I will go into that subject for just a few lines here, since we all are so glad to see Summer roll around this year of our Lord,, 2015! Indeed! It has been a chilly May and a particularly rainy one also. Thank the good Lord for the rain, because the lakes are getting filled up and we’ll be able to water our lawns, and take those lengthy showers –that is the ones of us who love to get in there and allow that water to beat down on our heads, and then turn around and let is beat on the face for a bit, and we sing in that shower! When the water is dear, then we have be aware of the gallons of water being used! We have to forget about all those verses and just concentrate on getting clean!
Now all of you who love to reminisce with me will be wondering what I remember about June while growing up on the farm in WV. And I’ll give you a small taste of how wonderful it was, for just as soon as the danger of frost was over, my mother was busy in the garden! When she transplanted out of the cold frame into the garden it was my job to go along with catalog leaves and cover the little tender plants fixing the paper down on the corners with small rocks or clods. Even though she did this late in the evening, and watered the plants well, we still covered them for one day and if any were drooping that one was watered again and covered for another day to bring it a bit more time to get rooted.
This early gardening brought early green peas and tiny little new potatoes by June! We could have those little soft shelled peas that you leave in the shell to cook with those tiny little potatoes. Mother made a cream sauce for them and we all went crazy with delight for nothing is so delicious as the vegetables out of the garden after a long winter of out-of-the-cellar meals!
School is out; spring cleaning is behind us and now the big sisters will be allowed to attend Girl Scout Camp! That means two weeks that Mother gives me her undivided attention, and that means we go out in the woods together and gather the wild greens! Mother will show me every plant that is edible and those that are poisonous and when they closely resemble each other, she is careful to teach me how to tell the difference.
There was the ramp, mustard, dandelion, plantain, chickweed, and Shawnee lettuce as well as the clover that the orchard was completely covered with and all of it was organically grown. We never used commercial fertilizers at home, therefore we simply picked some of the clover, dandelion and plantain that were found all around and then we had to go to the woods for the ramp, Shawnee lettuce and also the nettle when it is young and tender. When all the greens are washed, and looked carefully, they are then boiled for half hour in salted water, then drained and reboiled for another half hour. Then they are drained and placed in a skillet with two or three heaping tablespoons of bacon fat. They are then cut back and forth with a sharp knife several times and allowed to simmer for a few minutes to get the flavor of the bacon into the greens. They are usually served with vinegar and we always had cornbread, mashed potatoes, and other veggies such as rutabagas, creamed corn and Mother nearly always had a fruit type of cobbler, or pie to please Dad, and sometimes we had the fried apple pies that we all thought was the last word in treats! She hardly ever made them—that is, to us it seemed forever and therefore this was something special to us.
Now we come to the best part of June—Father’s Day. Here in honor of my father and all fathers, I will tell a story of my father, who, although he was stern and strict nevertheless, had many traits that endeared him to me. Our first-born in the large family, Josephine, was known to be the favorite of both parents. She was constantly held up to each of us as the one that we should emulate, and strange as it may seem, no one in the family ever resented this! All of us admired and loved her. We tried our dead level best to please our parents as did she.
When she was at home for a visit, she was treated as a special guest for she taught school, so when she came she notified Mother in a letter and big preparations were made. Mother outdid herself in the kitchen and Dad pulled out the checkerboard and placed it on the table by his chair for the on-going game. When she arrived he escorted her to the seat of honor beside him and seated her with a flourish
The position of being youngest was the one I held. This favored place gave me the privilege of being taught a special skill that each of the older ones possessed. Since it is all about Fathers I will not cite each of these, but simply that in his case it was that I was allowed to sit on his lap at the age of FIVE and have him read Aesop’s Fables aloud to me and I have never forgotten the out-of-this-world hour of hearing his fabulous voice and his hearty laugh along with Mother’s at some of the stories, and of Mother’s insertion of her adages that emphasized the moral of the story. One that I recall was “One cannot readily believe the one who practices to deceive.” That was when we read The Boy who Cried Wolf.”
This Father of mine told me stories to keep me entertained all the while I turned the grindstone for him to sharpen his tools. The Grindstone Tales are some of my favorite stories to tell. I find myself coloring many of my other tales with some of his expressions that really suit the Appalachian style of telling, for that was how he liked to tell.
I liked to listen to his singing on the front porch. He liked to sing “The Old Kentucky Home,” “I Was Seeing Nellie Home” “O Suzanna” “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes,” and many more of the old favorites. When supper was over in the summer time, Mother would join him and they loved to sing “Twenty Years Ago,” “The Model Church,” “The Ninety and Nine,”and “Long Long Ago.” They sang a song of the counties of WV and I used to know all the words to it, but they have faded from lack of use, but it names the fifty five counties and locates them on the map with such phrases as “making our east panhandle” etc.
Another memorable trait of my father was his love of music and how he bought the violin, repaired it and then played tunes on it for us. This is what inspired brother John to want to learn to play it and my father brought a teacher for him to our home and kept him two years, paid him a salary and John became the state champion at age twelve.
He taught all the boys to shoot fast and accurately with the old mountain rifle which he had acquired and knew how to use. Although he kept hired men who did the heavy work, he also taught each one of them how to guide the horse and plow, how to use the scythe, the cradle, the double bitted axe, the hand saw and the cross-cut saw. They learned the skills of using and caring for the leather and other equipment that we used for the horses, the wagon, the farm sled, and everything they needed to know from his big tool chest of carpenter’s tools. This teaching was done on Saturdays when he had a day off. That was useful training to them all of their years of having to earn a living during the depression when jobs using their heads and hands were all that they could find. All three brothers have told me of how his training stood them in good stead in growing up through difficult times.
I love thinking of Father’s Day because they are the unsung heroes of our lives for naturally the mother has the most concentrated time with us and we are close to her by the fact of birth and how that bonds us. However, I have given here just a “smithering” of the good memories I have of Dad and there are more in the book, Under the Gooseberry Bush.
I hope this has awakened in all who read it another picture of the good traits of your father that you treasure. It is good to think of the miraculous way the Lord has of giving us two parents to love and care for us while we are still infants and we have to be parents before we realize the sacrifices they made for us. At this time I feel totally overwhelmed by the wonder of it.
I recall that many references to their own fathers were in the tales Dad and Mother told to us of their youth. . . .