Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:05
She was a girl that could fight like a man with a punch like the kick of a mule. I guess, if I had to describe the boxing ability of my oldest sister, that’s what it would be.
Jackie’s record on that Christmas Day long ago was 4 wins with 0 defeats, all by TKO and all against male boxers. I should know. I was her first victim as she climbed the ladder on her way to become the undisputed champion of the Miller house.
It was 1960 and Cassius Clay, then known to the world as Mohammad Ali, had just won his gold medal in the summer Olympics. Back then boxing was a big sport. We had begged all year for Dad to tell Santa that we wanted two pair of boxing gloves for Christmas.
Momma of course, was afraid one of us would get hurt and tried to talk us into asking for something else, but our mind was made up. We wanted those boxing gloves bad.
So you can imagine the surprise on that Christmas morning when low and behold, Santa had came through. Under the tree, was a box with a tag taped to the wrap that read, “To: The Miller Family, From: Santa”.
We all fought over who would get to unwrap the box from Santa. With a quick tear of the paper covering the box were the words that read, ”Jack Dempsey Original Boxing Gloves”. The fighting started as soon as the box was opened over who would be the first to get to tie the gloves on.
Gary and Ronnie, the oldest of my brothers, got the honors. Momma again warned that the gloves were not toys and if someone got mad, then someone would probably get hurt. We all tried to assure her that we were only going to just “spar around” with one another and promised no one would get mad.
Jackie and me laced up the gloves on our two brothers and the fighters took their corner. A metal pot was brought from the kitchen to serve as a bell along with a tablespoon to use as the striker. Clang, the pot rang out as round one opened.
At first the boxing was mostly just jabbing and moving as the boys weren’t sure just how it would feel to be punched with the gloves. After a few striking blows to each others bodies, the punching got a little harder as each contestant was now swinging wildly.
Everything was going great until Gary connected with a hard right to the face of Ronnie. Then, Ronnie retaliated with a haymaker of his own. Dad stepped in just as the bell rang to separate the two fighters. Momma was now more worried than ever and warned Dad that someone was going to get hurt.
Dad agreed that the two were getting a little too mad at each other and told them that was enough for the first fight and that they needed to cool off awhile. The boys argued over who had won the fight as we untied the gloves and removed them from their hands. Next, it was time for Jackie and me to tie them on.
As Gary was lacing my gloves up he was telling me that the gloves didn’t hurt that much but I should stay away from Jackie as much as possible. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that. I remembered of a time when we got into a fight with Jackie and it had taken all three of us to hold her down. My plan was to be on my toes and moving fast.
When the bell clanged, I danced my way around the living room trying to stay as far away from her as possible. Jackie, just took a couple of steps towards me, cut off my exit, and pounded me with some hard, quick punches. I threw in the towel fast.
Next, Ronnie wanted to take on the champion and I was glad he did. I didn’t want any more of Jackie’s punishment. We laced Ronnie up and he charged at Jackie when the bell sounded. A couple of seconds later, Ronnie was on the floor looking up and more than glad to get he gloves off too.
Gary then stepped in determined to show his big sister who was boss of the Miller house. When the metal pot was struck for the third time Gary was a little more cautious than Ronnie had been. Gary had witnessed the power in Jackie right hand and was moving to his right in an attempt to stay away for her.
Once again Jackie cornered Gary and wailed away on him until Dad stepped in and stopped the fight. The repeated blows had reddened Gary’s face. Gary was madder than a hornet. But, he wasn’t about to let her get away with what she had done and demanded another round. Momma said no but Gary wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Gary kept on begging for another chance at Jackie as she danced with her gloves in the air as she taunted him about her being the champion. Dad finally said, “Okay, but I don’t want either one of you hurting the other. Both of them agreed but you could tell Gary wanted revenge bad.
The pot was again struck with the spoon and they both charged like two bulls in an arena with fists flying. Gary was ducking his head and swinging wildly as Jackie placed a hard uppercut to his face. Her glove had met squarely with Gary’s nose as his head snapped back quickly. Blood began to spill onto the floor.
Momma jumped from the couch, separated the two, and rushed Gary to the kitchen sink to clean his face. “There will be no more boxing in this family,” Momma demanded. “Jamup, get rid of those gloves now!”
Dad didn’t argue. He never said a word as he untied the gloves from Jackie and Gary and walked to the living room with the gloves in hand. Dad then opened the top door to the potbelly stove in the living room and tossed the gloves into the hot coals. No one said a word or tried to stop him. Momma had spoke and Dad had listened.
Our tough sister was given the name of Jackie “Dempsey” after that day. And no one argued with her either. After all, she was the champion and we knew it.
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 13:18
Daddy said he barely caught a glimpse of the two does as they dashed out of the woods into a green field as he passed by in his truck on that cold November day. Kentucky’s deer season was in its third day and that year had been like all the others before for him, no buck. But Daddy’s luck was about to change.
My Daddy grew up much like most of the boys in his generation. They never had a lot of time to do the things that most boys do like fishing and hunting. Daddy was the oldest of eleven siblings and he had to grow up fast.
Times were hard and just living was tough because of the depression that struck in the 30’s. “It was extra hard here” Dad said, “People almost starved to death during that awful time.”
Daddy had to help in every way he could to feed the family. In the 1940 Census, when he was 16, he was listed as a farmer with an income of under $200.00 a year. His dad, Rufus Sr., was a blacksmith with an income of under $300.00 per year.
From farmer, to soldier in WWII, to coal miner and then grocer that was my Daddy’s vocational journey. He raised 7 kids and lots of times many more called our house home. In other words, Daddy didn’t have much time in his entire life to do the things that most men do. Daddy had had a family to feed since his early teenage years.
As he got older, when my brothers and me were at home we did get to go fishing but most of times Daddy wasn’t with us. He was working to make sure we had food on the table. One thing I can tell everyone who reads this story, we never went hungry. Dad made sure of that.
I can only remember a handful of times we got to go hunting with him either. Most of the things I learned about the outdoors was taught to me by my Pap Paw Burkhart. He was a true mountain man.
But as Daddy got older and better off financially, he tried to do the things he missed out on working and raising a family. He loved to fish. He even owned an aluminum boat or two in his lifetime. Nothing fancy, just a 5 or 10 hp gas motor to push the boat when we went fishing to Woods Creek. He loved that place.
Daddy, Mommy and myself made many trips there later in his life after all of my brothers and one of my sisters had married and left home. Those were times I will never forget. I could see that he too loved the outdoors but I guess he never had the time to show it.
Later on, Daddy got bit by the deer hunting bug. All it took was a successful hunt for a group of us at Fort Knox. There were 24 of us from Horse Creek who all got drawn to hunt there in 1972. The hunt was more than any of us could have hoped for.
There were 4 in our party, Gary my brother, Gilbert Ray my uncle, Tim Sibert my cousin and me all got 8-point bucks. Five of the other hunters in our group got smaller bucks or does. We came home with a truckload of deer. From that day forward Daddy had the itch to kill him a buck.
But he still never had the time to get serious about bagging his deer. He hunted off and on for more than 20 years without any luck. He even went 12 years in a row and didn’t even see a deer. The deer hunting gods never smiled on Daddy it seemed.
He lost interest and never hunted too much after those years not even seeing a deer thinking he would never get his chance at a big buck. His patience was wearing thin and it got to where he would only hunted for an hour or two on the days when he felt like hunting. All ended the same with a long walk back to his truck empty handed. But little did he know, his luck was about to change.
That fateful morning started out just like all the others. It was a cold Monday morning and I had to work at IGA so that left Daddy to hunt alone at Fogertown. His crippled leg was aching from the cold weather and again he had called it a day after holding out as long as he could stand it. Again, he hadn’t seen a deer.
Back at the truck his aging cold hands could barely get the key in the door to unlock it. He sat for a while as he warmed himself up tucked inside the cab out of the cold air. He finally put his Chevy truck in reverse and backed out of the drive onto the highway. It was 17 miles back to Paw Paw and he wasn’t in a hurry so he scanned the fields through the truck window on the drive back.
Daddy had only gone about 3 miles when he noticed the two does in the open field. He pulled his truck off to the side of the road knowing that sometimes a buck would follow because the rut was in full swing. It didn’t take long for his wishes to come true.
A huge 10-point buck followed the does into the field. The love-struck monster was in hot pursuit of one of the does with his nose to the ground tracking her every move. Daddy knew he would have to act quickly.
He got out of the truck, fumbled through his hunting coat and found three deer-slugs and reloaded his shotgun. He said he was shaking so bad when he threw the gun up to his shoulder that it was hard to stay on the buck’s body with his open-sights. To steady himself he laid the shotgun across the hood of the truck, took his aim and squeezed the trigger.
The buck jumped at the sound of the old .20 gauge. Smoke was still clearing the barrel as the buck crumpled up after running only a few yards. Daddy had finally gotten his buck.
He said later that he stepped off 180 yards to where the deer lay dead. I told him that was a heck of a shot that he had pulled off. And I laughed a little to myself when he told me he had held the bead of the shotgun “… dead on the top of the deer’s back.”
He then told of how he had to drive his truck through the field to the deer to tie a rope to the truck to drag the huge deer out because he was by himself. He said he wouldn’t have gotten the big boy in the truck bed if not for the help of a hunter passing by.
Yep, Daddy had finally gotten his deer. And he thought it was a new world’s record. Well, it was to him. He hauled that deer around the rest of the day with the tailgate down and he had a story for everyone who wanted to listen. He also had him mounted to show later to everyone who came to his house. He was so proud of his buck.
My Daddy hunted a few years after that but he died before getting the opportunity to take another deer. It turned out his first buck was also his last.
After Daddy died Momma gave me the mount. Now, every time I pass the big buck that hangs in my garage I smile a little and reminisce of the day that made my Daddy surely one of the proudest hunters in all of Clay County.
Wednesday, 26 December 2012 13:44
‘Twas the day after Christmas, at the Miller home,
No one was up, except for my Mom.
The house was a mess and the stockings were bare,
Gary was asleep in the living room chair.
Carlos and Anthony were jumping on their bed,
So high near the ceiling, almost hitting their heads.
Then Ronnie and I, after hearing Mom’s call,
Raced to the table, almost causing a brawl.
“I get the gold bowl!” a shout went out,
“I done said!” was the reply heard throughout.
Seven pairs of feet, pounded towards the table,
It sounded like horses, in a livery stable.
With Darlene in her ‘jammies, and Jackie in her housecoat,
Both heard a noise, and it sounded like a goat!
Away to the window, the girls flew like a flash,
They saw a strange animal, in the yard eating grass.
“What in the world”, we heard Jackie chatter,
All ran to the door, to see what was the matter.
When the creature breathed, he blew out steam,
I pinched myself, to rule out a dream.
The thing in the yard, didn’t look really queer,
Yes it was easy to tell, it was Santa’s reindeer.
It wasn’t Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, or Vixen,
Nor was it Comet, Cupid, Donner, or Blitzen.
His big red nose, gave away his name,
It was Rudolph for sure, he was really quite tame.
When we walk out the door, he pranced right up,
And bowed his head, as if for a rub.
His eyes how they twinkled, his smile was so merry,
And that nose of his was as red as a cherry.
I could tell he was lost, it didn’t take a brain,
But where was Santa, and the rest of the gang.
Then in an instant, I heard a noise in the back,
And the sound of hoofs, as something went smack.
Then Rudolph took off, he ran like a flash,
With us close by, to the back we did dash.
When what to our eyes, should suddenly appear?
But a shiny red sleigh, pulled by 8 reindeer.
Inside a jolly plump fellow, I knew right away,
It was Santa Claus, sitting inside the sleigh.
“There’s my lead reindeer,” Santa said with a laugh,
We forgot you last night, when you chased after that calf.
So Rudolph lined up, back in front of the team,
And Santa yelled out, his familiar scream.
“To the top of the hill, for a really long haul,
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all.”
The leaves in the yard, like a hurricane flew,
Up past the sun, and into the blue.
And I heard Santa say, as they flew out of sight.
Rudolph you must tell me, all about last night!
Then Rudolph blushed, and is nose turned bright red,
As Santa laughed loud, heels over head.
Merry Christmas to Everyone
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 14:18
With the latest scare of the flu “bug” on the news every night, on every channel, I was thinking back to the old days and what we did when someone in the family got a cold or the flu.
That was a long time before the doctors were encouraging everyone to take a flu shot. Mind you that the stuff that’s in the shot to stop the flu is the virus itself. My Pap Paw would have said something like, “Ain’t no way I’m taking that flu shot. It’s probably a way for the gov’ment to kill off some of us mountin’ folk!”
That’s also the way I feel sometimes. I took the flu shot one time and stayed sick the whole year! I swore I wouldn’t make that mistake again.
But last year I thought I would give it another try, maybe. I went to Wal-Mart and this lady was set up right near the front door giving flu shots for only $27.95, “A bargain,” she said.
Well, I was just about ready to let her stick a needle in my arm when she handed me a paper to sign. I asked her what it was for and she said,”… it was something that by law she had to do. That got me wanting to read it.
Anyway, to make a long story short it said that “….in some instances that the shot (that I was about to get) could cause death. Case closed. No shot!
I would stick to my family’s remedies that we used when we were sick at home. Momma always would fix us chicken soup, or in some cases later in life, Chicken Noodle soup. Daddy on the other hand had a family recipe for cough syrup that would take care of the cold (and most any other illnesses).
Here it is, but you have to keep the recipe to yourself. Daddy always said the Vick’s (the salve people) would love to get their hands on it.
Daddy’s Homemade Cough Syrup 1 pint of moonshine (whiskey) 1 box of horehound candy 1/2 lb dark brown sugar 1 pint of honey (strained, no comb) 4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of ginger
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon A pinch of alum (helps from going to sugar) Put the horehound candy in a large kettle with a ½ cup of water. Heat on low heat, stirring often, until it melts. When melted remove from heat and add all the other ingredients. Store in pint jars (Makes about 4 pints of cough syrup).
As with all other medicines remember, Keep out of reach of children (and teenagers, Uncles, Aunts, Grannies, Pap Paws, or your neighbors…)! Well, I believe you get the picture. Hide it! Because it’s goooood!.
And since it’s almost Christmas I had to include this Miller Family Fruitcake Recipe. I think you’ll find it’s a lot of fun to make.
Miller Family Fruitcake Recipe:
1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 4 large eggs, 3 cups dried fruit, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 cup brown sugar, lemon juice, nuts and 1 pint bottle of moonshine.
Sample the moonshine to check for quality, take out a large bowl, check the moonshine again to be sure that it is of the highest quality, pour 1 level cup and drink. Repeat.
Turn on the electric mixer, beat 1 cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl, add 1 teaspoon of sugar and beat again.
Make sure the moonshine is still OK. Cry another tup. Turn off the mixer. Break two legs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers, pry it them loose with a turescriber.
Sample the moonshine one more time to check for toxicity. Next, sift 2 cups of salt. Or something. Who cares?
Taste the moonshine again real good. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
Add one sablespoon of tugar or something sweet, whatever you can find. Grease the oven. Turn the cake pan to 350 degrees. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Then throw the bowl out of the bindow.
One last time, link the drast of the moonshine. Then you’re beady for red.
(Who the heck likes fruitcake anyway?)
Merry New Year and Happy Christmas everyone!
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 14:04
It was one of the worst winters I could remember in my young life. “A winter like one from the old days”, Daddy said. We could only get out of the house just to bring in wood and coal to keep the house warm.
Can you imagine? Momma was cooped up with seven kids in a small house for several days. We only had one TV and we only got one channel, NBC Channel 6 out of Knoxville. According to Momma, we were just about to drive her crazy.
What did she do, you might ask? She taught us to knit and crochet. That’s right two girls and 5 boys gathered in the living room floor closely around Momma, the teacher.
I’m sure most of your families were just like mine back then. Not enough money to buy new clothes from a store and many times any way to get there. Momma was an excellent seamstress and she knew how to knit, crochet and macramé.
I never will forget the old Singer sewing machine she had. It was made of quarter-sawn oak with a cast iron frame. A wide peddle under the cabinet would turn a large wheel connected to a smaller wheel with a leather belt that turned the sewing machine.
There were six small drawers, three on each side of the cabinet to keep sewing accessories in. Momma only used one so each of the boys in our family had a drawer of their own to keep valuables in. No one was allowed to get in anyone else’s drawer. That was the law of the house. If we were caught in someone else’s drawer it would be dealt with severely by Daddy.
All of us learned to hand stitch first. We had seen a few times how dangerous the sewing machine could be when Momma would accidentally send a needle completely through her finger. Then we moved up to the big oak cabinet. I have to say all of us were taught to stitch up tears, hem pants and sew on buttons. Momma knew that may come in handy someday.
But during that cold spell that hit southeastern Kentucky that year Momma taught us something else. She taught us how to knit and crochet. I can still see her with her two blue knitting needles and a ball of yarn working the patterns every so slowly so each of us could catch on to the technique.
We started out with simple stitch patterns. And I still remember them even today. The knit stitch is the basis for all other knitting. Once you know how to cast on and knit, you can make the most basic projects like washcloths, scarves, even a basic afghan.
Next we learned the purl stitch. To form a purl stitch yarn is held in right hand, then, by necessity, brought to the front of the work if following a knit stitch, and, wrapped around the right needle before pulling the stitch through.
Then she taught us the knit one and purl 2 stitch that would result in a stretchy ribbed pattern, similar (but not exactly the same) to what you find on sweaters, a scarf, in a knitted hat or in cuffs.
To do this you start with a knit stitch, then you purl the next stitch. then purl the next one after that. After that, you just keep repeating.
Of all the knit/purl stitch patterns we learned, ribbing was definitely the one we used the most. Because of its stretchiness and ability to “bounce” back into place, ribbing was used on the necks and cuffs of most sweaters. We sometimes used the ribbing technique throughout the garment because it created a slim, body-hugging effect. This could be done in either the knit 1, purl 1 method or in the knit 2, purl 2 if we wanted wider ribs that would stretch even more.
Momma gave the garments away mostly at Christmas or for birthdays. With what was left over she sold for money to buy more yarn.
Later on we learned to crochet and my favorite macramé. I remember we went through a spell when we must have made 20 or 25 purses out of simple square knots that Momma would sell to neighbors and friends for a few dollars.
Momma was a true folk art artist too. She painted portraits and landscapes. She made cabbage patch type dolls long before they were popular. She made dolls out of cornhusks and apples. I remember a couple of the apple characters in particular. They were of an old man and woman with wrinkled faces that she put teeth in made out of a plastic fork. After the apples dried they looked exactly like two old people with wrinkled faces.
The lessons Momma taught were never boring they kept us entertained throughout the rest of the bad winter that year.
All of us were quick learners. If I had to say who was the best at what we were taught, I guess it would be Ronnie at knitting, Anthony at crocheting, Gary with the macramé, me with sewing and Carlos with keeping the bobbin always tangled up by peddling the sewing machine..
Who would have ever thought anything would hold the attention of 5 boys? Momma, that’s who.
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