Monday, June 18, 2018

Down An Old Dirt Road





Old country roads remind me of walking to church come Sunday morning and walking back come Sunday night. They remind me of walking to the little country store with mama's list in hand. Those early morning walks to catch the school bus and walking back in home at end of day, stopping long enough take our shoes off and wade across the little creek come warm weather, is priceless.

The fresh morning smells of honeysuckle, wild roses, mountain laurel or crabapple blossoms drifting in the spring time air, or walking in those big snows that were knee deep in the winter, rolling in the snow and throwing snowballs at each other along the way.

Taking refuge under a big tree come a hard, summer's rain and still takin a wetting and loving it to no end. Then we ran through mud holes with our bare feet, busting em wide open, never thinking about getting the toe itch till it was to late.

Ahhhh, how can I forget the huckleberries and that sweet taste. We knew exactly where they came up and picked em fast as they ripened, along side the road.

And those delicious blackberries we picked for mama to can and looking forward to that fresh blackberry cobbler, all the while eating more than we picked. Never thinking twice about the chiggers or poison ivy till it was to late.

Climbing over barbed wire fences and ripping our clothes to pick poke salat for mama. She didn't take to kindly to the ripped clothes or the dangers of getting snake bit but the poke salat changed the subject really quick.

  Riding an ole, rusted bicycle around every curve and bend, with nary a brake knowing we'd hit the ditch or the creek. It's a wonders we hadn't broke our neck or worse.

And trying to outrun the others to get the mail every day and stumping our toes along the way. They never did have a chance to heal. When cold weather settled in and we had to wear shoes we'd still hobble down those ole roads.

I couldn’t count how many trips we made to and fro carrying gallons of milk from the neighbors when we were between cows, hungry for some good cornbread and milk to go along with supper, sometimes making a complete meal out of it.

 And how can I forget takin a few poufs off of a cigarette butt after snatching it outta the yard when daddy threw it down. Ahhhh, the sickness and turning green that followed, I'd sure like to forget and is still a reminder today. I said then and there, "never again.” Whewww.

It didn't matter the season or the weather, we made memories to last a lifetime and those ole dirt roads paved the way.

There's so many memories that still linger. I go back quite often and listen to the echoes of a childhood full of many seeds that's been sowed. How can we ever forget an old dirt road.

                                               © Susie Swanson, 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

That Old Wooden Chair





 That old wooden chair was his favorite spot to be
Sitting in the sunshine in the warmth of the day
Looking out across the land he loved so much
It stirred up memories that carried him away

He always took pride in those big cornfields
 He plowed from sun up to sun down
There’s nothing left but underbrush now
Nary a stalk of corn planted in the ground

Those fields made good corn back in the day
He hauled many a load to the gristmill
Even if it took him all day in that wagon
On an old gutted out road, most of it uphill

He always tried to share his bounty with others
Everyone wasn’t fortunate to have a good year
Even the stalks made for good fodder
That livestock sure did make it disappear

There was always plenty of planting going on
Whether it be corn or gardens growing so kind
Had to eat come summer or winter
Everything was canned, nothing was left behind

Even before the harvest had time to come in
He thought about winter and what it would bring
He had to keep the home fires burning, or else
If the weather got to bad and firewood got lean

He’d been all over those mountains and hills
Cutting and snaking out wood, it was the only way
That old mule knew how to work hard
He sure could pull that sled on any given day

One can never have enough wood to burn
In the winter when the sun sets low in the sky
Back when he was young and strong
Work was a pleasure, he could never deny

He could still hear those cherished words
Come on home now, it’s suppertime
He’d grab a dipper of cold, spring water
A sure cure for a hot thirst every time

Sitting on the porch in that old wooden chair
With his sweetheart, wife and best friend
Meant more to him than anything in the world
Oh how he yearned to do it all over again

There’s that pretty little grove of apple trees
Been there many a year, and so content
She helped to plant them, they brought a smile
Even with their trunks so bowed and bent

Her pretty flowers still bloomed in the spring
He always told her she had a green thumb
More beauty than an old man’s heart could hold
He’d soon see her, she was waiting for him to come

Awe, it sometimes brought tears knowing
Time and circumstance had left him behind
Yearning for the things he’d lost and loved
 Made him feel like he wasn’t worth a dime

He knew his life’s work was over and done
Remembering those bygone days brought a smile
They sure knew how to lift an old man’s spirits
From the warmth of that chair, if only for a while

Today the old house is so empty and quiet
 Nary a sound but the mantle clock’s tick
Plenty of reminders in every nook and crack
Over in the corner is that little walking stick

The sun still shines on that little window seat
The little birds sing but there’s no one to hear
So much nostalgia and loneliness left behind
In the heart of that old wooden chair

© Susie Swanson, 2018

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Mama's Chickens




My mama loved raising chickens better than anything besides growing her flowers and always managed to have some when we were growing up. I can’t remember a time when chickens weren’t running around scratching all day or hearing the ole hens cackling when they’d laid their eggs. And there’s nothing like being chased by an ole sittin hen when she gets the mindset to be ornery when she thinks her chicks might be harmed.

When spring time came in mama kept an eye on those ole hens when they took off to build their nest. Mama knew where every nest was and if she didn’t she’d watch them till she knew just about the exact location. Daddy tickled all of us to death. He’d stand on the porch and say, “lookie yonder at your mamie, she’ll follow them ole hens till one of these days she’ll get a snake around her neck.”

There were a lot of varmints to contend with like hawks, foxes, etc. but that didn’t detour mama from doing what she loved to do. Sometimes an ole hawk would dive down and grab a baby chick.

One ole hawk really was bold one day and dived down in the middle of the yard. Mama run down those steps faster than a cat could lick and grabbed the first rock she could get her hands on and threw it straight up at that hawk. The rock didn’t come close to him but it scared him enough to drop the little chick. The poor little thing died on impact if it wasn’t already dead. It broke mama’s heart and she said, “I’ll kill that thing if it’s the last thing I do.” Daddy wanted to put his two cents in but knew better and turned around and walked back in the house. Those varmints were brave to show themselves around mama.

When an ole varmint grabbed a hen on her nest mama would take the eggs and put them under another ole hen. We never could keep up with how many ole hens and chickens mama really had but she knew each one of the hens and had most of them named and knew where each one built their nest.

When it came time for all the baby chicks to hatch out there’d be several ole hens and their baby chicks running around to feed and those hens were mean as a striped snake. We knew better to get their feathers riled. Those ole roosters were awfully cocky as well. Mama never could stand to hear an ole rooster crow in the middle of the day. She said it meant bad luck. She’d throw rocks at one to get him to stop. It was usually the young roosters that had just learned how to crow and thought they were something. Daddy told her that one day she was wasting her time and she said, “well it’s about time they learned when to crow and I’ll teach em.”

She’d put as many of the ole hens up in chicken pens as she could and the little ones would go in and out through the chicken wire till roost time. When the chicks got a little older she’d let them out of the pen to make room for more. Every now and then a fox would reach through or under the wire and get one of the hens and leave the babies to fend for themselves. Mama would catch the babies and put them in a cardboard box and feed them. She’d take them in the house at night and cover them with an old rag. They’d peep for a little bit and then get quite as a mouse till morning. When morning came she’d carry the box back out on the front porch and let them out for the day.

She did this many times and they thought of her as their mama cause every evening at about the same time they’d come up the front door steps looking for mama. Someone would holler here comes your babies mama. If she was in the house she’d come a trotting. If she was already sitting on the porch she’d stick her legs out and they’d climb up both legs and onto her lap. Sometimes they’d climb up on her shoulders. She’d say, “awe, come on and I’ll put you to bed, I know you’re ready fer it.” She’d carry each one and place them back in their box till morning. This became a daily routine for mama till they grew big enough to fend for themselves. They’d grow so big they already had their little tail feathers and they kept on prancing up those steps for mama to put to bed. It’d finally get to the point she had to run them back down the steps and I can just hear her now, “ uns go on now and find ye a place to roost, you’re plenty big enough to fend fer yourself.”

My uncle was visiting late one summer evening and was sitting on the porch talking with mama and daddy when a batch of those chicks came up those steps and walked towards mama. She straightened her legs out and they climbed up her legs as pretty as you please and onto her lap. He asked her about it and she told him they did that every evening wanting to be put to bed. He said he’d never seen anything like it before in his life. He told mama she had those chicks spoiled and she said, “spoiled or not, someone has to take care of the little fellers.”

Mama also loved to raise those pesky guineas and we all hated those things with a passion, daddy included. An ole guinea ain’t got any sense and can do the craziest things. When they sit on a nest of eggs till they hatch out they practically abandon their little ones. We’ve watched ole guinea hens stand out in the pouring down rain and look straight up and never try to hunker down so the little ones could get under them and stay dry. They’d walk around with their head in the air and let the little ones drown. The only thing they were good for was letting us know when a snake crawled through the grass. They’d all gather around it and you never heard the beat and of course the chickens had to join in as well. It’s a wonder the snake didn’t die of a heart attack on the spot.

They also loved going to the main, paved road and just stand in the middle of it. When one or two would meet their waterloo we’d shout in secret for mama’s sake. She lost quite a few in that road but always managed to triple even more so come spring.

The only thing an ole guinea is fit for is keeping bugs off of stuff. They sure did keep the bugs off of mama’s flowers. They’d even eat ole stink bugs, shewww. I do believe that’s one of the reasons mama liked to raise them. She sure prided herself on those flowers.

Mama did some funny things when it came to raising chickens and guineas. When an ole guinea was sitting on a nest of eggs mama would watch her till she left the nest for a while and then slip and take those eggs out of the nest and put them under an ole sittin hen while she was off of her nest. She’d remove all of the hen eggs except ONE and replace them with the guinea eggs. It was the funniest sight you’ve ever seen to see that ole hen walking around with a bunch of baby guineas and one little chick in the bunch.

We always said, there was never a chicken or guinea that built a nest that mama couldn’t find, even if it meant going into the snakiest places there were. Mama prided herself on her chickens and guineas. My mama was an inspiration to us all and even though we didn’t always understand her motives or love for certain things she sure did know her stuff and taught us a lot of life lessons along the way.

I love going back to our childhood home in the spring. I can still hear those ole hens cackling when they lay their eggs and see them running around with those little chicks behind them and yes, I can still hear those ole guineas as well. I can also see mama standing in the yard watching an ole hen take off towards her nest. It’s like turning back time and I’ll always cherish those sweet memories of mama and her chickens and the ole guineas too.

                                             © Susie Swanson, 2018


Monday, June 4, 2018

Plenty More Left To Tell





Seek a cool, green hilltop close to the sky
Where the refreshing winds of heaven blow
And the birds spread their wings as they pass by
Seeking some destination that they only know

Then close your eyes and listen…… You will hear
Calling, calling out your name
Old voices that you once knew so dear
Calling you back to where they laid claim

Upon the mighty land they loved so well
Across this beautiful Blue Ridge they called home
There’s so many stories they are waiting to tell
Left behind for all of us, to share and carry on

Winds of time sweep many golden memories
Paths of ancestors become streets of gold
Like the tall, tall mountains born from the trees
These are the things to cherish and lay hold

They tell their stories of hard work and sacrifice
With plenty of satisfaction, joy and pride
Knowing those big fields of corn was suffice
Putting bread on the table, knowing how to provide

Riding a wagon on an old gutted out road
If we look closely the roads are still there
Those mules worked hard and pulled many a load
Can’t ye hear the Gee’s and Haw’s still in the air

And when the noon time sun was mighty hot
They snaked out wood for the winter’s cold
Always thinking ahead and on many a trot
A way of life that should never become old

The gardens were a plenty and always bountiful
Leaving a harvest of knowledge behind
Going by the signs is a priceless jewel, so beautiful
For planting and canning from a mastermind

When the fog lays stretched across the horizon
Remember a father’s feet hit the ground at dawn
His work never done, even at setting of sun
Leaving his footsteps and pathways to travel upon

 A mother’s calloused hands scrubbing the way she knew
Washing clothes on an old rub board many a day
 Toil and labor for her family only grew and grew
  Love and dedication became her reward in every way

And they set an example of people coming together
On hog butchering days everybody was akin
Neighbors helping neighbors through all kinds of weather
When sickness hit, help was just around the bend

 There’s nothing as spiritual than an old timey meeting
Many a spirit-fed soul is now walking through eternity
 Can’t you still hear those old church bells ringing
Music to our ears, food for our soul through all adversity

 And when we drift far away and travel many miles
Let’s not forget where we came from, our ancestral plan
Our great heritage will surely bring tears and smiles
If we but only go back to where it all began

Seek a cool, green hilltop close to God’s creation
Climb on up and let’s sit a long spell
Mountain hospitality needs no invitation
Believe me, there’s plenty more stories left to tell

© Susie Swanson, 2018