Echo From the Hills headerAfter a few spring-like days, with songbirds welcoming the warm weather and the grass greening, winter has turned around and taken another swipe at our hills. Of course we can expect that from March, when the weather can suddenly change from pure spring to the frigid winds of winter. I think of an old song that Mom used to sing, with the chorus like this:

“Sometimes it’s snowing, and freezing and blowing, but sometimes it’s fair you see/ But no matter however the weather, just whistle awhile and sing/ The North wind may blow, but you always can know, that just ‘round the corner is spring!”

After the harsh winter we have just experienced, spring will be all the sweeter when it comes to stay. Right now we will fill the bird feeder up again, and replenish the corn in the squirrel feeder, and wait. “Spring will come; it always has” Mom used to quote.

We had some feedback (which I love!) from last week’s column. Lawton Posey writes, “When my wife Bridget gets behind a slow car she says, ‘Worthy butcher’—a quote that came from one of her great aunts. I’d never heard it, and don’t where it originated.” Well, I never heard it either, but it could be a family saying, like the one we use. When we get behind a sluggish vehicle, one of us will say, “Pass ‘im up, Dal,” a phrase which was passed down through Criss’ family. I’m sure that each family has unique phrases that they use.

Recently Criss was relating some outlandish tale to me, and I replied, “Well, I never heard of such a thing!” It was something I’d heard all my life, only Daddy would have said, “I never heerd of sich a thing!” It’s probably not correct grammar, but we still use it.

Referring to the old-time method of churning, a reader writes, “We churned butter when we were young, but we didn’t used clabbered milk. Instead we churned the cream that had been skimmed from the top of whole milk into gallon crocks. The “blue John” was fed to the pigs, and the milk left in the churn after the butter was removed, was good buttermilk for drinking or baking biscuits or corn bread.” (Not to mention the cow butter spread liberally on a hot biscuit or a hunk of cornbread!)

Darren Porter of Kentucky writes, “Let me tell you a little story, It won’t take long, About the lazy farmer who wouldn’t hoe corn . . .Planted his corn in the month of June, By July it was up to his eye—Come September and a killing frost, And all the young man’s corn was lost …” (From the song “The Man Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn” performed by Jerry Douglas and his dobroe.)

That reminds me of the man (this is a true story) who put out his garden, and left it for the Lord to take care of it. You can imagine what happened. Evidently he never read that the Bible says to earn your bread by the sweat of your brow. In Proverbs 24:30-31 it reads, “I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding. And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.” I am afraid there are many of the younger generation who fit in this category. I have even heard some say, “Why work when you can draw a government check?”

We were taught to work at an early age. The creek runs along the side of our garden, and every spring it was mine and Larry’s job to gather up the rocks which had worked up through the soil. We had zinc water buckets that we carried the rocks in, and it was all we could do to lug the bucket full of rocks and dump them. (One bright note, we would sometimes find Indian arrowheads in the ground.)

I look up through the bottom now and see houses and garages where once the land was bare. Daddy would plant the whole bottom in field corn, and it was our task to hoe it. It would take three days to finish the crop, and then it would have to be hoed two more times. When the corn was “laid by” I can remember being so tired that I would throw my hoe and collapse under one of the big apple trees.

One year Daddy hired Velma Eagle to help us hoe, and she had a pocket full of Early Transparent apples which she shared with us. After all these years, I remember the crunchy goodness of those apples. When I was just a little tot, I was trailing Mom as she hoed in the upper end of the bottom. She found a morel mushroom at the roots of a big sycamore tree, and brought it home and fried it for me. She put it on a cold biscuit and I thought it was the best thing I’d ever eaten! It was my first taste of “food for the gods!” There are lots of memories in that old bottom.

We had two big apple trees in the edge of the bottom which produced apples for apple sauce and apple butter. It also had tasty green apples early in the spring and we would climb high up in the branches and indulge. Mom didn’t like for us to eat them, telling us it would make worms in our bellies. I don’t know about that, but it sure made a “green apple bellyache.” It must have been worth it though—when the old log barn was torn down, there was a row of rusty salt shakers in the rafters where we had taken our green apples to feast in private.

I’ve heard it said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Judy Garland, who claimed a quarter Irish ancestry through her grandmother, recorded a song titled “It’s a Great Day for the Irish” in 1940. Here are the lyrics:

Oh, I woke me up this morning and I heard a joyful song

From the throats of happy Irishmen, a hundred thousand strong

Sure it was the Hibernian Brigade

Lining up for to start the parade

So I fetched me Sunday bonnet and the flag I love so well

And I bought meself a shamrock just to wear in me lapel

Don’t you know that today’s March seventeen?

It’s the day for the wearing of the green……………

It’s a great day for the Irish, it’s a great day for fair

The sidewalks of New York are thick with Blarney

For shure you’d think New York was Old Killarney

Begosh and begorragh, every Irish son and daughter

Every good old Irish name and their relation

They come from Tipperary, Donegal and County Kerry ,

They’re here to join the celebration………….

There’s Connolly and Donnelly, Ryan, Obrien,

McLoughlin and Lynch, Fitzpatrick, O’Bannigan , Danny O’Doole and Seamus O’Tool!

It’s a great day for the Shamrock, for the flags in full array

We’re feeling so inspirish, shure because for all the Irish

It’s a great, great day………..

It’s a great day for the Irish, it’s a great day for fair

Begosh, there’s not a cop to stop a raiding

Begorragh all the cops are out parading

It’s great day for the Shamrock, for the flags in full array

And as we go a-swinging, every Irish heart is singing

It’s a great, great day…………