Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Making Do

My mama came from a family of ten kids, two girls and eight boys. She grew up in a close, knit family that believed in working for ye keep and learning early on how to survive and get by. Many times she told how they survived the depression and made do with whatever they had.

Back then everybody grew their own food but the basics were hard to come by. During the depression they gave out coupons and they’d pick em up at the little local store. The storekeeper would hand em out each month according to how many was in a family. He always had to keep records of what he handed out for the government. He helped people out a lot too. They’d bring their canned goods in and exchange em for something they needed. There was always someone in need and he knew he would be able to get rid of it all.

Mama said most of the time they’d just get a couple pounds of coffee to do a month or five to ten pounds of flour, and a bucket of lard with their coupons. If they were lucky to get an extra coupon they’d get a small bag of sugar or an extra five pounds of flour. The flour came in cloth sacks and their mother saved them up and sewed them into dresses and shirts.

 Mama said that grandma would boil the same coffee grounds over and over till that coffee was so thin ye could see through it. Even after the depression started easing up and grandpa went to work for the WPA and they had a little more to live on grandma was still in the saving mode and kept boiling the coffee grounds over and over. My grandpa got tired of it and told her one day, now Sarie (Sarah) stop boiling them coffee grounds over so much. What ye doing, straining it through a white rag, you can stop now I want some real coffee not stained water. It was hard for grandma to change. She’d been in the saving business to long.

They always had plenty of cornmeal for bread since they grew the corn and grandpa carried big toe sacks to my other grandpa’s old grist mill every week. She said they only used the flour for breakfast cause they sure did love them cathead biscuits and gravy. There was many a morning they had to eat cornbread with their gravy cause they didn’t have any flour. Of course, cornmeal gravy and cornbread is the best eating around.

She and her brothers used to trap rabbits and take them to the little country store in exchange for some of the basics they needed. This was after they cleaned the rabbits up good and the head had to stay on them. My grandma knew exactly what the rabbits were worth by how many they had caught. He paid by the pound and she knew it. She’d make out a list of what she needed and send them to the store to fill it.

One time she and one of her brother’s that was the closest to her in age caught ten rabbits and took off towards the store with the rabbits on a stick and grandma’s list. On the way to the store her brother told her we’re gonna get us somethin good today. Mama told him, no we can’t cause mommy knows exactly how many rabbits we got, she’s made her list. He stuck his hand up under his coat and pulled out another rabbit. He said, I told you we’re gonna get us somethin good today. The only problem was the rabbit didn’t have a head. Apparently, while they were cleaning them one lost its head someway and he’d stuck it under his coat. The storekeeper always wanted them with their heads intact. He had a little shed over to the side of the store building that people hung their rabbits in.

When they got to the store and hung their rabbits they went in and told him how many they had and gave him their list. He walked outside and went in and looked at the rabbits from the door and counted them. He said, somebody’s counted wrong this time, you’ve got eleven instead of ten.
 Mama said her brother spoke up and said alrighty, we got enough to get us somethin good this time. The storekeeper told him ye sure do, so pick out what ye want. Her brother pointed to a big jar of candy sitting on the counter and said we want a whole, paper bag of that candy. He filled their list and the bag of candy and they headed home. The candy was chocolate drops and can still be bought today, especially around Christmas time and they’re rich as can be.

On the way home they eat the whole bag of chocolate drops and by the time they got home they were sicker than a buzzard. They started puking and they puked all night. My grandma didn’t know what in the world to think. She was up with em all night trying to clean up the messes and do what she could for em.
The next morning they felt and looked like death warmed over. When grandma seen they were on the mend she asked em what did they eat to get so sick. They’d been taught all of their life not to lie and knew if they did they’d be in worse shape than they already were so they told her the truth. She marched them back over the road to the store and made em tell the storekeeper what they’d done. He just stood there and looked at em for a bit and then he spoke up and said, well I guess they’ve been punished enough this time but it better not happen again.
From that day forward they didn’t take another rabbit without its head and they never eat another chocolate drop as long as they lived.

To say times were rough is an understatement but they survived the best way they knew how and mama said they never went to bed hungry a night in their life. They always had something to eat even if it was an old possum baked in the oven. I guess that’s why she hated the sight of an ole possum. Back then times were so hard they had to make do.

                                            © Susie Swanson, 2017

The above pic is my mama, her dad and mom, (My Grandparents). 
 Notice how tall the corn was. Blessings to all. ~Susie~

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Yesterday's Sky

I am lonely for the sounds of yesterday
Wagon wheels rolling down a dirt road
Or that old gristmill in the distance
Grinding corn for many a wagon load

I listen with my heart and write it down
Everything is so special and worthy of
A story that lingers from yesterday
Is a life’s lesson with pride and love

I treasure that old run down barn
So many secrets and stories to tell
My yearning heart over flows
For these are the things I dwell

Upon that little hillside everyday
Where juicy strawberries grew
The echoes of small voices
Still sound so brand new

Or that forever old homeplace
Where silence was never heard
We were free as the wind that blew
And sailed high as any bird

Running through a green field
Playing ball on Sunday afternoon
Walking home from church
By the light of a full moon

Sitting on the front porch
On a hot summer’s night
Oh the joy of simple pleasures
Is never far from sight 

Sledding down a snowy hill
On a cold winter’s day
In one door and out the other
As childhood memories sway

Helping mama make quilts
Stitching every stitch in time
Windblown quilts on clotheslines
Blowing in early spring time

Those Christmas time memories
Awakens my heart with a song
They taught me the gift of giving
Love is the best gift I’ve ever known

We may not have had much
Of the finer things in the world
The many life lessons taught
Takes me back to that little girl

Still fresh as the morning dew
Old as my heart will allow
Like that old mule daddy used
In the spring he loved to plow

My muse is daily calling me
Down every hill and trail
It brings a world of comfort
There’s so many things to tell

Writing about my yesterdays
My inkpot will never run dry
They are planted in my heart
And still blue as yesterday’s sky

© Susie Swanson, 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Boy And His Grandpa

A boy and his grandpa
Out to conquer the world
Traveling this way and that
Like falling leaves that swirl

The boy listened so close
He hung on every word
Grandpa was always right
So many things he heard

Come, I’ll show you son
The things that I have done
Always hold your head high
Nothing in life do you shun

Never forget where you came
No matter where you go
You’re smart as a whip son
More so than you know

Now let’s go fishing awhile
Don’t forget your pole
I’ll show you a trick or two
At that old fishing hole

Awe, look at that garden
Those taters sure did grow
You did a fine job son
None missing in either row

How about some supper
It’ll be dark real soon
I’ve been looking forward
To catching that big coon
Feed your dogs good son
It’s time to hit the trail
Don’t forget your lantern
That coon’s waited quite a spell

Awe, listen to the dogs now
They’ve picked up his scent
Tonight’s the very night
That old coon is well spent

Shine your light high son
Up in that big oak tree
Can you see his eyes
He’s waiting so patiently

 We’ve finally got us a coon
And he’s a fine one too
But we better get a move on
The time sure has grew

We need to head on home now
Time to hit the old tic
Your mama will have my hide
Where’s my walking stick

Well I do declare
For once I left it behind
Let’s gather up the dogs
That coon’s still on their mind

The fishing hole is still there
The lantern hangs on a nail
Grandpa is now gone
So many memories to dwell

© Susie Swanson, 2016

Dedicated to my son and his Pawpaw

Happy New Year's Everyone!!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Memories

Christmas is a time for joy and happiness, spending time with family, remembering Christmas past when times were so different, simple but grand.
Sadly, a lot of the old ways have been left behind and Christmas has become a commercial holiday. Not so, back in the day when all we had to wake up to was an orange and apple or one present if we were lucky. We felt rich as a king in our hearts.

We’d search through the woods for the perfect tree and sometimes that took days and every year it looked the same. We had to tie the top of it to the curtain rod to get the star to stay in place. It was cut from cardboard with aluminum foil wrapped around it to make it shine. Our decorations were holly berries and popcorn strings wrapped around the little droopy tree. The stockings were hung near the tree the night before, anticipating our once a year Christmas treat.

Then as I grew older I noticed something was missing, mama and daddy never did get a present. I felt so bad on Christmas morning when we all opened our stockings or the one present that Santa had managed to bring each one of us. So one year I fell on a plan to make sure daddy and mama had a present. I started saving every little penny I could, mostly pay from an older lady that hired me to come in the summer and do some house cleaning and yard sweeping. I put them in an old quart jar in my bedroom closet. I didn’t want anyone to know about them so I kept quiet as a mouse. When Christmas Eve rolled around I kept asking mama if she needed anything from the store for her baking or cooking. I knew she always made a black walnut cake from the walnuts we’d cracked and hulled out earlier in the fall. We always saved some for our Christmas cake. She also made a homemade apple sauce cake too. The rest of Christmas dinner consisted of food we’d canned from the gardens in the summer and fresh hog meat that had been killed just before Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I prayed she would need something really bad, bad enough to send me to the store. We always walked to the little country store just over the road from the house. I kept asking, are you sure you don’t need anything from the store and finally she spoke up and said, well if you want to hoof it bad enough I need a dozen eggs for these cakes, just what I’d been waiting to hear.

 Since our hens didn’t lay much in the winter we only had enough eggs for breakfast if we had any at all. I ran as fast as my legs would take me towards that quart jar and grabbed those pennies and put them in my pocket. Mama gave me a list to fill and I found out she needed more than she thought. I just about run all the way to the store. When I got there I gave the list to the storekeeper to fill as usual while I looked around. I already had in mind what to buy for mama and daddy’s Christmas present. When he got done filling the list and I paid him with the money mama gave me and stuck what little change she had left back in my other pocket I reached in and brought out the handful of pennies I’d saved. I handed em to him and said will this much money buy a small box of Garrett Strong Snuff and a pack of Camel Cigarettes? He said, well let me count what you got. He counted each penny and told me I had just enough, which I surely doubt today every time I think about it.

He put the little box of snuff for mama and the cigarettes for daddy in a small, brown bag and I stashed them in my pocket so they couldn’t be seen. I felt happy as a lark walking back home. I didn’t even stop but long enough to sit mama’s eggs and stuff on the table and took off towards the bedroom. I took out the little bag and looked for something to wrap the presents in. I came up with a plan to wrap each one in a piece of brown paper cut from the paper bag that I carried mama’s groceries in. I slipped in the kitchen and found the paper bag mama had emptied and grabbed some scissors and run back into the bedroom and cut a big enough piece to wrap each present in. I felt so much joy in my heart and couldn’t wait to see their eyes come morning. I was all set, come bed time I’d slip back up after everyone went to sleep and put mama and daddy’s Christmas presents under the tree. I laid there so quiet and listened to the old clock tick away until everyone was fast asleep. I had the presents hid under the bed covers. I eased up and tip toed into the living room and laid the presents under the tree. Then I slipped back into bed and finally fell asleep. 

The noise woke me up come morning and I jumped straight up and ran for the living room. Everyone was there opening their presents and we all got one present. Daddy and mama must have had a little extra money to pay Santa with that year. I got a puzzle cause Santa knew I loved putting puzzles together. After all of us kids had opened our presents I crawled under the tree and got mama and daddy’s present and handed it to them. They both looked really serious and said what’s this? I told them it was something Santa left for them. They opened it up and their eyes lite up more so than the tree. Daddy said, I wonder who told him what kind we used. Mama said, I wonder the same thing but I sure can use it.

At that moment I had the most joy in my heart and worth more than diamonds and gold. Now, I know a lot of folks reading this are thinking how did she buy that snuff and cigarettes and her being just a kid. You gotta remember it was a very different time and era and everybody knew each other. We’d patronized that little store so much and the storekeeper was kin to us. I remember sometimes when we went in there and he had some bananas that were getting to ripe to sell he’d give us a bunch. Times sure have changed today and like I said the old ways have fell by the road side, left behind to fade into the past. 

Christmas is not about buying presents and spending big bucks just to make sure the kids are happy. It’s about love of family, sharing, thinking of the less fortunate, being satisfied with what you have, teaching your kids the true meaning of Christmas. The little things are the most important in life, not the big things and putting God in our hearts every day of the year. I cherish those long ago Christmases, although we weren’t rich in money, we had wealth a thousand ways more. I wish I could go back to that simple time when the little things were worth more than money can buy.

                                       © Susie Swanson, 2016

I wish all of my Blogging Friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year. May God Bless you all!!  ~Susie

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Home At Last

Far away from the turmoil of this world
There’s a little house sitting on a hill side
 I want to go back to that childhood home
Where faith, hope and love chose to abide

I can see the chimney smoke rising above
Oh the happiness packed in that humble abode
A welcome warmth from today’s stress and strife
Where unity came together and love growed

I can hear the barking of that old squirrel dog
Upon that little hill he’s treed him a squirrel
It brings a world of comfort to hear it again
An escape and refuge for this weary, country girl

And the rooster crowing at the break of dawn
Still awakens my heart with a morning song
A little sleepy, eyed girl with a smiling, freckled face
Still knows exactly where she’ll always belong

There’s so much beauty to be seen in my eyes
Like that pretty laurel hanging by the road
There’s nothing more refreshing to my bare feet
Then the little branch where the cool water flowed

On those beautiful, sunny slopes and golden hills
Is where I spent my growing years so carefree
I want to go back to that wonderful old place
Where the living was good and life seemed so easy

I have never known but joy in going back home
In a changing world, only memories are made to last
How I long to step upon that old, creaky porch
Then my homesick heart will cry, home, home at last

© Susie Swanson, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Yesterday's Winter

The mountains will soon be covered by a white blanket, a change is coming. Ice crystals will hang like the morning dew, frozen in time
across the wind swept hills of this beautiful Blue ridge.

It’s apt to be a hard winter better carry in plenty of firewood and kindling to keep the fires going in each end of the house. Time to grab the water buckets and tote in enough water to last or do without. Soon the little spring will become frozen over until the sun shines warm and the birds start to sing.

Dragging out the many clean and still fresh line, dried quilts, making more covers for the beds knowing one could be buried underneath such weight and never be found again. Made by steady and meticulous hands on old quilting frames that hang down from the ceiling more often than not, especially during winter’s hardest wrath.

The thought of fresh hog meat hanging in the old smokehouse makes mouths water on a cold winter’s day along with the taters and cabbage buried underneath the ground in that big hole that took all fall to dig, especially for preserving winter’s grub. And those can shelves  packed so full of filled cans ready for many a big table spread . All part of summer’s bounty and will beat a snowball any day.

Sitting around an old oil lamp after dark and listening to the scary stories while the cold, north wind makes its whistling sound around the house with a vengeance.  Playing fox and the geese on a home made cut out game board until eyelids start closing and need toothpicks to prop open.

Bare feet running and jumping in the middle of the bed buried under the covers until the break of dawn. Waking up to knee deep snow, eyes shining like sparkling diamonds gazing through frost covered window panes.

The smell of breakfast drifting through the kitchen door, anticipating  hot biscuits, gravy, fresh ham or tenderloin and occasionally eggs is about more than a body can take.

Slipping out the back door having snowball fights and gathering snow for snow cream, anticipating the sweet, frozen taste of only one of winter’s many treats is sheer heaven.

In one door and out the other never taking the time to warm frozen feet and hands, made for a nice, enjoyable winter even if it was colder than the North Pole.

                   © Susie Swanson, 2016

It's been a while since we can say the word Snow but according to the weather forecast we may be getting some late next week along with an Arctic Blast. It sure will be a big change since we've had a long Fall and such warm weather. Finally got some much needed rain this past week with more on the way. I'm so glad to see it and maybe it'll finish putting out those wildfires that's still raging. Let's continue to keep all of those folks and those weary and tired Firefighters in our prayers. Hope you all have a nice weekend. Blessings, ~Susie

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hog Killin Day

With Thanksgiving fast approaching I can’t help but remember my childhood memories many Thanksgivings ago. We called it Hog Killin Day. It always came at Thanksgiving cause the weather became cold enough by then to keep the meat. Sometimes if there were two hogs to kill, one was done at Thanksgiving, the other at Christmas.
 It all began early in the morning before daylight. Daddy would build a big, roaring fire and sharpen all the knives. We’d get all the pans ready in the kitchen. The kitchen is where I stayed, didn’t want any part of the killing.

Everybody would start gathering in about daylight. Family, friends neighbors and some we didn’t even know but they claimed to be kin. They all took part helping cause everybody wanted a big mess of fresh meat. When it came hog killin Day, everybody pitched in and when it came their turn at their house it was the same.

It was an all day event and the working was hard. Those big shoulders, hams etc. were salted down and taken to the smokehouse to cure. There was nothing wasted but the squealer when it came to a hog. Every part was saved including the feet and I’ll leave out the part about the brains. The head was used to make souse meat and there was always plenty of sausage to can. We never knew what a freezer was till I was almost grown. A big pan sit on the back burner of the stove for days on end, renderin the lard. That sure did save on the grocery bills.

 We looked forward to those big pans of tenderloin with hot biscuits come suppertime. We even had ham or tenderloin for breakfast with gravy and biscuits. Then the next day we’d have back bones and ribs, so on and so forth. And of course the Thanksgiving table was graced by hog meat. To say I was sure glad to get some chicken, is an understatement. That didn’t come to often either, just when we had a bunch of young fryers to thin out. They usually graced the Sunday dinner table when the preacher and all the other folks gathered in. Mama would throw in a big homemade banana pudding for good measure. We cleaned the bowls, regardless of what kind of meat we had or not. In a big family you learn early on to eat what’s on the table. We eat three meals a day and there were no snacks of sweet doings as mama used to call em. Our snacks were a big piece of left over cornbread with little green onions from the garden, especially after we got in from school in the evenings before we done our chores. That was in the warm months of spring and summer.  By the time it came Hog Killin Day our mouths watered for some meat. I can honestly say I’ve never went to bed hungry a night in my life. If we didn’t have anything but cornbread and milk it was more than was promised.

I know a lot of things have changed today, some for the good and some not so good but I can’t help but wonder what people would do if they had to go back to the old ways. My daddy used to say they’d starve to death for lack of knowing how to do. I long for that simple life when it didn’t take much to satisfy and what we had was worth all the money in the world. We were truly blessed and for that I’ll always be grateful.

                                                © Susie Swanson, 2016

Here's wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I'm sorry I haven't been online lately but I've got a whole complicated mess of sickness going on and spend most of my time in bed. Just keep the prayers coming cause God is our only hope. Many thanks in advance. ~Susie