Thursday, August 30, 2012


A few weeks ago, Hub and I went to an outdoor concert in middle Tennessee.  It was a beautiful, balmy evening with just enough breeze to keep us comfortable.  We were early, so I had time to sit and listen to the people around me talking.  This is what I heard.

"Yeah, I know him.  He's a curious fellow.  They moved into the old Barton place 'bout twenty years ago.  They stayed to themselves most of the time.  I'd throw up my hand when I passed, and sometimes, they would wave back but most of the time, they just ignored me.  Ever' time you seen them out, they would be bundled up like it was the middle of winter. Heard they came from Michigan or New York, one of them cold places.

I was up one morning fixin' me some breakfast and he just showed up at the door. He said, 'Looks like my boy is going to marry your girl, so I thought we need to get acquainted.'  I told him to come on in and I fixed him a couple of eggs for breakfast.

He was sittin' at the table eatin' his eggs and biscuits when he saw a jar of pepper sauce on the table.  We always leave it settin' there; we eat it with everything.  I told him what it was; he had never seen canned peppers before.  He reached and got a big hot pepper from the jar, and ate it in three bites.  Then he reached and got another one.

By the time he finished his breakfast, he had eaten the whole jar of peppers.  He turned the jar up and drank all the hot pepper sauce.  'Best stuff I've ever had', he said.

Well, our youngun's didn't get along and never married, but I think that pepper sauce changed that man.  He's friendly as he can be to me now.  When you pass down there on the coldest day of the year, he's sittin' on the porch with the sleeves cut off his shirt.  Yes sir, that pepper did something to that man."

There are stories everywhere.  We just have to find time to listen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy, happy birthday, Baby

I birthed two babies on this day, three years apart.

Probably every parent who is honest will admit they did a few things wrong and wish they could go back and change it. Personally, there are many, many things that I wish I could do over.
We won't talk about the things I did wrong, but I did a few things right.

The best thing I did was instill in them a love for the written word.
They still love books, although they can't sit on my lap while I read to them.

Both of them turned out just fine, thank you very much, in spite of the things I did or didn't do.

Happy birthday to my baby boys who turn 42 and 39 today.
You are such blessings to your Dad and me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Last Days of Summer

The garden, like the summer, is growing old, and I am going to miss them both when they are gone.

We still have peas (Hub's favorite) and okra.

We usually have lots of peppers by now, but this year, the pepper plants never recovered from the hot, dry days of June and have withered away. The tomatoes have dried up and gone, but they have produced well. I have canned tomatoes, canned tomato juice, sun-dried tomatoes, frozen tomatoes, and spicy green tomato pickles.  Tomatoes are our favorites, but we have eaten so many by now that I'm not too sorry to see them go.

If you look closely at the exposed dirt, you can see tiny turnip greens and kale coming up, in addition to approximately ten thousand tomato plants that have reseeded themselves.  Hub also planted fall squash and cucumbers that are just ready to start blooming.

The basil plants have gone to seed.  Gold finch love the seed, so the basil will stay as long as it lives.

 The four-o'clocks are at their peak now.

 The tithonia have taken over the other flowers, but a few zinnias still peep through.

Right now, the garden is a sprawling, overgrown, beautiful place, full of birds and butterflies.  It is so much better now than when it was just grass that had to be mowed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Folklife Friday: Morning Glories

I posted this blog about morning glories about this time last year. This morning, as I wandered in the backyard, checking to see what had changed overnight, my Grandma Gean was heavy on my mind. Would she smile at my feeble attempts?

Morning Glories may be the flower I have known and loved the longest.

My maternal grandmother, Mrs. Georgia Gean, was a great lover of morning glories. She lived in a little four-room house that had been converted from an old church/school house. The front porch, with boards for the floor and tin on the roof, was built across the front of the house, which faced directly west.

Grandma had dug up beds running parallel with the porch, on each side of the front door. Each spring, she would plant these beds with morning glory seed she ordered from a seed catalog.

Long before the little plants were ready to send out tendrils, she built a trellis for them to climb on.

Grandma knew what days in early spring would yield the highest sap, and that is when we would go to collect young hickory trees. Gathering her grandchildren and her chopping ax, she would head to the woods to cut down hickory saplings that were bursting with sap. We would haul them home under our arms, even the smallest children helping. After we got them back to her house, we would work for hours removing the bark from the saplings in long, pliable strips.

On a frame made from the newly naked saplings, Grandma would weave the hickory strips into a trellis that reached up to the tin of the porch roof. The hickory would dry and strengthen, lasting until late October frost killed the morning glory vines.

As the days lengthened and warmed in mid-May, the morning glory vines would grow rapidly, several inches a day. Before long, the vines would completely cover the trellises, providing a shelter from the sun and transforming the little porch into a cool, comfortable place.

Like most people during that time, my grandparents had no air conditioning and spent a great deal of the daylight hours of summer on that porch. They ate out on the porch, shelled peas and beans, and visited with company there. Without the morning glory trellises, the porch would have been hotter than inside the house.

Then, in late summer, the morning glory vines would burst into blossoms that were huge in the morning but closed up as the afternoon heat intensified. People passing the house would slow their vehicles to get a better look at the massive blue and purple trumpets. Some would stop for a visit just to get a better look. The blossoms attracted hummingbirds and butterflies, and much time was well spent just watching.

Grandma, her morning glory trellises, and the house they leaned against are long gone. I would love to go back there for a little while with my digital camera to capture the true beauty found on those hickory strip trellises. I would also let Grandma know that her love for flowers and her determination to surround herself with beauty lives on in many of her progeny.

There are a few morning glory vines in my yard that I have planted, and innumerable wild ones that cover the fence and get tangled in my rosemary and peas vines. I plant some seed every year, but up until now, they have never been as pretty as Grandma’s were. I’ll keep trying as long as I'm here.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians4.8

Monday, August 20, 2012

Blame it on Bluegrass

Anybody wondering where I've been?

Listening to a lot of pickin' and doing a lot of grinnin'.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

New Hat for Decoration Day

Anyone who lived during the depression learned to be frugal and remained that way, even after the economy recovered and there was extra spending money. My grandparents had a hard time, struggling to keep their family together.  Mama remembered eating canned garden peas three times a day during one especially hard winter, a winter when they couldn't go to school because they had no shoes.  Having lived through this, Grandma considered it a serious sin to waste money. 

She loved her hats, she did, and allowed herself one new hat a year.  They were always small and black.  It was totally acceptable to wear black hats all year long, but wearing a white hat during the winter would have been considered just plain crazy.  Grandma's new black hat was always purchased in time for decoration day, where it made its first appearance sitting on her gray bun and held in place with a lethal-looking hatpin.

Grandma wore a hat to decoration day every year except one.  It was in '71 or '72.  The day had dawned cloudy with intermittent rain, but nothing short of an F5 tornado would have stopped her from going.  She did concede to going to the cemetery early to put her flowers on the graves, planning to go back home and get dressed for church afterwards.  The cemetery had lots of exposed red clay dirt, and she knew if she wore her good shoes there, they would be ruined.

My lil' ole sister and her new hubby took her and the flowers to the cemetery early before anyone else got there.  As she was walking around, making sure the flowers were properly distributed, she slipped off a wet bank and cut her head on a rock.  Profuse bleeding prompted an immediate trip to the emergency room.

The rest of us were sitting in the church house, singing hymns and wondering where Grandma was, when she made her appearance.  Instead of her usual proper hat, her head was adorned with multiple strips of white gauze holding a bandage in place.  The cut on her head had been long but shallow, but the doctor insisted that she was to go home and stay in bed the rest of the day.  Grandma scoffed at the idea.  I'm sure she would have insisted on going to church even if she had been on a stretcher.  That showed her firm determination, although some spitefully called it just mule stubbornness.

I own several little black hats that I have bought at auctions, but they are all too small for me.  When I want one to wear, I prefer the broad-brimmed and very colorful ones.  Although she probably wouldn't have left the house in my favorite cowboy hat, it is entirely possible that I got my love for hats from my Grandma Gean.

Thanks, Grandma.  Hats have rescued me many times on bad hair days.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sounds of Silence

He says,

Be still, and know that I am God; 

I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10

Friday, August 3, 2012

Folklife Friday: Dinner on the Ground

In a time when there was little opportunity for women to show off their cooking skills, Decoration Day was their time to shine.  This meal was just as important, maybe more so, than Christmas dinner.  Although it was called "dinner on the ground", it was actually served on some rough lumber tables that had the gray patina of ancient artifacts but remained sturdy enough to hold a fine meal.

The lemonade, chocolate cake, apple pies, and oatmeal cookies could be prepared on Saturday and packed in baskets to get a head start on Sunday's chores. Rising with Sunday's sun, Grandma caught, killed, dressed, and fried three chickens. She boiled green beans and peas, both fresh from the garden. She fried squash with onions, then a bowl of battered okra slices. Corn, both creamed and on the cob, were wrapped and packed with corn bread and biscuits. Grandma always packed some peanut butter and crackers, just in case somebody couldn't eat the rich food offered.  Her overflowing baskets and cardboard boxes were neatly covered with starched, embroidered tablecloths that would be spread on the tables.

During this frenzy of cooking, Grandma fed her family breakfast, packed the car with the food and flowers, then bathed and dressed. Grandma knew someone with a camera, and always asked that they come by and take a picture of her and Charlie in front of their prized flower garden. Charlie, tall and thin, in a new shirt that looked exactly like all his other shirts, stood soberly beside the smiling Georgia for the photograph.  I don't know if any of these pictures have survived. I wish I had one to share here, but you will just have to use your imagination.

Upon arriving at the church house and cemetery, the lunch was forgotten in the frenzy to get those colorful flowers on  the graves.  After that job was done, it seemed a long, long time before we were able to eat.  Some went into the tiny church house for singing, but it wouldn't hold all the people there.  There was no air conditioning, so we just hung out in the shade and waited.  We could hear the singing through the open windows.  When it stopped, we knew someone was praying and it wouldn't be long before dinner was spread!

The singing continued after dinner, but most people, full and hot and tired, sneaked away to take a much-deserved nap at home.  On very special days, there was leftovers.