Wednesday, 16 November 2011 13:44
By: Rodney Miller
Growing up in a home with a family of 9 there are things you remember from long ago, times that are now special and close to your heart. This is one of those stories that today, I can wake up and hear someone in my family shouting “I get the gold bowl” and another saying “I done said, you’re too late”!
I’m sure most of you can remember your mom or dad going to the store once a week for next week’s groceries. Today that seems a little odd, since most go to the grocery almost every day or every other day but years ago you only went for food only once a week and some once a month.
People raised most of the vegetables that would get them through the hard winters by either canning or by drying, and by drying I mean shuck beans, apples, or other fruit. Canning is something not many people do anymore and something not many even know how. But times were a lot harder back then and we didn’t have a freezer to put anything in. We didn’t have freezer bags anyway, no frozen food, and that’s the way it was.
My Dad and Mom shopped at Dobson’s Super Market. That was where he worked. On Saturday night they would come home with all the food we didn’t raise, to feed sometimes up to 15 mouths. Mom’s mother died in childbirth and we helped raise her brothers and sisters, so there was always a crowd at the Miller home.
Dad was injured in a mine accident and walked with a limp the rest of his life but he didn’t lie down and quit. He got a job at Dobson’s working for $35.00 a week as a butcher. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. And Mom, well she had 7 kids before she was 30, and her brothers and sisters to take care of.
They would spend $10.00 to $15.00 a week on groceries and we raised the rest. Each fall we would kill a couple of hogs when the first frost came and that would be the meat for most of the winter. We also had a milk cow or two but never a beef for slaughter, didn’t know what a hamburger or a steak was. Plenty of chickens, I always remember. They supplied the eggs that Mom cooked every morning and also supplied the fried chicken that she was famous for. She could wring off a chicken’s head and have it in the skillet in less than an hour. To this day I believe that little white bearded man from Corbin, who stopped by one Sunday, stole her recipe! I think all he did was add one more herb or spice, Mom’s only had 12.
Back then the manufacturers of food gave you a reason to buy their brand. Flour came in a pretty bag called a pillowslip, that could be used for a variety of things. Sometimes Mom would sew the material into dresses for her or someone in the family and sometimes we would use them for exactly what they were called, to put our feather pillows in.
Oatmeal came with a gift too. Crystal wedding oats had glassware or aluminum kitchen ware inside as a free gifts. You can’t even get a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks now. We used everything we could get free, especially the aluminum cups, saucers, and bowls that came in the oatmeal, you couldn’t break them.
The bowls came in all sorts of colors, red, blue, green, silver, and even gold. The color that we only had one of was the gold and we thought it was really special. Everyone in the family wanted to eat out of that gold bowl. It got so bad that Dad told us one morning after breaking up a fight between three young boys over the gold bowl, that who ever got up first and proclaimed “I get the gold bowl!” had that bowl for the meal, no questions asked. After that, the Miller house didn’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning.
When we heard Mom’s whistle that breakfast was ready, the house was thundering with “I get the gold bowl!” then another would yell “I done said, you’re too late!” and still another would try to top the last one “I said it earlier, you just didn’t hear me!” and then someone came up with “Well, I said it last night”! But, you get the picture.
Time passed on but every morning it was still the same thing. I don’t know why everyone wanted that gold bowl. Today, I laugh just thinking about it.
In 2008, my Mom found out she had a brain tumor and we found ourselves back at home, staying at her house, taking care of our mother. The mom, who for so many years had took care of me, the one who was always up long before daylight, every morning, frying a couple pounds of bacon or sausage, most of the time two dozen eggs, always a super large bowl of gravy, thirty or forty home made biscuits, and always oatmeal or grits. Cracker Barrel didn’t have a thing on my mom and she did it all by herself.
During Mom’s last days, her sisters and brother came in to visit for their last time. They all had moved away to other states and didn’t get to visit her as often as they wanted. One brother, Uncle Earl, who lives in Spokane, Washington, made the trip across country traveling about 2,500 miles. Aunt Angie and Uncle Bill came form Orlando, Florida and Aunt Cleo came down from Cincinnati, Ohio.
The first morning they were here, we were all getting up, starting to prepare a big country breakfast just like Mom had done for us so many years, when a loud shout came from the back bedroom, “I get the gold bowl”! It was Uncle Earl, he hadn’t forgot after all those years to claim the biggest prize of all, the treasured gold bowl.
Laughing, I walked to Mom’s room where she lay to frail to get out of bed and ask if she heard Uncle Earl proclaiming the rights to the gold bowl. There, lying in bed was my mother with the biggest smile on her face you could ever imagine. I didn’t ask, her face said it all. She couldn’t talk too much now, but I heard her say, in a weak voice “ I done said, you’re too late”!
At that moment, I think, she was back in time, a mother of 7, in her kitchen, getting a breakfast ready for her most prized possession, her family.
It was one of those moments I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 13:37
Jamup’s Market…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller
Dad was excited about his chance to have a business to call his own. The business was a small grocery store in the center of Sibert, the biggest little town on Horse Creek.
The two signs on the big plate glass windows read: Jamup’s Market, “Where Pa saves Ma Money” and Jamup’s Market, “Where Prices Are Born But Not Raised”. Those were catchy little sayings, I thought, and Dad was so proud of “Jamup’s Market.
Not many people in Clay County could tell you who Rufus Miller Jr. was but nearly everyone knew my Daddy if I told them I was one of Jamup’s boys. Dad got his nickname years ago from a duo who sang on the Grand Ole Opry, “Jamup and Honey”. To most locals, Dad was “Jamup” and Momma was his “Honey”.
Dad had worked in groceries since he left the coalmines where an accident crippled him for life. Dad never even thought of signing up on disability, he wanted to get back to work.
Dad opened Jamup’s Market in 1967. Luckily, he had the work force he needed to make the busy little store a thriving business. With Momma, Gary, Ronnie, and I splitting up time between school and work, Dad’s little store prospered.
He never did try to work us without pay. At the end of a week on Saturday night he always had a check waiting on us. The pay was only .65¢ cents an hour before taxes but I still felt like a millionaire cashing my “less than $20.00” check for a week’s work. After all, the room and board was free!
Ronnie and I both learned to butcher meat from Dad. He had worked at Dobson’s many years in the meat department. Back then all the beef came in whole sides of meat. You either ordered a forequarter or a hindquarter of beef.
From the hindquarter came the round steaks, T-bone Steaks, sirloin steaks, and rump and tip roast. In the forequarter you get the rib-eye steak, chuck steak, chuck or shoulder roast, and beef ribs. With the trimmings from both sides came the hamburger we all love.
Now days, hamburger already comes pre-ground in plastic chubs. All a butcher has to do is put the meat through the grinder one more time and you have today’s hamburger. Back then hamburger was a lot more work. But, the work was worth it. It was so much better than what you can buy today.
Ground round was actually ground from round steak and roast from the hindquarters. The other hamburger meat we made came from the chuck roast and rib trimmings. Today, they sell it as ground chuck and get an extra .20¢ or .30¢ more a pound for it than regular hamburger.
We also cut up our pork from sides of hogs. With fresh ham, shoulder meat, pork chops, neckbones, ribs (with meat on them), hocks, ears, kidneys, liver and even tongues. All of the trimmings from the side of pork went into some of the best sausage you would ever want.
Dad had his own family recipe for the special seasoning that went in the sausage. It was a mixture of many spices and salt. Back then folks wouldn’t by the packaged sausage (Webber’s and Tennessee Pride) much because Dad’s was so much better.
We also had an old school bus outside the store gutted out to sell livestock feed out of. Back then most families had chickens, pigs, cows, chickens, or horses. We sold tons of livestock feed. Even with all of us being just young teenagers we could still handle the big 100-pound bags of feed with no trouble at all.
With Dad, Momma, and us boy’s we had all bases covered at the store. One day we might work in the meat department, one day in the produce, and the next day at the cash register. Each one of us could do anyone’s job.
We unloaded the grocery truck by hand, put up the merchandise, carried out groceries for customers (now that too is a thing of the past), and most of that was done after a day at school. We worked long hours most days.
It was never dull at the store. I witnessed two shootings there. One was a jealous girlfriend shooting at my Uncle Lloyd. Luckily she only “killed” 3 cans on Maxwell House coffee.
The other was an argument between two brothers-in-law who had too much to drink.
One shot the other in the foot when he wouldn’t “dance”.
I’ve waited on drunks who came in just to by lemon extract to mix with their 7-up because alcohol wasn’t legal to sell. But, I have also met friends there that have lasted a lifetime.
Now I’m not saying it was all work, it wasn’t. We still found time to play our guitars around the heating stove or play a game of checkers with some of the worlds best checker players (Gill Lewis and Woodrow Brown), and maybe even deal a hand or two of cards at times. But the playtime came after the work was done. That was the rule
My Dad always believed that a man earned his keep by the sweat of his brow. And that’s one thing I will forever live by.
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 12:29
The Hanging Tree
It was a dark, calm summer night. My brothers and I along with our cousins Larry, Mark, and Terry were on a mission. It consisted of a trip to a place where few had ever gone during the day, much less in total darkness.
There was safety in numbers, I kept telling myself, walking as close as I could to the bigger kids as they told the story of the hanging tree. A place on a moonless night that when the hanging tree was hit by a thrown rock, you could still hear the painful screams of the innocent woman hanged for a crime she didn’t commit.
The story had been handed down from generation to generation and now the tree was barely standing with a hollow trunk, one big limb jutting from its body about 15 feet from the ground, and a jagged top of rotting wood. It was said, that after the lady was killed by an angry mob wanting revenge, the tree simply died with her, never to live another day.
The lady, Sarah, was sitting (baby sitting) with the little blonde girl and her younger brother, Bobby Jr., while the parents of the new family made a trip to Manchester. She was the closest neighbor and had been married for several years trying to have a family of her own without any luck.
She had gotten really close to the little blonde girl, once having a dream of a child belonging to her that looked remarkably just like her. She even called the child by the same name of her girl from the dream, Molly, as a nickname. She really loved little Molly, she couldn’t have loved her more if she had really belonged to her.
The day of the accident, Sarah told the parents not to worry, that everything would be just fine. The mother and father kissed the kids goodbye and mounted the large horse they would ride to town. “Bring us back some candy, please!” the little girl shouted as her parents made their way down the muddy road to town. “We will!” her Mom yelled blowing a kiss towards the waving young kids.
It had been raining for three days in the early spring of that year. The sun had finally shown itself after a long absence. Birds were singing as the young lady made the walk towards the house with a child holding each hand, skipping as children sometimes do.
“Let’s play a game, Sarah!” little Molly said, her big brown eyes gleaming with excitement. Being cooped-up for three days in the house, Sarah just couldn’t say no.
“What kind of game do you want to play?” Sarah asked.
“How about hide and seek?” little Molly hurriedly answered.
“OK, I’ll close my eyes and count to 100, and then I’ll come looking for you.” Sarah said, smiling at the joy of being in the company of the kids, she loved so much.
“Alright then, but count slow. Give us time to hide really good.” Molly answered back, running in her yellow dress as she hurried to her secret place that only she knew. Her little brother followed along and Molly scolded Bobby Jr. to hide in a place of his own, not giving her away.
“One, two, three, four,….” Sarah slowly counted as the kids ran laughing, to their hiding place they knew too well. Nothing could be heard as Sarah finished her count, ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred. “Ready or not, here I come!”
Bobby Jr. was easy to spot in his red shirt and blue pants, as he hid just under the wagon parked in the drive to the barn. “One, two, three on Bobby Jr.!” Sarah called out as she ran to beat him back to base.
Now, it was time to look for Molly, she wouldn’t be so easy. Sarah looked everywhere she thought the little girl would hide, but no Molly. After searching for several minutes, she began to get a little nervous. Molly had chosen a place Sarah couldn’t find, so she called out “I give up Molly, you win!” But Molly didn’t answer.
Again she called out “Molly come on in, you win!” Still there was no answer. Now, Sarah was beginning to get worried, running as she called out her name again and again, but not a sound was heard.
Sarah then thought of the stream where Molly liked to splash and play and hurriedly ran towards it calling out her name over and over. Her heart fell to her feet as she saw a yellow cotton dress tangled in the water under a fallen tree spanning the stream. She had tried to cross the stream by walking the tree and had slipped and fell into the raging water.
There was never a trial and Sarah didn’t really try to defend herself in the death of the little girl she loved so much. She blamed herself for Molly’s death and was hanged by the family of the little girl, taking the blame fully.
As we stood before the hanging tree that night, I knew the story too well. Eight boys picked up a rock and on the count of three, all were thrown at the tree with several hitting their mark. And then, a scream like that of a lady was heard clearly by all as we raced towards home running as fast as we could.
I never did return to the hanging tree again after dark. Years later when I was passing it in my car, I wouldn’t look at it. I would speed up and duck my head low until I was far past it.
When I was in my early 30’s, during a stormy night a strong wind blew the hanging tree down and the legend was no more. The tree slowly rotted into the ground it once grew so strong in.
I never knew where the scream came from that night, but I suspect it was Sarah, still grieving for little Molly, the daughter she never had.
Today when I pass the place where the hanging tree once stood, I sometimes think I can still hear Sarah crying for little Molly, as a cold chill runs up my spine and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
“Molly! Molly! Come on in, you win!”
Wednesday, 26 October 2011 12:32
By: Rodney Miller
Finally we were headed back north to the Miller reunion in Ohio. Now the clock was ticking at right just before 12 and that’s when the eating was supposed to start. The traffic got heavier around Cincinnati and that slowed us down even more.
I looked at my watch crossing the Ohio River and now it was a little before 1 pm. We were going to be much later than any of us hoped. After all, we left home just after 8 am.
We took the Milford exit onto a small, two-lane curvy road through lots of small townships on up to Newtonsville.
Even though I had been to my cousin Bruce’s home before, I turned Ronnie onto the wrong road at first. After about a mile or two I told him something wasn’t right, we must be on the wrong road. So we made a U-turn back to Newtonsville.
The town is really a very small town with only a couple of small stores but I had managed to get us on the only wrong road we could have taken. Then I remembered, we should have taken the second road to the right, which was only about a 100 feet from the first road we took.
Now things began to look familiar. But somehow we managed to pass up the driveway, which lead to another U-turn. But finally, we reach our destination around 1:30 pm.
The kinfolk were glad we made it and some had been worried because we hadn’t shown up on time. It wasn’t like a Miller to be late, everyone joked.
Most of the elders already had their food but plenty were still in line for some of the best cooking a person could ever hope for.
Margy and I loaded our plate and found a seat at an empty table near the center of Bruce and Terri’s garage. The weather outside felt more like late November than early October. A small heater in the garage made the meal much more enjoyable.
Most of my Dad’s brothers and sisters sat around a long table together. One thing I noticed right off was the fact that every year or two the table had one less seat around it. What once was a family of 13 was now down to 6.
There at the table sit my Aunts, Mary Lou Jones, Ollie Abner, Dorothy Brown, and my Uncle Tommy Miller. My Uncle Gilbert Ray just didn’t make it (again) and Uncle James had been down with a cold or flu. But James’s wife Roble was there with her kids Keeta and Travis and their kids.
My Mam Maw and Pap Paw Miller, Dad, Mildred Gray, William (Bill) Miller, Edna Ruth (Booty) Griffin and, now this year Rosa Belle Jones, had all gone on to meet with their maker. I turned to Margy and told her I was glad we had made the trip because each year that passes lately it seems like we loose someone we love from our family. Margy agreed. She too was glad we came.
After eating enough for two people we mingled with relatives catching up on the latest happenings in their life. I took photos of everyone there that I could get to stand still. The younger kids were hard to slow down long enough for a snapshot because of all the energy a kid has.
I remember not so long ago I did the same. But now things had changed. With every year that passes I get a few more aches and pains, a little slower, and loose some of the bounce in my step that I use to have. It really sucks getting old.
After a brief time out in the cold, we returned to the warm confines of the garage again. Margy and I found empty seats at the big table beside my Aunts and joined in with family conversation.
Uncle Tommy wasn’t feeling well and had to excuse himself by leaving early. Aunt Dorothy was in full form keeping everyone laughing with her witty jokes and comments. I hadn’t seen her that happy in a long time. Aunt Ollie and Aunt Mary Lou shared many interesting stories about the family I had never heard.
As I sit there listening to the their memories pouring out like water from a pail I thought how much I missed the other members of the family who were no longer with us. I also wondered will this be the last time I sit at the table with one or more of these four?
After another couple hours of interesting conversation the day was nearing an end and we still had the 3-hour trip home. We said our goodbyes with many hugs and pointed the Chevy south once again.
This time the road home was much less uneventful (thank goodness!) than the morning one. Everyone was quite tired but happy we had made the trip. After all, it’s only once a year we all get together and that is much too long. But all in all, the trip truly was a trip to remember.
I would like to end my story with a little secret. Next year, I hear Uncle Gilbert Ray and Aunt Bessie may once again attend the reunion with the family. I sure hope so. I really miss their company.
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 12:26
I just got back from Ohio where we attended the Miller Family Reunion. Margy and I rode up to Newtonsville with my brother Ronnie, his wife Gail, and my brother Anthony. A usual 3-hour trip turned into a 4 and ½ hour trip, and it wasn’t because of traffic. Let me tell you about our little trip.
Margy and I met the others in London just before 9 am. We were in Ronnie’s new Chevy Traverse because it had three-row seating and we didn’t see a need to drive two vehicles with gas still hovering around $3.50 a gallon. All of us were a little hungry but McDonalds was backed up 20 cars deep so we decided to wait until Berea to get something to eat. That was a bad decision.
We were headed north on I-75 and everyone was enjoying the company when I felt and heard a sound like a gravel flying out of the tread of a tire rap the bottom of the floorboard. I didn’t think too much about it at first until Ronnie then noticed a warning light on his dash informing him we were loosing air pressure in the front right tire.
I told him of the noise I heard just moments before and I warned him to slow down and get off the right shoulder of the road. But before he could bring the speed down from 70 mph to stop the tire was completely flat.
He said he had roadside service and could call them but we knew that our reunion dinner started at 12 and it probably would take too long for them to get there, so we decided to change the flat ourselves.
It was really cold that Saturday morning on October 1st. The temperature outside was hovering around 32˚ and the wind blowing made it feel even colder. Ronnie opened up the hatch and we proceeded to take out the screw jack to raise the Chevy. I loosened the lug nuts and raised the vehicle slowly with the small jack. Ronnie, in the meantime, was getting the tiny “donut” spare out from under the rear.
After about 10 minutes I finally got the jack high enough to remove the flat tire and saw that we must have hit a fairly large screw or piece of steel by the size of the puncture in the tire. Ronnie got the spare out from under the vehicle and rolled it to me to place on the now empty hub.
About then, a large tractor-trailer went by too close and yep, you guessed it, the wind shook the Chevy and the Traverse rolled forward and off the jack. Ronnie had forgotten to put the emergency brake on. I was lucky I didn’t loose a finger or two. Ronnie then went and set the park brake.
The jack was now sideways under the weight of the vehicle and the rotor was solid against the pavement. Both of us lifted and tugged until we finally freed the jack. I then lifted the body of the Chevy while Ronnie placed the jack underneath it, far towards the rear wheel. I didn’t know if the jack would raise the body enough from where it now sit but it was worth a try.
Ronnie raised the jack as I stood at the front wheel with the spare ready to go on the lugs as soon as it was high enough. Finally, the tire went on. I snugged up the lug nuts on the wheel as fast as I could with my nearly numb fingers. Ronnie then lowered the jack and proceeded to put everything back in the vehicle.
All loaded up we headed north again on Interstate 75.
“What’s that noise?” Gail asked Ronnie.
“Sounds like something is dragging,” Anthony answered.
“Oh No! I forgot to crank up the spare tire holder!” Ronnie quickly figured out.
Back over to the side of the road we go again to screw up the spare holder then, it’s back on 75 again with dirty hands and hungrier than ever.
We finally made it to the Berea exit, went into Walmart and bought a plug kit for the punctured tire. We plugged the tire in the parking lot while Margy bought her a new pair of shoes. She had started out earlier with flip-flops.
Then it was to a Shell station for air. The sign on the machine said, “Air 75¢”. I thought back to a time when if someone had asked me .75¢ for air I would have laughed at them. But that was before people started selling water for a higher price than pop or beer. But anyway, I filled the tire with air while Ronnie went inside to wash his hands and buy a tire guage.
Ronnie comes out and tells me that you don’t have to pay for the air after I had deposited my .75¢. “Just push the red button on the side!” Ronnie said too late. I put in 36 pounds of air pressure and spit on the plug to check for a leak. After a close inspection, the plug had done its job. No leaks! So I tightened up the wheel and tire we had repaired, let the jack down, and loaded the Chevy once again.
I went in the Shell, washed my hands the best I could, and finally got something to eat. It was one of the best sausage, egg, and chess croissant I had every eaten. It was then 11:30 am as I rushed back out to the car eating like a starved pup.
Ronnie put the vehicle in reverse and was just about to back out when another customer pulled in beside us and motioned for me to roll down the window. “Your spare is on the ground!” he said as he pointed to the back of our vehicle.
Again we had forgotten to raise the spare back under the vehicle. Back out to the rear unload the stuff again, take the jack handle out, and crank up the spare. Oh, and back to the Shell to wash my hands again.
Finally we are back on the road headed to the reunion in Ohio knowing we were going to be late for dinner.
(Continued next week!)
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