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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Opportunities We Miss

This morning I woke up thinking about my children and grandchildren and the state of my health and that reminded me somewhat of my relationship with my own parents and grandparents.  I only had one set of grandparents, my mother's parents, as my Dad's parents had died before I was born.

All in all, I had some very interesting grandparents.  I did not realize it at the time and now they've been gone for thirty to forty-plus years I find myself wishing I had taken the opportunity of getting to know them better when they were still alive.  But, like most children, the state of affairs that existed when I was born was going to last forever and I gave no thought to life after they were gone.

My grandfather (Leo, known as Poppie) was an herb doctor.  I grew up taking all kinds of odd concoctions.  The only one I can really remember was pine resin tablets.  We'd go out to pine trees and gather pine resin (dried sap) and make little round pills out of them.  Then they would be rolled in flower and I'd have to take them.  I don't recall how many or for how long but I do remember taking them.

I also remember gathering buckeyes for Poppie to make Piles (hemorrhoids) salve out of.  I'd go out with him a lot.  Now I was probably around five or six which would have made him eighty or eighty-one at the time.  State of my health now I'm amazed he was able to get our into the woods in any form or fashion at that age.  We'd go and he'd gather plants to make different medicines out of.

One spring he even took me to a  lone sugar maple tree up the  holler from the house and we 'tapped' it for sap and Grannie made maple syrup out of it on the old coal cook stove she used.  It did not amount to much but in volume but it was assuredly tasty. 

The story I've heard (so I cannot vouch for the truthfulness of it of my own knowledge) was that Poppy was a "licensed" herb doctor.  I have not researched this to find out if there was such a thing so we'll go on the assumption that was true.  He distributed herbal remedies to people around the area until a woman came to him because she was not having her periods.  Both, (him at least) did not realize she was pregnant and gave her a potion to cause her to have a period.  Naturally enough this caused a miscarriage.  After that, so I was told, he stopped doing anything for any "outsiders" but, as a member of the family, I was not spared.

I really did not pay a lot of attention to his remedies at the time (except all of them included a liberal dose of "Old Grandad" bourbon whiskey).  What an opportunity I missed for the fifteen years he was available to me to hear stories and learn herbal lore!  I so regret that now but death is about the most absolute "water under the bridge" there is. 

My Poppie had more than one peculiarity though.  My Dad owned a good piece of the hillside in those days and my Poppie has selected some big popular trees and had them cut and sawed into boards and one of the cousins (Virgil I think) made coffins out of them for both he and my Grannie.  Lined them with a nice, cushioned lining and painted them silver with roofing pain.  I was told my grandfather even got into his to see how comfortable it would be. 

I thought that was really weird at the time but in later times, as I learned more about my family, I found it quite typical and "in character".    Still, I regret not forcing him teach me more herbal lore.

Poppie also had a banjo I liked to take down and make horrible rackets on.  I persuaded him once (and only once) to play for me and he played a short time but said the 'rumitize' in his fingers hurt him too much to play.  At that time I had no conception what it was like to be over eighty years old.  The way my fingers ache now..... amazing really. 

My Grannie outlived Poppie for a good many years.  Poppie died in 1969 when I was fifteen and he was eighty-seven.  Do the math.  That would have made him being born in around 1881 or 1882.  What a different world he had grown up in.  I think Grannie was ten years younger and would have been born in around 1891 or 1892.  She was near one hundred when she died.  I do not remember the year and my brother and I disagree on her age then.  I think she was over one hundred and he things she was only ninety-eight or ninety-nine.  I suppose that is meaningless at this time.  She was old.

Grannie Victoria (DeBoard) was a character in her own right.  She was a mid-wife.  She delivered me and most of her grandchildren and even some of her great grandchildren.  I think the last one was when she was around eighty seven herself when the wife of one of my first cousins went into labor and just could not wait.  Grannie happened to be there and took over and all ended well. 

After Grannie decided she was having no more children she embraced the only 'sure' birth control known at the time.  I'm not sure how  old they were but I now they were both quite young.  (Relatively speaking).   But, my family is notorious for having "appetites" and Poppie was no different from the stories I've been told.  In fact my family might be much larger than I realize as there were "rumors"....


And another of Grannie's little nuggets of wisdom was once we were talking about a young (unmarried woman) in the neighborhood who was pregnant.  I asked who the baby's father was and she told me, "When you roll downhill through a brier patch it's hard to tell which brier sunk deepest".

I wish I had paid more attention to her as well.  Our parents and grandparents are deep funds of knowledge if we just have the desire and patience to mind them.  In a way I was blessed because I preferred the company of adults to that of my  peers.  Unless, of course, it was my own parents and I would do most anything to avoid both of them.   It was a complicated triad but that is something for a different day.

Just saying parents and grandparents don't last forever and one should take advantage of what they know while they are there.  Except, of course, when you're a teen.  Then, you already know everything there is to know anyhow and don't need anyone telling you anything.  LOL

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Losing the Appalachian Dialect

There was a post on FaceBook by my daughter talking about "country" speech.  More like "country" pronunciation.  She lumped being born in Kentucky with her time here in South Carolina as well as Alabama and Mississippi.  However, the Appalachian dialect is a separate dialect and should not be confused with the "southern drawl".  I really never understood how it came to be what it was until reading a book a long time ago called "Made in America" that detailed an awful lot of things that are American (like most of the ethnic foods we eat) and how they came to be.  The Appalachian dialect is one of these.

When I was young I, in the fifth grade, my teacher made the  mistake of telling me I had exceptional enunciation.  I had always loved words and tried to get them "right" and that gave me even more encouragement to do so.  I had grown up with my grandparents and parents pronouncing words in ways that just did not agree with my books.  At the time I thought it was ignorance and lack of education.  After all, my father did not finish the fourth grade and my mother did not finish third grade.  Actually, I was the first in my family to graduate from high school.  For what that is worth.

But, through this book, I found out the Appalachian dialect came into being not through ignorance or lack of education but through isolation.  All these strange enunciations were the correct way to pronounce words in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.  The Appalachian area, being so isolated, never (or rarely) came in contact with the language as it morphed over time in other areas of the country.

I do not know all the differences between modern pronunciations and "old time" pronunciations but I'll list a few here.

The first is all words that end in "ia" or sometimes just "a" are pronounced as though they end in "ie".   My mother's name was "Stella" but everybody called  her "Stellie".  I had a cousin named "Wanda" but never heard her called anything but "Wandie".   (Just as a meaningless aside, she had two two thumbs on one hand.  Fascinated me almost as much as her daughter did.  At two different times of course.)

Words with "oi" in them were pronounced with the "o" silent.  Point became 'pint'.  Join was 'jine' and so forth.  The one that remains with me so is 'pint' for more than one reason.  We lived in the hills and a ridge running down from the top of the hill was a "point" or, as I always heard it termed, "pint".  When asking where something was you'd get an answer like, "Go up the creek and take the Julie fork (the other fork being the Bascom fork) and to to fall rock holler and take the pint on the right".  See, we did not have north, south, east and west.  It was the hills.  The sun was not a constant presence like it is in the flat lands.  Directions were by landmarks and by the time you were a teenager you should know every landmark withing a few miles of where you lived.

But, maybe 'pint' remains with me because it figures prominently in the first "dirty" joke I ever heard.  It was told to me by my grandfather (Poppie) when I could not have been more than five or six.  I can't remember it in it's entirety but it concerned two cats making kittens.  Two people were talking about something and one of them stops the other and says, "I don't see the 'pint'".  To which the other replied, "That's because its in the other cat".   Rough, rustic humor.  Can't beat it.

Now my uncle Jerry (Aunt Bernices's (or Burnices, I never knew for sure) husband) provided some other terms I have grown to love and use (much to the chagrin of my wife).  Uncle Jerry was much older than my aunt though their youngest girl was only a little older than I.  He was mostly blind and had his own particular way of talking.  Two of the terms I use from time to time that drive my wife crazy are "atter" instead of after and "summers" instead of some wheres.  It was like, "Uncle Jerry what time is it?  Oh, looks summers like ten atter two".  He was also color blind though he dearly loved to play Rook.

Ok, Rook may take a little explanation.  It was played with a special deck of cards called (of course) Rook cards.  The rook was a crow-like bird from whence the name came.  The cards had four suits that were by color.  There was black, red, green and yellow (more of an orange as I recall).  But, Uncle Jerry could not tell the difference and would always 'renege' (not following suit... kinda like spades and hearts).   And, he chewed 'plug' tobacco.  Of all my bad habits that was one I could never get the hang of.  Much to my wife's relief I expect.  *smile*

My wife (now) was born and raised in Orlando, FL and just does  not understand where and  how I grew up and how sometimes I just automatically slip back in using words the way I learned them from my grandparents, parents and other old folk I came into contact with.  I can't help it.  They were with me long before the "correct" pronunciations came along.

In a way, I guess, it is somewhat contradictory as I'm a "word 'Nazi'" now.  I absolutely despise when people use a word that is NOT the word they want.  Like 'imply' and 'infer'  and many, many others.  Drives me batty.  But, then, I love words and find the correct word used in the correct context is more powerful than many of it's synonyms might be and for sure much more powerful than the wrong word would be.  I shake my head, laugh, curse then wonder what in the world has happened to education in this country.

And, if someone corrects them they will come back with something like, "I did not come on here for a spelling or grammar lesson.  Though they most times spell it 'grammer', showing their need for both'.  And I think, "No, that is why you went to fricken elementary school".  Sometimes I even say it. 

Trust me, the older one gets the less tolerance one has of stupid people (and I never had a very large one anyhow) and the less you care what anyone else thinks.  Then, I also was  not overly concerned with that either.  Kind of a family tradition I guess.  I'm sure some day I'll get into our particular family traditions.  But not today.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vienna Sausages

Those things have been a staple of my life since I can recall.  Now I know they are called "Vienna" sausages like the Austrian city.  But, growing up they were always referred to as "vi'eenie" sausages or, mostly just vi'eenie. 

I've spent a lot of time existing on a can of vi'ennie and some saltines.  When I was growing up the only saltines we ever had were Zesta (pronounced, by us, Zestie) crackers.  I've tried them a few times in the past several years and cannot eat them.  Only have Premium saltines now.    Early on I did not care for it but now I like to have some onion with my sausages and crackers.

First time I worked for vi'eenie was right after graduating high school (1972).  I stayed with my aunt Dixie at her house in West Van Lear.  I took a job working for Victor Conley in his little store "down in the junction".  He told me I could have lunch free.  I was embarrassed to take much so I'd grab a can of  vi'ennie and some crackers and a bottle of RC cola and that was lunch.  That was not bad as I had nothing much to do all day anyhow.

The other time was when my brother-in-law hired a couple of old men (mid to late 70s') to survey the family property so the heirs could all split it up and he and my sister could have a piece of it that was all their own.

Now most of that property was on the hillsides and the surveyor's stickman nor the surveyor were able to carry that transit all over that hillside.  So, he got me to do it.  And I did it.  I carried that transit all over that hillside.  And, for lunch I had one can of vi-eenie and some crackers.  Right now I don't remember what, if anything, I had to drink.  Probably just some water from the head of the holler (hollow) behind the old house. 

Now, I still like to have them from time to time.  Unhealthy as they are they were a part of my youth and are now a nostalgic trip back to my younger days.  Still, I cannot believe I worked all day climbing up and down those hills on just a can of vi-eenie and some crackers.  Probably did have a good breakfast though.

Sometimes I cooked breakfast when I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law and I always did the dishes.  Sat in the living room of the "old house" all day with the fan turned on playing 500 Rummy with Homer.  Things sure were different back in the late 1960's.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Recurring Dreams

Over the course of my life I have had a lot of dreams that can only be described as "strange".    They cover a lot of subjects but I have some dreams that have a definite recurring theme.  The first is a pretty common one I understand.  Snakes.  I dream of snakes on a regular basis.  I'm never harmed by the snakes but they are EVERYWHERE.    I'm never harmed by them but I am always 'disturbed' when I wake up after one of these dreams. 

The second recurring scenario is suddenly appearing high, sheer drop offs.  They mostly do not start in a high place or around a sheer drop but the drop suddenly appears.  I never fall but I'm often very frightened (in the dream)  and, out of the dream, I've very happy to wake up.  That one, in it's own way is more frightening than the snakes.

The third one, and the one I'm going to talk most about today because it is one I had last night is the dream of high water/floods.  For some reason these dreams are never frightening and they are the ones I have the most often.  I cannot remember when they started but they have been happening for years in one incarnation or another.

The first one I can recall was of me standing on the end of the bridge over the Levisa fork of the Big Sandy river on Route 40 going into Paintsville, Ky.   I was always on the side away from the town at the place where  Chick's restaurant used to be.  (wonderful broasted chicken).  There was always a great deal of debris around the near bridge pier and I was standing at the edge of the flood and I was always searching for something. 

Some years later I had a dream where I walked across the bridge to the Paintsville side and stood looking at the flood waters that filled the low place between the bridge and the first buildings (at that time) of the town.  After that I never had the dream again.  That has been many years ago now.

But, that was not the end of my dreams of high water.  The greatest number of them are placed on Nat's Creek.  Up the "Julie Fork" near where Julie Ratliff lived.  You'll have to forgive me because nobody but me probably has any idea where these places are.  I guess that is not important.  But, it is a location I've been familiar with since I  was quite young.  Does not really exist any more as they strip mined that area years ago and build a couple of large lakes in that area. 

But just down the creek from the Julie house the creek was narrow and clear (since it was used as the road).  It was very shallow and not too far below her  house a small  pipe came out of the side of the road and had water flowing out of it constantly.  If I recall correctly it had a mild sulphur content and I loved to stop there and have a drink.  From the time I could not have been more than five or six until I was an adult.  I always stopped there for a drink.

Predominantly, this is the location of my flood dreams.  This or a location that is very much like it.  It is most always a narrow stream and the water is always about chest high and muddy.  Sometimes I'm walking through it and sometimes I'm driving through it.  And, once again, I'm always searching for something or going someplace I do not actually recall during these dreams.  They happen fairly often.  Several times a year I'd say.

Last night was different but it concerned high water.  I was very young in this dream and at the house site where my grandparents lived.  They lived up on a small bank above the creek bed where water could never get but on the creek bank below there was a flood more than once a year.  Sometimes the water got up pretty  high for a while.  In this dream the water was very high and covered the garden area on both sides of the old drive to the creek.  This part of the creek was also used as the road when I was growing up so when we would go to my grandparent's house we would have to drive through the creek for several hundred feet.  The road continued in the creek another few hundred feet on the way on up Nat's Creek.

It had to have been winter (in the dream) as the water was surrounded by patches of snow here and there though I do not remember being cold.  Then, all of a sudden the water was all gone and I walked down the hill by  where the coal house should have been.  I did not really realize it until some time after I had awoken but the coal house was not there.  I have no idea what kind of significance that might have.  But, I went on down to the creek bed and there was no water there either.  Like it had all just drained away. 

Now, at that age I'd have never really thought of it but in the dream I realized there must be something up stream that was damming it  up and stopping the flow of water.  So, I started walking up soggy creek bed toward the old house where I was born (just above where the road came out of the creek) and when I got a little way above Poppie and Grannie's house I could see a high "dam" of ice completely blocking he flow of the water.  And, the water was starting to slop over the top and I 'knew' it would soon break the dam and a massive wall of water would come rushing down on where I was standing.

Other than what I've mentioned I often dream of my father but I never (EVER) dream of my mother.  Is that odd or do I just not know the psychology behind it?    I'm sure there may be some kind of logic behind our dreams but I surely do not know what it is.

There May be Things More Useless Than TWC Customer "Service"...

... but, right now, I'd have a hard time coming up with one.

My wife wants a laptop for her birthday/Christmas/ next anniversary so last night i found a good deal on one.  Good reviews for quality, lots of neat features, really good price.  So, I ordered it for her.  Now, since we will both be having PCs we need to be wireless.  I used to do all that kind of thing myself but I've gotten, older, sicker and lazier (if that is even possible) so I wanted to just upgrade my Roadrunner Turbo to wireless.

Now, I was a TWC customer for nearly twenty years before they finally pissed me off enough to get DriecTV and DSL but I got tired of Ma Bell's glacial slowness so I went back to Roadrunner for Internet.  Having dealt with TWC's long hold times and indifferent service personnel I decided to do the online chat thing. 

But FIRST I read all the FAQs to see if they had the answers to my questions.  The didn't so I initiated a chat with technical support for the answers to three really simple questions.  I thought I knew the answers but I wanted to verify.  Being wrong is not a new feeling for me.

Ok, they have a form to fill out prior to the chat.  On the form they have a text box to describe your problem.  I did that but I don't think the technical support person even read it.  He came on and asked what he could help me with and I explained I was upgrading RoadRunner Turbo to wireless and I had some technical questions.

Seems simple enough to  me.  Guess he did not understand 'technical' as he simply "escalated" me to a sales rep.    Ok, the sales rep did nothing but lead me by the hand through the online ordering process which is very simple and straight forward.  Ok, I was going to order anyway so might as well get it out of the way so no problem.  When we finished that I asked her if she was able to answer any kind of technical questions.  She said she was not and asked if I would like her to transfer me back to technical. 

I said I would.  I even said 'please'.  At this point in time I was only mildly irritated with TWC.  The totally 'pissed off' stage was on  its way though.

Dear Vanessa (the sales person) transferred me back to technical.  Only thing was she connected me to a Spanish language area.  Ok, I took two years of  high school Spanish forty years ago but.... So the Spanish guy realized I was in the wrong place and immediately sent me back to an English speaking area.  I think that was the only intelligent and efficient thing I saw from TWC all morning.

Ok, now I get another English speaking person and ask her my first question.  Ok, I'm really clueless about some things.  I just wanted to know if I had the wireless installed prior to receiving my wife's laptop, would the laptop automatically detect and connect to the wireless router.  Sounded simple to me.  Kind of thing an Internet company's tech staff should know.  Apparently I was wrong.  She said she did not know and would "escalate" me to "National". 

One more transfer.  The guy from "National" came on (and, no, his name was not Peggy but it sure should have been) I asked him my simple question.  He came back with "Are you wanting to change your Internet connection speed?"  What the hell my question had to do with changing Internet connection speeds I have no idea.  So, I thought and simplified the question to the point my ten month old grand daughter should have been able to understand it.  He did not though.  Came back with some equally non-relevant reply.  By now I had completely passed through 'pissed off' and was quickly approaching 'homicidal'. 

So, I thanked him for his time and told him he was completely useless and I would just figure it all out by myself and to have a nice day.  The wonderful (and only wonderful) thing is that when I terminated the chat session they asked me to fill out a survey.  That was so  nice of them.  I'm sure they will ignore it but that would be 'par for the course' with TWC.  I read that the growing competition from  DirecTV, Dish and U-verse was causing the cable companies to work on improving customer service because they were bleeding business like a hemophiliac.  Maybe TWC did not get the memo.

So, I completed my online order and looked at the summary.  WRONG!  They made me choose two installation date/times and then got them reversed.  So I (mentally) girded my loins and called TWC customer service.

We went though the obligatory recorded BS before they bothered to give me choices for my call.  I selected 'make or change appointments'.  Eventually, a very pleasant sounding young lady answered and quickly straightened out my appointment.  So, I asked her if she would happen to know the answerer to my first question.  She did.  The computer would detect and connect but TWC puts a password on the connections so one would have to enter that password.  I was impressed so I asked her is she would happen to know the answers to my other technical  questions.  She did.  Wow!!!  She made my morning with TWC. 

Still, it says something about the quality of TWC customer service when the person who answers the phone because I have a problem with my appointment time knows the answers to more technical questions than the people on the technical support staff.

Damn, I hate Time Warner.  But Roadrunner kicks DSL's

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Almost Full House

Yesterday evening my elder daughter,  her husband and my two grandsons cave to visit.  They were all in town for my younger daughter's wedding.  After they left I got to thinking this is the first time since she and my son-in-law have been married all four of them have been in my house at the same time.  I thought it was very nice.  I just wish Carrie, Andrew and Eliza could have been there as well.  I don't have a clue where we would have fit them all as my house (and especially the living room) is not all that large.

But, Carrie and Andrew are off honeymooning and Eliza was with her Grandma Carol.  She is not doing so well with sleeping while her parents are away.  I would dearly LOVE to be there just to see her face when Carrie and Andrew walk in.  That will be a beautiful sight I'm sure.

Heather will turn thirty in January.  I'm not sure how old Corey is though we share the same birth date.  Even so I never remember to wish him a happy birthday.  Somehow birthdays and I just to not mix well.  Any way he is getting a little grey and a they are all getting a little older.  As are we all.  The conversation bounced around like an old 'super ball'.  (If you remember what a super ball is you're revealing your age.) 

The boys are really growing fast.  Haydn (the older) is nine now.  Just not seem possible.  He loves tornadoes.  I've already mentioned the way I love rain and thunder storms.  Maybe there is a gene for that.  *smile*  Both boys are reading for pleasure now and I am very happy about that.  Most everyone and everything will let you down sometime in your life but a good book is always a good book.

That is somewhat stolen from George Burns.  I'm not telling you so if you're interested you'll have to go look it up. 

I live in Columbia, SC and they live in Tupelo, MS.  For me that is just way too much driving and it gets "longer" every year.   I wish they lived closer but my younger, Carrie, just lives across town and I rarely ever feel like driving that far. 

Then I think about the westward migration back in the nineteenth century and how children would leave home to venture west and parents would hear nothing else from them.  Distance and the fact most couldn't read anyhow made communication a difficult thing. 

So, I guess I'm blessed with modern technology.  We are all on FaceBook and I got a cell phone with a keyboard specifically so I can text with the girls.  We have email.  So, even when my house is empty I still always have an 'almost' full house.   

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Baby Girl Got Married on October 9, 2011

As hard as it is for me to grasp the concept of having crossed the center point of my life and rapidly moving down hill to the conclusion, some events create a stark reminder of that state of affairs.   The latest event was this past Sunday when my baby girl got married. 

She is twenty-three years old and has a good head on her shoulders.  She married a man I like and approve of.  They have the most wonderful baby girl in the world who I am saddened by the likely hood I will not be around to see her growing up.  At least, not all the way to adulthood.  My grandsons are a good bit older so I might have a shot at that.  But, at the rate the old body is failing I would not bet the farm on it.

My elder daughter has been married for almost ten years now and she married a man I also like and approve of though the two son-in-laws are vastly different people.  I believe they both will make great husbands and fathers and, in the end, that is the most important thing.   I should know as I've not been particularly good at either.

See, the thing is, other than the aches and pains and such I do not feel one whit different that I've felt for the last forty years or so.  Then I look in a mirror or see a photograph and have to stop in shock and sheer disbelief that the person I see there is me.  I just cannot fathom being this old. 

Then, my body speaks up and reminds me just how old it feels no matter how young my mind thinks it is.  I take too many pills for too many things and even the strongest ones will not stop the pain.  The physical kind at least.  I have some of the other kind as well and I've found nothing yet which will take that kind of pain away though I keep trying.

But, this is, much like me, rambling and beside the point.  I'm not much of an emotional person.  Over all I really don't feel a lot of things.  When my elder daughter got married I don't recall getting emotional at all.  Maybe, it was because we had such a complete practice before hand and I was prepared.  She was nervous and I was being the "strong, calm" presence.  But, much to my own surprise while walking my youngest one down the isle I found I had tears in my eyes.

I found that a little surprising.  I was not sad.  She was not doing something I disapproved of nor marrying a man I disapproved of.  I am happy they found each other and wish them and my granddaughter (and any more in the future) the best of all possible lives.  So, why the tears?

Thinking about it, perhaps when your youngest is all the way out of the nest and flying on her own it signifies an ending of a portion of our own lives.  It is a line of demarcation between  those years of youth and parenthood and those years that come after that.  However few or many they may be. 

Then, again, maybe I'm just all full of crap and more sentimental and emotional than I like to pretend.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


It is raining here today.  Made me think of how much I love rain.  I wish I lived in a house with a nice porch and a porch swing or a nice rocking chair so I could just sit and watch the rain fall.   I love rain and storms. 

When we lived at the Spring Knob forestry tower there would be thunder storms where the clouds were down below the level where the cabin was.  Lightening and thunder were so close it was like they lived inside the cabin with us.  I was never afraid of storms and living there with them so intimately close is probably where I learned to love them.

When we lived at the big, white house in West Van Lear there was an unfinished space between the one, long room upstairs and the window that overlooked the road.  My dad always wanted plenty of light around so we had one of those dusk to dawn lights on one of the electric poles right in front of that window and almost even with it.  I can remember lying or sitting in there and watching the rain fall day or night.  The now was really beautiful at night as it would fall slowly out of the darkness into the light and float gently to the ground.

The place I really loved the rain most though was at Nat's Creek.  The house my grandparents lived in had an attic space with one bed in it.   The roof was a 'tin roof' and there was nothing between the tin and whoever was sleeping in that bed but a few inches of air.  I cannot describe the sound a hard rain would make on that roof.  The attic was small in height and the head of the bed was back near the lowest point so when you were lying in bed the roof was only a couple of feet above your head.  Like being inside the storm.  If I ever have the money and the place I will build a replica of that old house and have my bed there just below a tin roof.

Nat's Creek is not a really large stream though when I was young it seemed plenty big to me.  Between my grandparent's house and the house where I was born the creek was really shallow and ran over a gravel bed with large stones  intersperses up and down.  I was told there was a flash flood that came once and washed the stones out of Mill Branch.  That was a little hollow that was directly across the creek from the log cabin where I was born.  Made me want to see a  flash flood.

I never did see a flood of that magnitude but I have seen the creek raise up pretty far.  Every year it would raise enough to cover the garden space on the creek bank below my grandparent's house.  When we lived at West Van Lear there was an itsy-bitsy stream but at its most flooded it was not very impressive.  But I'd go stand on Mrs Huff's concrete foot bridge and watch it anyhow. 

But the best place to watch a Nat's Creek flood was when we lived in the old Blessing Place between early 1967 and when I got married in 1973.  When a big storm was happening I'd move my bed over by the window where I could lie there and watch the rain and the creek to rise.  Over the years I witnessed many good floods.  There was nothing build very close to the creek, up and down, so there was never much danger of anything being damaged.

We had a foot bridge from the road to our side of the creek and that was my gauge on whether it was a good rain or not.  If the creek got over the foot bridge it was a good rain.  There was also an old barn sitting a good bit below the level of the house which was up on a pretty good rise.  There were a few times the creek even got high enough to be a couple of feet deep in the barn.  Those were really good rains.

I also enjoyed rains and storms while I was out in the woods.  I always carried a shotgun and thought of myself as hunting.  And, I guess I was as if any critter that was edible happened along I'd shoot it but mostly I enjoyed being in the woods alone.  I actually enjoyed being most places alone or at least most places my parents were  not.   But that is a story for a different time.

I knew most of the rock cliffs up and down the creek so when a rain would come I'd head for a close one and build a fire under the cliff and sit with the fire to warm me and watch the rain dripping from the leaves and listen to the fall of rain hitting those leaves even higher up.  I'd put my shotgun over on the end of the cliff away from me in case of lightening.  I have no idea what good that would have done as lightening never hit anything near me any how. 

For me, falling rain, is one of the most peaceful things I have ever known. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Some Thoughts and Memories of My Sister

My sister, Mary Jane, was ten years my senior.  My parents wanted two children and they had my brother and my sister two years apart.  Ten years later, once they thought my mother too old to conceive and stopped taking precautions guess what happened.  Yep, me.  So, my memories of my brother and sister during my childhood are somewhat limited as they were always "adults" to me and both of them left home early to escape my father.  Or, so I believe.

My very first memory of Mary Jane, as I've mentioned earlier, was at the little, log cabin where I was born.  She was sitting on the porch with her feet on the step and both my mother and my Dad were whipping her.  Dad with his belt (his favorite weapon) and mother with a switch. 

That is, perhaps, not my first memory of her although no one else will believe I can remember the episode as I was too young.  She was on the kitchen porch rocking me and rocked off the porch with me.  I can distinctly remember being in a rocking chair and looking at the rockers and the way they would move a little bit each time from where they were the last time.  Maybe, I'm wrong but I think that must be the time it happened. 

My memories of her are very limited in the next several years.  I can remember her watching "American Bandstand" when we lived at Stafford.  I remember her sweeping up the living room and throwing my brother's "playing cards" into the pot bellied stove in the living room.  I remember she and my mother in the upstairs where my mother was ironing and they would not let me leave to go play until I could recite my ABCs and count to ten.  I must have been around three then.  Maybe four.

I don't recall her at all when we were living at Spring Knob.  I think, though I'm not sure, she was living with my aunt Dixie.   I will have to ask my brother about that sometime. 

Even after we moved to West Van Lear just a few houses away from where aunt Dixie lived I can not really remember her staying with us a lot.  Just a few vague memories of them needing a fourth for playing Rook and, there being no one else, they let me play.  I did not really understand the game and was quite bad at it so they just quit playing.

I remember, after we moved to the second house we lived in up Burglar Holler (Burger Hollow is its correct name) she would not let me watch Mr Cartoon until after I finished my homework.   No matter how much I promised to do it right afterwards. 

That house had hardwood floors.  I can remember after waxing them she would turn a throw rug upside down and let me sit on it while she pulled it around to buff the wax to a nice shine.  But, most of the time I don't think she was there.  I know she spent a lot of time living with aunt Dixie and I know she moved to Columbus, OH to babysit for a couple.  I do not recall who that was but for some reason I think it may have been one of the Vargos.  I keep wanting to call them the Fargos because at that time there was a western TV show on called "Tales of Wells Fargo". 

I remember  her coming home one time and fixing us a rump roast for supper.  (Yes, supper dammit.  Not dinner.  Dinner is what you eat during the middle of the day.  Supper is what you eat in the evening.  There is a reason they called it a 'Dinner Bucket'.)  I thought that was the best thing I had ever eaten.  To this day I cannot be in the grocery and see a  rump roast and not remember that.

And she told a story about the young boy she was babysitting for that all VanHoose's should relate to.  Seems the boy did not want to eat his meal and wanted some kind of dessert.  She told him he could not have any dessert until he emptied his plate and went about her chores in another room.

A few minutes later he brought her his plate to show her it was empty.  She gave him his dessert only to later find all his food dumped in the garbage can.  I mean, hey, she never specified he had to empty his plate by EATING the food.  I have no clue now who the kid was but I like the way he thought.

But, most of the memories I have of my sister are as an adult.  She, like my mother, was a very devout Jehovah's Witness and attended services at the Kingdom Hall on a regular basis.  I am not sure how exactly it came about but she went to Daniel's Creek to meet a young man named Wayne Collins.  I was never told the details but it ended up instead of marrying the son she married the father, Homer Collins.  At the time of their wedding she was twenty-three and he was fifty-one. 

I do not know that they were always happy because no one that I know is.  But, I will say one thing for certain;  with what came later I was happy she did marry him.  But that will become obvious later on.

Jimmy Ray was the first child they had.  He was born in nineteen and sixty eight.  I spent a lot of time there doing other chores while Mary Jane tended to the baby.  Memories of that time are somewhat jumbled so I'm not entirely sure of the true sequence of events but I'll relate them as I remember them.  And, I'll throw in a few memories that are really not related to  anything else.  Just memories.

Odds and ends kind of things.  For breakfast up until then I had always eaten my eggs with the yolk fried hard.  Homer wanted his eggs with the yolk still runny.  He would break the yolk on the top and put a chunk of butter inside it.  I tried it and I liked it and to this day prefer my eggs "over medium" with a chunk of butter in the yolk.  Funny how such tiny things stick with us so clearly.

After meals, when I was there, I would do the dishes.  While doing those I always had the radio tuned to WSIP in Paintsville.  Country  music all the time.  We were too far away from Huntington, Wv to get Key 101 or 103 or whatever.  That was the top forty station and I always listened to it at home.  Back then, at any given time, I could have given you the complete lyrics of any song in the top forty.

But I liked Country as well.  The big song that sticks with me from those days was Tammy Wynette singing "D-I-V-O-R-C-E".  I had my hands deep in dish water when the news about the RFK assassination came across on the news.  I look back and wonder what a different world this would have been had that not happened.  Better or worse I have no idea but I think it would have been different.  For one I don't think he would have reversed Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam policy and that would have certainly changed the world.  But, one will never know.

Another, off the wall memory is the beds hall had feather beds on them.  Two of them, one for lying on and one for pulling over you.  Man, no winter weather was cold enough to get through that.  Snug and warm all night long.  When they got more modern and got real mattresses my sister made pillows out of the feather beds.  Only two pillows for each one.  You could barely cram them into a king sized pillow case.  I got a pair of those and slept on them for years and years.  I still cannot stand thin pillows.  I hate staying in a hotel.  I have to steal all the pillows off the second bed and hunt for more in all the drawers.

There are a lot more things I'll go into at some later date.  Enough for now, though. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

False Memories

I've heard a  lot about false memories mostly from regression hypnotist results.  False memories of alien abduction and/or sexual abuse.  I think that should make us all think about the things we are so sure we remember.  In fact, law enforcement knows the least reliable evidence is eye witnesses.  Kind of scary isn't it?

This is  just a short anecdote on false memories.  When I was about four years old we moved from Stafford to Spring Know Tower.  I would swear I remembe a little, red spots car zooimng past our house going toward Spicy Gap on route 40. 

It was not but a few minutes until we got the truck loaded (I have NO clue who provided the truck) and we drove off toward the Spicy Gap because that was where the old dirt road turned off to the tower.  Just before we got to the foot of the hill I could swear on a stack of bibles I ssw that little, red sports car lying on it's top in the ditch on the right side of the road.  We drove on past but it seems I can remember some conversation regarding the driver.

My brother who was there says he remembers nothing like that.  I assume my sister was there but I don't recall ever questioning her about it.

Makes one wonder about the truth we think we know from our own recollections.  That is a point to remember as one grows older.  Those things we remember may or may hot have happened at all.  And there is now way to know the difference as memories are nothing but chemical connections and nerounic links in the brain. 

No matter how certain we are of what  happened we should take our own memories with a 'grain or salt'.  No matter how clearly we may remember something.  It may have never happened.

Makes you wonder doesn't it?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Few Words About My Father

My Dad had a rough childhood.  In fact I doubt I could have coped with it.  I expect that childhood, as with most of us, made him into the man he was to become.  I'm sure the man I knew as my father was different than the man my brother and sister knew as father because they were so much older than I.  But, probably not enough to make any real difference.

My Dad was born in June 1902.  I am not sure how old he was when his parents foisted him off on his uncle Mac.  The story of his parents is for another day though.  Those times were different than what we grew up in and very different that how things are now.  One of the things back then (as it is in some other countries now) when a meal was fixed the men ate first then the adult women then the kids.

There was some logic to this.  The men were working hard (most of them anyhow) in the gardens and other chores necessary to life.  The women were working hard doing the things needed done keeping house.  I may have known at one time how many children Mac had but I have forgotten.  But, my Dad, not being his child came in even behind the children when it came to eating.  He said he was an adult before he knew a chicken had anything but a back and neck.  Or, maybe, it was feet and neck.  Yes, we cooked the chicken's feet.  When you're country poor you don't waste anything that is edible.

Hunger played a big part in my Dad's life.  Not just the growing up part but all the time.  Just an opinion I have.  I don't see how that kind of upbringing could just fade away.  And, I must say, though we did not have a lot we always had plenty to eat.  For that I am thankful. 

He told me many times he was so hungry he would wander along the railroad tracks hoping to find a hobo that had fallen under a train and been killed.  Well, you guess the rest.  He said he had always wondered what a human tasted like.

I'm not sure what age it was my Dad went to West Virginia to live with his sister, Mamie and work in the coal mines.  He could not have been too old though as he was involved in the Battle of Blair Mountain (Look it up.  Pretty interesting.) in 1921.  He would have just turned nineteen.  He also worked a ferry for a while.  For some reason I seem to remember it being in Charleston, WV.  I could well be mistaken on that though.

For an unknown reason he joined the Navy in 1922.  He was only 5' 4" tall and they had to get a special waiver for his height to let him enlist.  He spent thirty years in the Navy and retired as an E7. 
Military pay grades are either an 'E' for enlisted or 'O' for officer.  The number is how far from the bottom you are.  He ended his Navy career as an Aviation Ordinance Chief. 

There are many stories from his Navy days and I'll relate some of them at a later date.  I don't mean this to be too long. 

He retired from the Navy in 1952.  I've been told his retirement pension was forty-some dollars a month.  From that paltry amount (these days) he raised three children and supported my grandfather and grandmother until they were old enough to get their "old age" pension.   Like I said, it was a different time.  I, personally, remember four cent postage stamps.  Candy bars were a nickel.  Bazooka Joe  bubble gum was two for a penny.  Soda pop was ten cents a bottle.  Gasoline was twenty something cents a gallon. 

Then, he supplemented our diet by hunting.  We had plenty of squirrels and a variety of other wild critters for the pot.   It is not a big thing in a lot of the country but when and where I grew up squirrel hunting was a big thing and an important source of food.  Until I was an adult (almost) "hunting season" was just a theory.  We hunted almost year 'round. 

We moved around some and in 1961 we ended up in West Van Lear, Ky so I could attend a school other than the one-room school at Preston Gap.  Those were good and bad years for reasons I will not go into here.

My Dad was not a patient man.  Well, he was fifty one years old when I was born and now I'm in my fifties I kind of understand.  Old men like he and I should  not have children unless they don't have to be around them much.  He and my mother did not agree on much but "Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child" was something they were one hundred percent in agreement on. 

A biref sojourn back to my Dad's days with Uncle Mac.  Seems Mac had some 'funny' ideas on discipline.  Instead of whipping my Dad when he messed up he would just tell him that was a whipping he owed him the next rainy day.  When it would cloud up Mac would "slip down under the river bank" and cut as many switches as he had promised my Dad whippings.  Then he would take Dad to the barn and proceed to "wear out" each and every switch on him.  How many of you would have found that hard to deal with?  Or even impossible?  Knowing my Dad it is a miracle Mac never woke up with an axe in his head.

My Dadl lived until November of 1992 and was ninety years old when he died.  He changed a lot after my mother died.  Not in all things but in some.  He lived with my (now ex) wife and I from right after my mother died.  Over the years he and my (ex-) wife became closer than he and I ever were.  I was not close to either of my parents.  I feared them and that was about all.  In my teen years I spent as much time away from them as possible. 

But, my two girls were the 'apple of his eye'.  They never knew in papaw the man I grew up with.  He called them Knothead and Squirt. 

Ok, enough for today.  I thought to write a brief synopsis but as I go along more and more memories are coming back and I don't need to write a novella today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Childhood Treat

I have mentioned before I helped my mother in the kitchen.  Most times it was the every day stuff like biscuits, bacon and gravy.  Those were good as I was always hungry.  But there were two times that were really special.  The first was when my mother made Vanilla Custard Pies.  I got to stir the filling and help beat the meringue.  And, I loved those pies.  I still miss them.  I'm not sure what the difference is but no one has made anything that came close.

But, as much as I loved the pies I loved the crust trimmings.  You know, when you put the crust in the pie pan and run the knife around the edges to trim off the excess.  We kept all that and since my mother made at least three pies in a day there was a pretty fair amount of crust left over.  (No store bought frozen stuff either).  We'd put that on a cookie sheet (or baking pan as we referred to it) and bake them until they were a  nice, golden brown.  Yummmmmmmmm.  I loved it.  I am tempted to go to the store for some frozen crusts and just cut them in irregular shaped pieces to bake.

The other big treat was home made 'meat skins'.  Now there is a HUGE difference in home made meat skins and what is sold these days as pork rinds.  Home made is closer to the "washboard" style pork rinds or the things they sell as crackings.  Neither are just right. 

When I was a kid we had bacon every morning but we never had sliced bacon.  We bought it in 'slabs' with the skin on.  Of a morning we'd  take one of the slabs from the refrigerator (when we had electricity) and slice off as much as we needed.  These days when you buy "sliced slab" bacon they slice all the way through the skin.  We just sliced down to the skin then across the skin to release the bacon slices.  Sort of like filleting  a fish.

The skins were never discarded as they were too precious.  Once we got enough of them (every couple of months or so) my mother or I would cut them in pieces of about two inches by four inches and put them on a cookie sheet.  (modern term) or baking pan (what we called it) and put them in the oven to bake.  None of that wimpy, puffy, air filled crap either when it came out.  Hard as nails, full of greasy, pork flavor and absolutely heavenly.   I dearly loved those things.  I kind of have to smirk and feel superior when we go down the snack aisle and I see what they are selling people these days that they pass off as pork rinds.  I bet nobody in their entire company has had a real "meat skin" in their life.

My Dad's Other Woman

A FaceBook post string with my oldest made me remember this.  My family, Dad especially, heard things that were not there.  My Dad told me the family (his when he was a kid) was sitting on the porch when they all heard singing and preaching at the nearby graveyard.  Having heard of no recent deaths they went down to find out who had dies.

Upon reaching the graveyard they found no sign of anyone being there and no fresh grave.  And, in later years when he was an adult,  he went up the creek to the house of some of my cousins as they were supposed to meet that night to go 'coon' hunting.  He said when he got to where the road became the creek bed just below their house he could hear people talking.  He thought it was the people he was supposed to meet but when he got to their house he found all was quiet and everyone had gone to bed and was asleep.

I realize these place names will mean nothing to most everyone but I was told by my Dad my grandfather was walking to Chestnut and from where they lived to get there he had to go through the "Walter Osborne"  gap.  There was a small dog that appeared and followed him.  He yelled at it and threw rocks at it trying to frighten it away.  When it kept following him he pulled his pistol and tried to shoot it.  He emptied the weapon and the dog paid no attention to it.  He then threw his gun down and ran.

There are several other stories from my Dad and Grandfather regarding unusual happenings but this is in particular about my Dad's woman.  She was not a physical presence but a voice only he heard.  He said he could hear her voice but could not make out the words.  I can recall when we lived at the tower at Spring Knob seeing my Dad wearing nothing but a T-Shirt carrying a shotgun in one hand and a flashlight in the other going outside to see who it was talking to him.  He never did find anything, though.  I'd say the explanation for that is obvious.

Finally, out of frustration, he told her, "I don't mind you talking to me but at least talk so I can understand you".  The voice then told him, "You better put on a coat because it is going to be cold".

He said he never heard her after that. 

I read of a specific hearing disorder which can cause people to hear voices that are unintelligible.  Perhaps that was all this was.  I know there are times when I'm lying in bed I can hear distant voices and sounds like a radio on in the distance.  If I raise my head off my pillow they go away and when I put it back they return.  Sounds like some physical cause rather than supernatural one to me but I do not discount anything.  I know craziness is a family trait and, perhaps, some psychic ability is also there.  Quite an interesting combination don't you think?

Thoughts Stemming from my Daugher's Wedding.

Sunday is going to be a big day in our family.  My baby girl is getting married.  It that is not an occasion for reminiscing I don't know what is. 

She was born at the Moncrief hospital on Fort Jackson, SC in 1988.  Made her twenty-three this year but she is still my baby girl.  And, I don't know where all those intervening years have gone. 

She was concerned whether I would be able to walk her down the aisle.  I have developed a bad hip and from that I am having quite a bit of knee pain.   It may come closer to 'limping' her down the aisle but there is no way I'm letting leg pain keep me from doing that.

I'll rub down my leg with pain cream (odorless) before we leave for the chapel.  I'll take one of my narcotic pain pills and a couple of OTC Ibuprofen  about thirty minutes prior to the walk through.  That should carry me through.  My wife will be driving to the wedding.  I have and old Ford Ranger with a stick shift and anymore the only place I drive it is to work and back.

But if it is anything like I remember my oldest daughter's wedding that 'step, pause, step' pace should fit right into my limp, timing wise.  :-)

I like the man who is going to be my last son-in-law.  I think he will make a good husband and great father.  Those two jobs are one's I found myself to not be very good at.  I am sure my daughter is going to be a wonderful Mom as well. 

Shame, though, they did not get married on September 10th.  9/10/11.  Be hard for a man to forget his anniversary with those numbers. 

Trivial, I know, but after her wedding I'll be the only VanHoose in Columbia, SC.    If one counts the 'family line' as passing down through males it makes me (and my older brother) the last ones of our particular family.  He had daughters and I had daughters.  My sister had boys but they do not pass along the family name. 

Well, at least the OFFICIAL family line.  From what I know of my grandfather and my own father there might be quite a few unknown cousins of mine running around out there somewhere.  :-)

In almost every way this wedding will be a joyous occasion for all.  At the same time I feel some melancholy.  When in the world did I get this darned old?