Saturday, June 30, 2012

Keeping Cool

Wouldn't it be nice to stick our feet in a cold mountain stream on a day like today?

Wading a cold creek on a hot day is the best way to cool off.  Some of us, however, don't have a lovely creek in the backyard to wade in.  Next best thing: soak your feet in a dishpan or tub of cold water.

Keeping your feet in cold water for just a few minutes will cool you all over.  I don't know how this works exactly; I do know that our feet have more than 250,000 sweat glands each, so that probably has something to do with it.

If you must go outside, a wet washcloth on the back of your neck works wonders, too.

Hang in there.  The weatherman has promised cooler weather next week with temps staying under a hundred.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot

Things I am most thankful for today:
    Air conditioning
     An inside job
      Good, cool water
        A backyard, although crispy, that is not on fire.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Just Out for a Morning Walk

 I know what you're thinking. Since I have been posting about Cades' Cove all week, it is only natural that you would think this scene is right out of a lovely mountain meadow.

Or maybe it could be from some of the hiking trails near the Smoky Mountain National Park Greenbrier entrance, one of our favorite hiking places.

Actually, it is near the Greenview Cemetery, about 1/4 mile from our house in beautiful, steamy North Alabama. 

Beauty is everywhere.  We just have to open our eyes and take time to look.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

If Walls Could Speak

If These Walls Could Speak
 by Jimmy Webb

If these old walls, if these old walls could speak.
What a tale they have to tell, hard headed people raisin' hell.
A couple in love livin' week to week.
Rooms full of laughter, if these old walls could speak.

If these old halls, if hallowed halls could talk.
These would have a tale to tell, the sun goin' down and dinner bells.
And children playin' at hide and seek.
From floor to rafters, if these old walls could speak.

If these old fashion window panes had eyes.
I guess they would have seen it all.
Each little tear and silence step fall.
And every dream that we came to seek,
And followed after, if these old walls could speak.

They would tell you that I owe you,
More that I could ever pay.
Here's someone who really loves you,
Don't ever go away.
That's what these walls would say.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

John Oliver Cabin

The John Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove is the typical mountain cabin: made from logs with a fireplace and a sleeping area in the attic.  John and his wife were some of the first white settlers to the area, and would have starved the first winter without help from the Cherokee who lived there.  The couple had nine children (two died as infants) and raised them in this cabin.

The very knowledgeable volunteer ranger counted off nine of us in the small area (the whole house was smaller than our living room) and asked us to imagine living there.  He explained that the cabin was for sleeping and storage; everything else was done outside. And who wouldn't want to stay outside, when your front yard looks like this?

One of the ladies in the crowd asked the ranger, "How in the world did they have that many children in this crowded cabin with no privacy?"

The ranger sheepishly smiled and said, "Pretty much the same way we do it today."

Monday, June 25, 2012


Most of you know that the Smoky Mountain National Park is my favorite place on Earth to be.  We have been countless times, but we never run out of fun things to do. 

Last week, we were in the Smokies for six days, and still didn't get to visit all the places we wanted to see.  We did a lot of hiking, lingering, and listening.  Y'all know you are going to hear more about this, right?

We got home Friday afternoon, and yesterday afternoon, I spent some time planning our next trip over to East Tennessee/North Carolina.  I'm teaching in July, so I will have to stay home then.  Hopefully, I'll be canning tomatoes and vegetable soup during July, too.

Life is so full and good.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~John Muir

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Folklife Friday: Green Beans

We grow green beans every year.  Rattlesnake is our favorite because they seem to last longer after the intense heat of July and August gets here.  We stake them on tepees of bamboo poles. This year, we have had some good rain at good times so we have lots of beans.  LOTS of beans.

I usually break the beans with a novel being read to me from a CD.

It is mindless work, so I can pay attention to the story.  I was finished with this batch by the time one CD was finished.

This batch produced fifteen pints of green beans.  I use pints when it is just the two of us; I can quarts for nights we have company for supper.

Doesn't that look good?  I canned these on Monday of last week.  Last Thursday, I canned six quarts. I haven't picked them since then, so I know the vines are going to be full when I venture back out there. 

A bowl of green beans at Thanksgiving dinner is as much a staple at our house as dressing and cranberry sauce.  I'm good to go for another year!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice

Tonight at 6:09 CDT, the Summer Solstice will begin.  This will be the longest day and the shortest night of the whole year.  Summer officially begins, and what's not to love about summer?

We have fresh food from out gardens and flowers are blooming.  There is not so much laundry since we don't have to wear three layers of clothing.  School is out and we can wade in the creeks.  There are weddings and festivals and vacations and daylight 'til bedtime.  And, of course, lightning bugs! Oh, and watermelon!  Tomato sandwiches...I could go on and on.

My youngest son spent one summer in Alaska and saw how the solstice was celebrated there.  He had trouble sleeping because it was always daylight...just weird, he said.  He did enjoy the Solstice parties with grilled moose burgers.

Heat doesn't bother me....anything below eighty seems a little chilly to me.  So, I'm ready.  This is going to be the BEST SUMMER EVER!!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cheap Art

Old chair bought at Zip City Auction:  $2

Yellow paint left over from our kitchen update: Free

Green pot found on the side of the road:  Free

Plants from Lowe's: ~$5

Wreath from Loaves and Fishes Thrift Store:  $1.50

Having this on my front porch: Priceless

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Celebrate Saturday: Fly

Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself.

If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun.~C.S. Lewis

This is the week-end, kind friend, the time to search for new adventures and make some memories.  Don't let this day end without making it one to remember!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Folklife Friday: Canning

There are those among us who think I'm a little touched in the head because I love to can food. I don't know where this comes from; perhaps a primordial instinct somewhere in that part of the brain we don't understand to store food for the winter? Usually, I don't do things the hard way if there is an easier option.  But I just love canning. 

It's much easier now than when we were children.  Mama felt herself a failure if she didn't have a room full of stored food.  She canned all the fruits and vegetables until she finally got a huge chest freezer.  We thought we had died and gone to heaven when we could just put that corn in bags instead of canning it over a hot stove.  It also meant we didn't have to wash canning jars that were brought up from the storm house, full of spider webs and dead bugs and unknown objects.  Sometimes, a lid would have rusted on the jar, which had to be removed and the rust scrubbed off so the jar was suitable for use. My lil' ole sister and I hated it when we had to scrub that rust off!

After Daddy retired, he and Mama would sometimes can things outside in a wash tub using the water bath process.  A fire was built under the water-filled tub and the water was kept at boiling temperatures for about three hours.  Daddy loved to keep the fire going.  Mama liked it because it didn't heat up the house, and over thirty quarts could be canned at once, instead of  seven in the pressure cooker.

My freezer gets filled with corn, sweet potatoes, and some tomatoes.  The beans and peas are canned, simply because we prefer the way the canned ones taste.  I love canning vegetable soup when I can get all the ingredients together at the same time.  Some things I have to can--hot slaw, pickled okra, jams and jellies.  I always can extra to give away at Christmas.

My pressure cooker was ordered from Sears about 1975, and I still have all the original parts (except for a handle on the lid) and even the instruction book.  Every year at canning time, I'm amazed when I find it all. 

This leads me to a story I heard about a sweet lady from over on Horse Creek who got herself a new-fangled pressure cooker.  She was so proud of it, and used it for everything she could think of.  One cold hog-killing day, a neighbor, who knew how she loved souse (head cheese), brought by a hog's head for her.  She whipped that pressure cooker out and sealed that hog's head up in it to cook.

Something went terribly wrong.  After the proper cooking time, she couldn't remove the top from the cooker.  It might have been that all that hog fat clogged something up, or the sealing ring may have just melted.  She was outraged, and promptly returned the pressure cooker to Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck, hog's head and all. 

I have often wondered about the poor worker whose job it was to handle returns. Was she having a good day up until the time she opened that package? Was she able to keep her breakfast when she opened the lid to see  a week-old hog's head decaying?  Did she consider a career change?  The Horse Creek lady got a new pressure cooker, but we never heard the rest of the story.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Consider the Lilies

Consider how the lilies grow.

They do not labor or spin.

Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

Luke 12:27

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Railroad Bill

The following story about Railroad Bill was told and written by Kathryn Tucker Windham in her book Alabama: One Big Front Porch.  I love her stories and wanted to share one with y'all.

Somehow nobody can tell a story about Brewton, Alabama, without at least mentioning Railroad Bill.  He didn't have anything to do with courthouses or with cats--unless you believe the tales they tell down in south Alabama about how Railroad Bill could change himself into a cur dog or a fox or a sheep or even a cat when the law got too close to him.

Railroad Bill started running from the law when he and a deputy sheriff had a misunderstanding about a Winchester rifle Bill owned, and Bill wounded the deputy with the gun.  Bill caught a freight train to take him away from the place.  Riding freight trains got to be a habit with Bill.  So did stealing from them.

He'd break open a boxcar while the L&N freight train (Bill was partial to the L&N) was lickety-splitting along, and he'd throw out whatever struck his fancy.  Then, later, he'd walk back along the tracks and collect his loot.  Some of the stolen goods he used himself, some he sold, and a lot he gave away.

Many black families living along the L&N tracks hardly ever had to buy canned food when they went to the store.  They'd help Bill--tell him when the sheriff was getting close and let Bill sleep in front of their fire and such--and he'd see that they had something to eat.

Bill got so bold and bad about stealing out of boxcars that the railroads put detectives on his trail, and every sheriff in south Alabama and northwest Florida was out to get him.  Got so that a man didn't stand a chance of getting elected sheriff if he didn't make a solemn promise to catch Railroad Bill.

They all promised, but they didn't catch him.  Black folks said the law wouldn't ever catch him because Railroad Bill was magic: he could turn himself into any kind of animal he wanted to any time he needed to.  That's what they said.

Bill could do tricks.  He had traveled with a little old three-monkeys-and-an-elephant circus for awhile, long enough to learn how to walk on his hands and to swallow an egg whole and cough it back up without even cracking the shell, and such as that.

When he heard that Sheriff Edward S. McMillan was after him, Bill knew he was going to need all his tricks.  He wished Mr. Ed wouldn't try to catch him, even wrote the sheriff a note and asked him not to come.  "Please don't come after me.  I love you," the note said.

But Sheriff McMillan didn't pay any mind to that note.  He went after Bill and hemmed him up, and Bill shot and killed the high sheriff of Escambia County.

Then Bill really had to run.  But he kept on looting boxcars and spreading the loot around.

The sharecroppers and the turpentine workers and the hands at the peckerwood sawmills talked about Railroad Bill and made up songs about him and laughed at the white folks thinking they could catch a trickster like Bill.  Every time they heard about another one of Bill's pranks, they added another verse to their songs.

"Ain't nobody never gonna catch that man!" they'd say.  "Can't kill Railroad Bill."
Bill did get killed though, got shot dead before he had time to work his magic and change himself into an animal and run free.

The railroad officials and the law put Bill's body on a train and took it all over south Alabama.  The train stopped at every town so folks could come look at Railroad Bill's body and see for themselves that he really was dead.

The blacks came and they looked at the body laid out on the rough boards, but they knew Railroad Bill wasn't dead.  Not really.  He couldn't be dead, not him.

Years later, during the Great Depression, when the government was sending commodities to hungry folks to keep them from starving, some of the hungry folks down around Brewton just laughed and laughed.  They knew the government didn't send the food: Railroad Bill left it for them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kathyrn Tucker Windham

My hero, Kathryn Tucker Windham, died one year ago today.  She had just turned 93. What a loss for me, the whole state of Alabama, and storytellers everywhere!

Mrs. Windham was in her late eighties when I met her, but I had been a fan of her books for many years before that.  She came to UNA for a program a few years ago.  Some said she wouldn't draw a crowd, but they were so wrong.  My granddaughters, one in kindergarten and the other in fourth grade at the time, went with their friends to the performance, and they all loved her.  After she finished telling stories, Mrs. Windham sat for hours and signed her books for everyone who wanted her to.  My granddaughters treasure their signed books, even more so since she has passed away.

When we sat on the porch on the hot summer nights of my youth, hoping to catch any stray breeze that happened by, we listened to Daddy tell stories.  Some of them he told so often, we could repeat them almost word for word.  If there had been choices, we would have preferred going to the movies or visiting our girlfriends.  Only a storyteller can understand how deeply I wish I had written all those stories down before I got the CRN disease (can't remember nothing, for the uninformed).

We lived through the years where we were too cool and sophisticated to sit still and listen to stories, but I am so over that.  In the last few years, I have grown to love this art of storytelling. Of course, my daddy and most of the other storytellers of my youth are no longer with us.

We have attended several festivals where Mrs. Windham was telling her stories.  I had the honor to meet her and speak with her personally.  We have missed her this year every time we have listened to stories.

You can hear some of her stories on

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tree Trimming

When we were house hunting ten years ago, the two huge trees in the backyard were what I liked best about this house.  One a poplar and the other scaly-bark hickory, they have shaded our deck and provided a habitat for birds, squirrels, and lots of insects.  I have no way of dating them, other than comparing them to similar trees in the area that are more than a century old.

Two years ago in July, during an insignificant thunderstorm,  the poplar was struck by lightning, which burned a strip from the bottom to almost the top of the tree, in addition to scaring at least ten years off my life.

We removed the fried television sets and computers and repaired the rest.  The tree looked fine.

Then, last year, I went out to the backyard to see this huge fungus growing about eye level.  Fungi, of course, will not grow on living tissue, so my heart fell to my stomach and I feared for that tree.

Last year, a few limbs didn't get leaves in the spring.  This year, there were a few more that remained bare.  I am not ready to remove the whole tree yet, so Saturday, we had a tree service team remove the dead branches before they fell on something important, like me or my dog.

When he was finished, the tree trimmer said that the tree was basically healthy and might last fifty more years.  If it does, someone else will have to deal with it; pretty sure I won't last that long.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Old News

Quite frequently, I hear the lament that people are meaner today than they have ever been.  Do you agree?  Or, maybe it's just that we are bombarded with this meanness on the Internet and television.  Can you remember when the nightly news could be broadcast without copious cleavage?

People were pretty much the same a hundred years ago as they are now.  There was some lingering morality then, so perhaps many just didn't parade their sin like they do now.  Or, maybe they did. Or, maybe they were just misunderstood.

The following snippets are from a local newspaper from a while back.

Caleb FRY, a crazy man from Winston county, hanged himself with hickory bark near Cullman a few
days ago. He had been carried to the Insane Asylum, but Dr. Bryce refused to receive him because he was not insane. (7 Jun 1883 Moulton Advertiser)

A Brutal Act
One Bob CORNELIUS, who has been working for Mr. R.J. STEPHENSON near Danville, for three years or more, and who married Miss Lotsy COLQUITT last December, soon became jealous of her, and within five months, drove her from his home. On Monday the 14th, he borrowed a gun, and intercepting he wife on her way from her Danville home, forced her into a thicket and throwing her to the ground attempted to cut her throat. He no doubt thought he had killed her. as the wound reached from ear to ear. The unfortunate woman is now believed to be recovering. MA Oct.24,1895

Governor O'NEAL has issued a parole to Exie HARTLEY, a 17 year old white girl, who has been convicted in Cherokee county and sentenced to six months for vagrancy. The case presents the most revolting situation in Alabama prison annals. The girl has been sent to Flat Top mines to serve her term with some 600 other convicts, most of whom were negro men, she being the only woman in the mines. The case is a disgrace to the state of Alabama and the legislature should take some steps to prevent a repetition of this in the future.(Moulton Advertiser 5 Aug 1914)

Dr. John P. HODGES of Oakville, one of the most successful physicians in the State, was to see us last Friday and in conversation with him gave us the details of a human curiosity which he was called in to treat a few days before. A baby with two heads, four arms and hands, four legs and feet, but with one body, was born to Mr. and Mrs. John MANN on the 11th of this month. The child lingered about twelve hours and died. This is indeed a human curiosity, but the child is far better off dead than alive. Dr. Hodges reports the mother as doing well. (Moulton Advertiser 20 Jan 1887)

J. V. LOVE, formerly of this county, was arrested in Tuscaloosa last week for reckless driving and will be sent to the assylum. When taken up, he had quite a sum of money on his person. (Moulton Advertiser 30 Apr 1905)

Rev. J. W. SHOEMAKER, who endeavored to steal a few postage stamps from Uncle Sam, was tried at the recent Conference in Huntsville and expelled from the Methodist Church. Poor creature! His greed has placed a stain upon him which can never be erased, but he is not alone. There are others, high in position, whose crimes will some day be revealed to the public.(December 8, 1898 MA)

Mrs. Lizzie SHELTON, a lady of high social standing in Scottsboro, while walking across the street last Wednesday, seeing Hugh BYNUM at a distance, called him to her side, drew a pistol and shot him through the shoulder. She fired twice again without effect, and then surrendered to the authorities. She claims that Bynum had insulted her.    (Moulton Advertiser 4 Jun 1885)
Jos. SMITH hanged himself in Lauderdale county but the world moves on just the same.
(Moulton Advertiser 29 Sep 1908)

W. C. WHITFIELD was killed with an ax by T. M. TIDWELL, near Scottsboro, last week. Cause ; women and whiskey. (Moulton Advertiser 5 Mar 1885)

Wash WRIGHT was shot and killed by Al GLOVER at a church Sunday,in Lauderdale county. 
Both young men, and they fell out about a girl.(Moulton Advertiser 28 Jun 1916)

Miss Sallie H. WALLACE, nine years old, recently eloped with W. D. BAILY from Waterford, Miss.,
and was married to him. Baily was jailed at Boliver, Tenn., and the baby wife returned to her mother. (Moulton Advertiser 26 Dec 1889)

Willie GOODWYN, a robust man, is in jail in Marion county for stealing and marrying a 10-year old girl. (Moulton Advertiser 15 Mar 1910)

There you go.  Does anything sound familiar?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Grocery Shopping

If you haven't been to the grocery store this week, here's an ad for you.

Actually, this ad is from the 1930s for a local grocery store.  I found it in Sweetwater: The Story of East Florence by William Lindsey McDonald.

The thing I found most strange was the 1/2 cent on some of the items, such as their 10 cent napkins at only 7 1/2 cents.  I would be so happy to pay 17 1/2 cents for a whole pound of cream cheese.

Ten pounds of potatoes was the same price as a pound of bacon.  A dozen apples were 12 cents, compared to a can of peaches for 15 cents. I know what our fruit would have been that week.

The best thing about this ad is the promise to have these groceries delivered to your kitchen.  People then  must not have been as picky as we are now.  I think I could live with whatever the grocer picked out for me just to keep from going  to the store.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sam P. Jones

We are told that God never changes, but the way we worship and the teachers/preachers certainly do change.  I love reading about the preachers who made such a difference as our country was being settled.  One of these was Sam P. Jones.

Jones was an alcoholic lawyer who became a Christian.  Later, he was an evangelist (revivalist) who led crusades all over the country. The following excerpt from the book, Life and Saying of Sam P. Jones by Mrs. Sam P. Jones, tells of a revival in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1884.

At Chattanooga he (Sam Jones) held one of the strangest and most peculiar, yet powerful meetings in his life.  Dr. G.C. Rankin, who was pastor of the old Market Street church, tried to get the ministers of the other denominations to join him in an invitation to Mr. Jones for a union revival.  Not one of them was willing to enter into such an arrangement; then Dr. Rankin invited him to hold the meeting in his church.
        The newspapers were soon full of the proposed meeting, and no little excitement   was created by some of the stories circulated.  One of the reporters said, "If Sam Jones cuts and slashes into society people, as we understand he does, during his meeting, we are going after him without mercy."  Dr. Rankin said, "All right, I will have tables inside the altar railing for the reporters, and they can have a fine chance at him."
The day arrived for the meeting, and Mr. Jones and the pastor started to the church and found the streets packed for 100 feet with people trying to crowd into the building.  Finally, they reached the pulpit, and after a song and prayer, Mr. Jones was introduced.  He referred to the singing, saying, "You can stop that singing, I could take two or three Negroes down in Georgia and beat all such music as that."
Then, leaning on his hand and resting with his elbow on the stand in his inimitable style, he stared at the reporters for two or three minutes without a word.  The congregation began to laugh, and for five minutes there was an uproar.  Then, without changing his position, he said, "My! my! I would not mind being swallowed by a whale, but to be nibbled by such a lot of tadpoles as you reporters is enough to give a man the jimjams."  The congregation was convulsed.  Then he said, "Boys, I know the threats of some of you, and if you bother me you will hit the ground rolling.  I will have four shots a day at you, while you will only get one nibble a day at me, and if you can stand it I can."
He preached, and at the night service the audience was still greater, and he said, "Now the next sermon will be at six o'clock in the morning."  The people went away feeling that no one would be present, but next morning before good daylight people were seen flocking towards the building and the church was full, and you could scarcely find a vacant seat.  He preached four times a day, and the people were being converted at every service.  The newspapers, instead of carrying out their threats, filled the papers with his sermons, and editorials rang with his praises.
After that night the preachers joined forces with him, and the meeting was no longer confined to the old Market Street church, but adjacent churches thrown open to overflow meetings.  The meeting continued to grow in power until many of the most prominent men of the city had been converted.  The friendship and love of the citizens of Chattanooga for Mr. Jones increased as time went by, and some of the warmest friends he has in the world are the converts of that meeting. 



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Celebrate Saturday: Seeking Refuge

                                                                                           National Geographic Photo

God is not an employer looking for employees.

       He is an Eagle looking for people who will take refuge under his wings.

               He is looking for people who will leave father and mother and homeland or anything else that may hold them back from a life of love under the wings of Jesus.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Folklife Friday: Making Kraut

The few cabbage plants we planted this year did very well.  We have had lots of slaw and fried cabbage, but there was no way we could eat all that cabbage before it spoiled.  I made 24 pints of kraut to have after the garden is long gone.

My mom always canned lots of kraut.  It was a good source of vitamin C when we didn't have any fresh vegetables from the garden.  On special nights, it had sausage or hot dogs in it.

Grandma has a huge kraut cutter someone had made that fit perfectly over a wash tub.  So when the cabbage was ready, Mama would take all of us to Grandma's for a kraut making day.  We took turns running the cabbage over the blade of the kraut cutter, and the big tub filled up pretty quickly.  When half or more of the cabbage was shredded, some of us would go inside for the canning part.

The shredded cabbage was packed in sterilized quart jars.  A little canning salt was added, then boiling water was poured over it until it was covered.  A new lid was put on the jar, and it was turned upside down until it sealed. Afterwards, the cans were stored in the dark.  I remember one day when we made over eighty quarts.

The cabbage was cut outside under Grandma's big oak, and that part was kinda fun unless the sweat bees were bad.  The inside part--not so much fun, but we knew it had to be done.  Mama and Grandma would always remind us not to eat too much of the fresh cabbage--they knew a little girl who had died from it.  I don't know how much was too much, but we ate plenty and suffered no consequences.
Grandma would not allow anyone to help if they were having their period; she was convinced it would cause the kraut to go bad.  That might have been the only time when I was happy for the monthly 'visit'.

We have five more cabbages growing the garden.  I'm planning to make hot slaw with them.  My sons think hot slaw is the best thing I make, but that's a blog for another day.