The Manchester Enterprise: A Boy's Memories Bits of Clay

'Twas the day after Christmas

‘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

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Cough Syrup and Fruitcake

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!

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Momma, that's who

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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The night I saw Santa

     I rubbed my eyes again and strained as I tried to get a better look out of our window. The glass fogged-up from my breath as my heart raced faster and faster with each glimpse of Santa Claus. I yelled at my brothers, “Santa Claus is outside, come look!” Everyone dropped what they were doing and raced to the window pushing the other ones aside to get a look at Santa.
     There was a snow on the ground that Christmas Eve and his red suit really stood out against the fresh white blanket as he made his way towards our house. He had a black bag on his back that looked so full he could barely carry it.  As he got closer to our house, Mom, who had been watching us said, “You had better run and get in bed because Santa wants all little kids to be in bed asleep or he might pass them by.” We looked at each other and then a stampede of kids, racing for the bedroom, began.
     I jumped in bed with Ronnie, as Carlos and Anthony filled the other bed beside us. The cover went quickly over us, up to our necks and everyone got really quite as we listened for Santa to make his way down the chimney. Gary just shook his head and told us “All of you are crazy, Santa Claus ain’t real.”
     “Don’t say that Gary! Santa’s real, we just saw him. And if you don’t believe, you won’t get any presents for Christmas.” I warned. Gary just laughed and walked away.
      “You have to believe,” Ronnie echoed “or Santa will just pass on by. Gary has maybe just gotten too old.” He explained.
      “Last Christmas, when he did believe, he asked for something he didn’t get and he then made his mind up that there must not be a Santa Claus just because he didn’t get what he asked for.” Ronnie went on.
      “What did he ask for?” I asked.
      “I really don’t know, he never told me, but whatever it was Santa didn’t bring it.” Ronnie answered, “He even cried.”
      “Maybe he didn’t get Gary’s letter.” Anthony said. “You think Santa might have forgotten it at the North Pole?” Carlos asked.
      “I don’t think so. But maybe, Gary was bad last year. You know, you have to be good or he won’t bring you anything. If your are mean or bad, he only brings you a block of coal, Momma said.”  Ronnie explained in a low voice, not wanting Gary to over hear.
      “We had better get to sleep or he won’t bring us anything!” Carlos whispered. “He knows if you’re asleep, too.”
      My eyes grew heavy, as I tried hard to listened for Santa making his delivery of our presents. It seemed I had barely closed them as I felt Ronnie softly shaking me to wake me up. It was still dark outside as I rubbed my eyes almost forgetting what day it was. “Get up! Get up!” Ronnie said, “It’s Christmas!” Those were the magic words.
      Anthony and Carlos raised their heads from their pillows with big smiles as we all started putting on our clothes and shoes. Mom and Dad weren’t up yet as we quietly made our way to the living room to the tall, green decorated Christmas tree with presents sitting all around it. Santa had made his stop and we didn’t even know it.
      Ronnie and I started searching the gifts for the names on all the presents, handing them out as we called off everyone’s name. Jackie carried Darlene, who was too young to walk, into the room followed closely behind by Mom and Dad.
      “Where’s Gary?” Mom asked, looking all around the room.
      “Gary doesn’t believe, Momma. He told us there wasn’t a Santa Claus because he had asked for something last year and Santa didn’t bring it.” I again explained.
      “Gary, come on in here.” Momma yelled. After a few minutes, Gary slowly made his way to the living room, thinking he would be scolded for telling us Santa Claus wasn’t real. But instead, Momma told him to go a look under the tree. “I think Santa has brought you a present. He told me last year you just weren’t ready for that gun you asked him for but now, he felt like you were old enough.”
       Well, from that day on for many years Santa always visited our little home on Paw Paw. He usually brought us what we wanted. But sometimes, if we didn’t get what we wanted, we never said we don’t believe, we just said, “Santa knows what’s best.”
      So, if anyone reading this story ever asked Santa for a gift that they didn’t get, remember, Santa does the best he can at making sure everyone wakes up on Christmas morning with everything they want. But sometimes, you may ask for things you don’t really need and like my Momma always said, “Santa knows what’s best.”
      And I’m telling you now, long ago on that cold and snowy Christmas Eve, looking out through that frost-covered window, I did see Santa, I really did.

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My first basketball game

     Growing up on Paw Paw, few things ever changed. Dad would always say, “We don’t have time or money to go to the ballgames!” and if I heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times, “Money don’t grow on trees, you know!”
     I didn’t want to be a smarty-pants, but I never did think money grew on trees. And if it did, I would have a money-tree orchard.  I knew how hard my dad worked for the money to raise our family.
     But, there was a night when I really wanted to go to a basketball game at Clay County High. Clay County Tigers were playing the Knox Central Panthers in a regional game. I begged and pleaded to Dad but still he refused to take me to the game. I then turned to Mom.
     “Please Momma, will you take me to the ballgame? I’ve got my own money. It want cost Dad a dime.” I begged. “I’ve never been, and lots of my school friends go almost every game. Please Momma, let me go to the game.”
     Mom was always a little easier to persuade than Dad. “Is it okay if I take Rodney to the ball game Dad? He’s got his own money and I don’t mind if you don’t object.” My pleading eyes turned toward Dad waiting on his answer.
     “Oh, alright. But remember don’t come asking me for money when you run out. Money don’t grow on trees, you know.” Dad repeated.
     “Thanks Dad! Momma, the game starts at 7:00 o’clock. I’ll be ready to go in 10 minutes!” I told her. I hurried to the bedroom and put on a clean shirt, slicked down my hair with Wildroot, and rushed to the front door hollering, “ I’m ready to go now, Momma! Come on, hurry!”
      I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to get to the gym. In the car Momma told me she would listen to the radio broadcasting the game and would leave home in time to pick me up after the game. “Now be careful and wait for me in the same place here where I’m dropping you off! Don’t hang with the wrong crowd and be sure to mind you’re manners.” She said as she kissed my forehead and told me goodbye, slipping .50 cents into my hand.
     “Thanks, Momma. But I’ve got enough money to get in already.” I told her knowing what her answer would be.
     “You might want to buy something to eat or you might meet a pretty girl and want to buy her a pop.” Mom said smiling.
     “I just might do that Momma, thanks a lot!” I said getting out of the car. I had never been to the high school much less a ballgame and I followed the crowd of people to the ticket stand. “One ticket, please.” I told the man behind the glass window.
     “That’ll be 25 cents, son.” He told me as he passed the ticket under the glass.
     I took the ticket and made my way through the heavy steel grey doors to the gym. The floor looked liked polished glass. I never knew wood could be so beautiful. I walked slowly on into the gym and saw one side had lots of people and the other had almost as many. I didn’t know where I was supposed to sit and didn’t want to ask anyone, so I found my way to the upper deck, opposite of the stage in the old gym. This way I could be on either side, I thought.
     The teams came out on the floor to a loud, rowdy crowd. People were standing and clapping as the cheerleaders took the center floor for a  “Go-o-o-o Tigers!!!” yell. The side with not as many people were from Knox Central, they “booed” loudly.
     The players were introduced and met at center floor for handshakes and the jump ball. The referee blew his whistle, pitched up the ball, and the game was underway. They played toe to toe for 8 minutes and the horn sounded with an even score. Neither could get the upper hand.
     I hurried to the concession stand eager to spend the whole 50 cents Mom had given me. “I’ll have a Coke and a bag of popcorn.” I said to the lady working. She gave me my drink and popcorn and you know what, I still had money left over. I told her, “I think I’ll also have a Baby Ruth candy bar.” as I pushed a dime across to her. Man, I was feeling like Richie Rich, as I made my way back to my seat, checking out the pretty cheerleaders as I walked by. It doesn’t get any better than this, I thought.
     When I sat down the game was already started. They sure didn’t rest long, I said to myself. The game again was really close as the clock ticked down to the final seconds with Clay County ahead by 3 points. The horn sounded and the crowd went crazy as the teams left the floor. “Go, Big Clay” the cheerleaders lead the fans in unison.
     A lot of people got up and started walking out of the gym and I, followed suit. I hoped my Mom hadn’t had to wait too long for me. Walking out of the door of the gym, I noticed a lot of people standing around outside smoking. I guess they couldn’t wait until they got in their car, you know how smokers are. I ran to the spot where Momma had dropped me off, but Mom wasn’t there.
     No problem, I would just sit down on the rock fence and wait until she arrived. I took my Baby Ruth out of my pocket and tore off the wrapper. That was the best candy bar I had ever tasted as I savored ever bite.
     After waiting for about 10 minutes, I noticed all the smokers were heading back into the gym. I guess there must be another game, I thought to myself, as I heard the horn inside the gym sound again. I didn’t have enough money left to get in again because I had blown it all at the concession. The second game must have been a doosie. The crowd got even louder than in the game before.
     I must have waited for another 30 minutes before Mom pulled in to pick me up. She asked “What are you doing sitting out here? The games not over and it’s in overtime!”
     I found out later from one of my friends when he asked, “Where did you go at half time? You missed the best game of the year!” that the game wasn’t really over. It was half time.
     When the second horn had sounded, I figured with all the people going outside, that the game was over. I had never been to a basketball game before and never knew anything about half time. I was mad at myself for being so stupid.
     So quickly, I thought of something to save face, “I was outside smoking with a cheerleader, the game got boring!” I told him.
     “Man, you’re so cool!” my friend said, “I wish I could ‘a been with you instead of watching a stupid basketball game.”
     With that one comment, I had made a friend for life.

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Page 7 of 25

e-Edition A-Section 10-23-14


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e-Edition B-Section 10-23-14


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