Winter hit our hills with a vicious blow this past weekend, after we were used to the mild, although rainy, days of the past few months. It began with the snow and ice that covered our hills and highways, and then the temperature dropped lower and lower. An arctic chill spread over our land, crept into our houses through every crevice, and settled down up on us.

To complicate matters, our natural gas went off, and stayed off all night. Thanks to our electric blanket, we slept comfortably. Modern appliances makes a situation like this much more bearable, as the microwave oven produced breakfast (scrambled eggs) and the toaster was there for our bread. (I did miss my husband’s hot biscuits!) Andy’s propane heater heated the house comfortably, and we survived very well.

I thought about the past, and how we lived in Jackson County during the winter. We didn’t have natural or propane gas, but we did have wood stoves and a drilled well on the back porch. Even if the electric power failed us, we could wind up a bucket full of water with the rope pulley. There were woods surrounding us on all sides, and plenty of firewood to be gathered.

With a double fireplace between the living room and downstairs bedroom, it made the upstairs bedrooms warm and cozy. Sometimes I think that the old time way of living was a lot better when electric power and gas fails. When the power goes off, we have no water to use or flush the commode. The old outhouse needed no water, and there was always enough wood around to keep the wood stoves stoked.

Summertime was better, for our little creek boasted a small waterfall, which we used for a warm shower. We had no close neighbors, so our privacy was ensured as we took advantage of our outdoor bathroom. Our little Eden was fairly idyllic, except for my fear of the copperhead snakes that also lived there.

We had a reservoir on the kitchen range that heated water as we cooked, and our dishwater was furnished there. One of my friends, Jack Ballard of Lewisburg, told me something that I didn’t know. (Mom used to say, “I never heerd tell of the like!”) He said that his father (or was it his grandfather?) used the reservoir on his stove to keep green beans cooked all summer. Why wouldn’t that work for dry beans? It would be sort of like a slow cooker, it seems.

When I grew up, we lived the old-timey way. This way of life was pretty hard though, when it came to bath time. We used a tin wash pan for everyday ablutions, but Saturday night baths were a different story. Water had to be carried from the old hand pump down in the Virginian Gas office yard, poured into big kettles and heated on the kitchen range. Then it was poured into a number three washtub placed in the corner of a bedroom. No wonder we only did this once a week!

I’ll never get through thanking the good Lord for a bathtub and hot water that comes out of a spigot with the turn of a handle. I am also thankful for furnace heat that comes on with the click of a button, and electric lights that shine bright. When we lived on Davis Creek, we had kerosene lamps that were powered with lamp oil. Also, when I was a kid growing up, we had gas mantles. Gas pipes overhead had fixtures that these fragile mantles were affixed to, and were lit with a match. I can remember Mom cautioning us not to stomp around, lest we knock off a mantle.

When we got the old house wired for electricity, it was a day of celebration! Uncle Myles gave us a big radio which stood on the floor, and we got acquainted with “Terry and the Pirates,” and “Dagwood and Blondie” (Do you remember Dagwood saying, “Oh, Mrs. Buff-Orpington!”) I was so eager to come home from school and turn on the radio!

Yes, modern technology has given us so many things. Today’s young people can’t imagine being anxious to turn on the radio for entertainment. They have so many electronic gadgets and complicated toys that listening to a radio program would be petty to them. It was a source of pleasure for us.

Well, our gas has been off now for the second day and night, and I can’t think of anything more appealing than a little log cabin tucked back in the hills, with a log fire burning bright and sending out warm heat. Also, I want a wood-burning cook stove to bake biscuits! I can dream, can’t I?

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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