that my grandmother made parched corn, but all I can recall is that she used an iron skillet. Maybe someone knows the method and can share it with us.

May everyone have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

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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