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  This piece was published March 2004 in a small magazine.  Rosine Magazine is paper and ink only, and it specializes in Bluegrass music and family safe writings.  The editor found it on my personal site--I was not searching for publishers.  It was found, I'm pretty sure, from a Google search of key words.  So you see?  You never know who is reading your work. 

April 2, 2004, I received another request to publish this piece. This one too, was from a small, family oriented magazine.  It was published in the May, 2004 Mothers Day issue of The Union Grapevine; both an on-line and paper and ink magazine. Another of my pieces will be published in the Fathers Day issue of June, 2004.  Yes, I am very proud. 

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Remember saving the recipes on those little slips of paper that were stuffed down in the flour bags? Remember actually buying and using bags of flour? Do you even remember what flour is?  Our flour came in fabric bags that Mama used to make quilts.  I'm sure she made other things too, but I remember the quilts.  When we went to buy chicken feed in the 50lb bags, we 'shopped' the fabric patterns.   She even had the man order feed by the pattern. 

Remember learning to make quilts from your mama? Oh, I sure do. I would sit at the quilting frame and quilt as far as my short arms could reach. I learned to sew by making my four patch quilts.  If I could gather enough left-over scraps of the right colors, my imagination flew.  I dreamed of railroad tracks and log cabins.

Mama worked with a needle and thread.  After a lot of{i} encouraging,{/i} Daddy finally made her a quilting frame, hanging it from the ceiling of our living room. I remember how proud she was of it. She could finally do the quilting the easy way. She and I would pull our chairs up side by side, and work on them in the evening.  I mostly stuck the needle in my fingers, but I learned.  The wood stove and books kept the family warm.

She finally got an old, used, Singer treadle machine. She sewed on that for several years, and was glad to have it. One day, I came home from school and Mama was at the machine with a big grin on her face. Daddy had attached a small motor on the wheel, and transformed the machine into an as good as new, electric model.

Mama was very good at encouraging Daddy to do whatever it was she wanted done.  She encouraged him to build a new living room on their small house when they were in their sixties.  Then, since he had the hammer out anyway, a new bathroom.

I wish I had her skill.

Everyone loved books, even the youngest.  We were all taught to read before we were old enough to go to school. It was expected, it was natural.  Daddy would read Louis L'amour so we kids learned to enjoy them, too.

Those old radios were such a mystery.  How did they get voices and music to come out of them?  It was pretty close to being a miracle as far as my brother and I were concerned.  He told me there were little people inside, and though I didn't really believe him, I thought about it a lot.   Did you know there was mercury in those radio tubes?  It fascinated us to watch it flow so smoothly from hand to hand.  It was beautiful.  Now, we know it is also dangerous to the health.

When it was time for Mystery Theater, the Lone Ranger or so many others,  to come on, Daddy would turn the knob and we would gather around so not to miss a word. We would root for our heroes and hiss the diabolical bad guys. We learned to love Red Skelton, Gildersleeve, and Fibber McGee and Molly.

Sunday was the time for radio music. My goodness, the songs and music of that time were wonderful!  Plain, everyday people singing their hearts out. Songs of love, lost love and Heaven.  I listened to Hank Williams as he became famous.  He's still my favorite, though Willie Nelson is a close second.  I remember the day it was announced on the radio that Hank Williams had died.   My Dad sat and listened quietly.

As I mentioned before, a wood burning heating stove sat in the living room. The boys would cut and carry in the wood, filling the wood box. Mama would put a pot of beans or soup on top of it in the morning, and it simmered all day. By supper time, the aromas of good food were making our mouths water. If you haven't experienced food cooked slowly, you have missed out on something good. This, along with the sweet smell and the goodness of yeast bread, was food fit for the Kings.

Did you learn to make yeast bread? I didn't learn until after I married.  It is so good.   I kneaded and punched and kneaded some more. I learned to make loaves, buns, biscuits, and cinnamon rolls. The aroma enveloped the whole house, so sweet you  wouldn't need room fragrance sprays.  My oldest son says it's one of his favorite memories.   He talks of walking up to the house after getting off the school bus, and expecting the wonderful smells to waft up to him.

I thought I was pretty creative to add left-over mashed potatoes to the mix; until I saw the receipe one day.   You can add raisins and, presto! You have raisin bread.

Sour dough biscuits? You must get a starter mix from a friend.  You then add your ingredients, saving out a cup or so and leaving it sitting on the stove until it sours - full of bubbles.  You continually use from the same starter, made new each time.  It was a tradition to pass around starters to friends.    

Some people still make their bread from the starter batch they received as a young bride.  They are able to do this by always saving enough to begin another batch.  This may sound strange and awful, but it's good bread.

We didn't have a cow, so we bought our milk from a dairyman down the road. We took our gallon jars and the man filled them.  The jar had to be set where it wouldn't get moved so the cream would rise to the top.  Usually, there would be three or four inches of cream, maybe a pint.  Mama or I would skim off most of the cream, save it until we had a quart or so, then churn it to make butter. Oh, ambrosia!   We never took it all because no one liked skimmed, watery milk.

If we were lucky, we would all get a cup of ice cold buttermilk. Real buttermilk, not the boxed kind. I loved it. If we had only a pint or so of cream, it would go into a quart jar, and someone would shake it while reading or day-dreaming. If there was too much cream, it would go into the churn. It was a little more difficult to read while churning, but I managed. Sometimes, I would sit it under the shade tree and enjoy the cooler air while I worked.  I brought Mama's churn home with me on my last visit to her house. 

With real butter, spread over yeast bread or biscuits, and maybe a spoonful of  homemade jelly, I could make a meal. Even today, I could.  Mama always had a very large garden, with many rows of corn, okra, and tomatoes. Everything that would grow, we planted.

When the garden was being spaded and raked, the earth worms would come to the top of the ground.  I gathered them up, placed them in a box of earth and sold them for twenty-five cents a dozen to fishermen.  I earned as much as twelve dollars on a good week-end.  That was a lot of money for a little girl in those days.

Mama would preserve everything she could, and stored it in the cellar. Shelves lined all four walls, filled with pint and quart jars of colorful vegetables. I helped clean and peel everything that went into them. She also made jars and jars of jellies and jams. I learned to melt the paraffin and pour it on top of the jelly.  It was kind of fun peeling melted wax from my fingers.

I wasn't always so thankful of the things she was teaching me. I would moan and groan, cry and beg to go to the river.  The summer sun was terrible enough, and by adding the kitchen heat, it became absolutely miserable.   I was not always the perfect child, I have to admit.

I wish I could thank her for all she did for us. The only way I could think of, is by remembering, and doing the same for my family.  Every time I peel a potato, even today, I think of Mama telling me to peel very thinly, "just take the peel, don't waste the potato." Then, the peelings were saved for planting.  Anyone who lived through the depression will understand.

Mama would listen to soap operas on the radio.  Stella Dallas is one I remember. Daddy would laugh at the soaps and Mama became embarrassed. When she was upset, her eyebrow would jump. My older brother liked to tease her about it.

"Watch out, Mama's eyebrow is jumping!"

We all knew we better disappear for awhile.

We used Oxydol Laundry soap and White Rain shampoo.  Ivory bath soap, it was 99/100's % pure. Still is, I believe.   I remember it so well, because it floated.  It was fun to not have to search the bottom of the tub for your bar of soap.  Ivory soap was also used in school projects.  The bars could be carved into works of art, and they were.  Lye soap was made in a wash tub over an open fire in the yard.  I have no idea what it was used for.  Probably 'just in case' we needed it someday.  I can see the liquid poured into flat pans and cut when cool.  Like brownies, but longer.

The star on top of the Christmas Tree was cut from cardboard and covered with aluminum foil - it was beautiful.

Entertainment was mainly in the form of barn dances.  They didn't cost much and they were fun.   If you aren't old enough to remember those, ask an older relative about them. I remember going with my parents and brothers to barns around the country, where the music was live and loud.   Laughter would ring out, affecting everyone with the fun only those who know what hard work and hard times really are.  During these Saturday night breaks, working the fields, dealing with gas rations,  and not having enough sugar to make a treat for the kids,  was forgotten. The depression was a terrible time, and it's mark stayed with those who lived through it.  They learned to skrimp and save even after they no longer needed to be so frugal; but it brought out the good in friends and neighbors.

Large, round wash tubs were filled with fifty pound bocks of ice, chopped into large hunks with ice picks, and held bottles of beer and soda pop. 

I learned to two-step, (a dance) although I wasn't yet six years old. I learned to love the country music I heard. It entered my soul and grew there. Folk songs and Hymns are still my favorites.

The well known, in the country crowd, Maddox Brothers and Rose band, would play at these dances when they were beginning their careers.  The Carter Family was becoming well known and loved.  They didn't live in our part of the world, but their songs did. 

When the children couldn't keep their eyes open any longer, they would climb to the top of the stacks of bailed hay and sleep. One by one the mothers or fathers would go to their cars to fetch a quilt to cover them.

All of this helped shape our lives. My brothers all play guitars and sing.  We all love God, our homes and families. I guess you would call us plain country people.

I wouldn't have had it any other way.