Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a Year!

You’re probably reflecting on 2009 and wondering where all the time went.  So am I.  For me, 2009 brought a lot of changes and challenges.  For most of those reasons, I’m glad to put 2009 to bed. I am actually looking forward to 2010. 

Remember all the worry over Y2K?  It seems like yesterday.  How can a decade move so fast?  One minute we’re worried over computers figuring out the year 2000 and in the next, September 11th.  I remember thinking that day that our world would never be the same.  In truth, it changed long before September 11th.  We just didn’t know it. 

Now, when we are reminiscing about the ‘turn of the century’, we have to specify which century.  Isn’t that wild?  Back then, I was just learning ‘instant messaging’ and ‘chat rooms’.  I had heard of blogging, but wondered who would want to do that.  Ummm,  well, me!  And, apparently, a lot of you!

I’m sure there will be more changes in the future.  I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog thinking about the past and remembering good times.  I do believe the best is yet to come for all of us.  So, it’s a good time to thank you for visiting my blog this year and taking the time to comment.  I appreciate all of you!  I wish you a New Year filled with health, love, and happiness.  Have a blessed day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the night before Christmas


Twas the night before Christmas,when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap—

When out on the lawn there rose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter,
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blitzen—
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So, up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys—and St. Nicholas too.
And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack;
His eyes how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

His droll little month was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump—a right jolly old elf;
And I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Gift of the Magi

The true gifts this Christmas are the time spent with friends and family. I think this story from O. Henry reminds us of what is really important. Treasure each moment.

by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral eflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and
sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length. Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair
hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and
value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit of saying a little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she
whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice--what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of
all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another Sunset



Are you tired of seeing my sunsets yet?  I just can’t help snapping a picture; each one is so unique.  I’ve been fortunate to see sunsets on the beach and those are beautiful also.  But, you just can’t beat a Tennessee sunset.  Have a blessed day!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Tale of Two Trees


Tales from the hollow sunset

This time of year I look at trees a little differently.  I’m always on the lookout for the perfect Christmas tree.  In the Hollow, we always had a live tree.  We’d all go out a week or so before Christmas and cut down a live tree.  Trees look smaller out in the wild, so you have to be careful in choosing the right size.  We always used Daddy as a measurement.  He was the perfect height leaving just enough room for the star.  It always took a little time to find the perfect tree.  Often times one would look great from a distance, but up close we’d find it had a twin trunk or some other fault.

I remember one year we found the perfect tree quickly.  We had it decorated with lights and ornaments before the tree ‘warmed’ up and got used to being inside.  There’s something about the aroma of fresh cedar.  This particular year, later referred to as the ‘year of the skunk’, we detected an unusual scent coming from the tree.  Yes, it had been sprayed by a skunk.  Since it was pretty cold that winter, we didn’t notice until it had been inside for a few hours.

Well, it didn’t take long to remove all the decorations.  But, it did take a while to get the scent out of the house.  And, we took even longer to find another tree being careful to sniff it for anything unusual!  I don’t remember the presents I got that year, but I do remember us all laughing over that tree.  Special memories are priceless.  What will your memory be this year?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Balls

Some of my favorite Christmas memories revolve around spending time with Mom in the kitchen. Even as a small child, I was allowed to help out whenever she made cookies. In the days before food processors, we would use a rolling pin to crush vanilla wafers and nuts. We would place the nuts in a clean kitchen towel, fold it over and roll the pin over it until they were just perfect. It took a little longer than these days, but somehow we had more time. Time for memories and time for a little Christmas magic.
This recipe is from my Grandmother's collection. She lived 'up North' and would keep these Christmas Balls in a tin on the screened in back porch. When we would make them, we'd just leave them in one of the unheated rooms of the house. In the days of central heat and air, you might want to refrigerate them. That is, if they last that long!
Christmas Balls
1 pound vanilla wafers, rolled
1 pound powdered sugar
1 stick oleo
One six-ounce can orange juice frozen concentrate
Mix and make into small balls. Roll in coconut.

Check out more great recipes at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas Dishes

Several years ago a friend gave me a set of Christmas tableware at a gift exchange. She said that everyone needed a set of Christmas dishes. The good dishes were used sparingly in the hollow and only on special occasions. I didn't know anyone that had Christmas tableware. My friend was right and it was the perfect gift. Every year since then, I've used those dishes in December.
Back in the hollow, our tradition was always a Christmas breakfast rather than a dinner. But, the table was always set with our best silver flatware. We would fry up country ham and make red-eye gravy. Eggs, homemade buttermilk biscuits, and sometimes grits found their way to the table. Years later I would add a hash brown potato dish to the mix served up in a sculpted casserole.
I can smell the ham frying already! This time of year, is it any wonder we're always checking out the latest in Food News? Our memories and traditions tend to revolve around kitchen tables at Christmas. Not just for the food, but for the fellowship. Traditions are passed down to little ones as those recipes are being cooked up. But, they are learning more from our actions than from the recipe. Spending time with friends and family is one of the treasures found at Christmas.
Red-Eye Gravy
After frying country ham, add one cup of strong black coffee to the drippings left in the skillet. Scrape the bottom of the pan for any bits of ham and stir. Pour into bowl. As the drippings settle, the red-eye forms at the bottom of the bowl. Serve over biscuits.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vintage Recipes - Wacky Wack Cake

These cookbooks belonged to my Grandmother and I love looking through them for recipes.

Not only are there lots of hand-written recipes, but clippings of recipes from newspapers and magazines. It's fun to look on the back of the recipe to get a glimpse of an ad or story from decades past.

Isn't this wonderful? There are a few pages from the early 1940's showing the cost of canning fruit!
This vintage recipe for a cake calls for NO eggs!
Wacky Wack Cake (no eggs)
Set oven at 350 degrees. Place large sifter in a 8x8x2 ungreased pan. Into sifter put:
1 and 1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sift into pan and jiggle to flatten. With back of spoon make 3 little hollows. Into these put:
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons vanilla
1/3 cup oil or 3/4 stick of melted butter
Over everything pour 1 cup water. Stir well until mixed. Bake 35 minutes.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ancient Forest in Nashville

If you've read some of my previous posts, you know how much I love trees. I first read of Hill tract earlier this year was completely stunned that such a tract of land could exist today. What is known as Hill Tract is a 324-acre old-growth forest with trees that are more than two centuries old. The timber has never been harvested. Never. Think about can walk in this forest and see three hundred year old trees. There is no undergrowth of ivy or ferns because the tree canopy blocks out sunlight. The most amazing fact is that this forest exists just nine miles from downtown Nashville, Tennessee.
Generations of the Hill family are owed our gratitude for taking personal responsibility and preserving this forest. It takes a special love of nature to see beyond the earnings from cutting timber to realize you are the guardian of something truly unique.
The Friends of Warner Parks are raising funds to purchase the 324-acre Hill Tract to preserve it for future generations. I urge you to take a look at their website and consider donating. This time of year there are a lot of worthy causes that grab our attention. But, this is truly a once in a lifetime chance to make a difference for our future generations.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Memories

This time of year can be difficult. The stress of making the perfect Thanksgiving dinner falls on new and experienced cooks. Some of these dishes are only made once a year, so that really increases the pressure. While Thanksgiving is definitely about enjoying some delicious food, it's mostly about making some great memories.
I can remember Mom buying each piece of this set of china. The sets were being sold in the local grocery store. With each grocery purchase, you could purchase a piece of china at a discounted price. Mom and I worked very hard to get just enough pieces to debut the set at our Thanksgiving table that year. While we didn't have every piece, there was enough for the dinner table.
That dinner table had been used for years. While it was wooden, it had the most indestructible finished top. I think you could pour a gallon of water on it and it would never penetrate the wood. I remember laying my head on the cool surface when I was a child and crying with an ear ache. We played cards and Scrabble at that table. Decades of breakfasts and suppers sat upon it. At Thanksgiving, an extra leaf was added and it was covered with one of Grandma's white tablecloths.
This particular year, later referred to as the year of the china, Mom and I worked really hard to make sure the table was set 'just right'. I'll blame Mom, but it was probably my idea to take a picture of the 'set' table with the turkey in the center. After our photo shoot, we needed to move the table a little more to the center of the kitchen. Mom was on one end and I on the other when we picked up the table. That moment still plays like slow motion in my memories. Our beloved table, after decades of service, picked that moment to break in half. Mom and I gazed in horror as our brand new china began sliding toward the turkey in the center. We couldn't let go of the table and we couldn't grab the china. I'm not sure who screamed first, but the menfolk came running. Being men, they grabbed the turkey first. Mom and I screamed in unison 'the dishes, get the dishes!'. The only thing keeping everything from sliding to the floor was the tablecloth wrapped around the ends of the table we were still holding. It seemed like it took forever for those dishes to be moved. Mom and I just knew that they'd be chipped an broken before we had a chance to use them.
Well, not a chip or scratch could be found on any plate. I guess that is the mark of really good china! Mom cried over the broken table, but we borrowed one from Grandma for Thanksgiving dinner. After all the usual chaos of Thanksgiving, the food was wonderful. All of us together, eating on new china and a borrowed table, made for a perfect Thanksgiving. In the end though, it's the memory of us holding that broken table, laughing and crying, that still stands out after all these years.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Phil Update

I'm a little past due on my 'Phil Update'. When I first introduced you to Phil, my intention was to post a new picture every month. Well, it's been over two months now so I'm sure you have been concerned. As you can see Phil is doing well. The little pile of dead leaves to the right were the result of spending too much time in the sun. I have some pretty sunny windows and Phil didn't take too well to them. It also took us a little while to get the 'watering' schedule down pat. But, so far, so good. Here's a before picture.
He has grown quite a bit. Since Christmas is around the corner, maybe we'll do a little decorating. Have a great day!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cross Creeks

There's just something about taking a early morning drive in the country. I took these pictures recently on a drive in Cross Creeks NWR. The morning was too foggy for great pictures, but I couldn't resist snapping a few of the mist on the lake.
This one is a view of the smoke stacks from TVA's Cumberland City Steam Plant.I have to wonder what is actually coming from those stacks and what it is doing to our environment....
It took a moment to recognize these dead plants....Lille Pads! I've always seen them 'green' and floating on the water.

All those Lille Pads remind me of frog legs! They really do taste a little like chicken.
Fried Frog Legs
Soak 8 pairs of skinned frog legs in salted water for twenty minutes. Make a mixture of 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Drain frog legs and dip in buttermilk.
Heat 2/3 cup butter in a heavy skillet over low heat. Add 1 clove garlic and 1/4 teaspoon savory and cook about five minutes. Add frog legs and cook until brown (15 to 20 minutes) turning two or three times to prevent burning. Drain and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Strong Foundations

You've heard me talk a lot about 'where things used to be' over the last couple of months. This Fall, I've spent a lot of time driving around and visiting old haunts. It's amazing how much things have changed, but how some stay the same. This old bridge looks the same to me. It's a leftover relic from the formation of Barkley Lake and the dam.

Mom, Grandma and I used to fish from this side of the water years ago. It looks pretty much the same except some of the trees are a lot bigger now. I can remember being too scared to fish here and would often head to a lower spot on the bank.

It doesn't take nature long to 'take back' the road. But the foundation of the bridge is still there after all these years. I can close my eyes and still see Grandma in her fuzzy 'fishing hat'. I guess strong foundations make for strong memories. Have a great day!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


My friend Mo Mo called recently and asked me to stop by her house on the way home. Since I was in the grocery at the moment, I was also asked to pick up some coffee creamer. Even though I have only recently enjoyed drinking coffee, I could understand that creamer was needed before morning. It's hard to find just plain creamer these days. As I was standing in front of the choices, my mind drifted to our friendship over the years. We've known each other literally forever and are more like sisters than friends. While it's great to make new friendships, there's just something about the old ones. Like not having to explain all your 'history' to someone new, old friends just 'get' you. And, believe me, there's a lot about me to 'get'.
When I dropped off the creamer, Mo Mo had a surprise for me. I was instructed not to open it until I got home. I immediately asked if it was food. I had been giving her a hard time lately over her orange candy and the fact that I don't remember getting more than a couple of pieces last year at Christmas. She insists I was given lots more, but I think Mo Mo may be having some memory issues....but that is another story - one that I can be persuaded not to tell upon receipt of a nice supply of orange candy.
Anyway, imagine my surprise when I opened the package and found this beautiful fleece blanket! Mo Mo made it herself! It's beautiful, warm and so soft. I immediately wanted to curl up on the couch with it. Actually, I did just that with a cup of Fireside Coffee. Thanks Mo Mo!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Paris Landing

We've had some beautiful fall weather lately. It's nice to see some blue sky after all the rain. These pictures were taken on a recent visit to Paris Landing. This is a view of the Tennessee River. Below is a view of the bridge.

This is part of the old bridge. I remember crossing the river on this tiny two-lane bridge. It definitely was not fun if you met a semi-truck!

And, one lovely tree still has its leaves.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Early Morning in the Hollow

There are a lot of beautiful things that you can miss by 'sleeping in'. One of them is this beautiful sunrise reflecting on the clouds. Of course there is always an abundance of wildlife. But, I wonder how often you might notice spiders. I heard once that there are over 11,000 spiders in an acre. This next picture makes a believer out of me.

Those little, white fluffy things are actually spider webs covered with morning dew. Just imagine how many spiders are out there! I wonder how many insects they trapped overnight. Just one more reminder that we are not alone! Enjoy your day!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Black Walnut-Caramel Fudge

It's the day after Halloween and I know lots of you have an abundance of candy. I don't remember that much store bought candy from Halloween in the hollow. There were only a few houses that Mom would take me for Trick or Treat. These were close friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, even back then, there were evil individuals bent on doing harm. I grew up in a time when children were cautioned to have their candy checked for razor blades. So, we never went to a stranger's house. Of those times, I remember two neighbors most. One always gave me a shiny red apple which probably came from their tree. I can hear children and adults groaning over that, but I loved those apples! The other was Miss Hattie's house. Miss Hattie always gave out home-made fudge. I have never tasted fudge since that compared.
When I was looking through one of my vintage cookbooks for a fudge recipe, I came across one that called for black walnuts. Since black walnuts and hickory nuts were plentiful in the hollow, both found their way into lots of our recipes. So, in honor of Miss Hattie and Halloween's past, I hope you will enjoy this recipe. (Please note that whenever I post a 'vintage' recipe, I print it 'as is' without spelling or grammatical corrections.)
Black Walnut-Caramel Fudge
Butter an 8x8x2in. pan. Set out a candy thermometer and a heavy 3-qt. saucepan. Chop and set aside 2 cups of black walnuts. Measure into a large, heavy light-colored skillet (a black skillet makes it difficult to see the color of the sirup) 2 cups sugar. Put the skillet over low heat. With back of wooden spoon, gently keep sugar moving toward center of skillet until it melts. Remove from heat and set aside.
Mix together in the saucepan 4 cups sugar and 2 cups milk. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat and bring to boiling. Add the melted sugar very slowly, stirring constantly. Put candy thermometer in place. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture reaches 234F (soft ball stage), remove from heat while testing. During cooking, wash crystals* from sides of pan. Remove from heat.
Set aside until just cool enough to hold pan on hand. Do not jar pan or stir. When cool, add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Beat vigorously until mixture loses its gloss. With a few strokes stir in the chopped nuts. Quickly turn into the buttered pan without scraping bottom and sides of saucepan and spread evenly. Set aside to cool. When cool, cut into 1 and 1/2 inch squares. Makes about 2 doz. pieces of fudge. (You should have a child ready to lick the remains of warm fudge left on the sides and bottom of pan.)
*WASH DOWN CRYSTALS from sides of pan during cooking with a pastry brush dipped in water; move candy thermometer to one side and wash down any crystals that may have formed under thermometer.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Tell-Tale Heart

Here's one last Halloween tale. I can remember reading this Edgar Allan Poe story as a child and having nightmares over it. So, proceed with caution!
TRUE!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it—oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly—very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously—cautiously (for the hinges creaked)—I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights—every night just at midnight—but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers—of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back—but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out—"Who's there?"

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening;—just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief—oh, no!—it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself—"It is nothing but the wind in the chimney—it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel—although he neither saw nor heard—to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily—until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open—wide, wide open—and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness—all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense?—now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!—do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once—once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye—not even his—could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all—ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock—still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart,—for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled,—for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search—search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct:—It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness—until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale;—but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased—and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men—but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed—I raved—I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder—louder—louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!—no, no! They heard!—they suspected!—they knew!—they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now—again!—hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks! here, here!—It is the beating of his hideous heart!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Of Frogs and Lizards

I finally snapped a picture of the wood lizards that love to 'sun' themselves on my porch. I thought I'd post a link about to some wonderful site about them, but I really couldn't find anything. Maybe these little fellows aren't supposed to be in Tennessee!
Maybe I'll start a new blog - Things that live on my porch! Here's another tree frog. This one was on the storm door, so I was able to take a picture from both sides. He looks big in the picture, but this frog is actually only about an inch long.

The other evening, I passed by the window and my yard was full of wild turkeys. I grabbed my camera, but by the time I was ready to take a picture something spooked them. And, I was too spooked by giant turkeys in flight to snap a picture! Sounds like a fishing should have seen the one that got away....Speaking of fish...can you spot them in this photo?

Don't you just love turtles!

I wish this majestic bald eagle had turned and taken a pose for the camera. I would have loved to see him in flight.

Take time today to notice the wildlife around you, no matter how big or small!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall in the Hollow

Fall is my favorite time of the year. This year we seem to have an abundance of yellow and gold leaves.

After so many days of rain, it's nice to finally see the sun filtering through the trees.

Don't you feel happy just looking at these pictures?

I was so happy to find the next tree that I almost cried. Back in the hollow, pear trees were scattered around abandoned properties. I don't know who planted them, but they brought us a lot of joy. There's nothing like biting into a fresh, juicy pear straight from the tree. I had assumed most of them had died off, but I spotted this one. The picture isn't too good because I was trying to get a close up of the fruit. This was once a huge tree, but most of the higher limbs have been broken in storms. But, it's still bearing fruit. Wonder why no one has picked it? For one thing, this fruit is a good 20 feet off the ground.
In honor of pear trees gone by, here's another vintage recipe...
Pear Pudding
1 quart slicd pears
2 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
juice of 1/2 lemon
teaspoon of grated lemon rind
1/2 cup hot water
Mix crumbs and butter together. Mix lemon juice, water, and lemon rind. Layer bottom of baking dish with crumbs, cover with half of the pears, sprinkle with half of the sugar, nutmeg, and half of the lemon juice mixture. Repeat layers. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bak another 20 minutes being careful not to burn the crumbs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Homemade Swings

I didn't have a tire swing growing up in the Hollow, but I did have a wooden swing hanging from an old Elm tree. That swing was there long before I came along, but it still provided me with years of enjoyment.

I can just picture little ones fighting over the next turn in this swing. Is it any wonder we love trees? Take time today to notice one and let it spread some joy in your heart.
Here's a tree inspired recipe from a vintage 1832 cookbook:
Bird's Next Pudding
If you wish to make what is called 'bird's nest puddings', prepare your custard, take either or 10 pleasant apples, pare them, and dig out the core, but leave them whole. Set them in a pudding dish, pour your custard over them, and bake them about thirty minutes.
Custard Puddings
Custard puddings sufficiently good for common use can be made with five eggs to a quart of milk, sweetened with brown sugar, and spiced with cinnamon, or nutmeg, and very little salt. It is well to boil your milk, and set it away till it gets cold. Boiling milk enriches it so much, that boiled skim-milk is about as good as new milk. A little cinnamon, or lemon peel, or peach leaves, if you do not dislike the taste, boiled in the milk, and afterwards strained from it, give a peasant flavor. Bake fifteen or twenty minutes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tennessee Ghost Stories - Part 3

I can almost see the moonlight when I read this story....
Three and One are One
by Ambrose Bierce
In the year 1861 Barr Lassiter, a young man of twenty-two, lived with his parents and an elder sister near Carthage, Tennessee. The family were in somewhat humble circumstances, subsisting by cultivation of a small and not very fertile plantation. Owning no slaves, they were not rated among “the best people” of their neighborhood; but they were honest persons of good education, fairly well mannered and as respectable as any family could be if uncredentialed by personal dominion over the sons and daughters of Ham. The elder Lassiter had that severity of manner that so frequently affirms an uncompromising devotion to duty, and conceals a warm and affectionate disposition. He was of the iron of which martyrs are made, but in the heart of the matrix had lurked a nobler metal, fusible at a milder heat, yet never coloring nor softening the hard exterior. By both heredity and environment something of the man’s inflexible character had touched the other members of the family; the Lassiter home, though not devoid of domestic affection, was a veritable citadel of duty, and duty - ah, duty is as cruel as death!

When the war came on it found in the family, as in so many others in that State, a divided sentiment; the young man was loyal to the Union, the others savagely hostile. This unhappy division begot an insupportable domestic bitterness, and when the offending son and brother left home with the avowed purpose of joining the Federal army not a hand was laid in his, not a word of farewell was spoken, not a good wish followed him out into the world whither he went to meet with such spirit as he might whatever fate awaited him.

Making his way to Nashville, already occupied by the Army of General Buell, he enlisted in the first organization that he found, a Kentucky regiment of cavalry, and in due time passed through all the stages of military evolution from raw recruit to experienced trooper. A right good trooper he was, too, although in his oral narrative from which this tale is made there was no mention of that; the fact was learned from his surviving comrades. For Barr Lassiter has answered “Here” to the sergeant whose name is Death.

Two years after he had joined it his regiment passed through the region whence he had come. The country thereabout had suffered severely from the ravages of war, having been occupied alternately (and simultaneously) by the belligerent forces, and a sanguinary struggle had occurred in the immediate vicinity of the Lassiter homestead. But of this the young trooper was not aware.

Finding himself in camp near his home, he felt a natural longing to see his parents and sister, hoping that in them, as in him, the unnatural animosities of the period had been softened by time and separation. Obtaining a leave of absence, he set foot in the late summer afternoon, and soon after the rising of the full moon was walking up the gravel path leading to the dwelling in which he had been born.

Soldiers in war age rapidly, and in youth two years are a long time. Barr Lassiter felt himself an old man, and had almost expected to find the place a ruin and a desolation. Nothing, apparently, was changed. At the sight of each dear and familiar object he was profoundly affected. His heart beat audibly, his emotion nearly suffocated him; an ache was in his throat. Unconsciously he quickened his pace until he almost ran, his long shadow making grotesque efforts to keep its place beside him.

The house was unlighted, the door open. As he approached and paused to recover control of himself his father came out and stood bare-headed in the moonlight.

“Father!” cried the young man, springing forward with outstretched hand - “Father!”

The elder man looked him sternly in the face, stood a moment motionless and without a word withdrew into the house. Bitterly disappointed, humiliated, inexpressibly hurt and altogether unnerved, the soldier dropped upon a rustic seat in deep dejection, supporting his head upon his trembling hand. But he would not have it so: he was too good a soldier to accept repulse as defeat. He rose and entered the house, passing directly to the “sitting-room.”

It was dimly lighted by an uncurtained east window. On a low stool by the hearthside, the only article of furniture in the place, sat his mother, staring into a fireplace strewn with blackened embers and cold ashes. He spoke to her - tenderly, interrogatively, and with hesitation, but she neither answered, nor moved, nor seemed in any way surprised. True, there had been time for her husband to apprise her of their guilty son’s return. He moved nearer and was about to lay his hand upon her arm, when his sister entered from an adjoining room, looked him full in the face, passed him without a sign of recognition and left the room by a door that was partly behind him. He had turned his head to watch her, but when she was gone his eyes again sought his mother. She too had left the place.

Barr Lassiter strode to the door by which he had entered. The moonlight on the lawn was tremulous, as if the sward were a rippling sea. The trees and their black shadows shook as in a breeze. Blended with its borders, the gravel walk seemed unsteady and insecure to step on. This young soldier knew the optical illusions produced by tears. He felt them on his cheek, and saw them sparkle on the breast of his trooper’s jacket. He left the house and made his way back to camp.

The next day, with no very definite intention, with no dominant feeling that he could rightly have named, he again sought the spot. Within a half-mile of it he met Bushrod Albro, a former playfellow and schoolmate, who greeted him warmly.

“I am going to visit my home,” said the soldier.

The other looked at him rather sharply, but said nothing.

“I know,” continued Lassiter, “that my folks have not changed, but - ”

“There have been changes,” Albro interrupted - “everything changes. I’ll go with you if you don’t mind. We can talk as we go.”

But Albro did not talk.

Instead of a house they found only fire-blackened foundations of stone, enclosing an area of compact ashes pitted by rains.

Lassiter’s astonishment was extreme.

“I could not find the right way to tell you,” said Albro. “In the fight a year ago your house was burned by a Federal shell.”

“And my family - where are they?”

“In Heaven, I hope. All were killed by the shell.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Old Schoolhouses

This picture was taken in 1922 and is of the old Antioch School in Bumpus Mills. I came across it in some of my Grandmother's pictures. This picture includes my grandparents and their siblings. My Mother also attended this same little schoolhouse. By the time I came along, nothing was left of it but the front steps and the old well. A couple of years ago, someone even removed that and built a house there. I wonder if they can hear the noise of all those children playing in the schoolyard after all these years.

This is the Old Bumpus Mills Schoolhouse. We always refer to it as that, though there isn't a 'new' schoolhouse. The gym was torn down years ago when the schoolhouse was turned into apartments. You can still see the foundation of it though. The apartments never really took and it has been empty for years. The building that loomed so large in my memory seems small today. Trees are growing where the gym once stood. But, I can still see my friends playing in the schoolyard and hear the lingering laughter.
Here's vintage recipe from an 1832 cookbook:
Fried Salt Pork & Apples
Fried salt pork and apples is a favorite dish in the country; but it is seldom seen in the city. After the pork is fried, some of the fat should be taken out, lest the apples should be oily. Acid apples should be chosen, because they cook more easily; they should be cut in slices, across the whole apple, about twice or three times as thick as a new dollar. Fried till tender, and brown on both sides - laid around the pork. If you have cold potatoes, slice them and brown them in the same way.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tennessee Ghost Stories - Part 2

Fair warning....this one is a little spookier

by Ambrose Beirce
Connecting Readyville and Woodbury was a good, hard turnpike nine or ten miles long. Readyville was an outpost of the Federal army at Murfreesboro; Woodbury had the same relation to the Confederate army at Tullahoma. For months after the big battle at Stone River these outposts were in constant quarrel, most of the trouble occurring, naturally, on the turnpike mentioned, between detachments of cavalry. Sometimes the infantry and artillery took a hand in the game by way of showing their good-will.

One night a squadron of Federal horse commanded by Major Seidel, a gallant and skillful officer, moved out from Readyville on an uncommonly hazardous enterprise requiring secrecy, caution and silence.

Passing the infantry pickets, the detachment soon afterward approached two cavalry videttes staring hard into the darkness ahead. There should have been three.

“Where is your other man?” said the major. “I ordered Dunning to be here to-night.”

“He rode forward, sir,” the man replied. “There was a little firing afterward, but it was a long way to the front.”

“It was against orders and against sense for Dunning to do that,” said the officer, obviously vexed. “Why did he ride forward?”

“Don’t know, sir; he seemed mighty restless. Guess he was skeered.”

When this remarkable reasoner and his companion had been absorbed20into the expeditionary force, it resumed its advance. Conversation was forbidden; arms and accouterments were denied the right to rattle. The horses’ tramping was all that could be heard and the movement was slow in order to have as little as possible of that. It was after midnight and pretty dark, although there was a bit of moon somewhere behind the masses of cloud.

Two or three miles along, the head of the column approached a dense forest of cedars bordering the road on both sides. The major commanded a halt by merely halting, and, evidently himself a bit “skeered,” rode on alone to reconnoiter. He was followed, however, by his adjutant and three troopers, who remained a little distance behind and, unseen by him, saw all that occurred.

After riding about a hundred yards toward the forest, the major suddenly and sharply reined in his horse and sat motionless in the saddle. Near the side of the road, in a little open space and hardly ten paces away, stood the figure of a man, dimly visible and as motionless as he. The major’s first feeling was that of satisfaction in having left his cavalcade behind; if this were an enemy and should escape he would have little to report. The expedition was as yet undetected.

Some dark object was dimly discernible at the man’s feet; the officer could not make it out. With the instinct of the true cavalryman and a particular indisposition to the discharge of firearms , he drew his saber. The man on foot made no movement in answer to the challenge. The situation was tense and a bit dramatic. Suddenly the moon burst through a rift in the clouds and, himself in the shadow of a group of great oaks, the horseman saw the footman clearly, in a patch of white light. It was Trooper Dunning, unarmed and bareheaded. The object at his feet resolved itself into a dead horse, and at a right angle across the animal’s neck lay a dead man, face upward in the moonlight.

“Dunning has had the fight of his life,” thought the major, and was about to ride forward. Dunning raised his hand, motioning him back with a gesture of warning; then, lowering the arm, he pointed to the place where the road lost itself in the blackness of the cedar forest.

The major understood, and turning his horse rode back to the little group that had followed him and was already moving to the rear in fear of his displeasure, and so returned to the head of his command.

“Dunning is just ahead there,” he said to the captain of his leading company. “He has killed his man and will have something to report.”

Right patiently they waited, sabers drawn, but Dunning did not come. In an hour the day broke and the whole force moved cautiously forward, its commander not altogether satisfied with his faith in Private Dunning. The expedition had failed, but something remained to be done.

In the little open space off the road they found the fallen horse. At a right angle across the animal’s neck face upward, a bullet in the brain, lay the body of Trooper Dunning, stiff as a statue, hours dead.

Examination disclosed abundant evidence that within a half-hour the cedar forest had been occupied by a strong force of Confederate infantry - an ambuscade

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Old Barns & Houses

Do you know how you can tell an 'old-timer' from someone new to the area? Ask directions. The 'old-timer' will tell you to take a turn where 'Ole Mr. Smith' used to live. They won't tell you who lives there now if there is still a house even standing. While I definitely do not consider myself old, I end up doing the same thing. A friend asked me recently if I knew where a certain road was located. She had never heard of it and I immediately knew why. The road was renamed when our county established the 911 emergency system years ago. I don't think it ever had a name before, probably just a county road number. But, we always referred to it as 'the road to Miss Hattie's house.' We called it that years after Miss Hattie had passed on to Heaven.
Maybe it's a way of hanging on to the past and keeping those friends and neighbors alive in our memories. I have no idea who lived in the old house above, but I used to sit in front of it waiting while Mom stripped tobacco in a nearby barn. Almost every evening, I would have my school work finished by the time she was finished stripping tobacco. Then we'd head home, dropping off neighbor ladies along the way. Back in the Hollow, stripping tobacco was something usually done by older women as a way to earn spending money or even provide for themselves in hard times. While social security was around, for most of these women, they received very little income if any at all. I had an Aunt who actually drew $98 a month. Even years ago it was a shameful amount.

As things continue to change around me on an almost daily basis, I really do long for those days in the Hollow. They were hard times, but we had ways of providing for ourselves. As more and more of those ways fade into the past, I wonder what will become of us all and who will be around to teach the next generation.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Land Between The Lakes

In my opinion, one of the 'good' things that came from the creation of Land Between The Lakes was a permanent home for a herd of these majestic animals. I never get tired of watching the 'Buffalo' and often stop to see them.
To get this picture, I had to belly crawl through the tall prairie grass until I was almost close enough to touch them. Just kidding! This was snapped very quietly from the safety of my car because there are NO FENCES once you are in the Elk/Bison range. I wonder if they ever charge at cars?

This old fellow was in a pen all by himself and the first one we saw today. For a while I thought he was the 'token' buffalo on the buffalo tour. Do you ever get the feeling you're the one being watched???

So if you are looking for something inexpensive to do this Fall, take a drive through Land Between The Lakes. Bring some picnic food and enjoy the outdoors. While you're driving through, think about the fact that you are seeing your decades old tax dollars at work and the results of Eminent Domain in action. While I do love the buffalo, I can't help but think about the people that lived and worked the land for generations. As you drive through Land Between The Lakes, you will notice numerous cemetery signs. That, in itself, will give you an idea of the population. Their history is unrecognized in the materials and information you will receive in any of the welcome stations. But, you can read about it here, Land Between The Lakes: A Story of Colonialism in Kentucky. It's a true tale that should make us all question Eminent Domain and what it can do to the heart of America.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Miracle Ball Method

I have talked about The Miracle Ball Method to many of my friends and also promised to write about it. Lower back pain is something almost all of us have experienced. There is absolutely nothing worse than being in constant pain. After a while it takes over and controls every thinking moment. I can understand how easily people become addicted to pain killers and, unfortunately, overdose. The pills only help for a little while and you constantly need more to help block out the pain. I say block it out, because nothing I took helped for any length of time.
I tried medical doctors and chiropractors. Medical doctors prescribed pain pills and muscle relaxers. Chiropractors were more expensive and at a loss when the treatment plan ended without my being well again. I tried ice, heat, massage and injections. In the end, I lost faith in ever feeling better. I think I read somewhere that after six weeks of pain, it is considered chronic pain. Like we need anyone to tell us that!
So, there I was, taking pills that didn't help, trying everything I could think of and feeling pretty desperate. I decided to crawl to the computer, fire up the Internet and search for answers. I found out a lot of helpful information. Some of it I had tried. But, I also found out that there is a group of muscles in your back that run from your femur to your spine. Collectively, they are referred to as The Iliopsoas Muscle. When this muscle spasms, it can mimic a slipped disc and the pain is beyond belief. My next step was to search out treatments. Trigger Point therapy by a massage therapist came up as the most suggested treatment. Sounds easy, right? Well, not if you live in a rural area and find it difficult to drive due to, let's say, a back spasm.
If you can find a massage therapist trained in trigger point therapy, then I would give it a try. It is something I still want to do. In any case, I searched for self-applied trigger point methods. There are a lot of products out there and it surprised me. They range from hard metal thingys to little triangles. All looked painful to me. Above all else, I did not want to inflict more pain on myself or do any damage. During all of this time, I carried a little hard rubber ball (about the size of an orange) with me. I used it in the car and in the office chair. I found that it helped bring relief if I placed it in certain areas around my back and leaned on it. So, when I came across information on The Miracle Ball Method, I was very intrigued.
The Miracle Ball Method was developed by a young dancer named Elaine Petrone who suffered an injury to her back and leg. Basically they are two grapefruit-sized balls that you rest your back on for relief. The balls are soft and squish down to about half their size when you lie on them. Through breathing exercises and relaxing onto the balls, the method promises stress and pain relief. For me, they had two things going for them. One, they were relatively inexpensive compared to other products. Two, I didn't see how I could harm myself with the balls. They were soft, and I was already using a much harder one without any instruction.
I couldn't wait to try them when I received my order. My only hesitation was whether I would be able to get back up off the floor! So, it sounds easy. All you have to do is breath and relax. Easier said than done when you are in pain. But, I did it. And, honest truth, when I got up off the floor, I felt like I had just had a full-body massage. Every muscle seemed to be relaxed and I felt wonderful. I had no idea how tense I had been everywhere. I continued to improve over the next couple of weeks.
The Miracle Ball Method has a whole range of exercises for different areas of the body. I've only concentrated on my neck and back. It might not work for you, but it definitely worked for me. Well, that's two-cents worth. Do your own research and find a product that is right for you. Just remember, you don't have to live with the pain. Keep looking until you find the problem and solution. Life is too short to live in pain.

(Note: The opinions in this blog are my own and you should seek the advise of your medical doctor before making any changes to your exercise or diet routine.)