Monday, February 18, 2019

The Little Things

I learned a long time ago the little things are the most important in life and can’t compare to wealth of money or material things. When I was growing up we didn’t have much material things and sure didn’t have any money but we made do with what we had and was so grateful and blessed beyond measure.
We turned little things into big ones in so many ways. We never had fancy, store bought toys to play with. We made our own play things with a lot of imagination and a whole lot of ingenuity.

We built playhouses all over the mountain side and we never stopped till we had a grand little playhouse. We’d use old pots and pans that mama had discarded due to the holes in em or she’d let us have an old worn out bed sheet, etc. We used anything we could get our hands on when our imaginations kicked into high gear. We’d play all day if we had our chores done and didn’t realize how hungry we really were till mama hollered, “supper time.”

My brothers made their own cars and trucks out of shoe polish bottles, matchboxes, etc. When they’d get tired of playing house with us girls they could be found playing on the red, clay bank over from the house. They’d play for hours pushing that dirt and using their imagination on that bank. Mama grumbled a lot over the dirty britches and knees that were worn out but she kept em washed and clean. Clorox was her best friend and soap was our best friend, according to mama.

On Sunday afternoons we’d get a treat and we looked forward to that. In the afternoon the whole family would go on a picnic, especially in the warmer months. Daddy always planted watermelons every year and when one got ripe we’d stick it in the spring to get cold. Mama would cook a meal fit for a king and we’d carry our food in boxes, etc. and grab a watermelon out of the spring and start out walking. We’d walk way back in the woods till we found the right spot to eat. We’d spread out our food on an old blanket or sheet and we’d eat till we popped. That was the best eating anywhere. It tasted so much better on the outside surrounded by nature than at the table. 

We’d explore every little hole and corner and mama would tell us not to wander off to far and step on a snake. Daddy loved to explore as much as we did and we’d all spread out in different directions and knowing those woods like we did we never had any trouble finding our way back. We always made the whole evening out of it and by the time we’d walk back home it was sundown and the animals had to be fed.

If daddy took a notion to go another direction the next Sunday afternoon we’d all jump on the back of his old truck and ride the backroads till we’d find the perfect place to stop and rest a while, as daddy called it. He’d park the old truck under a big, shade tree and search till we found the right spot to spread out our food, even if it was in a cow pasture under a big shade tree. If it was early spring we’d pick a bunch of poke salat and if we found a creek or branch somewhere we’d pick some creasy greens to take home and cook. There’s different types of creasy greens but mama always said the ones that grow near water are the best.

 When it came time to head in home we’d jump on the back of that old truck and it felt like heaven with the wind blowing against our face and skin and we savored every minute of every mile.

We’d hurry and do our chores when we got home so we could watch Wild Kingdom on our little black and white TV. It came on every Sunday evening and we looked forward to it so much. Of course, this was after we got a TV. After it was over we’d go outside and play till mama hollered, “young’uns ye better get in this house before ye get a snake wrapped around ye legs.”

And then there was the little creek and all its glory. We had one particular spot that made for a big pond and it was called The Old Mill Pond. It was named after the gristmill my grandpa, daddy and uncle had operated so many years earlier and was located just up the creek a piece from where the gristmill sit, or what was left of it.  You talk about having a blast, we did. We’d play at that pond till sundown and we got so hungry and tired we’d almost crawl in home for supper. Mama would give us a good going over for laying in the creek so long, as she called it. But you talk about cooling off on a hot, summer day, there was no better place to be found than that cold, icy creek. The water stayed just as cold in the summer as the winter. We made many happy memories there and till this day when I step in that cold creek that happens to be located behind my house It takes me back to my childhood and those long ago days we all enjoyed so much.

We had the best time of our lives running through the thickets, woods or playing in the creek.  It’s a wonder we didn’t get snake bit but snakes never crossed our mind. We were to busy being a young’un and living the good life and loving every minute of it.

I loved it when families all came together and something as small but yet so big like sitting down at the table come mealtime was the natural thing to do. I can’t remember a time we didn’t all sit down together to eat and that table full of a delicious bounty we grew in the gardens or big bowls of gravy and hot biscuits hitting the spot each morning. Mama always took time to cook a big breakfast for us before we went to school each morning even after she went to work on a public job.

I miss those days even more now since I’m grown. In this fast, paced life we’re living in, folks ain’t got time for nothing anymore. It makes me sad knowing all those little things are still there wasting away.

 Our childhood and imagination was our best friend and the little things were big things in that long ago place where time stood still and all was right within a childhood world. I just wish I could ride the back of that ole truck one more time with daddy going five miles an hour, what joy it’d bring.

                                        © Susie Swanson, 2019 

Thursday, February 7, 2019


The art of quilt making goes back many, long years and handed down from one generation to another. I’m sure it came about as a necessity for many, as times were very hard. People had big families and had to stay warm any way they could and they believed in not wasting a tiny morsel of fabric. Back then homes were hard to keep heated in the winter and the more cover on the beds the better. My daddy and mama said some houses had cracks in them big enough to throw a cat through. My daddy said when he spent the night at an uncle’s house he woke up with a dusting of snow on top of the bed covers. He said that’s the reason why his aunt put so many quilts and blankets on the bed and he felt like he was sleeping under a block of cement. 

Coming from a quilting family myself, I watched my grandma and mama make many quilts and was very intrigued by it at an early age. I watched them sew every, little stitch with so much enjoyment and love. I first started out watching my big ma (on my mama’s side) and having a family of ten young’uns there were never enough quilts according to her. In all honesty, there were many beds and back then they didn’t have anything other than a wood heater, wood cook stove, or fireplace to keep heat in the house. 

I’d make excuses to go see big ma and pa just to watch her quilt. I’ll never forget the day I got an opportunity to help her. She was a quiet person, especially while she was quilting but when she spoke up and said, “do you want to sew some.” I almost jumped up and down. She threaded that little needle and handed it to me and told me to start sewing and I looked at it for a second and said, “but I can’t make as pretty a stitches as you can.” She said, it doesn’t matter just do your best, we all got to start sometime.” I admit some of those stitches were worse than bad but she never said a word, just kept on sewing. When I look back on it now I realize that’s how she got her start to quilting. I could never count how many quilts she made that I know about, must have been hundreds probably. 

Then there was mama and her quilting. Before cold weather started coming in she’d get daddy to help her put up those quilting frames in the largest bedroom. When she lowered those frames and started on one I was right there every stitch of the way. The only difference was that mama would tell me when my stitches became to long or when I was sewing a crooked line. I tried to listen to every bit of advice cause mama was considered to be like big ma in my book. They both were master quilters. Mama learned how to quilt at a very early age by helping her mama. 

Mama made many quilts on those old timey quilting frames till she got arthritis in her fingers. I’ll never forget the first fall when mama didn’t put up any frames. I asked her if she planned on doing any quilting and she said, “oh yeah, but from now on they’ll be sewed on the sewing machine.” She only had a pedal sewing machine but she let the hammer down on that thing and made several quilts. Then one day she decided she needed an electric sewing machine and went out and bought her one. I’d help her by putting the quilts together and basting them and when we got one ready I helped to guide it through the sewing machine. 

Over the years mama and I made many quilts together and loved every minute of it. After we lost mama I started quilting on my own. I knew mine would never come close to mama or big ma’s but I let the hammer down on those quilts. Over the years I’ve tried to make quilts for all of my family and then some. I have several hanging on quilt racks and always keep one on my bed along with the pillow shams.
Then something happened a few years ago that caused my quilting to come to a halt. I was putting the finishing touches on one when I felt some kind of weird symptoms that can’t be explained. I kept on working till I finished that quilt and that was my last one I’ve attempted to make. I guess it can only be explained by saying my health put me on a journey that’s been a hard road to travel and my quilting was put on the back burner.

But I still look at those quilts hanging on the racks or on the beds and a still, small voice tells me that maybe, just maybe someday the stitching will start again and the quilting fever will last to no end.

Quilting is the life’s blood of a quilter’s soul
Passed down through the generations of time
Knowledge is worth a mountain of gold
To a quilter that’s patiently waiting behind

Each piece is linked with joy and pride
Each stitch sewn by a determined hand
The patience for creation sits closely beside
As only a quilter can understand

The pattern may become bright and bold
It doesn’t matter the color or size
It’s there for the next generation to behold
Then becomes a cherished prize

To the heart of a quilter it’s a joyous pleasure
From the beginning until the cherished end
It’s an honor to make such a lasting treasure
And a quilter is willing to do it all again

But when a quilter’s job is finally done
And they lay their stitching down
The quilting fever has only begun
To a future quilter, what a glorious crown

© Susie Swanson, 2019

The quilt above is one of the last ones I made before I got sick and was diagnosed with Addison's Disease. I miss it so bad but maybe some day in God's time I will quilt once again.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Days Of Old

                                         I miss days of old
                                        when simple times were here
                                        walking down a country road
                                        not a worry or a fear

                                        Playing outside all day
                                        losing track of time
                                        rushing in to mama's cooking
                                        not a bite left behind

                                        When prayer was in school
                                        and the freedom to say
                                        going outside for recess
                                        learning mixed with play

                                        Neighbors helping neighbors
                                        through good times and bad
                                        the most loyal friends
                                        so willing and glad

                                        Looking forward to church
                                        spirit-filled revivals too
                                        fried chicken Sunday dinner
                                        and banana pudding menu

                                        Walking to the store
                                         a few pennies in hand
                                         buying penny candy
                                         thinking it was grand

                                        Wearing hand me down clothes
                                         feeling they were new
                                         getting a new pair of shoes
                                         to last the school year through

                                         The joy of Christmas time
                                          and waiting so patiently
                                          for that apple and orange
                                          under the Christmas tree

                                          Each night at bedtime
                                          saying a kneeling prayer
                                          thanking God for his blessings
                                          and tender, loving care

                                          © Susie Swanson, 2019

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Old Country Store

She’s seen many a season come and go
That old country store was one of a kind
Those big welcome doors were always open
It was the place to go and buy on time

A watering hole for the community
Meeting up with the locals was a daily trend
They traded many stories and bartered too
A way of life they all came to depend

A weekly, anticipated trip to the that old store
To pick up supplies or pay on a bill
Was a pleasure that could never be denied
To everyone that came, it was certainly a big deal

Wagons carried chickens, eggs and cream
That good homemade butter was the best of all
For a pound of coffee, sugar, a sack of flour
They were all in it for the long haul

Many rabbits came straight from the traps
In exchange for tobacco or a Christmas gift
Those big bolts of yard goods looked so good
To the women folks, their spirits did lift

Oh how those candy jars stood out the most
Sitting on the counter so large and tall
That array of penny candy sure looked tasty
Plenty of children would still recall

Or those big barrels sitting in the corner
Filled with pickles, potatoes or seed
With a little extra money in the pockets
A chance for some much needed chicken feed

That old pot bellied stove sitting in the middle
Became a familiar sight for all to see
Always surrounded by a couple of chairs
And the famous spittoon and its popularity

And that old building acquired so many names
The local post office was in the back
Many jobs for the proprietor surely did grow
Even an undertaker, nothing did he lack

That weathered old building gave so much
A useful, old place where wonders never cease
Where skills became plentiful for pulling teeth
Or when the need arose, justice of the peace

The welcome sign was always there
From the time they entered till closing of day
A busy, old place filled with warmth and cheer
Open Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday

Now it sits empty and feels so all alone
Knowing things will never be like it was before
Where many came and went and the living was good
And anything could be found at the old country store

© Susie Swanson, 2019

Friday, January 18, 2019

Old Timey Home Remedies

 It's that time of year again when all the sneezing, snorting, blowing and coughing starts. Here's a little something I wrote a couple years ago that might be of interest. 

I remember back when I was little we hardly ever went to a doctor when we got sick. Mama would doctor us with home remedies and she really knew a lot of em. She used a lot of Save the Baby. She’d put a drop or two on sugar in a teaspoon, hold our nostrils together and blow in our face till we swallowed it. You talk about stopping a cough and curing the croup, it did. It sure did break it up and she always said a cough has got to be loosened up before it’ll stop.

I know everybody’s heard of Soltice. It came in a jar and was used to open up a chest or cough. It’d even open up ye head and make it run.  Daddy thought he needed some on his chest every night before bed. Mama said, it was just a habit.
She’d even cook up some onions and make us eat em. Supposedly, they were good for a cold and cough.
No worries when we got a chest cold or cough, we either got some good ole tasting Save the Baby, rubbed down with Solstice, or Vick’s Salve, or eat a lot of cooked onions. There were lots more remedies, to many to mention.
Daddy made up his own cough syrup every winter. He used a small amount of white liquor, honey and lemon. He’d shake it up good and hide it so none of us kids could find it. Mama always accused him of sipping on it to much.

For the sore throat it was vinegar diluted with a little water. We had to gargle it but mama gargled the vinegar full strength. She wouldn’t let us young’uns do that for fear it’d strangle us to death. 

For a nose bleed she’d take a small piece of a brown paper poke (bag) and fold it up real small and put it under the upper lip and it’d stop the blood. But most of the time she’d read the verse in the Bible, Ezekiel 16:6. It really works with faith. And camphor was used for the swimey head, also known as fainting and sick stomach. One whiff under ye nose and the sickness was gone.

For burns, scratches or cuts, Turpentine was the best remedy there was.
Mama would rub a little around our belly button to worm us. It had to many uses to name but we sure did get wormed quite often.

For bee and wasp stings she’d take a dab of snuff out of her mouth and rub on the sting to stop the hurting and draw the poison out. I don’t reckon we ever got snake bit. I’d hate to think what she would’ve done.  It was pure luck that we didn’t. I’ve heard of a lot of home remedies used for snake bite.

Oh the uses of Sassafras Tea. The root or bark was boiled into a tea and sweetened. It was used to cleanse the system of the winter blahs as they called it and whatever else was ailing ye. It was good for the kidneys, cleansing the bladder, arthritis and other aches and pains.
All the older folks spoke of it highly and were a firm believer in its healing and cleansing.

I sure can’t forget the famous Castor Oil that she loved to punish us with. Yep, that’s what I called it at the time but now that I look back on it, I can honestly say it worked. The older folks always said a good cleaning out would take care of what ailed ye, just the thoughts of the taste still makes me gag today.
We jumped for joy when Castoria came out. It actually had a better taste even though it was syrupy and we didn’t mind taking it. But when she’d come out with the Castor Oil we’d run and hide, still had to take our medicine though.
Take ye pick, Castor Oil, Castoria, Black Draught, or daddy’s all time favorite Epsom Salts. These are only a few, to many to mention. The older folks sure did believe in the cleaning out part.

My oldest brother had the earache a lot when he was little and mama would lay him over her legs and drop warm sweet oil in his ear from a teaspoon that she’d heated on the stove eye. Then she’d cover his ear with a warm rag and it’d ease his ear. And if that didn’t do the trick,  she’d take a puff off of one of daddy’s Camel or Lucky Strike cigarettes and blow in his ear. Cigarette smoke was the best medicine in the world for the earache mama proclaimed. I’ll never forget the first time we saw her do that. We all just stood there gawking. We’d never seen mama smoke in our lives and we told her of it. She said, that ain’t smoking it’s medicine.

I remember her growing a lot of catnip for the babies around. She’d boil it into a tea and add a smidgen of sugar just enough to sweeten it a little to get em to drink it in their bottle and it was good for the belly ache (Colic). She said it’d even make em sleep better. Daddy would even slip in a few sips every now and then, especially at bedtime, said it made him sleep better.

 And of course there was the Thrash (Thrush) remedy. She used some type of plant or tree leaf. She never told anyone what it was except daddy and one of my brothers. She did that so they could fetch it for her. Mama cured everyone around at one time or another over the years. Most were young’uns but quite a few grown- ups came to her with their mouth covered in blisters. She said there was three kinds of the Thrash, yellow, white and red. She could tell by looking at the blisters in their mouth what kind it was.
Word soon got around and even her doctor started sending his patients to her. She never charged a dime, said it wouldn’t have worked. No one ever knew what she did. The young'uns sure didn’t know and grown-ups were blindfolded but it did the trick and there’s a lot of folks walking around today that can attest to that, including me.

Yellow root was used for the sore mouth, among other things and ye had to chew on it. Daddy sure did chew a lot of it. He said it was using that old backer that made his mouth sore. It grew on the creek bank or the branch bank. He’d strip the leaves and bark off before he chewed it. Back then a lot of folks paid many visits to the creek bank getting Yellow Root for various reasons.
 It could also be made into a tea and drunk for stomach problems. It’s been said that it helped the kidneys, liver, digestion system, etc.

I remember us young’uns only going to a doctor a very few times. What was the use in going when we had our own medicines and own doctor. Mama even did surgery one time on my sister’s finger. She chopped it almost off with the axe. It was barely hanging on by a little skin when we all got to her. Mama took her inside and grabbed the alcohol and camphor and went to work putting that finger back together and bandaged it really good and kept a close watch on it.  The camphor was used to put under her nose to keep her from passing out during surgery.  She used enough alcohol to fill the ocean and my sister would squall out like a painter. She had to change the bandages at least twice a day but it grew back and she’s just got a small scar today.

We did have one old doctor that practiced out of his house and his wife was his nurse. We only went when we absolutely had to. The first time I ever went to him I was six years old. I’d been laid up for days with the Strep Throat. Mama first thought it was just the sore throat but as time went on my temperature went up so high she couldn’t get it down. She told daddy to load me up and take me. He gave me a shot of penicillin and it did the trick. I’m deathly allergic to penicillin today. 

I know people were a lot more healthy back in the days when all they had to use was home remedies. A lot of it can be attributed to their lifestyle, exercise and eating healthy.
Some things they used like Save The Baby can’t even be bought in a store anymore. They took it off the shelves, said it didn’t work along with lots of other stuff, go figure. They said that a lot of the old time ways were old wives tales. Well I’m here to say I’m living proof that it did work or I probably wouldn’t be still kicking. My mama knew what she was doing and she wasn’t no fool. She raised to many young’uns not to know what to do for em when they got sick. My mama was our doctor and she had plenty of common sense to go along with it. She once said, if ye depend on a doctor to do anything for ye now days you’ll die. In my book, she hit the nail on the head. If she was still here today I wonder what she’d come up with to take care of what ails me. She’d find something, I’m sure.

Personally, I’m thinking about trying the Castor Oil again, if I can get up the nerve. It’ll either cure me or kill me. Maybe we all need to go back to the old timey ways. Probably get better results and a good cleaning out never killed anybody.

I smile to think of what they used
To help us kids survive
But I am now going on 67
And very much alive

My sore throats were eased
I’m still holding onto my anchor
To think of sucking sugar lumps
With a drop or two of camphor

And camphor mixed with lard for
A winter chest congestion
Baking soda cleansed my teeth
And helped my indigestion

Because of mama’s tender heart
I hereby sing oh Gloria
For the few times she switched
Castor oil with syrupy castoria

Turpentine for tics and mosquito bites
And Turpentine on the scratches
The sickroom was fumigated with
Our sulphur kitchen matches

Somehow there’s quite a bunch of us
That’s never had a shot
But here we are still a kicking
And enjoying life a lot.

© Susie Swanson, 2019