– by Alyce Faye Bragg
Fog shrouds Pilot Knob, and dims the skyline along the crest of the hills. This month has been dismal and foggy, and reminds me of the old country saying, “For every fog in February, there will be a frost in May.” The late Uncle Clarence Brown, our resident weather prophet, would count the fogs in this month to determine how many frosts we would have in May, so we wouldn’t put tender garden plants out too early.
We have many old handed-down country adages concerning the weather, crops and other superstitions which we have heard since childhood. Here is one that I’ve never heard, but just read. “There is always one fine week in February.” I don’t know if that is true or not, but I’m sure ready for it. Here is one I like, “Winter’s back breaks about the middle of February.”
There are so many old country sayings and superstitions that we grew up with, and even today some of them cling to us. Mom wasn’t really superstitious I reckon, but she didn’t like for us to raise an umbrella in the house, or carry a hoe through the house. I never knew why, but old folk lore had this warning, “If a hoe was carried through the house, a death in the family would occur soon, unless the hoe was immediately carried back with the handle pointed toward sunrise.”
Many of these sayings were quoted “tongue in cheek” but I wonder how many of these are instilled in us. Crops were planted, houses built or roofed, and fences laid by signs of the moon. The moon phases really do have an effect on crops, as we found out one time when we planted cucumbers in the wrong sign. They flowered and flowered, but failed to produce one cucumber.
Illnesses were treated by home remedies or incantations. We never “said words” over a sick person, but we still rely a lot on home remedies. Golden seal, or yellow root is still an indispensable medicine for sore throats and other ailments. Coltsfoot tea is good for colds, and peppermint tea is an excellent remedy for stomach upsets–many of our commercial stomach medicines contain peppermint.
There were a lot of old sayings which have passed into disuse, except for us hard-core hillbillies who still use them. I was thinking of what Grandpa O’Dell used to tell us when we questioned what something was. (Usually it was an object out of his hump-backed trunk.) “Hit’s a layby to ketch meddlers,” he would answer gruffly. I never did find out what a “layby” was.
I told a neighbor one time that I had baked something from scratch, and he laughed and asked me, “What do you mean–you scratched while you baked it?” (To be fair to him, he was a city feller.) It’s like saying that “you give something a lick and a promise” when you hastily clean up a mess intending to go back and do a good job later.
I can remember Mom telling us girls to “go back and lick your calf over,” when we halfway did a chore. Of course that refers to as how a cow will lick a newborn calf to stimulate it and get it to nurse. I remember one of Criss’ sisters-in-law telling me that it was her birthday, but she “didn’t name it to her husband.” His family had some phrases that sounded odd to us, and I’m sure we had some that were strange to them. His mother told me one time that she had unexpected company, and didn’t have a “haet” of anything cooked. They used “lifting dishes” and “redded” up the table after a meal.
I’ll have to say that they were “right clever about the house,” and no one went away hungry. That was Grandpa O’Dell’s highest compliment to someone who was hospitable. He and Grandma must have been clever themselves, as they always had a table full of company.
Even though some of the expressions that the old folk used were pretty graphic, a lot of subjects were delicate. A woman wasn’t pregnant, but she was “in the family way” or “expecting.” There were a lot of wood’s colts born, but the word illegitimate wasn’t used. Bad girls were called by different names, but I remember Mom referring to one “a little flip”–but not to her face.
We had an inquiry from a reader who asks, “Did you ever hear anything about someone being born with a veil covering their face? Grandmother said she was born with a veil, and people born like this have second sight–sensitive in connection to dreams, omens, etc.” Yes, I have heard of this, and it is also called a caul, which is a part of the membrane that surrounds a fetus and occasionally covers its head at birth.
My mother said her ESP was due to her being the seventh daughter, although actually the saying was “the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter is supposed to be a witch. I know my mother was not a witch, yet I will have to admit that sometimes she scared me! Some of her predictions were eerie. I’m so glad that I didn’t inherit any of this.
I received a lovely card from Eugene and Marge Holland of Shady Spring, and he has a request. He says, “Years ago in Monroe County, there was a Shell gas station and café. It was located between Gap Mills and Sweet Springs and two elderly people ran it. They served the best vegetable soup and caramel pie. Would any of your readers have a recipe for the pie?”
I am sure that he would appreciate any response.
Well, the Lord has brought us through another winter (almost) and has blessed us and supplied all our needs. We are now looking forward with eagerness to Spring, and all that the Bountiful Father has in store for us.
By Cynthia Adams
In winter’s cold and sparkling snow,
The garden in my mind does grow.
I look outside to blinding white,
And see my tulips blooming bright.
And over there a sweet carnation,
Softly scents my imagination.
On this cold and freezing day,
The Russian sage does gently sway,
And miniature roses blooming there.
Though days are short, my vision’s clear.
And through the snow, the buds appear.
In my mind, clematis climbs,
And morning glories do entwine.
Woodland phlox and scarlet pinks,
Replace the frost, if I just blink.
My inner eye sees past the snow,
And in my mind, my garden grows.