Here you are, you wonderful month of November. How well I remember you from my childhood, and it was when you made your entrance that our place was absolutely the place to be! Although cool and bright October had come and gone, and Grandma Johnson’s annual visit was still giving us many laughs and pangs of regret that she would not stay on and spend the winter with us, as Mother begged, but NO! At that time she had her husband, Jasper, who always came to hunt while she visited with us, and they owned a sweet little home in St. Albans and she thought there was nothing like her own little home. Her visits were for one week, once a year, in October so that Grandpa Jasper could go hunting.
So now, when November came. Mother always had her hands full for although the harvest was in, and all the canning done, and the veggies safely in their kiln, there will be the butchering now that the days are cold enough. There will be sausage to be made and canned, and souse to be made. My mother was a great home maker. There was nothing she could not do. Thank the good Lord that I was born the ninth child of Missouri Hamrick Johnson. I had my first three grades to her and for that I am forever grateful.
I guarantee when November showed her face in the mountains of West Virginia, that was the time when the ground was covered all over with tiny icicles! Yes! All frosty and white and crunchy under foot! And now the nose was all red when I played outdoors a while!
Well, I welcome you back, November, for it is now that the trees are stripped bare and I could see long distances when I stood on my favorite rock cliff and looked out over the hills. The woods that I walked through to go to school in my ninth year, were quiet now, for the birds were all gone south and the little animals snuggled down in their holes getting ready to take a long nap if they were not already asleep. The stillness– I can still feel the silence of it. As I approach the bend to the Big Hollow I could now hear the roar of the waterfall, and I paused to rest there.
I loved to rest at this spot where there was a beautiful waterfall and I walked over the top of it on my way home. I took time here to pick rhododendron leaves and float them over the falls. Sometimes they were Indians in their canoes, and sometimes it was someone who accidentally went too far and got too close to the falls! They could not escape and I watched as their canoe was dashed into foamy depths at the base of the falls and swallowed up in the churning waters!
Now, in the waning months of the year, 2016, I realize that in just a short while I will have reached the ninety-eighth year of my life here on planet earth and on the twenty-third of January I will celebrate my birthday! The Lord of Hosts has done great things for me whereof I am glad! I would like here to recommend my book of memories, Under the Gooseberry Bush. In it I have 104 stories of my life and this will carry you back all the way to 1919 the year that I was born. I start right there, for I have a story of my birth from my mother and from that we know that my life began with a great story of God’s great mercy and grace.
I love the month of November! By the time Thanksgiving Day arrived, in the place where I lived we were feeling the real winter weather. Sometimes we had a snow. I told about that in my story of the time we entertained an angel, unaware! Well, not exactly unaware for we knew that that the snow drifts were too deep for even a horse to get through to our place. The drifts were up over a horse’s head in places so when a stranger came walking up to the house, the suspicions were running wild but he acted so down-to-earth that it was a great mystery to us. This great story I sent in and it was published in the Guidepost’s magazine, Angels on Earth. It is also in the book, Under the Gooseberry Bush.
No matter what the weather was, we were always going to be toasty warm beside our big fireplace where the boys kept the logs ready to pile on and kept a huge blaze going all the time, so we could play our games in cozy comfort. There is nothing to compare to a wood fire blazing away in a big fireplace with a big family gathered around playing games and having fun with popping corn, cracking nuts, or roasting potatoes or sweet potatoes in the ashes!
In the middle of all this fun, sometimes the father walked through on his way to get a drink of water, and he would stop long enough to ask, “Are the lessons all done?” The answer had better be “Yes, Sir!” He might say, “Max, you had better bring me your arithmetic home work. I will have to take a look.” Then one of the older ones would speak up, “That all right, Father. We checked it for her and she has it all finished.” Then he would go back to his room where Mother was waiting with his favorite book that she was reading aloud. It might be The Saturday Evening Post, where they were reading the famous “Scattergood Baines” story. That was one of their favorites and they couldn’t wait to get up from the supper table, go to their room and read that when the magazine came. He subscribed to several good magazines and they followed all the stories in them as well as every ZanJe Grey book that came off the press. They loved reading. If they ran out of the current things they would go back to the bookcase and read one of their Makers of History. This set of books took each individual famous character from history and wrote a biographical book about them, and the book would read like a good story! I owned that set of books and I gave it to my first born grandson.
Thanksgiving always brought company. Sometimes Jo brought someone, or Irene when she was in college would bring one of her friends and sometimes Aunt Lucy and several of her family with her would be there, or someone from Dad’s people, so we would have a house full and fun going on all the time with the big brothers and sisters. Sometimes we had a jamboree with Cousin Custer Dawson on the banjo, John on the fiddle and Charles on the guitar! We moved the dining table back all the way and the chairs back and made room for Mother and Dad and the grown up company if there happened to be one or two. Then we clogged and the musicians were happy! That always pleases the musicians when people respond with the clog! Then they really bear down on it and it gets better all the time! Jo led all the rest of us in this fun dance and my dad would join in. None of us could match him in stepping it off!
Enough reminiscing! I need to be into the storytelling book now. I have been trying to get strong enough to work on it and I think I can begin now that I have Queen Esther monologue behind me. I am glad to have that off my mind, and now I believe I can get into the revision and expansion of the book which is out of print.. It will be a delight to see it once again in circulation. It is really an excellent book on storytelling in Christian education just as it stands. It was in circulation four printings! I could simply update the resource list, which is one of the most comprehensive, and many people have told me worth the price of the book! But I have many features that I can add to it, for I have been doing workshops far and wide while it was in print, so I have essays that are pertinent and I do want to add them to the book before it goes out again. This time I will publish it myself and it will not go out of print! That is the great thing about publishing it yourself! You don’t have to worry about it going out of print leaving you high and dry! The print on demand has it digitalized and on file indefinitely! You can always order a copy. To get back to the subject, I have to get to work on it, and I will do that in the next week or so.
Before I do, I want to try to get my fruitcakes made with the help of my son. I have all my fruits and just need the last minute things like the white and dark raisins and the nuts, so need to get into it and get it done so it will have time to cure before Christmas. I am going to try to get that done. I did not try last year and this year I must not fail to have that treat for I love to have it on hand. The recipe is Frank’s own family recipe that he has adapted and made his own, so I like to make it in memory of him, for he always made it for me every year, and I never made it until he was in heaven and I knew that he loved to make it, so I have kept it up in his honor. If you want Frank’s recipe, let me know on my email which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you do not have a copy of “Over the River and Through the Woods” to read aloud to your children and sing the tune if you know it, I imagine it is on internet with the music so you can sing along! I always loved using that song with my children and also this one:
There’s a big fat turkey out at grandpa’s farm
He gobbles along his way,
He spreads his tail into a great big fan
And struts around all day.
You should hear him gobble at the girls and boys
For he thinks he’s singing when he makes that noise,
He’ll sing his song another way,
Upon Thanksgiving Day.
Oh, how I love to go to grandma’s house
On Thanksgiving Day!
She always knows just what we like to eat
And what we love to play.
So the turkey’s roasted and the pies are baked,
There’s a big plum pudding and some tarts and cakes,
They smell so good and seem to say,
“Tis glad Thanksgiving Day!
That’s all for this time, folks! The next one is going to be Christmas tidings! I will tell you then about a naughty boy named Jabez Dawes who said he didn’t believe in Santa Claus! I will tell you what happened to him—This is one of Ogden Nash’s funny ones.