By Betty J. Banks
Gray puffs scudding
Above sere, brown ground,
Wind shrieking through
Moaning the death
The house, hunkered down,
On shuttered windows
Announces warmth within.
Aroma of spices
And fresh bread
Wafts through the senses
Of contented souls,
“This is Christmas month,” wrote my grandfather Grandpa Hooge when we lived on Davis Creek. He loved the Christmas season and began looking forward to it early in the month. He wrote regularly to Mom after we moved away from him, with cheerful and newsy letters.
He was a wonderful grandfather, a deeply religious old man who loved his family deeply. My earliest memories of him were when he lived down in a hollow in a little log cabin. Grandma Samples had passed away at the early age of 52. He was remarried for a short time, but lived most of his life alone. I remember walking down the path to his cabin with Mom, and was enchanted by his home. There was a grandfather clock that chimed the hours, and it seemed like a fairy tale.
He made batter bread (probably on a woodstove) and when we left, he gave me a large hunk of it liberally smeared with butter and sprinkled with sugar. I climbed back up the hill blissfully eating my bread with butter dripping off my elbows. There are such warm memories of my grandfather, although he passed away when I was about 12.
He left a rich heritage behind. With eleven children, and numberless grandchildren, his influence lived on with them. He was known all around as a godly man, and elder of the church, and a man of integrity. One of the things that I remember about him was how he disposed of his worn out Bibles–and he wore out plenty of them. The Word of God was so precious to him that instead of burning them, he buried them.
It is curious how the holiday season brings back so many memories of loved ones long gone. My own father loved Christmas with all the trappings. Some of the family goes out and buys pine trees to decorate–but not Daddy. If there was snow on the ground, he would pull a sled (loaded with me and my brother Larry) back on the hill to a pine grove. He liked the hemlock trees because of their fragrance, and had to pick out the most perfect one he could find. Our old house had a nine foot ceiling, and it usually touched the top.
If the tree seemed to be lopsided, he would drill holes in the trunk and add extra branches. He was picky about the decorations, hanging most of them himself, although he would let us children hang the tinsel icicles if we put them on one by one. One night, Mom and I were in the “junk room” wrapping gifts when we heard a loud crash come from the living room. Daddy was using a step ladder to reach the topmost branches when he fell out of the Christmas tree. He was unhurt, but it became one of our favorite Christmas stories.
Most people everywhere are making preparations for the holiday season, but to me nothing can compare with the old time Christmases of the past, with the excitement and anticipation of the coming event. The highlight of our Christmas was the annual Hagar Grade School presented in the Ovapa Methodist Church. The sacredness of the newborn Babe in the manger, the singing of “Silent Night” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” brought to us the real meaning of Christmas.
Now it is that lull between holidays that gives us a little time to catch up on some chores. We made a batch of apple butter this week, and put the canning supplies away. The Thanksgiving leftovers are disposed of, although Criss complained that he’s asked the blessing over some of them three times. We’re tired of holiday food, so today we are having a pot of brown beans. Of course there will be a skillet of hot corn bread, and possibly some fried potatoes. Country food!
We’ve had some interesting correspondence concerning the hog-killing article of last week. Cousin Kelly Nutter had a traumatic experience to recount. His Uncle Kenneth killed a pig on Christmas Day and he was a witness to it. His parents had just gotten him a new pair of paratrooper boots, which he loved. His uncle had a 22-rifle and shot and missed, hitting the pig in the nose. Blood flew everywhere, and especially on his new boots. His Dad Clinton grabbed the gun and shot the pig between the eyes, swiftly dispatching it. (That is why we girls ran to the bedroom and buried our heads under a pillow on butchering day.)
Yes, butchering was a bloody, gory mess. I remember reading a letter that one lady wrote to a newspaper asking why we had to slaughter animals. She asked, “Why don’t people go to the supermarket and buy their meat like I do?” If we think we have it bad with one butchering day, consider what Darren Porter of Kentucky wrote, “When he was in Germany, the Mempals (farmers) killed hogs several times a week and sold it from their house.”
Thanks, folks, for all the lovely Thanksgiving cards and good wishes. It was a memorable time, with an abundance of delicious food and lots of relatives. The Lord has so richly blessed us that it is impossible to thank Him enough. The weather was perfect, warm and sunny. The grandkids played outside all day on Friday while the older generation relaxed. I ran across a poem that my cousin Bobby (Frank Samples) sent me several years ago which described our condition.
Here I sit, short winded, full of turkey and ham.
Stuffed to the gills–that’s what I am.
Wishing I’d let a few things pass by
Like that chocolate cake and rich pecan pie.
So I guess I have cause to find a solution
With a recycled old New Year’s resolution.
But it seems, of my gluttony there is no end
And the next holiday I’ll do it again!
By Frank S. Samples