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By Sidney Lanier
My soul is sailing through the sea,
But the Past is heavy and hindreth me.
The Past hath crusted cumbrous shells,
That hold the flesh of cold sea-mells
About my soul.
The huge waves wash, the high waves roll,
Each barnacle clingeth and worketh dole
And hindereth me from sailing!

Old Past, let go, and drop i’ the sea
Till fathomless waters cover thee!
For I am living, but thou art dead;
Thou drawest back, I strive ahead
The Day to find.
Thy shells unbind! Night comes behind:
I needs must hurry with the wind
And trim me best for sailing.

This poem was sent to me by a reader, and it speaks to me. How much of the past do we let hang on and hinder us? How many times have you heard, and even spoken these words yourself, “Oh, if I could just go back and do that over?” Or, “How I wish I could live that part of my life over again!” Regrets are useless, and we must realize that the past is gone, and dead. We are alive and must strive to live each day fully and without regrets. Then when we come down to the end of our journey, we can hear our Savior say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . .” (Matt. 25:21) That is my desire.

The first part of February is almost gone. The snow has melted, except for dirty humps of snow that has been plowed and piled up. The groundhog will soon either see his shadow or not…

The lowly little groundhog was a staple in our diet when we lived at Sandyville during our own little recession in ‘57 and ‘58. Young groundhog can be fried like chicken, but I learned how to cook even the older ones. My mother would walk a country mile for a mess of young fried groundhog, but I was pregnant with Kevin and nauseous-I couldn’t eat it. I just cooked it! After we survived our recession and moved back home, any variety of meat that we had on the table, Mike would ask for “Groundhog, please!”

Cousin Ray McCune writes from Waynedale, Indiana, “Groundhog meat saw us through a lot of otherwise meatless hard times.” He included a recipe which I am going to share, but I have never tested it.

One groundhog (field dressed, skinned, cut into five pieces-four hams and back)
Soak in salt water overnight if possible.
Put hams in a heavy pot and cover with water.
Add sliced onion and garlic powder.
Bring to a boil and cook until meat falls off the bone, changing the water three or four times to remove groundhog scent.
Save groundhog back for groundhog stew later. (Recipe forthcoming, Ray?)
Grind meat and add chopped boiled eggs, pickle relish, mayonnaise and ground onion.
Recipe is the same as your favorite ham salad.
Serve as a sandwich spread, or, add extra mayonnaise and serve as a dip with chips.

His recipe to prepare the groundhog is a little different from mine.
After the groundhog is field dressed and skinned (be sure and remove the kernels under the front legs) and soak overnight, I like to parboil the creature in several changes of water. You can use a slug of vinegar and some pickling spice in the last change of water, but I really like a handful of spicewood twigs. Add fresh water and cook until tender. Roll in seasoned flour and fry in lard (yes, you can use oil) in hot iron skillet until crispy. This is a genuine mountaineer recipe!

If you are looking for something different to serve your guests, try the groundhog sandwich spread on crackers, along with a mug of sassafras tea. I guarantee you will be the most talked about hostess in your circle!

Another seed catalog arrived in the mail today, and all thoughts are geared toward spring. Never mind that last year’s garden was a dismal failure-hope springs eternal! It’s hard to leaf through one of these catalogs with its brightly illustrated fruits and vegetables without dreaming of ripe tomatoes, crispy cucumbers, and buttered corn on the cob. Why is it that what we grow doesn’t look like what is pictured in the catalog? While daughter Patty dreams of morel mushroom season, I like to pore over the seed catalogs and dream of gardening season.

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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