Wednesday, 10 April 2013 12:36
I remember the day Momma brought my little sister Darlene home from the hospital. We had stayed all night at my Mam-Maw and Pap-Paw Miller’s for the night of the delivery. I was so excited to have a new baby sister. And after five boys in a row, I think Dad was excited even more.
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 12:26
Not long after graduation I left Clay County to find work in one of the big cities up north. I asked my sister Jackie if it was okay to stay with her and Alfred Lee, her husband, until I could find work and afford a place of my own. Of course, both said yes.
They lived in Indianapolis on North Hamilton Street and luckily I got a job just a few miles away working at Standard Brands on Roosevelt Street. They made butter and margarine there. I was hired in making $3.75 an hour, which doesn’t seem like a lot of money now but back then I was making the big bucks.
Indianapolis was much different for a young man who came from a hollow on Horse Creek. I had been used to neighbors who spoke to each other every day and was a little concerned with how the people in the city more or less stayed to themselves.
I had also been used to hunting and fishing every chance I got when I wasn’t working. But there, I never even knew a place to wet a line.
It was also strange that even though my sister lived the middle of a huge city that there was plenty of game around. You had to be careful in the yard not to step on a squirrel. They were everywhere. I thought that a squirrel wasn’t safe anywhere near a mountain family. They would have them in the frying pan quicker your could blink an eye.
At night the ‘coons and ‘possums would get into any garbage can that was left uncovered. I thought that my Pap Paw Burkhart would have a hey-day with all those ‘coons if he knew they were there so plentiful in the city. He would have ‘em skinned out and on a drying board or tacked up on the side of his shed. He used to hunt ‘em in the winter when their fur thickened up for winter. In the spring he would sell their pelt for money to get by on.
It was late in the fall of that year when Al, me and another friend got the itch to go pheasant hunting. I had never even seen a live pheasant much less hunt one so I was really excited to get the chance to go hunt them.
We left one cold snowy morning for about a three-hour trip to northern Indiana. We were going to do like we had done most of our life here in the country, find a good looking place to hunt and get out and try to blast away a few of ‘em. Our first stop was somewhere just southeast of Gary, Indiana in farm country.
The reason we stopped there was we saw about twenty birds scratching around in the edge of a picked cornfield. When we pulled off the side of the narrow gravel road the pheasants didn’t fly away, they just took off running keeping just out of shooting distance.
Most of the people that I had watch on TV hunt pheasants had bird dogs to point out the game while the shooter got in range and ready. Well on that hunt, we took time about dogging the birds ourselves.
We noticed that most of the pheasants ran close to the thicker fencerows or in places where they could hide partially in the fallen picked corn stalks. Being old country boys like we were, we would mark the place the birds stopped and hid and then one of us would circle the field in front of them and slowly walk towards them until they flushed.
Our plan began to work like a charm. It wasn’t long before the feathers were flying and birds were hitting the ground.
Before dinner we had seven roosters and one hen in our game sacks. Now I know what some of you will say, “You’re not supposed to shoot hens.” Well, we knew that. But when one shot of our shotgun killed a rooster and a hen at the same time, we weren’t about to leave that hen a lying. I was taught to never waste game.
Along about dinner we stopped hunting and drove to a little country store for something to eat. We walked in and each of us ordered a sandwich from the lady behind the counter. While she was putting the order together we began to share small talk.
“Are you guys hunting,” the lady asked.
“Yep,” I answered quickly.
“What are you hunting,” she asked with a puzzled look on her face.
“Pheasants,” I told her.
“You haven’t killed any, have you,” she asked as she turned around stopping her task at hand.
“Yep, we’ve had a pretty good day. We already got seven roosters,” I answered bragging about our successful morning hunt.
The lady then looked left and then right and leaned over the top of the cold cut case. She looked me straight in the eye and with her fore finger in front of her lips she said, “Shhhhhhh! Don’t talk too loud. Pheasant season has been out here for over two weeks.”
I felt like crawling in a hole. All morning long we had been out in the fields blasting away at the birds and hunting season wasn’t even in.
Needless to say the three of us took our sandwiches to go after that remark and thanked the lady for the information.
As we walked towards the door she laughed and said, “Be sure to come back next year except be sure to come about a month earlier.”
We laughed and told her we would.
All the way to the interstate we were constantly looking in the rear-view mirror or expecting to see flashing lights and hear a siren coming up from behind. Once back on I-65 south we laughed and joked about our hunting trip.
That was the one and only time I ever went pheasant hunting. I worked in the city as long as I could stand it and then returned again to the mountains I grew up to love.
I still tell my pheasant story and I laugh every time I think about it. Someday I hope to maybe take another trip up north to hunt those majestic birds. But before I do, you can bet that I’ll be sure to check the hunting guide to make sure the season is in.
Wednesday, 27 March 2013 12:28
I thought my wife had awakened me from another difficult dream. But I was wrong. She was still asleep. Then I realized it must have been Momma.
That night when I closed my eyes for another night’s sleep I had no idea what my mind had in store for me.
I was at my childhood home where I grew up on Paw Paw but the time was the present. I was baby-sitting my youngest grand baby Caylen. We were the only two home at the time in my Momma’s old house.
I was in the kitchen cooking and had placed Caylen in a crib in the back bedroom. As I was cooking and cleaning Caylen began to get a little fussy from the inattention and no matter what I said or did she wanted out of the crib.
I remembered that my daughter Leslie had told me before she left Caylen with me that she had put a bag of seedless grapes in a zip-lock bag in the diaper bag. I figured that she might just be hungry so I decided to put a few of the cut-up grapes in a small bowl and take to her.
I was right. She jumped with excitement as I handed her the bowl with the grapes in it and she began to eat them.
I went back to my work in the kitchen glad that the grapes had done the trick. I hadn’t been in there too long when I noticed that I hadn’t heard from her in a little while and I called her name but Caylen didn’t answer.
My mind then began to remember back to a time when my Momma had told me that once she had almost choked to death eating a grape. She warned me be careful when feeding grapes to a small child.
I took off in a hard run towards the bedroom yelling Caylen’s name with no answer. As I neared the bedroom I caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure out the corner of my eye flash by the window.
All of a sudden, as I headed through the bedroom door, it slammed shut just in front of me tight. I then noticed long gray hair like that of an aging woman had gotten caught in the edge of the door as it slammed and it pulled through the crack of the door slowly until it disappeared inside the room where Caylen was.
I grabbed the door handle and twisted it left and right but it wouldn’t open. I called out Caylen’s name again and again but I never heard a word. I pulled and pushed on the door but it wouldn’t budge.
Then, from inside the locked bedroom I heard a loud cough and a faint cry. At that moment the door suddenly swung open. As I entered the room Caylen was saying, “Mammaw! Mammaw!” A cold chill ran down my spine.
Who could it have been that prevented Caylen from choking? And why was she saying, “Mammaw?” I thought, Caylen only knows Margy by “Mimi” and Karen, her other grandmother, as “Nana”. Mamma had died before she was even born but then I remembered that both Leslie and I have a photo of my Momma on our refrigerators and when we point at the picture Caylen calls her “Mammaw”.
My senses then noticed a familiar smell of perfume in the air of the bedroom. It was the perfume that my Momma always used, Jovan Musk.
I glanced around the room and there on a usually empty nail that was driven into the wall of the bedroom was Momma’s purple housecoat.
After that, I come to the conclusion that Momma must have been the one who saved Caylen from choking on the grape peel, much like she had said she almost did years before.
Suddenly I felt a soft pat on my back as I lifted Caylen from the crib and I turned around expecting to catch a glimpse of my Momma’s ghost as it faded in the room.
But as I turned around I awoke from the dream. I thought that it must have been Margy patting me on my back trying to awake me from another nightmare but she was still asleep.
Next morning I ask her after she awoke if she had tried to awaken me from my sleep in the night but she said she hadn’t. I then retold this story that I’m telling you and she sobbed like a baby.
I told Margy then that I thought that my dream was a warning from my Momma to make sure that Caylen only eat sliced-up grapes. She agreed.
I re-told the story later to my son-in-law Jason as we made an early morning trip to London. It really hit home with him.
After we got back to Manchester told Leslie that she should call me and let me tell her about the dream that I had had the night before.
Leslie cried too as I told her how real it seemed and how I felt someone patting me on my back to assure me that everything would be okay now.
I firmly believe that Momma had found a way to trigger my mind to caution both of us about the danger of the grapes that Caylen had recently grown fond of.
And for that Momma, I thank you again.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 12:37
My parents were married for 50 beautiful years. And during those 50 years there were only a handful of times that I can remember when my parents got mad at one another.
One time in particular was when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I never knew why my Momma got mad at Daddy that day but it must have been something pretty bad. It was surely a day that I will never forget.
I can’t recall too much about the morning leading up to when Momma went missing. The day must have started off like a hundred before. But something that day happened and Momma must have felt like she had to get away. This is my story about that day.
I had been outside playing and had come in to the house for dinner but dinner wasn’t ready. That was the first thing that made me think something just wasn’t right.
I yelled for Momma but she didn’t answer. I then began to go from room to room to see where she was but after a quick search of the house, I couldn’t find her.
I then went outside and circled the yard yelling for Momma, but I didn’t get an answer. I was starting to get worried. That wasn’t like my Momma to just disappear.
I then began to ask my brothers and sisters when they had last seen Momma and from the answers I got, she had been gone for an hour or two. Now I was getting really worried.
We began to yell louder and louder for her but still no one answered. Momma’s disappearance upset Darlene so much that she began to cry for her. Where could she have gone, I asked myself.
We never had a telephone yet so there was no way to call anyone to find out what might have happened. So all of us gathered together and decided to split up in pairs to try to find out where she might have gone.
A couple of my siblings took the dirt road going from house to house to see if anyone had seen her. No one had seen hide nor hair of her.
We knew Momma spent a lot of time in the woods from time to time so the rest of us hit the hills to see if she might have gone there picking berries or something.
Ronnie and me went to the left in the woods and Gary and Anthony went to the right. Every so often we would stop and yell loudly “Momma!” It didn’t take us long before she answered us. We ran to the sound of her voice as fast as we could.
We found Momma about halfway up the mountain in a flat where she had built herself a teepee. Yes, I said a teepee, just like an Indian would have.
When we got to her I could see that she had been crying and I hugged her tighter than I ever had before in my life. She was so happy to see us and I could see that she was upset at herself for scaring us the way she had. She kept saying that she was sorry but I didn’t really know why. I was just glad that we had found her.
We stayed there for a little while as we walked around admiring her building skills with her teepee. Momma had tied long poles together with a grapevine for the skeleton of the teepee and had woven the outside with tree branches she had cut. She was the type of person that could do almost anything and her teepee proved it.
Momma realized it was now time to go home as she took us by the hand and slowly walked with us off the mountain towards our house. Everyone came running to her half crying and half smiling just glad that Momma was found safe.
Later, I finally got up the nerve to ask her why she had left and why she had been crying and she told us that she got upset at Daddy for something but she didn’t want us to worry. “Everything is going to be okay”, she assured us.
Momma was right. When Daddy got home that evening they made up and that made the rest of us happy again. I never did find out what had happened that had caused her to get so upset that day and really I didn’t want to know. I think there are some things better left unsaid.
I hadn’t thought about that day so long ago for quite some time until I was out hunting deer sheds earlier this year. As I walked along the bench in the mountain to where the teepee had been some 50 years ago I stopped for a rest and remembered how scared I was on the day Momma had gone missing. A tear rolled down my cheek as I remembered running to her open arms and she hugged us tight.
I sat there on a fallen log a few minutes searching the woods for some faint reminder of her teepee that she had built so skillfully long ago when she had gotten mad at Daddy, but nothing could be found.
I did however see why I thought she had chosen the picturesque spot in the mountain for her teepee as the morning sun rose over the ridge and lit up the flat with it’s warm morning rays.
Yep, it was the perfect spot for a teepee and it was also the perfect spot for a person to shed a tear.
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 13:52
This week’s story is dedicated to the memory of Laura Belle Sibert who passed away recently at the age of 91.
Laura Belle also lived on Paw Paw when I was young and came to our house many times to visit with us. Her favorite song to sing when we had our guitars out was “Barbara Allen”. Everyone wanted to hear her sing the song because she knew more verses than almost anyone.
There are many versions of the old English song (and I can’t remember all of the ones that Laura Belle sang) but these are the words taught to me by my Momma. She also loved the song.
The Ballad of Barbara Allen
In Scarlet town where I was born,
There was a fair maid a-dewellin’
Made every youth cry well-a-day,
Her name was Barbara Allen.
Was in the merry month of May
When all the flowers were a-bloomin',
Sweet William on his death-bed lay
For the love of Barbara Allen.
He sent his servant to the town
To the place where she was a-dwelling
Said, "You must come to my master's house,
If your name be Barbara Allen."
So slowly, slowly she gets up,
And to his bedside going
She drew the curtains to one side
And says, "Young man, you're a-dying."
"I know, I'm sick and very low,
And sorrow dwells within me
No better, no better I never will be.
‘Til I have Barbara Allen."
"Don't you remember last Saturday night
When I was at the tavern,
You gave your drinks to the ladies there
But you slighted Barbara Allen?"
He reached up his pale white hands
Intending for to touch her
She turned away from his bedside
And says, "Young man I won't have you."
He turned his cheek onto the wall
And bursted out a-crying
"What I do to thee I do to all
And I do to Barbara Allen."
She had not walked and reached the town
She heard the death bells a-ringing
And as they rolled they seemed to say,
"Hard-hearted Barbara Allen."
"Oh Mother, oh mother go make my bed
Go make it long and narrow
Sweet William died for me today
And I'll die for him tomorrow."
Sweet William was buried in the old church yard
And Barbara there a-nigh him,
And out of his grave grew a red, red rose,
And out of hers, grew a briar.
They grew and grew to the old churchyard,
Where they couldn't grow any higher,
And there they tied in a true love's knot.
The rose wrapped around the briar.
Dedicated to Laura Belle Sibert -12/6/21 – 2/4/13
Page 2 of 23