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Gardens carry a rag-tag, end-of-summer air, and is almost gone. Only a few scraggly tomatoes and sweet peppers turning red remain. If you search through the dry, rustling cornstalks, you may find fat, yellow ground cherries growing close to the ground. I have a recipe here somewhere for a pie made from these juicy little globules, but I love to pop these little fellows between my teeth. When Daddy was hoeing his garden, he always saved these little clusters for me.

It is time to gather peppermint, and hang it up to dry. It makes a delicious tea, and is so soothing to an upset stomach. I’ll never forget trying to cure my son Andy from a stomachache. He came in from work holding his stomach and complaining of intense pain. I was going to fix him a nice cup of peppermint tea, and he got disgusted with me and called Mom. (She was always the one that we hollered for when we needed help or advice.) This was years ago.

Thank goodness for Mom—she immediately called the doctor and got him an appointment. The doctor promptly socked him in the hospital, and the next day he had a “hot” appendix taken out. I reckon there are some things that peppermint tea won’t cure. We do rely a lot on yellow root, as it is one of the best remedies for a sore throat. The boys are good to gather these wild plants and bring them home to dry.

I think that the pawpaws are beginning to ripen. They are also called “West Virginia bananas”, and custard apples. They do have a creamy, custard-like texture, with large, lima bean-like brown seeds in them. I really like them. Someone asked me for a recipe for a pawpaw pie, and I found one that sounds good. The last one I made was so bad that the hound dog wouldn’t eat it. Here it is: Mix ½ cup of firmly packed brown sugar, 2/3 cup of milk, and three beaten egg yolks together. Cook and stir until thick. Remove from heat; add one cup of pawpaw pulp (sieved) and chill until almost set. Meanwhile, beat three egg whites with ½ cup sugar and a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of flavoring. (Wonder what rum would taste like?) Beat until peaks form, and then fold into the first mixture. Pour into a graham cracker crust and chill until set. (This is not the recipe I made that the dog wouldn’t eat.) Sounds good to me.

Time does fly by on pale, whispery wings, to brush your cheek for just an instant, and then it is forever gone. It was just a short time ago that my brothers and sisters and I were in school together, and then it was my own children, my grandchildren—and now—my great-grandchildren.

We have always been a very close-knit family. Michael lived in Louisiana for several years, and then moved back to the hills to stay. When questioned about going back to his former residence, he would retort, “I never left anything down there!” We are quite a large family; in fact, I think Mom had 50+ descendants when she passed away. Some of us live on the same old property that great-grandpa Huey O’Dell once lived.

We helped raise one another’s children and grandchildren, as they gravitated from house to house. One generation of children grew up and went their way, and another generation would take their place. One of these groups included Joshua, son of Kevin and Sarah. From birth, we were with Josh. He was a good baby, and grew into a good toddler. As soon as he was old enough to follow me around, he was my constant companion—except when he was with Patty!

We hunted wild plants, and gathered peppermint and spearmint. He made cucumber boats, and floated them on the creek. We would follow a certain leaf, or a bark of wood on the creek until it floated out of sight. He was best friends with Benjamin (Andy’s son) and they played and fought some all their childhood. Of course, he grew up, married and had children.

Then his son Hunter came along. He became another sidekick, and grew so close to me. He was my constant help, and would come home from school, open my door and call, “Mommaw, do you need anything done?” He would reach up and lift things for me that I couldn’t reach, help me make cookies and do anything that I asked.

They just moved to another state. I know that other families have gone through this, and that the Lord will help us. I told Hunter that I was afraid that he would grow away from me, and he assured me that he wouldn’t. Of course, our young ones grow away from us. They are supposed to do that. They don’t grow away from our prayers, however. May God keep them safe and in His arms. May they find the way to salvation, and walk in the ways of our Savior. Oh, God, please hold this family safe and secure.

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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