Wednesday, 04 January 2012 13:34
The accident that almost happened…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller
Snowy winters were always a treat growing up. The best part about when it snowed was there wasn’t any school. But close behind no school were all of the things we did when it snowed.
Winter brought all kinds of new things in the way of having fun. Snow-crème, snowball fights, ice-skating, building igloos, and sleigh riding. We almost spent as much time outdoors during the cold winter days as we did on a hot summer day.
One thing I remember we never had fancy winter coats, gloves, or winter boots to fight the cold weather. Nobody did. Back then when we went outdoors we dressed something like this:
Shoes- The only shoes I remember wearing in the winter were brogans. They were ankle high, unlined, leather, lace-up shoes that were not originally waterproof. We took care of that by rubbing them down with the skin off of a middling of bacon. The fat on the hog’s skin made the boots almost waterproof but they were still plenty cold.
Socks- To keep our feet from frostbite we come up with a good invention using a Rainbo or Kern’s lite-bread bag. First we put on a pair of socks and then we went over our socks with the plastic bread bag. Then another sock went over the bread bag. Sometimes even another pair of socks if our shoes were big or loose enough to still get your foot in them. It was warm and waterproof until your toenails punctured a hole in them.
Pants- We usually wore long johns or cotton sweat pants under two pair of pants. We put rubber bands around the cuffs of the legs to keep out snow and ice.
Coats- The way we did our upper body half was as many tee-shirts, sweatshirts, or sweaters we could get under our wool jacket.
Head gear- Most times a “boggan” or a ball cap was the only thing we had to cover our heads. If that didn’t work we just covered up as much as we could with one of Momma’s scarves.
I hate to sound like an old person but the winters back then seemed a lot colder and the snow came much more often. Lots of winter days were spent all bundled up outside in sub-freezing temperatures and many hours were spent on our pond ice-skating and riding sleighs on the ice if it was frozen hard enough to support us.
Now, here is my story. One winter our pond froze really thick with ice. Several nights the temperature had been below zero. The snow was so bad that winter that we were off school from Christmas break until Valentines Day.
We had our on little ice rink that winter for several weeks. We skated on the ice and rode our sleighs down the hills that surrounded our pond onto the ice for many wild rides.
Then in February the weather turned a little warmer and the snow began to melt a little. The pond also started to melt a little getting a wet top to the frozen ice but we still kept riding and playing on the ice. Not thinking of the danger.
The warm spell continued and one day Anthony, Carlos and Darlene had gone to the pond like the many days before. But today was a little different. No one check out the ice condition as to whether it was safe to play on or not. That was a big mistake.
The three pulled the sleigh to the hill beside the pond and all three got on the sleigh for another ride to the ponds icy surface. But what they didn’t notice was the sun had melted the edge of the ice completely.
Down the snow covered hill they sped but when they reached the edge of the pond the ice broke through and they crashed into the cold water.
All three were in the cold water and neither could swim. Anthony and Carlos were trying desperately to get their little sister out of the water but every time they lifted her up onto the edge of the ice it broke off again and again.
Finally, they decided to get out they had to make it back to the ponds edge. All three clung to each other as the finally reach the bank of the pond. A terrible tragedy had been avoided. All three were cold and wet but at least our family was still complete.
Just the thought of what could have happened still gives me cold chills even today. Our family was a close family and a loving family. I can’t imagine what it would have done to my parents and the rest of my brothers and sister if the accident that almost happened, hadn’t turned out the way it did.
Wednesday, 28 December 2011 13:25
Why leave everything up to fate for the New Year. Wouldn’t it be better if you could increase your chance of good fortune? Well here’s what my Momma and Daddy had to say about how food could bring a person good luck for a new year if eaten on the first day of January.
The number one good luck food, the one we had every New Year’s Day for as long as I can remember, was black-eyed peas with hog’s jowl. Momma would always have a big pot of the black-eyed peas cooking with the pork and onions added to them for one of the best meals a person could ever hope for. And everyone had to have a big helping of them. She wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I did a little research on where the tradition started and here’s what I found out.
The “good luck” tradition of eating black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud in 500 AD. Abaye said, “Now that you have established that good luck symbols avail, you should make it a habit to see qara (bottle gourd), rubiya (black-eyed peas), kartei (leeks), silka (beets or spinach), and tamrei (dates) on your table on New Years Day.”
In the United States the Jews arrived in Georgia in the 1730’s and have lived there continuously since. The non-Jews around the time of the Civil War apparently adopted the Jewish practice.
A similar story says that during the Civil War, when the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi was under siege from the Union soldiers, they ran out of food.
The common practice of the Union troops of the North then was to strip the South’s countryside of all stored food, crops, and livestock and destroy everything they couldn’t carry away. At that time Northerners considered “field peas” and field corn suitable only for animal fodder and did not steal or destroy these humble foods.
The residents of Vicksburg ate the cooked black-eyed peas (or as some people referred to them, cowpeas) to keep from starving and from that day forward the meal was considered lucky. Some even believed you should eat one pea for every day in the new year. That way you would have 365 days of good luck.
The pork part of good luck is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. A roasted suckling pig is served for New Year’s in Cuba Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria. Different pork dishes such as pig’s feet are enjoyed in Sweden while Germans feast on roast pork and sausages.
In Spain, twelve grapes are eaten at midnight, one grape for each stroke of the clock. Each grape represents a different month so if the third grape happened to be sour, March might be a bad month. For most the goal was to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight.
Some countries eat cooked greens, including collards, kale, chard, and cabbage. The reason, their green leaves look like folded money and are thus symbolic of economic fortune. It’s widely believed that the more greens one eats the larger one’s fortune next year.
Fish is another choice for many at the New Year’s table. The Danish eat boiled cod, while in Italy, baccala, or dried salt cod, is enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s. Herring is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany. Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck.
In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life, and fried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize rice fields).
Cakes and other baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with an emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped items. In certain cultures, it’s customary to hide a special trinket or coin inside the cake, the recipient will be lucky in the new year (if he or she doesn’t break a tooth).
In addition to the aforementioned “lucky” foods, there are also a few to avoid. Lobster, for instance, is a bad idea because they move backwards and could lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the fowl scratches backwards which could cause regret and dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.
Now that you know what to eat, there’s one more superstition to keep in mind. In Germany, it’s customary to leave a little bit of each food on your plate past midnight to guarantee a stocked pantry in the New Year.
It’s also bad luck to do your laundry on New Year’s Day. Momma said if you did that meant you would be doing laundry the entire year.
We kiss those dearest to us at midnight not only to share a moment of celebration with our favorite people, but also to ensure those affections and ties will continue throughout the next twelve months. To fail to smooch our significant others at the stroke of twelve would be to set the stage for a year of coldness.
Wear something new on January 1st to increase the likelihood of you receiving more new clothes during the year to follow.
Do not pay back loans or lend money or other precious items on New Year’s Day. To do so is to guarantee you’ll be paying out all year.
And why do we have revelers on New Year’s Eve blowing horns and yelling “Happy New Year!” It’s said that the more noise we make by celebrating the more we scare away evil spirits.
Happy New Year’s everyone and don’t forget the black-eyed peas and hog’s jowl. It couldn’t hurt.
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 13:49
The Christmas Gift…a boy’s memories.
By: Rodney Miller
I had a dream the other night. I dreamed I was a small boy again back at home and it seemed so real. It was nearly Christmas and I was helping Momma decorate a small cedar tree that I had cut from the mountain behind our house. We were singing Christmas songs as I untangled the lights to be strung on our little tree. We had used the same decorations year after year and they were beginning to look a little aged. Some of the bulbs didn’t work or had lost part of their luster, the garland had been broken and retied, and the icicles were really a mess. But after Mom was finished, the tree look like a masterpiece.
The last thing to go on the tree was the tree topper, a small angel with feathered wings and it was something Dad always did, but Dad wasn’t there, so Momma asked me if I would place the angel at the top of our Christmas tree. Momma handed me the angel and warned me to be careful as I climbed into a chair to reach the top. I gently placed the angel at the top of the tree and climbed down to check how the angel looked. Momma then handed me the extension cord that went to the lights and I plugged it into the wall outlet. It was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen.
Everything on the tree looked brand new again. The lights sparkled like diamonds, colorful and bright. The icicles moved as if there was a slight breeze blowing them, reflecting the colored lights. The Christmas bells never looked more stunning. They too, seemed to be dancing with the Christmas music. And the angel at the top of the tree, well she was shinning like the evening star as her wings also fluttered gently.
I had to take a step back to really take in the full beauty. Yep, Momma and me had decorated what I believed was the most beautiful Christmas tree ever. We were both so proud. The only thing missing I thought, were the presents that would be underneath the tree on Christmas morning. But Santa would take care of that, I was sure.
We then made our way to the kitchen and Momma asked if I wanted to help her with the cooking. Of course, I jumped at the chance. We began to mix the dough for the Christmas cookies, rolling it out with her rolling pin to cut out trees, snowflakes, snowmen and Santas. She then handed me the green and red colored sugar to sprinkle on the tops, I really felt like I was helping and not just in the way. Then, she began making chocolate and peanut butter candy, both turning out perfectly.
She even made me a German Chocolate cake, my favorite of all her delicious cakes. After covering the cake heavily with icing, she gave me the bowl with the left over icing knowing how much I liked to scrape the bowl with a spoon to get ever last drop.
It seemed like old times again. Everything was perfect. The tree was beautiful and I got to put on the angel. The cookies and candies were the best ever. And my cake, well it was a masterpiece. But one thing was missing. Momma and me were the only two people there. I went from room to room and I couldn’t find anyone else. I ran out the front door and yelled to my brothers and sisters and no one answered.
I turned to walked back inside the house and noticed the house had suddenly changed. Now, our
house was empty. The beautiful Christmas tree was gone. The cookies, candies and cake weren’t anywhere to be found. Again, I called for my brothers and sisters but all I heard was silence. I called out to Momma and she never answered. I walked from room to room looking everywhere for her but all the rooms were empty. I was all alone.
I was sad as I made my way to the front door to leave. Then, I noticed something in the corner of the living room. Something was glowing. As I walked closer, I realized it was the angel Momma had let me place on top of our tree. I slowly walked over and picked it up and noticed the angel had a Christmas tag attached to it. On the tag was a picture of a Christmas tree just like the one we had decorated with the angel at the top. I opened the card and it read “ Merry Christmas Rodney, Love, Momma.”
Then, I awoke with my eyes wet with tears. The dream seemed so real that it took a little while for me to realize that it was only a dream. I lay there for a few minutes thinking about the dream and what it meant. I then realized that memories of my Momma would never leave me; she would always be there. All I have to do is, just close my eyes.
“Merry Christmas Momma.” Love, Rodney.
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 13:06
I had rarely ever heard Momma so upset. She was tore all to pieces. “Do you know what your brother Ronnie did?” Momma asked me over the phone.
“No, Momma. What did Ronnie do?” I answered not expecting the story she was about to tell me.
“Well, you know he had them chickens out there in the pen,” Momma started.
“Yeah, what about his chickens?” I asked.
“Well, it seems he was getting tired of taking care of them and feeding them. And, I told you how he was giving me brown eggs off of ‘em and you know how I like brown eggs,” she continued.
“Yep, there’s nothing like country brown eggs. I love ‘em too,” I squeezed in between her ranting.
“And if I would have known he didn’t want ’em anymore, I would have loved to have had ‘em,” Momma went on.
“What did he do with the chickens, Momma?” I asked in wonder.
“He paid somebody to kill and dress his laying hens for a church dinner. And when I asked him about what they had done with the egg bags, he said I guess they threw ‘em away. Now Rodney, you know how much I love a hen’s egg bag and Ronnie knew that too.” Momma explained. “I would have given anything for them egg bags. I ain’t had any in so long I can’t remember. They make the best dumplings. You know that.”
“Yeah, I remember Momma. They sure do make good dumplings. But I don’t think Ronnie thought anything about saving the egg bags for you,” I said trying to calm her down a little.
“Lord what I wouldn’t have given for those egg bags. Since I ain’t raised chickens in a long time I’ve thought time and time again about buying me a couple of big fattening hens just for their egg bags,” Momma said pitiful like. “If I knew where they threw ‘em away at I would go get ‘em. All I would have to do is wash ‘em out real good.”
“I don’t know about that Momma. I doubt if I would eat ‘em if they’ve been laying out overnight,” I told her. “I’ll bet the dogs have eaten ‘em up by now anyway.”
“You’re probably right. I’m sure them dogs had a mighty good meal. But I can’t understand why he wouldn’t have thought how much I love ‘em and had them people to save ‘em for me. Why if he would have told me he was going to dress out them hens, I would have done it for nothing, just to get the egg bags,” Momma said sounding like maybe she was calming down a bit.
“I can go to the store and get some chicken fat. That makes good dumplings, don’t it?” I asked.
“Nothing like a good egg bag full of those little undeveloped eggs. Why there’s as many as a dozen of ‘em in a egg bag and there’s nothing no better to me.” Momma sighed.
I could tell that she really had her heart now set on getting her hands on a couple of egg bags. If she didn’t we would never hear the end of it.
“Momma why don’t me and you go to the stock sale Tuesday morning and buy you a couple of hens,” I asked trying to figure out a way to satisfy her hunger for egg bags.
“No. That’s too far to go for laying hens. I’ll get on the trading post in the morning and find me some hens,” Momma told me.
Well the next day Momma calls again. “I bought me two fattening hens but they cost me a purtty penny. I had to pay $6.00 each. I know that was too much to pay but I got my hens,” Momma said triumphantly.
“Sounds like you did Momma. Now when do we get the dumplings?” I asked jokingly.
“That’s what I called you about. They’re almost done. When Margy gets home you two come on up and I’ll feed you the best dumplings you’ve ever tasted,” Momma bragged.
Well, we did and they were.
That was the last time I can remember Momma cooking her delicious dumplings. Not long after that she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and lost most of her cooking skills. But as I write this memory down in words I can still see that big smile on her face as I took my first bite of her dumplings that evening.
Momma was right. The egg bags had made them better than any of the other ones before that I could remember.
I really miss those dumplings and I’m sure glad Momma got her egg bags. I had never seen her more happier.
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 14:06
Tough Jack, Wire Pliers and Alcohol …a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller
It was a long way to town and a dentist cost money. Money that was usually needed for something more important than having a tooth pulled. Anyways, we had the best dentist for miles around. Her name was Dr. Mom and the doctor was always in.
Pulling teeth was Momma’s specialty. But most times, loosing a tooth involved a little pain. The reward for a tooth was a shiny quarter left under our pillow by the tooth fairy. The more teeth that came out, the more money!
Sometimes a tooth either just fell our on it’s own or it was removed with force. Here are some of the ways Dr. Mom used force when she had to get out a stubborn tooth.
The first method tried was Momma just asking to touch the loose tooth to feel if it was ready to come out. If it was loose enough she had it out most times before we even knew it. But this trick only worked one time. After that, everyone knew not to let Momma a hold of a loose tooth or it would be out “lickety split” whether the tooth was ready or not.
If we refused to let Momma touch the tooth while we were awake she would sometimes wait until we were asleep and try to pull it. If she were successful she would most times wake us gently holding the tooth explaining how she “found the tooth on our pillow”.
The next one I recall was the “string and doorknob” trick. This method involved tying one end of a string around the loose tooth and the other end around the front doorknob. After the string, which was sewing thread, was tied to the tooth, the person who had the loose tooth either waited for someone to open the front door or someone quickly yanked the string themselves. Either way a tooth was sure to come out as long as the string was strong enough.
Another way for her to remove a loose tooth was using the “sticky” method. The way this one worked was, Momma either made a sticky taffy from molasses called “tough jack” or bought us a Sugar Daddy to chew on. Either one of these super-sticky candies would bring out any loose tooth they came into contact with. I remember more than once biting on a tough-jack and coming out with a tooth stuck to it.
When none of the above worked to remove a loose tooth, out came the pliers. And I’m not talking about the pliers a dentist uses. I’m talking about a pair of wire pliers. The ones like you work or a car or a bicycle with.
But before the pliers could be used they were sterilized thoroughly by washing them in a dishpan of water and then drenching them in Swan brand rubbing alcohol. The alcohol was something we used a lot. All cuts and scrapes got plenty of it to kill the germs. It burned like fire on a fresh cut.
But when the tooth had to come out, it had to come out, one way or another. And the worse part of it was seeing those wire pliers coming at your mouth knowing that Dr. Mom wouldn’t stop until the tooth was out. She would latch a hold on that loose tooth and with some twisting, cracking and pulling the tooth finally would give up.
And all of this was done without any painkiller for the kids. Unless you counted the two Bayer “baby” aspirin we took minutes earlier. But before the aspirin had time to dull the pain the pliers were in and the tooth was out. It still hurts just thinking about it.
After the tooth was pulled we rinsed our mouth out with warm salt water. When the blood and water mixed it looked a lot worse than it actually was as we spit out the red fluid. Next, a piece of cotton taken from the Bayer aspirin bottle went in the now vacant hole to slow the bleeding.
When we thought we had given the gums time enough to stop bleeding we removed the cotton and rinsed again. But this time with a little rubbing alcohol mixed in with the water. Momma always said that alcohol would either cure or kill just about anything.
The grown ups were a little more fortunate. Sometimes they got the other kind of pain killer, distilled alcohol. A few drinks of moonshine or whiskey and the patient wouldn’t feel it if all their teeth were pulled.
Yep, times sure were different back then. Sometimes now I even laugh a little when I think about them. But one thing was for sure; we didn’t need a dentist as long as we had Dr. Mom.
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