Wednesday, 09 May 2012 12:44
Flowers for Momma… a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller
The earliest I can remember a Mother’s Day was when I was very small and going to church at Horse Creek Baptist where the preacher then was Denvis Rush. Every one of us had on our best clothes and Mom had on a pretty white hat she had got at a second-hand store. I hadn’t seen her in a hat much before, and I thought how beautiful she looked.
We walked into the church together after Sunday school like a mother duck leading her ducklings to water. We marched in a row, military style, and were told to be on our best behavior because this was the Lord’s house. We only had to be told once.
In we came with the general, my Dad, up front, then my Mom, and seven kids stair-stepped in size from the oldest, my sister Jackie, to the youngest, my baby sister Darlene, and 5 boys in between.
We all sat together on a pew somewhere in the middle of the church and waited for the Sunday sermon to begin. The choir sang a couple of old Baptist songs, and I don’t recall what they were, but I remember all of us singing along. We were a family that took pride in our voices and when in church we really let ourselves be heard. We didn’t need a hymn book to know the words, they were the same ones we sang every time we got together at home sitting, almost in a circle, with Mom and Dad furnishing the music with their guitars.
After the songs were sung, out came Preacher Rush with a big grin on his face as he looked at a church full of smiling faces. “Today is Mother’s Day, and we have something special for the mother with the most kids here today. A mother is someone special, someone who will love you until the day you die. Someone who gives so much to everyone else and seldom gets enough in return. Well today it’s your day, mothers.” He said as he looked over his flock.
“I want every mother in the congregation to stand for recognition of a job well done.” He went on.
There were so many mothers there that day. Every seat was full. Beside them sat their most precious processions, their children and their husbands. Most had on a new dress, new shoes, or a new hat, if they could afford it. It was their day to shine, and they all wanted to look their best.
“Now, I want everyone to give a big hand for all the mothers.” Preacher said.
Every member of the church gave a thunderous applause. “I want to see who today, of the mothers among us, has the most children with them. I have a big bouquet of flowers for that special lady.” He continued.
“Any mother with less than 3 kids, please sit down.” Preacher shouted. A stir was heard in the crowd of the church as almost half of the mothers sit down.
Now looking over all the mothers still standing he said, “Any mother with less than 4 kids, please sit down.” Again, more of the standing mothers took their seat.
You could hear whispering around the church of who everyone thought would be the last mother standing.
My mother looked at me and just smiled, not knowing if she would get the flowers she so desperately wanted. Last year it had come down to her and one more lady and Mom lost out by one child. There wasn’t a consolation prize, only one bouquet of the most beautiful roses she had ever seen. This year she wanted them so badly.
Preacher started again “Any mother with less than 5 kids, would you please sit down.” That got all the mothers still standing down to three. I was carefully counting the kids sitting by the mothers standing, but it was hard to tell just how many they each had.
“Well then, any mother with less than 6 kids, please sit down.” Preacher said. Another mother took her seat, as I strained my eyes to count the family of the mother still standing with Mom. One, two, three, four, five, six, I whispered to myself. “She has only six, Anthony, we have seven, Mom is going to win!” I almost spoke out loud.
Some of the people around me began to laugh for how excited I was for my mom to finally get the flowers. I crossed my fingers and told all my brothers and sisters to cross theirs, for good luck. I even crossed my legs. This time, it was our time, I hoped.
“Well, we have two beautiful mothers still standing. Let’s see who will win the Mothers Day flowers. If one of you have less than 7 kids, please have a seat.” Preacher went on.
We all looked towards the lady still standing, and she looked back at us smiling, as she slowly took her seat on the pew.
“Yeah! Yeah!” we yelled, a little too loud, but no one seemed to mind. This year the flowers belonged to Mom.
Preacher asked for Mom and Dad, and all seven kids to come forward to be recognized by the congregation for a job well done. Again, we marched like little soldiers to the front behind our parents with grins from ear to ear. That day, was a day I will never forget, it was a proud moment for our family.
The smile on Mom’s face as Preacher Rush handed her the flowers, was a smile I can still see today, she looked so beautiful in her little white hat.
She proudly carried the flowers home and placed them in a vase in the center of our table along beside her little white hat. She reminded every one of how beautiful they were each time we ate a meal. Mom probably kept them there a little longer than she should have, but even wilted to her they were still special.
This Mother’s Day is the first my family will have to spend without our Mother. It will be a sad time when the only flowers she will receive will be on her grave. But I know she will be looking down from above, in her heavenly home, with her “new” white hat and smiling with that same beautiful smile, so proud of her family.
“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.”
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 12:53
Strange moments…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller
I’m sure there are those times in most people’s life when something strange has happened and you’ve never forgotten it. I know there are some in mine that have made me stop and say “Wow! Did that really happen?” Here are a few I would like to share with you.
1) It was early spring about 12 years ago when I was on my way to work. I was selling cars at Kain Ford and driving my usual route on old Highway 80 towards London.
I was making my way up the Big Hill, just before the Laurel County line, when about halfway up I rounded a sharp curve and saw a crow standing in the opposite lane. He had landed in the middle of the road and picked up something from the blacktop.
As I got closer I could barely believe my eyes. The crow turned as I got closer and looked me straight in the eye. In the crow’s beak was a smoking cigarette! It looked so natural. Just like he knew what he was doing.
As I got closer the crow simply flew off with his lit cigarette still clenched tightly in his beak leaving behind a faint smoke trail. I laughed almost all the way to work. I kept thinking that I wished I could have gotten a photo of the smoking crow. It would surely have won some kind of a photography award. I thought to myself, I hope he doesn’t inhale! Cigarettes are addictive.
2) Another one of those moments happened when I was a young boy. I was outside my family’s grocery store at Sibert under the hood of my car doing a little mechanic work when I got a weird feeling. A strange sensation came over me. It was like I was looking into the future.
Something told me that a lady, whose name was Dorothy, was going to round the corner of our store and I would somehow know what she was going to say and what my response was to going to be and then her next question and my answer to that one also. I don’t know how to explain it other than the way I have. I guess it was some kind of premonition or as they say dejavu.
I then got the urge to look towards the corner of our store and just like that, suddenly Dorothy appeared. When she started talking I got chill bumps up and down my spine. Word for word the entire conversation carried out exactly the way I had foreseen just minutes earlier. Nothing like that has happened to me since that day but it was truly something I will never forget. Spooky!
3) My next little thing that is forever etched in my mind is a little different. It was again at my Dad’s store at Sibert years ago.
I was outside in the parking lot talking to a friend who was smoking a cigarette. His Dad, who didn’t know his son was smoking, pulled into the parking lot unexpectedly. The boy panicked. He quickly threw the lit cigarette to the ground.
The Dad walked up and asked the son what was it that he was throwing away so fast when he pulled up. “Nothing,” the boy said trying to hide his guilt.
“Well, what’s that?” the Dad asked pointing to the ground.
Both of us looked down and the cigarette was standing straight up, on its filter. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ll bet you could throw down a cigarette a million times and not have it land standing straight up like that. I’ve often wondered if anyone else has every witnessed something like that. Let me know if you have. I’m curious.
4) The forth thing is along the same line as the last one. I was having supper one evening sitting in our family room while watching TV. I had my plate on a TV stand and had poured my Pepsi in a glass of ice. After empting the pop bottle I set it in the floor beside the leg of the TV stand.
I was watching a show on the TV not paying much attention to what I was doing when I knocked the fork from my plate and it fell to the floor. I bent down to pick up my fork but it wasn’t there. I looked all around but the fork was nowhere to be seen. I looked at Margy and said, “I just dropped my fork in the floor and it has disappeared.”
Of course she said, “That’s impossible!”
I thought so too but again I looked and couldn’t see my fork in the floor. I even moved the pop bottle thinking that it might somehow be under it, I guess. But to my surprise when I pick up the pop bottle I noticed the prongs of the fork sticking out of the top of the bottle.
Somehow, the fork had fallen from the table and went straight into the opening of the pop bottle! And this fork didn’t have a narrow straight end on it. I was a fancy flower covered fork three-quarters of an inch wide. I couldn’t believe it.
Getting the fork out of the bottle wasn’t that easy. The end of the fork was so tight that I’ll bet a hair couldn’t have gone between the fork and the metal fork. It had to have fallen perfectly “dead-on” in the neck of the pop bottle and perfectly straight up.
It was another one of those freak happenings that has forever baffled me. Sometimes, fact is definitely stranger than fiction.
Tuesday, 24 April 2012 23:18
The man behind the plow…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller
After four long months of cold and snowy weather, springtime sure was a welcomed sight in the mountains. Being cooped up in the house all winter sure would give a kid a case of “cabin fever”. But lots of hard work came with the warm weather. We were taught that from an early age.
Back when I was a small boy spring and summer were used to prepare for the next winter. If we didn’t want to go hungry in winter we knew we had to work hard to put up as much food possible. And that meant growing a big garden.
We started early in spring by cleaning and burning off the weeds from our garden spot. All the weeds that were left after the last harvest were cut, raked and piled up to be burned. “The ashes,” Dad said, “will make the garden grow more vegetables.”
After the garden was cleared we went to the barn and cleaned out the stalls of all the manure. This was loaded in a wooden sled and pulled to the garden with our mule to be scattered over the soil. Dad said, “Manure is a natural fertilizer. Plants love it.”
When the garden was dry enough, our mule was hooked to a plow and the ground was turned. Dad would wrap the leather plow lines around his neck as he muscled the plow in straight rows through the soil. A good mule could be guided by voice commands of “gee” and “haw”. A real good mule would walk a straight line through the garden almost with no commands at all.
Plowing the garden with a mule and plow took a lot of time and a lot of muscle. But after it was finished it was a work of art. I loved the way the air smelled around a fresh plowed field. It was one of those smells that reminded me again that winter was over and new life was about to emerge.
After turning the ground Dad smoothed out the furrows with a disc. Then he used two railroad ties nailed together to smooth it out even further. Dad would have the garden looking “like a lettuce bed.”
The entire field was then “laid-off” with another plow to give us the rows to plant the crops in. Garden work was hard working with a mule and plow, but it had to be done.
The first crops we planted were usually cabbage and potatoes. A little frost never hurt the cabbage and the potatoes took two to three weeks just to peek out of the ground so by the time they came up the chance of frost was almost gone.
Dad only raised one kind of potato, Kennebec. If we had potatoes left over from the winter sometimes we used them to plant and they worked just fine. But most times all the potatoes from the previous harvest were gone and a fresh burlap bag of certified seed potatoes were used.
A couple of days before planting the potatoes we all sat around large buckets with our knives in hand cutting the seed potatoes to be planted. A large one would sometimes have several “eyes” on it so it could be halved and quartered up into more planting stock. After finishing the potatoes would be set-aside for two or three days to heal the cut. Dad said this would make the potato hardier when we planted them in the ground.
We planted several long rows of potatoes. It took a lot to feed our large family. Most of the time Momma fried or mashed them but she also used them in many other ways. With leftover mashed potatoes she made one of my favorites, potato cakes. She made hash browns, potato soup and potato salad. She cooked them in vegetable soup. We wrapped them in tin foil and cooked them in our fireplace. Potatoes were served in one way or another at just about every meal.
Dad raised our tomato plants from seed in a large bed. He always raised more than we could use so he sold the plants we didn’t need for extra money. We put out as many as a hundred plants for our use in the garden. Tomatoes were another garden product that we used in many different ways.
Momma and Daddy would can as many quarts of tomato juice as they could. Back then we ate lots of macaroni in tomato juice. It is also another one of my favorite meals. We used the juice in soup, tomato gravy, in slum-gullion and in chili. Plus, we drank large amounts of it as a healthy drink.
Corn and beans were also plentiful in our garden. Those, along with potatoes, were essential foods for most mountain families. We canned as many vegetables as possible for the next winter. It was a never-ending cycle.
Each year when I smell fresh earth turned over in a field it takes me back once again to my childhood. Not to last year or the year before but the early years of my life. Back to a time when the smell of a fresh garden triggered my senses reminding me that winter was finally over once again and a new year had began.
I hope I never lose that sensation. Even today, when I close my eyes and take in a deep breath through my nose of a newly plowed field I can still see my father behind the plow of our old mule, under a warm spring sun, as he prepared the ground for another autumn harvest.
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 13:12
Old time remedies…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller
The other day I was thinking back to my childhood, as I often do, trying to remember some of my family’s old time remedies. There was something for just about any problem a person could have. Some were a little off the wall but others really did work. Here are a few of the ones I remember.
A Sprained or Twisted Ankle – This is one that I still swear by. When we twisted or sprained an ankle Momma would take a brown paper bag and cut it into strips about an inch wide. Then, she would soak the strips in vinegar until they were saturated. The strips of paper were then wrapped around the ankle or joint.
This process was repeated after the paper dried out or until the soreness was gone from the joint, usually after two or three applications.
To make your hair grow – Momma would always go into the woods and cut the end of a grapevine. Under the vine she would place a quart jar and catch the sap from the vine. When she washed her hair she wet her hair with the sap and wrapped it with a towel for about 10 minutes. Momma believed the sap would make her hair long and strong like the grapevine.
Tonsillitis – Daddy would get a chicken feather and paint our tonsils with iodine even though the bottle displayed the “skull and crossbones” (poison) on it.
To treat dandruff – mix a tablespoon of sulfur in a quart of water and shake well. Wet your hair and head every morning with the liquid until the dandruff disappears.
To get rid of a headache – Chew on the bark of a willow tree. I have also heard that you could get rid of a headache by placing a pair of scissors under your pillow before going to sleep. The scissors was supposed to cut the pain of the headache.
For a wasp or bee sting – chewing tobacco was rubbed over the sting. Or, I was told you could mix honey with a dirt daubers nest and rub on the sting.
To remove the infection of a boil – break a fresh hen egg and remove the lining of the egg. Place the egg lining over the boil overnight to draw out the infection.
Poison ivy – Griffin’s brand white shoe polish was used to cover the affected area. I have also heard you could dig up poke roots and boil to make a paste to rub on poison ivy.
To treat sunburn – make a paste of cornstarch and milk. Spread the mix over the sunburn. Later, Momma found out that the secretions from an broken piece of the aloe plant worked well when rubbed over the sunburn.
To keep chiggers off – rub a little kerosene on your ankles, legs, and arms.
To treat a sore throat – take a teaspoon of sugar and add two or three drops of turpentine to the sugar. Swallow slowly. This was also good for a stomachache. Or, try chewing the bark from a slippery elm tree.
For a cut – Momma first covered the cut with table salt to clot the bleeding. Then, she put kerosene on a white rag and tied it around the cut to keep down infection and to take out the soreness. My Pap Paw said to put a spider’s web over a cut and it would stop the bleeding.
There were several ways used to remove warts – (1) Rub the wart with a dirty dishrag and hide the rag under a rock. (2) She also said that the seventh son, of a seventh son could buy (give you money) the wart and it would disappear. (3) Tie the wart tightly with the hair from a horse’s tail and it would fall off. We used black thread and it worked just a good. (4) Rub butter on the wart and let a cat lick it.
For an upset stomach – a teaspoon of baking soda was mixed with water and swallowed.
Cough or cold – Daddy would make a cough syrup out of whiskey or moonshine, honey, lemon, and red pepper. This always worked, plus it made you feel a lot better.
To get rid of hiccups – take 10 swallows of water or slip up behind the person and pop a brown bag that you have filled with air. The noise will scare the hiccups away.
For an earache – pour warm urine from a spoon into the ear. (Then get rid of the spoon.)
To get a crick out of your neck – go to the hog pen and find where a hog has rubbed his neck on a fence post or tree. Then rub your neck in the same place.
For diarrhea – eat a lot of cheese.
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 12:57
The Greatest Gift…a boy’s memories
By: Rodney Miller
When I was growing up Easter was the holiday that Momma and my sisters always look forward to the most. You see Easter was one of the few times of the year when Momma and the girls got a new dress. It was an old mountain tradition.
In the early years Momma couldn’t afford a store bought dress for her and Jackie. So she would start a month before Easter selecting the perfect materials and the patterns to make their dresses from. Momma sewed a lot back then. She was an excellent seamstress.
Back then every woman knew how to sew. Money was hard to come by so instead of throwing clothes away when they got a rip or a tear in them they were repaired.
Most all of her sewing was on an old pedal type Singer sewing machine. But when she needed to, she could hand stitch as good as anybody. Her quilts were truly a work of art. When Momma set her mind to doing something she never hardly stopped until the job was done.
One special Easter Momma had finished making Jackie’s dress and was putting the finishing touches on her dress to wear to church on Sunday. We had company that day. A neighbor girl was visiting with us. Momma was sitting on the couch sewing lace on her dress in ruffles around the arms, neck and bottom by hand.
When she had finished, Momma held it up to her body and she looked beautiful. I remember the neighbor girl said, “I sure wish I had a pretty dress like that. If I did, I would go to church with you Juanita.”
“You would? What color of dress would you like if you could have one,” Momma asked.
The young girl said, “I wouldn’t care what color it was as long as it had lace on it, just like yours.”
Momma never said another word but we could tell by her smile that wheels were turning inside her head.
After sitting with us a little while longer the little girl got up and left to go home. Momma then went to work. She had made up her mind that the little neighbor girl would have her own Easter dress come Sunday morning.
Momma went to her closet where she kept her pieces of fabric and began to search for enough to make the dress. She found a nice pink piece of fabric with tiny rose buds on it for the dress bottom and another solid light green piece for the top.
Momma worked on the dress tirelessly until late Friday night. Then on Saturday after breakfast she was back on the dress again determined to get it finished in time. Finally, after working nonstop late into the evening sewing on the lace that the little girl wanted so badly, the dress was finished.
Momma then sent one of us to the neighbors to bring the little girl to our house for her surprise. When she saw the dress she couldn’t believe that the dress was for her. She said with eyes and mouth wide open, “Is that for me?”
“Yes it is,” Momma assured her, “You’re going to wear it to church tomorrow.”
Momma told the smiling little girl to go try it on. Soon she returned and it fit perfectly, “I ain’t never had a pretty dress like this before. Thank you, Juanita,” the little girl said as she hugged Momma tight around the waist.
“Be ready at 9:30 in the morning and we’ll pick you up for church. I think you need to show this dress off.” Momma told her.
“I think so too,” the little girl answered with a smile from ear to ear.
That year, Easter Sunday at church was like a beauty pageant as all the girls and ladies of the congregation made their way into church with their new Easter outfits on to show them off. Everyone looked their finest but none were more beautiful than the Momma, Jackie and the little girl who had never had a dress on until that Easter Sunday. It was hard for me to tell who was the happiest Momma, Jackie or the little girl by the size of their smiles.
I learned a valuable lesson from my family that Easter. Momma had told me many times before that “…Sometimes it is better to give, than to receive.”
That Easter I finally realized what Momma was really talking about.
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