A heavy frost covered the ground this morning, sparkling in the approaching sunlight that is beginning to bathe our hills.
I am reminded of Mom’s remarking on a frost such as this, “It looks like a young snow!” Our days have been unusually mild for the month of December, and it makes a person wonder if we will have a white Christmas.
I don’t trust these unseasonable days, as I always feel that something sinister is lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce upon us unawares. I find myself looking for bad weather signs—smoke from the chimney hugging the ground instead of pluming upward, a ring around the moon, or a rooster crowing at night. On rainy days, I always watch the chickens to see if they stay huddled up in the chicken house, then it will be just a brief shower. If they go ahead and scatter outside in the rain, you can be pretty sure in assuming that we are in for an all day rain.
The old country saying that I have heard since childhood is still a faithful weather indicator—“Red clouds at night, the sailor’s delight; Red clouds at morning, the shepherds a’warning.” This proves true, as you will see. Right now the sun is shining, and I remember days like this when we were kids and took advantage of the weather to run and play. We had rowdy games of “hide and seek” in the dry broomsage, and plenty of ball games when sometimes we only had a ragged, homemade ball. Come to think of it, we played outside in all kinds of weather except rain. That would send us to the barn, to play our imaginary games that we concocted. We even formed a club with Coda and Alen Wayne, and collected dues in a glass jar. I think we had about 16 cents when we disbanded the club.
One of our favorite games was jumping out of the upper story window of the barn. We would climb up the ladder to the top story, crawl across the hay, and jump out of the upper window to the ground beneath. There would be half a dozen kids, one right after the other, jumping over and over.
And how many farm kids have not tried to fly? Like Darius Green and his Flying Machine, this idea gets hold of almost every farm kid at one time or another. I remember Mom telling us about her sister Ruby who got up on the chicken house when she was small, pulled a gunnysack up around her neck and jumped off. Of course she almost killed herself, or she thought she did!
I remember when my brother Larry and Coda Spencer turned an umbrella wrong side out jumping off the old Virginian office building. My sister, Mary Ellen even tried getting into a paper box and jumping off the porch. She found out sadly that that didn’t work either!
It seems that it didn’t take a lot of fancy toys to entertain kids of yesterday like it does today. We loved a large cardboard box, and would play with it for hours until we wore it out. Our imagination knew no bounds. It could be a cave, a pirate ship, or an outlaw den. People are frantically shopping now, hurriedly running through stores and paying out scads of money, when all they have to do is find a huge box!
Our own children didn’t have a lot of toys either. Mike and Kevin acquired an old motorcycle when they were just gangly boys. (The trade for the motorcycle is another story.)
Unfortunately, it was motorless. They would push the vehicle to the top of an oil well road, and take turns coasting on it off to the bottom—with visions of Evil Knevil and otherwise dancing through their heads. On this special trip, it was Mike’s turn to ride. Kevin stationed himself at the foot of the hill (to watch for traffic, I guess) where a metal gate was opened wide. For some odd reason not yet fully understood, Kevin closed it just as Mike was flying off the hill.
I didn’t hear the splatterment, but sounds of shouting and mayhem drew me to the porch. Mike had Kevin by the arm, and he was jumping up and kicking Kevin’s behind every step of the way. (At that time, Kevin’s behind was closer to the ground than it is now.) It’s still dangerous to mention “motorcycle wreck” to Mike. He had a motorcycle wreck on Dundon Hill that can’t be mentioned either.
As Mom told me one time, kids have a guardian angel to watch over them as they grow up, plunging recklessly through life. It’s a good thing that we did, and my children did also. When I think of some of the shenanigans that they did, my heart still shivers!
I have received many letters and cards from folks telling me how they appreciate my column, and I am grateful for every one of them. One letter that I received said this, “As I read your words, I’ve cried and I’ve laughed. I even feel close to your family, although I don’t know you all very well. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us.” Thank you also for the beautiful Christmas cards that I have received.
I guess that is what this column is all about—sharing my life, my family, my thoughts and my feelings with you. It has been a rewarding thing. I have met so many people, and formed beautiful friendships that I would have missed out on otherwise. I hear from many out-of-state people; transplanted hillbillies who still have their roots and memories firmly entrenched in the rocky soil of the hills here.
I love you all, and wish you much joy and happiness, not just for the current holiday season, but all the year long. This joy that I am speaking of is not the fleeting Christmas “spirit” that the world seeks after, but springs from a real experience of salvation. It is just as real on the 25th day of January as it is on the 25th day of December.
I like what the Gospel Trumpeter magazine had printed one time on its front page—“Peace is not a season—it is a way of life.” Jesus said, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (St. John 14:27)
Most of all, I wish you peace.