February is slogging her muddy way out of the year, making room for the month of March.
February has always been the least favorite month to me; usually marked by melting patches of dirty snow and soggy mounds of icicles that have fallen from the rock cliffs. The worst has always been the mud, which has become a way of life this winter.
When I was growing up—(isn’t this a recurrent theme among us older folks?)—the road past our house was a dirt road, and it was a sloppy mess in the spring. I’ve never forgotten an incident that happened when I was in grade school. We lived within walking distance, and came home for lunch. I was walking back to school and heard a car coming behind me. I got over on the berm as far as I could, and he ran out of the road to hit a big mud puddle and splashed me from head to foot. Seventy years later, I still remember. Our grandchildren are so blessed to be able to board a school bus and have a warm ride to school.
We really need a good snowstorm before spring comes. Criss likes to have a thick coating of snow on the plowed garden. An old Jackson County farmer told me one time that the snow puts needed nutrients or something back into the soil. We have always felt that snow and freezing temperatures were needed to kill many of the harmful insects that invade our garden each year. Who knows what Old Man Winter may have up his frosty sleeve yet this winter?
Winter weather now is not the harsh reality that it was back in my mother’s day. Winter on Big Laurel Creek was a bitterly cold, harsh and cruel affair, with each family member having to contribute to the work of keeping warm. Every evening even the schoolchildren had to bring in the supply of wood needed for the huge fireplace and cooking stove. Water was drawn from a hand dug well with a log chain—many times covered with ice. No wonder the children longed for spring.
Even so, we always loved to hear the tales Mom told of her life down on Big Laurel Creek, “when she was a little girl.” When we were children at home, and the day’s work was finished, we would gather in the front room and beg Mom for a story. We could feel the magic spell that she wove as she reminisced about her childhood. At least our work was finished; as I look back now it seems that Mom’s was never completed. As we listened, her hands were busy with sewing or mending, and sometimes even churning at bedtime.
I can see her now, with us children clustered around her knees, telling the old familiar tales that seemed to get better with the retelling.
In my imagination, I roamed the hills with her– going after the cows at milking time, walking the long, long path to Liberty Grade School at Twistabout, and wading and fishing the waters of Big Laurel. I thought then that the best thing in the world would be to be a little girl and play with Mommy on the banks of Big Laurel Creek.
Here, in Mom’s own words, are some of her childhood memories: “When I was a little girl, Route 4 was a dirt road. It was only after it was paved that we called it ‘the state road.’ The road out Twistabout Ridge was a narrow, dirt ‘country road’ that that was traveled mostly by horse and sled, or on foot. There was no ‘car road’ to our house—but it didn’t matter, for there was no car either. We traveled a footpath past the cemetery to a point where the ridge ended, and then down a steep hill to our house.
“Our main transportation was on a coal-burning B&O train, which we rode when we had to go to Clay Court House (which is now the town of Clay) or to the town of Clendenin. We would walk three or four miles to Elkhurst, or to Procious at the Camp Creek Bridge, and flag down the train. The coaches were fitted with rather worn, red plush seats, but they were pure luxury to a little country girl. I can still hear that long, wailing whistle. On a dark, rainy night, that quavering sound would echo up Big Laurel Creek, and I thought it was the lonesomest sound in the whole world.
“We eagerly waited for spring, when the big suckers came up in the creek and we could fish. We were allowed to go barefoot when all the ice fell from the ‘Big Rock’ across the creek, which was the coldest spot on the whole farm. Many times we helped it along with several well-aimed rocks. Winter was rough, but spring was a joy down on Big Laurel Creek.”
Mom is gone now, but the precious memories that she left behind are with us still. The most important legacy she left us was her deep faith in God, and the foundation that was built by her and Daddy. It was not only their teaching, but the examples that they were by their daily living. We learned early to put our faith in God, to trust and obey Him. This heritage is more valuable than any earthly riches or anything that they could have left us.
The years have passed, and time has gone by so rapidly. It doesn’t seem possible that I am now the grandmother, great-grand mother, and will soon be a great-great-grandmother. The torch has been handed down to me through the generations to be the example that my children, and their children need to find their faith in God, and to love and serve Him.
This was an admonition given in Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.” This is good counsel for today.
The teachings that we receive in childhood will go with us all down through life. That is why it is so important to begin early to “train up a child in the way he should go: when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). As Criss is fond of telling young parents, “You’ve only got one shot at it.” All too soon, they are grown up and gone.