Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Excursions on High Acres

 With our guests on High Acres for holidays or long weekends, we would quickly size them up. The ones who did not care to get outside were culled from the beginning and left at the house. (Obviously, they came with someone fun, because we could not imagine any other reason they wanted to be there.) That left the rest who were up for an adventure.

So after a round of Bloody Marys at breakfast, a plan for the morning needed to be made. There were several options. We had a jeep and a truck. Depending on the number of folks we had, we would load up one or two vehicles and go roaming about the farm. There were barns, 'the lake', a water fall, a creek (Big Hungry), several pastures, and apple orchards - enough places to ride around for hours if you had enough gas, ice, and libations. Usually, we were prepared.

The other option was horse back riding. This was the preferred option. And, we had equines of all types to suit every rider, even those who had never sat on a horse before. (And, cameras to record it all for posterity.) I always rode English, Daddy rode Western,  as did most of our guests. As, I said we were prepared. And, if you really did not want to ride, that was OK too, because the jeep was always close by since it carried the roaming bar. Riders get very thirsty.

So after the mass confusion of who was riding which horse, quick riding lessons to those who had never ridden before, and minor adjustments to tack, we would be off. There was a long winding road that went down to Big Hungry and the waterfalls. It was shady so that was a pleasant trek if it happened to be warm. If I were riding by myself it may take me 30 minutes to make the round trip, counting a good 5-10 minutes resting at the creek. With the crew, we could do it in a good 2 hours. (Bar stops take a while.)

By now it would be time for lunch back at the house. Riding wears anyone out, so after lunch, next on the agenda would be naps or reading for a while. (Or, enjoying a beer or two on the back deck.) Then it would be time for another tour. This may be to see the cows or  visit the neighbor's apple orchard, where there were apples on the trees as opposed to on our farm where the cows ate most of the apples before we could get any. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

A Question of Water or Not

 The Fourth of July always brings back warm memories of our family and friends up on High Acres. We all would invite friends to come join us. It was not usual to find, upon reflection, a week or so afterwards, that there were certain guests there none of us had issued an invitation. Apparently we were such grand hosts during their last visit they just assumed they had an open invitation any time they were in the neighborhood, or not.

But, it didn't matter, there was plenty of room. If one didn't merit a bedroom, there were a variety of sofas and half of the house upstairs was one huge open space with various and sundry extra old windows, doors, mantles, and pilasters left over from the construction of the house as well as miscellaneous pieces of furniture awaiting the completion of the room they were intended for. 

Space wasn't an issue. A reliable water source for the house was. Before we would arrive for every trip, Daddy would call Stanbury, the farm's overseer, to make sure that everything had been fixed with the pump and the well. He would remind him that we had guests coming. "Nar, Bill. I thank we got her fixed this time." Of course 'fixed' in Stanbury's lingo most likely involved some combination of bailing twine, used pipes, duct tape, and a method he 'learnt' from his pa. And, every time we were coming up it was "fixed".

And, as my friend, will tell you, that was true a good 25% of the time. 95% of the time we would start off with water. Everyone would have hot showers, water in the kitchen, and commodes that flushed. Then it was only a matter of how much time was going to pass before you would hear someone shouting expletives from the bathroom. There was no need to inquire - they were most likely half way through their shower, probably soaped up head to toe, and then the water cut off. 

Someone would rush in with gallon buckets of water we kept on hand for such emergencies. (Luckily at that time of the year, they would have been kept warm in the sun, so the victim at least got to rinse off with warm water.) 

Then one of us had to go find Daddy or Stanbury for an emergency intervention. If you looked out the window, down the hill, you could always see Stanbury standing there in his blue overalls, hat in one hand, scratching his head with the other. And, I can hear him. "What in the tarnation is it now? It was working just fine." He would get down on his hands and knees and an hour or so later with a lot of yelling, "Try this. Does that work?", once again we would have water. Daddy's first comment was always, "OK, she's fixed. Who's next for the shower?" And, some brave volunteer would step forward.

One friend I brought up saw the line of buckets of water by the back door and asked if we had those in case of fire. I, maybe too quickly, told her that, no, those were the backup water supply for showers. That evening when we had finished dinner, I asked her if she wanted to shower before bed or in the morning. She sheepishly looked at me and asked, "Is there an inside shower?" Before I could laugh, suddenly realizing what she thought, my brother quipped, "Well that depends. There is a shower. The question is: Is there water - in the shower?

Monday, June 28, 2021

Please Put the Mantle Here

 The mantles from several old fireplaces were among some the parts of the razed house Mama had purchased to move to High Acres. And, some of these mantles were more ornate than others. Mama had a hard time deciding which one she wanted in the great room, but finally made her choice. As the structure of the house was being completed, she was very specific with Stanbury, as to where in the room she wanted the fireplace and which mantle to use.

On one trip up, Mama found that the mantle had been installed just where she wanted it. However, there was just a blank wall behind it. Upon questioning Dad, she learned that the plans for a chimney had been delayed. His story was that he wanted to find a brick mason who was experienced in building chimneys in the high wind conditions surrounding the house. So there was Mama's mantle in all its glory installed in the great room with no fireplace. There were plans for another fireplace up stairs but Mama wisely decided to wait until the chimney was built before she installed that mantle. So among the various 'treasures"in the great room upstairs was a stack of spare mantles.

Eventually the mantles were quietly moved to the barn and some thirty years later when Mama sold the farm, there still was no chimney on that side of the house. However on the other side of the house, there was a small chimney built for the franklin stove that was in the small den. That side of the house did not have the wind issues and that stove was one of the first things installed. We often suggested she could use one of her fancy mantles over the squatty wood stove in the small den. She failed to share our humor.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

A Reluctant Guest

To those who knew nothing about High Acres, it was hard to describe - where did one start. Friends and family who had visited often had tall tails of their adventures on the farm. And it was all true - you couldn't make this up. From the weekends Daddy entertained business colleagues, to those vacations when visitors came and went (and many just stayed) there was always something going on. But, there were the quiet times when we had no company, when I spent hours riding with Daddy - both on horses and in the jeep. I think I learned more from him during theses times than any other times with him.  

There was a memorable time with a young man I first started dating during the Christmas holidays. I told him about the farm and that we always spent New Years up there. I could tell he was not impressed. New Years Eve - on a farm - in the mountains of North Carolina? Whatever. In other words - not for him. And, I understood, the last thing he could imagine being a "good time" was a holiday weekend stuck in the boondocks of the North Carolina mountains with this girl you just started dating and her parents. But, I invited him up any way. And, he came, reluctantly but made it clear he could only stay for a couple of days.

Now New Years on the farm was unlike any other occasion or any other day. It was an "official" reason to have a good time with family and friends, as if we needed one. Usually, we had a house full of guests, but for some reason, that weekend, it was just my new beau and my immediate family.

When we arrived and he first saw the house, I think it confirmed his worse suspicions. We went through the gate, up the hill, over the cattle guard,  through the apple orchard and there sitting in front of him was this large square house with barn red rough cut siding. We unloaded the cars and I showed him around the house complete with its half finished rooms, ornate doorways, rustic stairway (albeit with impressive balusters), carved arches, and huge windows. Then we went out on the back deck and he saw the view. It was a clear afternoon and you could see over the hills and into the valley below. To the East, the view extended all the way into South Carolina. OK, maybe this wasn't quite what he was expecting.

That night Daddy grilled steaks on the deck. We watched a fabulous sunset from the kitchen and settled in for an evening of games and TV. What a conundrum. We put him in a bedroom where 1 of the 4 walls was still missing paneling, so you could see the insulation between the studs. His other choice was a room upstairs with a beautiful view, no insulation, and the whistle of the wind coming around the window sills. The next morning, we were out early with Dad to ride horses and show him the farm.

Daddy told him,"We are going to spend New Years Eve with some folks we know who live up here. You'll love them. They're very down to earth.

My beau looked at me, "What does he mean 'down to earth'?" I assured him he would enjoy it. 

Then Daddy continued, "He and his wife built their own house and their daughter and son-in-law live with them." Once again, I got an evil look from my beau. Daddy just could not stop. "They grow their own food, make their own soap -it's just amazing." At this time my beau had yet to see that twinkle in my father's mischievous eye.

We were going to the home of a retired US Naval Commander who lived at the bottom of the mountain about 100 yards as the crow flies or a good 3 or 4 miles by road. Obviously, no mountain hick, he and his wife, Gloria, had lived all over the world and were most interesting. They had retired to the mountains and enjoyed doing everything themselves. They had this incredible home they had built with their son and his wife. It had become a tradition over the years for us to spend New Years Eve with them. And, I knew from experience, it would be a  fabulous festive evening with good friends and great food.

On our way back up the mountain, in the wee hours of the morning after a many tall tales, adults beverages, and much fun, my father turned to my beau, "So, what did you think about the Commander?"

"Oh, he is great." 

Then Daddy added, "Well it's been great having you up. Sorry you have to leave tomorrow." 

By the time we reached the house, my beau suddenly found his calendar was clear after all and he could stay for the rest of the week.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

It was Never Warm

 In the summer, since there were few insects on the mountain, we kept most of the large windows open during the daytime. The constant breeze kept the house nice and comfortable. I can never remember being warm during a summer up there.

Come to think of it, I can never remember being warm in that house - ever. In the winter, even with every door and window closed tightly, the house was still drafty. Although it was newly built, it took on the persona of the old things in it. It never held heat. The small den was the only comfortable room because of the Franklin stove which we kept going constantly while we were up there. It was not unusual for someone to "fall asleep" on the sofa and end up there all night. Unfortunately, there was only one sofa and it was just a matter of who could stay up longer to claim it.

The rest of the house was heated with a myriad of strategically placed electric heaters. I often went to bed at night weighing the dangers of freezing to death because the heater was safely off or dying in a ball of fire due to a faulty heater. More often than not, I took my chances with the heater.

Mama's cooking fiascoes were so prevalent that there was a blackened scorch mark behind the stove. And, then there was that period of time, thanks to a crate of sconces Stanbury brought her, Mama decided that candle light would add to the ambiance of the house. (We quickly put the ca-bosh on that, not wanting to push our luck.)  With all of these possible calamity's coupled with the copious quantities of consumed adult beverages, it was a miracle that the house never burned to the ground.

As the saying goes says "God watches out for fools and children." Perhaps we can add High Acres to that list.

Friday, June 25, 2021

High Acres or a Holiday Inn

 Visiting High Acres was not for the faint of heart. Although it was a great place to relax and get away from it all, Daddy always wanted to make sure everyone was taken care of.  He loved High Acres and loved nothing more than to share it with friends and family, making sure everyone had a great time. And this would start with Bloody Mary's as soon as you rolled out of bed ('Hair of the Dog' as Daddy called them) and the consumption of libations continued until bedtime. 

Regular guests learned early to pace themselves, lest they suffer undo bodily harm. It was not unusual to have some one fall off a horse when the horse was standing still or worse yet, fall off the back deck and roll down the mountain through the apple orchard. Yes, it happened more than once but we would always send the jeep to procure them. But, I digress.

Daddy had this, apparently, God given talent to be able to drink all day and rarely get drunk. There were a few people who had the reputation of keeping up with him and their reputations preceded them. Every guest may as well have accepted the fact that there was going to be at least one great embarrassing story at their expense. If they couldn't handle it, probably they would never feel comfortable coming back. And, we would never want them to feel uncomfortable,  but then chances were they would not want to come back. 

While most guests wanted to be included on Dad's outings, there were those less adventurous souls (usually the dull spouse of some real fun guest) who just stayed around the house reading or doing needle point or watching TV, keeping Mama company, or, more often than not, driving her crazy. She valued her "quiet" time on the farm because she always had her list of projects she was working on for the house. 

One of Dad's best friends, Douglas, had a wife, Mary, whom Dad best described as having the personality of a brick wall. From the first time they came up to the farm, she was not a happy camper. "Why wasn't the house finished? Does everyone start drinking in the morning? What is there to do? No, I have allergies and don't care to go outside." At one point, Daddy had had enough to drink at supper that he started explaining to her that they had tried to copy the rooms at the Holiday Inn, but they would not sell him the furniture and besides, he and Mama were not sure where they would put the front desk.

She thought he was serious until another guest started questioning whether the bright green and yellow neon sign placed out by the gate would bother the cows. The conversation went downhill from there. Comments were made that they had done a super job transforming the great room into the hotel bar and it was too bad they couldn't get the furniture. A question was asked about which room would be the presidential suite. 

Mary's attitude never changed. And, every time Dad invited Douglas up to the farm, we prayed that Mary would decide not to join him. But, alas that never seemed to be the case. And, Mama dreaded those trips. She tolerated the house parties because Daddy did all the entertaining. However, Mary became her new "best friend". Eventually, Douglas would come by himself and offer some lame apology for Mary not being able to join us. Of course that apology was never as lame as Mama's, "Oh, Douglas, I'm so sorry Mary could not come, Bless her heart."

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Arts and Furnishing of High Acres

 I have said before that neither of my parents ever saw an antique store they didn't like. And, the house at High Acres became the final Show Case of their efforts. Now in "Show Case", I do not mean anything Sothebys would be interested in. Mama and Daddy were much more eclectic and intrigued by the bazaar. For instance, when one of the old churches near the farm was being torn down and replaced by a new structure, the congregation was thrilled when Mama and Daddy made them an offer to take all the old wooden pews off their hands.

So we found ourselves the proud owners of a dozen or so church pews, some 12 feet, some only 6 feet long. If you've never had any, church pews can be quite handy. Mama had an old harvest table in the kitchen that was often necessary to seat the number of folks Daddy was known to invite for a weekend. A 12 foot long church pew fit well along the side of the harvest table. There was a short one my mother painted red in the entrance hall. I had one painted antique green in my bedroom. Another was placed on the back deck. There was a large one along the center run in the barn. And several were stored upstairs for further use. Mama was less than pleased to find that Stanbury had even taken one and placed it in "her" picnic shed by the pond. 

One afternoon Mama commented to Stanbury that she was looking for an old steamer trunk. Next time we went to the farm, we found 3 old steamer trunks sitting in the great room. Obviously, Stanbury had been to "the sale" (as he called it) and got her 3. He was pretty proud of himself. Given one of them was basically falling apart, the second one was covered with cracked leather, and the third one was made out of aluminum, they were not exactly what Mama had in mind. Stanbury commented to Daddy, "What's she gonna do with them thar old things any how?"

Daddy paid Stanbury for the trunks and gave him a little more guidance for the next sale. Sure enough, the next time up we found 2 antique trunks with beautiful leather, wood, and lovely paper linings. Mama was thrilled. She thanked Stanbury profusely. He beamed in pride. They rarely spoke the same language and he was thrilled he had finally made her happy. She then asked, "Do you ever see any of those old iron beds at those sales? Anything like that you see, just buy it for me." Stanbury looked at Daddy who just gave him that, 'Go ahead, I'll pay for it' look. 

From then on we never knew what treasures awaited us upon our arrival at the farm. Stanbury did come through with two iron beds. One had brass balls on the corner knobs, although only on 3 of the 4 corners. There were old milk cans, a yoke for a plow mule, a dozen or so old green jars, glass transformers, a dress maker's form, a Mexican blanket, and  wooden milk crates. He bought her incomplete sets of mismatched china, an old table, a chest with all the knobs missing, various odd looking chandeliers,  two cane bottom chairs, and several old quilts. Sometimes trash, sometimes treasure, you just never knew. One day, Daddy asked Stanbury how he knew what to buy. "Warll, if it looks like junk, then I know its what Miss Zenith wants. Darn if I know why. But I buy it any way."

Of course Daddy also added to the collection. He had purchased every copy of Reader's Digest Magazine from 1950 through 1970, as well as two or three dozen of the volumes of the Condensed Books. Then somewhere he found a collection of National Geographic Magazines containing various issues from 1910 through 1972. Needless to say, we were not short of reading material.

So when visualizing the house at High Acres you have to start with all the beautiful pieces from that large Victorian home that they had torn down. Then put those lovely carved archways, large molded doorways, the stair case, and huge windows into a large square house that was sided with rough cut siding painted barn red and sitting on top of a mountain. Add to that the eclectic collection of furnishings and objects d'art Mama and Daddy had accumulated. All that results in one unique home.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Lake at High Acres

 When Mama and Daddy first bought the farm, the family they bought it from showed them 4 or 5  springs on the place.  The construction or maybe I should say, "reconstruction" of Mama's house was the first priority. Then two projects topped the list - building a barn and a pond. The barn was not an issue. There was a local saw mill that could provide the heavy timbers needed and plenty of the rough cut siding, just like was on the house (much to my mother's surprise). 

So while the barn was being built, Dad and Stanbury, the farm overseer, went in search of the ideal location. The only choice was a low place below the "Calf Pasture" where a very active fresh water spring was located. A back hoe was brought in, a large hole area dug out, and a damn built. 

Very slowly the "pond" filled up. Dad was most excited about his pond. My brother and I envisioned a large lake where we could swim during the summer. Always being the planner, Dad had Stanbury and his crew build a floating dock in the pond for my brother and me to swim off of. Mama drew out the plans for the  a picnic shelter on the hill above the pond. 

Meanwhile the barn was going up nicely. Unlike most projects on the farm, the barn actually resembled what it was planned to be. (A novel idea I would learn for High Acres.) It looked like a real Dutch style barn. It had six large stalls  and a large center aisle, a nice size tack room, and best of all, a huge hay loft. Dad had them paint the siding white and had a large HA (the farm's cattle brand) painted over the door. 

The next time we went up to the farm, Dad was excited to check on his pond. What we saw was a bit disappointing. Instead of a "pond", it was more of a large muddy pool of water. When he asked Stanbury if there was a problem. Stanbury took his hat off, held it in his hand, scratched his head and said, "Don't know for sure. That thar spring runs like a clock. Ain't no holes in the damn, ar checked.

And, the picnic shed was built to Mama's plans, however, once again in the running theme, Stanbury had sided it with unpainted rough cut boards. Upon closer look, instead of using regular posts in the construction, he had gone and just chopped down some small trees, removed their branches and  cut them to the correct size. All in all, instead of a nice looking picnic shed, we had something akin to a lean-to built by a frontiersman living on the land. Not the nice neat picnic shelter my Mama had in mind, not even close.

On the following visit to the farm the water level in the pond had reached the top of the damn. After further examination, Daddy realized that the pond was as large as it was going to get. Unfortunately, Stanbury had not built the damn as far away from the spring as Daddy had in mind. The floating dock, Dad had built to go in the pond for us to swim off of was pretty sad looking given it's large proportion to the small size of the pond - 40' x 75' at best.  

Every time anyone started talking about how hot it was, my mother was quick to suggest a swim in the pond, as if she would be caught dead in that cold muddy small body of water. I think my brother and I swam there maybe once or twice to humor Daddy. There were times the water was so low the "floating" dock was not floating. Given the pond was dug from red clay, just getting down to the water was messy at best. Needless to say Daddy's pond was not one of his best ideas.

Always, able to make anything humorous, Daddy eventually started referring to the pond as "the lake" when giving guests the initial tour of the farm which also included a stop to visit the picnic shelter which he gave my mother full credit for its architectural design and construction, much to her ire. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Mama's House

 When my parents bought High Acres, the farm in the mountains of North Carolina, they immediately wanted to build a house on it. The location was not an issue. The house site offered a 360-degree view of hills and valleys that included three states. Although the sunsets  and sunrises were spectacular, the winds could also be quite stiff at times. But my parents had their heart set on putting their house on top of that hill. Stanbury, the farm overseer, just stood there, scratched his head, put his cap back on, and said, "Warll, we'll have to nail the shingles on real tight."

Now my mother, being very practical, found a grand old Victorian house in our home town they were razing to make room for a bank. She took it upon herself to purchase the home and have the company, that was tearing it down, number the pieces (that is the windows, the staircase, the doors, doorways, arches, mantles, and any other architectural pieces worth saving). Then she informed my father that it was up to him to get it transported to the farm. My father's response was, "Then what?" 

"We'll use the pieces to build the house," was my mother's reply. So the numbered pieces were loaded and transported up to the farm. 

The first time we saw the house dried in, my mother asked quietly "Where are my white columns?". My father pulled her aside for a conference, where he explained that due to the exact location she had chosen to build, unless they had done some very expensive excavation, which was not in the budget, the footprint of the house was relegated to its square shape. "But, it's so plain", she said. 

"It just looks that way now", my father assured her. "We just got started. Give it some time."

The first thing one saw when they entered the front door was the staircase, not the grand gently curved one that Mama had purchased from the Victorian home. Rather a very rustic straight set of stairs. There was no curve and the long treads had been cut to fit the narrower steps.  Even though the ornate balusters were used on the new stairway, the 'grand' design was definitely lost in the translation. There was the ornate archway leading into the great room where all the unused windows, as well as the weights and cases, were stacked on the floor. Perhaps, I thought, it was going to take some time to come together. I could tell by the look on my mother's face this was not what she had in mind.

"It just looks this way now", my father assured her. "We just got started. Give it some time."

A month or so later we went back up to check on the progress of Mama's house - and it had progressed. There was now siding: rough hewn siding, that Stanbury proudly told her came from Poplar trees on the farm. All the large windows with their casings were installed, as was the enormous formal front door with its fancy facing and side-beveled windows. A small portico had been built out over the door, and there in front were 4 of Mama's white columns. 

However, all of this was overshadowed by the barn red color Daddy had had the house painted. And this much red with bright white trim made a statement. Mama was less than thrilled.

It wasn't long before the house was finished enough for us to move in. We loved the house. It had large rooms and plenty of space for our many friends who came to visit. Mama busied herself decorating. Daddy had his back deck to serve cocktails while we enjoyed the sunsets. The furniture was fairly eclectic, from the full-size church pew that served one side of the long kitchen table to the mahogany chairs in the small den to the old iron beds in the bedrooms. But one thing was consistent - no one room of the house was ever completely finished. It was always a work in progress. 

We were always sanding and stripping the ornate moldings, adding insulation to the rooms (there was never enough), paneling rooms (it was not unusual to be in a room with bare insulation showing between the studs on at least one wall), or painting or staining some surface. And yes, Stanbury was right - we were constantly having to replace shingles. It never ended. When Mama sold the farm, the house still had unfinished rooms - and that was thirty years after we built it. 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Mamas House Site

Mama and Daddy's first farm in mountains was 13 acres that Mama named it "Our Few Acres". The property had 2 large fields, known as the Upper and Lower Pastures, one located up the hill from the other, separated by woods. The farm was known as "Tables" to all the locals.  

When we came up to the mountains, we still stayed at our house  which was just a mile or two from the farm. And, yes, I am taking liberties referring to 'Our Few Acres' as a farm, but in our world it was land, had fences, and had cows therefore it was the closest thing we had to one. Most Saturdays I spent just exploring, watching the cows, or riding around the area with Daddy.

Of course, Mama wanted to build on the farm. So she started looking for house sites. Daddy told her she had 13 acres to choose from. He would move his cows to suit her, once she chose where she wanted to build. She started down by the gate in a pretty wooded area, but soon decided that it would be too noisy by the road. The Lower Pasture was considered but it was small. Then she got to the Upper Pasture. This was the obvious choice. Daddy went back to his cows and told her to let him know when she made up her mind. About thirty minutes later she came back,. "I found it. It's perfect. Come see."

So we all followed her as she headed to the Upper Pasture. She walked toward the top and we followed. No surprise here, she obviously wanted a view. She kept walking into the woods. And, she wanted shade. We kept walking. Things were going well until she crossed the fence and we followed along. Next thing we knew we were standing on the top of this mountain with a 360 degree view of hills and valleys below. It was breathtaking. She walked to the highest point, turned around, looked at Daddy and said, "Here." 

"Right here? You've got to be kidding. You know when you crossed that fence you were past our property line?" 

"I figured as much. But this is where I want my house." He just looked at her, then looked around at the view and shook his head.

Eventually we all went back down the hill, across the fence, and returned to Our Few Acres. Daddy knew the discussion was not over. Mama was going to build her house on top of that hill. After some inquiries, he learned it was a nice family, Hoyt and Roland Jones. Hoyt's family, the Kerr's, had owned the land for generations, still worked it as an apple orchard. They were extremely well thought of. 

With hat in hand, Mama and Daddy paid them a visit. After some discussion, they agreed to sell them the two acres that would include the top of the hill and the land between that and our current farm. There was only one stipulation, they would have to purchase the remaining 198 acres of the tract.

There was no way Daddy was going to purchase 200 acres of land for my mother to have one acre to build a house on. Certainly, somewhere on their current 13 acres there was a suitable place. However, being a gentleman, and not wanting to seem rude, my father agreed to go with Roland to look at the rest of the property. Maybe he could convince him to part with only 2 or 3 acres after all.

They went up the road behind the Jones' home. As they got to the end of the road, Roland made a right turn through a gate. There was this unbelievably beautiful piece of property with rolling hills and meadows, pretty woods with poplars and other hard woods, and an apple orchard. Daddy was speechless. And, then they drove through the field to the top and there was that view. They started discussing money.

After a deal was made, that I think included free prescriptions for the Jones and their family for life in addition to the cash sales price, Mama and Daddy drove back up the road to take another look at what they had just purchased. Daddy looked around. "I hope you are happy now. This is a damn expensive house site." 

Mama's response was, "Well, I don't know. All I did was select a house site and somehow you finagled a cattle farm to go with it." That was the afternoon we went from Our Few Acres to High Acres and Mama finally had a place to build her house. And, Daddy had 213 acres he could call a farm.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sweet Mash and White Lightening


Defined as “illicitly distilled or smuggled liquor”. Other names include: mountain dew, choop, hooch, homebrew, mulekick, shine, white lightning, white/corn liquor, white/corn whiskey, pass around, firewater.

My Daddy drank bourbon for years, then later in life he changed to Scotch. But, always included in his bar stock was a mason jar of sweet mash moonshine.

As a child, my family had a farm in the mountains of North Carolina. High Acres, as the farm was named was our haven. Daddy referred to it as his favorite tax write off. It was where he could play weekend farmer, which he found “relaxing”. He found getting up at the crack of dawn, mending fences, branding cattle, and anything else his farm manager needed help with, pure joy. 

This brings me to Stanbury Franklin, the farm manager. Now Stanbury was quite the personality . He resembled a version of the character that was on the old cans of Mountain Dew soda. He didn’t say much. However, when he did speak it was always pearls of wisdom. 

He was very dedicated to my Daddy. I’m not sure if that dedication came from his fascination with this pharmacist from the flatland who wanted to farm. Maybe it was Daddy’s odd projects - such as breeding Angus Cattle - years before many people did in the North Carolina mountains. Or those spotted horses (Appaloosas) that Daddy bought. Of course the fact that Daddy provided free prescriptions for Della, Stanbury’s wife, who had some health issues didn't hurt. She required a lot medication, which was pretty expensive and they had no insurance. But, I digress.

Stanbury always had a jar of sweet mash when Daddy needed it. He never volunteered where it came from, and I doubt Daddy ever asked. He would frequently bring us tasty things from Della's kitchen - including Rhubard Pie and Apple Butter.

Besides the cattle and the horses and goats. Truth be told, the goats were a fascination of Daddy’s, something Stanbury never understood. That fascination ended when the neighboring farmer called, for the third time, and complained that the goats had escaped and were found feasting on apples in his orchard. After much apologizing and payment of reparations, that was the end of the goats.

Stanbury had overseen the construction of the stables, the hay barn, the pond house (more like a glorified picnic shed), and the house, (but that’s a whole ‘nuther story). 

The hay barn was the first structure you came to after entering the front gate. It was usually full the bales of fescue and bags of sweet feed.  This was all necessary to get the cattle and horses through the cold mountain winters. To this day, I can remember that sweet smell of the hay and sweet feed when you entered the barn.

All was well until the Friday afternoon we arrived to find the hay barn burned to the ground. As Daddy and Stanbury stood there surveying the smoldering remains, Daddy said, “It must have been struck by lighting. You said there was a storm last night. No doubt the hay fueled this.”

Stanbury, shuffled his feet, and in his halting country voice added, “That and the still in the back.”

Daddy turned to him, “Still? What still? Liquor still, seriously?" Thankfully, Daddy was more amused than upset.

“Yep, and there was a full barrel sweet mash in there. Just finished it.” Stanbury looked at Daddy, “Where’d you think your mash came from? Like I would trust the Juston’s 'shine, second rate stuff from that still they kept hidden in the woods?”

Daddy just chuckled, “Well it was good stuff, but a bit expensive.”

“Why you say that, never charged you a dime for it.”

“Maybe so, but it cost me a barn.” Daddy smiled, shook his head, and continued, “Guess we need to rebuild it. This time without the still.”

Months later the barn was rebuilt. Stanbury continued to provide Daddy with a steady supply of sweet mash. And Daddy never asked where it came from. However, he enjoyed telling the story of his barn burning to the ground, the result lightening from the thunderstorm and white lightening from the still.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

To the Moon Alice

 I read this week that United Airlines plans to reintroduce Super Sonic travel in 2029 (which scarily is only 8.5 years away). This heartens back to  the hey day of the Concorde, the super sonic program developed jointly by France and Britain. Between 1976 and 2003 for the price of $7,995 a seat (equivalent to around $13,000 in today's dollars) one could travel at the speed of Mach 2 from London to New York. 

This means flying twice the speed of sound, in less that 3 hours (vs a bit less than 7 hours on a standard passenger jet), one could cross the Atlantic in pure luxury. Flying on the Concorde was more than just a fast way to get some where. Passengers enjoyed 3 course fine dining  with menus that may have included Angus beef, Scottish smoked salmon, caviar, lobster, guinea fowl, truffles, foie gras, and champagne, as well as high end cocktails and fine wines. Speaking of wines, the Concorde had its own wine 'cellar' stocked with fine French wines and champagne.

There were other offerings, such as Cuban cigars. Remember the days when one could smoke on airplanes - up until the late 1980's.

The experience started with the exclusive "Concorde Lounges" at each airport that serviced the super sonic jet and its passengers. Once on the plane, there was an understanding that anything not tethered down could be taken home (cutlery, luggage tags, cutlery, bottle openers, matches, coasters, and vanity kits). In addition, the price of the ticket included swag for each passenger such as Wedgwood paperweights and circular trays, Smythson of Bond Street notebooks, silver photo frames, letter openers, leather drinks coasters, hip flasks, and leather bags - each embossed, engraved, or etched with the iconic Concorde symbol .

Traveling at Mach 2 allowed passengers to actually see the curvature of the Earth. However that was a bit difficult given the windows were very small. One had to remember the super sonic Concorde was really a glorified fighter jet - that offered champagne and Cuban cigars. 

I love to travel and enjoy flying (even in today's trying circumstances). Flying on the Concorde was always on my bucket list . At least  until 2003, when the service was stopped. That was 3 years after the crash of Air France flight 4590 that killed all the passengers and crew aboard. After an extensive investigation, it was determined that the cause of the crash was not the super sonic jet but rather a piece of debris  on the runway that fell off an earlier passenger jet.

There have been several times I have flown 1st Class, always on an upgrade or using my airline points. And it was great, not worth the price of $1,000 plus per seat, but a more enjoyable and comfortable way to travel.

So thanks to United Airlines, I may be able to check this off my list after all. Good thing, I have 8 years to save my nickels and dimes for the $13,000 fare. Ironically, for that price, wouldn't one want the experience to last more than a mere 3 hours?

Friday, June 18, 2021

Saying What We Mean

Traveling with friends from the 4 corners of our great land often leads to comments about life in my part of the world. Funny, all the other parts of the country treat us (southerners) like we live in another country. Didn't they fight a war 150 years ago or something like that, ensuring that the South stayed in the Union? But I digress.

These conversations eventually come 'round to things we say. I don't think twice about the sayings I grew up hearing. Some call them 'colorful', I say they just spell out what we are trying to say . . . albeit usually in a colorful way. Here are some that come to mind (and may as well been spoken in Greek and written in Cyrillic to my friends from the rest of the country.)

  • 'Forty Going North'  
  • 'That Dog won't hunt' 
  • 'Nobody'll ever notice it on a galloping horse' 
  •  'Two bricks shy of a load', 'Their elevator doesn't go to the top floor.' 'She's not the brightest bulb on the tree'. '2 sandwiches short of a picnic' 
  • 'Good thing he had that one at home' 
  • 'He ain't got no pot to pea in'
  • 'He couldn't hit the broad side of a barn'
  • 'She's about as useful as buttons on a dishrag'
  • 'That ain't worth the powder to blow it to Hell'
  • 'Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit'
  • 'Cute as a speckled pup in a red wagon'
  • 'Snow ball's chance in Hell'
  • 'Argue with a fence post'
  • 'A bit light in his loafers'
  • 'Got the short end of the stick"
  • 'Like a stuck pig'
  • 'Bump on a log'
  • 'In a coon's age'
  • 'Chew'n the fat'
  • 'Well, I do declare'
  • 'Like white on rice'
  • 'He gets a burr in his saddle.'
  • 'Got her knickers in a knot.'
  • 'Why that egg sucking dog'
  • 'Lawd, people will be able to see to Christmas!'
  • 'She's as lost as last year's easter egg'
  • "I swan, you all musta pissed God off somehow"
  • 'We're off like a herd of turtles.'
  • 'He hasn't got the sense God gave a goose'
  • 'Hotter than blue blazes.'
  • Bless your pea pickin' little heart!
  • 'Barking up the wrong tree.

But the my favorite is 'Hissy Fit'. Who knew we had the corner on that market? My daddy used to say, 'That lasted about as long as Pat stayed in the Navy'. I never quite figured out where that one came from.

And, that's all she wrote.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Elusive Coconut Cake and the Truth of Moderation

I am constantly on a mission to lose weigh. And, I am proud to say, I am pretty dedicated to this. Well, that is until someone shows up with a homemade coconut cake - then the jury is out. 

My love for a good coconut cake brings back memories of my Grandmama and her kitchen - that magical place. I know most of us have fond memories of our grandmothers and the delight that came from their kitchens - especially that one thing everyone at the family reunion waited for with bated breath. In my case, that was her coconut cake.

Unfortunately the recipe for that cake went to the grave with her. I have never been able to recreate that perfect culinary creation. Oh, I have a recipe  (on a 3 x 5 slightly stained note card) in her hand writing, no less. Try as I might this luscious splendid gâteau, eludes me.

Even using the exact ingredients - down to her traditional Red Band Flour, I cannot recreate that light fluffy cake. But, I think with 10 - 12 more attempts, I can probably produce the lighter than air yellow cake as I remembered. The icing, however, continues to challenge me. Even using a traditional double boiler and hand mixer, I have yet to get it right.

Not that I am bragging, but I pride myself on my cooking - baking included. I conquered the Lemon Doberge cake,  if I must say, on my first attempt. Even though at first glance, the recipe of 5 layers of a rich white cake, each layer separated with sweet, yet tart, lemon custard, all covered with a very fluffy butter cream icing having just enough zest to give it a wisp of heavenly lemon flavor, was initially daunting.

But not Grandmama's coconut cake. Perhaps it is not to be. My baking days have been put on hold for a while - a long while. After all, who can seriously bake without constantly tasting each step to ensure perfection. Well, not me. 

Meanwhile, back to watching my weight.  And this does not include a coconut nor a Doberge cake, biscuits or gravy smothered doves. Oh, to what depths vanity will drive us! One desire (more like delusion) is that the success of my most recent project will be the ability to enjoy these delights once again. They say moderation is the secret to success. But seriously, does "moderation" mean the tease of a very small piece or just not going back for seconds?

Come to think of it, anything that is suggested to be consumed in moderation, must be worth more. After all, life is short, why moderate. One of my favorite quotes from the late Queen Mum was, "Wouldn’t it be terrible if you’d spent all your life doing everything you were supposed to do, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t eat things, took lots of exercise, and suddenly, one day, you were run over by a big red bus and, as the wheels were crunching into you, you’d say, 'Oh my God, I could have got so drunk last night.' That’s the way you should live your life, as if tomorrow you’ll be run over by a big red bus."

Given she had a full life, was adored by everyone, and lived to be 101, perhaps she had it right. The secret of getting the most from your life may not be moderation per se, but being generous when you moderate. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Road Kill

Last spring, the first sign the pandemic was getting bad down here was the disappearing evidence of road kill. Especially prime meat like opossum and squirrel. And deer, now there's a prize if you bring it down with your dad's F150 instead of the 12 gauge - no buck shot to clean. And, the truck's so old no one can tell the dent is new. Everyone 'round here has a yard truck or a fishing car, the old vehicle that has so much sentimental attachment you just couldn't bare to part with it. Besides, it still runs and the duct tape on the front seat matches that darn gray replacement rear fender you never bothered to get painted.The left blinker doesn't work, but that's OK, it's not like it's NASCAR or something, just make right turns instead of left ones. 

I bet women up north don't have jumper cables in their cars (or trucks). When I was old enough to get my driver's license, my father would not let me go down to the highway department (the one next to the Bar-B-Que place) until I could do three things: change a tire, change the oil in my car, and drive a car with a clutch and the gear shift on the column (am I showing my age or what!) He wasn't concerned about my ability to safely maneuver the vehicle. I had been doing that for years on the farm.

I started out with a used blue AMC Gremlin. Remember those classic automobiles? It had no carpet, no AC, an AM radio, and manual transmission. You could safely say it was as bare bones as it got. For some reason my parents wanted to make sure I knew my place in life. And, let me tell you when you drive up to the Country Club every afternoon for tennis team practice in that jewel and park it next to the Mercedes, Buicks, and Cadillacs, let's just say, it makes a statement. It was humbling to say the least.

But, we still try to drive our cars for at least ten years. I'm not one that needs a fancy car to impress the neighbors or have that "itch" some folks have every time the new models come out. (Although I do not deny my passionate desire for a Porsche Carerra. We all can dream.) The idea is to have safe, reliable, comfortable transportation. Of course, it helps if it is well constructed so if you happen to hit that deer for dinner, you can easily throw it across the hood and bring it home. Otherwise your pickings will be limited to opossum, rabbit, squirrel, and the occasional coon. And, that's a lot of work.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It Ain't Fittin'

For God's sake, will someone tell them, it's not "Cheesey Grits". If you want grits with cheese in them, you order, "Cheese Grits".  . .  y'all.

Honestly, you don't have to try to be one of us to get our attention, our affection,or our vote. Come to think of it, we would appreciate it, if you wouldn't try. Some folks can screw up a two car funeral.

Come on down, sit a spell, we'd love to have you. We'll serve you sweet tea, good bourbon, and BBQ that will make a tadpole slap a whale. We'll show you a good time on a Sat'day night at a juke joint down the road with some of the best music you ever heard. You can go with us for fresh oysters on the dock at sunset overlooking the marsh. We'll mosey under a mile long canopy of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. You can go uptown to the high faluten world renown restaurants, down town to the local dive for collards and hot biscuits, or out back for pulled pork that has been slow cooking over hickory coals all night.

We love company and we don't ask for much. But, a little advice here, "southern" don't fit well unless you're from here. Like Mammy said: "It ain't fittin'... it ain't fittin'. It jes' ain't fittin'... It ain't fittin'."

Monday, June 14, 2021

Cured or Not

Cure  ( kyo͝or)

- to preserve (meat, fish, tobacco, or an animal skin) by various methods such as salting, drying, or smoking.

Call me behind the times, but I am always amazed by what I don't know, and worse, yet, how long it takes me to find out what I am missing.

In the grocery store yesterday I notice "Uncured" bacon. Now for those of you already enlightened about this, stay with me here. Like many of us, I was raised reared in a world of "Cured" meats. The salty and smoky flavor of cured ham is unmistakable. When you are cooking collards, do your throw pieces of sandwich ham from your Oscar Mayer package into the pot?  Oh, no. You want that a piece of ham hock from a cured ham to give that unique salty smoky flavor.

This brings us to the types of curing: salting, sugaring, and smoking. There is hot smoking, cold smoking, and smoke roasting. 

All this is based on chemistry, a subject  I avoided like the plaque once I got to college after surviving Mr. Allen's Advanced Chemistry class in high school. Centuries ago, man, in all his wisdom, concluded that spoiled meat contained something very bad (botulism) that would lead to death.  The idea of vegetarianism not being appealing, through trial and error (thanks to Harold's camp fire and Eric's salt seller) they found that by "curing" their meats they could both enjoy their kill and avoid botulism. 

All this brings me back to the meat counter in the market and the "Uncured" bacon. If bacon by definition is "cured meat from the sides and belly of a pig (ie pork belly)", does not that make the term "Uncured Bacon" an oxymoron? 

The official definition of “Uncured” bacon is "bacon that hasn't been cured with general sodium nitrites (salts), flavorings, and other things." Even as we delve into the belly of the issue, the semantics of  it gets murky. While "Cured" bacon is soaked in a brine of flavorings and salt - which contain nitrites, the definition of "Uncured" bacon continues as "[usually] cured with a form of celery juice, which contains natural nitrites, and plain old sea salt, as well as other flavorings like parsley and beet extracts". 

This all begs to ask the obvious - if it is still "cured" with sea salt..... 

I'll spare you an opus on nitrites and nitrates. The long story short - both "Cured" and "Uncured" bacon are cured (yes cured) with these "chemicals". The "Uncured" version can say that their process uses natural nitrites from celery juice and beets. But we live in a world of nitrites and nitrates. Many green leafy vegetables have more nitrates per serving than bacon (of any kind). Heck, nitrites are part of the powerful antimicrobial agent in our saliva. 

So much for all the hullabaloo about the nitrites/ nitrates in bacon. This new "Uncured" epithet looks to be just lipstick on a pig. Whether "Cured" or "Uncured", neither makes bacon more healthy. All this mess about curing aside, just start talking to the health nuts concerned about fat. Suddenly nitrites look like super complex mega vitamins. 

In defense of the real thing (not that I would take sides here), I did read a recommendation to buy and eat "Cured" bacon due to the rare chance of contracting trichinosis from the pork in "Uncured" bacon. But I would not worry about. After all, there are folks injecting botulism in their face daily. Who knows, in the future the rage could be capsules containing yersinia pestis (Bubonic Plaque) to ensure eternal youth. And, I don't think that can be cured.

Why mess with a sacred food, especially one of the southern trinity: Bacon, butter, and gravy?

Sunday, June 13, 2021

No Plastic Flowers - Please

On the back window of the car in front of me, in large script letters, read "In Loving Memory of  LaQuaChaniqua Jones, now with Jesus, 1966 -2010." (This is not an unusual sight down here.) It reminded me of some business I need to take care of. Not that I have any plans of going any where any time soon. In the case of my demise, it is very important that someone handle the following:

·   Before my body assumes room temperature, please go to my house and clean out my refrigerator. Short of condiments, just toss it all  and wipe it out. Don't worry, posthumously, I'll take the blame for not having any food in the house.  (Trust me, the church ladies will make sure my family does not starve in their time of grief, it is the south after all.) 

·  For God's sake, make sure there are no plastic flowers or silk arrangements involved. If some should appear, I would appreciate someone just anonymously seeing that they are delivered to some other bereaved family, it's the least I can do.

·   And, no daisies or carnations please, they are the dearth of arrangements. (I have gone out of my way to make sure all the arrangements we have sent over the years have not included them, and I damn well expect  repayment in kind.)

·  Yes, and one last request, needless to say, don't even consider putting my name on the window of your car.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Food Tells It All

Now, I read the other day that only a true Southerner knows instinctively that the best gesture of solace for a neighbor who’s got trouble is a plate of hot fried chicken and a big bowl of cold potato salad. If the neighbor’s woes are a real crisis, they also know to send over a large batch of banana pudding! Of course our friends in times of bereavement or stress are SOL if they are waiting on the hot fried chicken from my household, seeing that I don't fry chicken, but I do serve up a nice ham and fresh (tiny) butter beans. As for the bananna pudding, I'll put mine up against anyone else's, thank you very much.

But there is always the issue of how high regard you hold the distressed family. And, it's all in the food. This is especially true when there is a death and friends start bringing food to the house. Now you might think that the food is to feed the grieving family. And, true, it does serve that purpose. However, it has always been my theory that the primary motive behind sending food to the family was that we're all southern and that's what you do, but really it's our way of letting everyone know what we think of the family - like a secret code.

If you send a cake, then you think well of the family, as long as the cake is home made, and whole. Sending slices on a tray, just says "this is what we had left over - enjoy." Sending a store bought cake says one of two things, either you don't think much of the family or you're not from here and don't know no better. A basket of bread, shows you are being polite like your Mama taught you, but that's about it. A loaf of white bread is just an insult to the family.

Home made salad means a lot, especially if it is  chicken salad. Of course, if you use dark meat, folks will talk about you for weeks. (Everyone from a nice family knows better than that.) But, the highest compliment is bringing a platter of meat. Sending a ham, a  fried chicken, or platter of BBQ shows that this was 'show 'nugh someone you thought a lot about'. Posthumously, you have arrived when the neighbors start bringing meat. 

Now, the church ladies have a book back in the kitchen where they write down every dish that everyone brings to the family. You can rest assured that when folks come and drop their food off, their eyes are going to glance over that list to see who brought what. "Potato salad. Can you believe that Sally Jane just brought potato salad. I thought their families were pretty close.

"Well, look here. Margaret brought a ham. Just who do you think she is fooling? You know she never forgave Sam for his little indiscretions."  

"But, that was twenty years ago?" 

"She said he broke up her brother's marriage." 

"Can you believe Linda Sue brought a cake? A bet you a dime she bought it at the Piggly Wiggly?" 

"Well maybe this time she put it in her own container." 

"I don't know. Her mama was a Jenkins. She may not know any better. Bless her heart."

Friday, June 11, 2021

I'm Sorry If I Don't Like You

As Macbeth said, "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Stay with me here folks.

I have a love hate relationship with Facebook. Yes, I post a photo or a picture of one of my paintings  every morning or so. It is not unusual for me to post a candid shot of my pups with some witty comment about what they are thinking - like I really know.

So I have confessed my participation in the madness of this college social connection board gone awry. OK, hijacked by grandmothers posting pictures of their grandchildren, folks sharing photos of flowers someone sent them, gifts they received, or what they are having for dinner. The smart phone app "Four Square" will automatically post your location anytime you walk into a business that participates. (My favorite being the notification I saw one evening showing a friend of mine had just arrived at a funeral home.)

The site is now also flooded with ads that are "personalized" to what Facebook "knew" I would be interested in according to some confusing algorithm. Thankfully I found the drop down arrow where, after 3 flicks, I can tell those who think they know more than I do about my tastes that in fact they do not. "Friends"of mine and "Friends" of Friends post little sayings that are often quaint, sometimes religious, and a few times pithy. Unfortunately there is no drop down menu to notify Facebook that these posts are extremely annoying and I would appreciate their ilk not being added to my news feed. They just take up too much of my time as I scroll through pictures of my grandchild, surprise appearances of characters from my past, and updates on friends and family who are ill, dead, nigh onto to death, or just plain dying. (Ever since my Mama died and I lost her daily update on this last category, often Facebook is my best source.) But I digress - I simply scroll down.

But there are those posts that I strongly agree with. There are those posts where I want to show my support or that I shared their "chuckle". Sometimes I "Like" a post because it is a beautiful or unique photo. It may be someone's travel photo that I feel the need to show that I see they are traveling and am enjoying their pictures. The perfect example of this being a childhood friend of mind who recently got married. She and her new groom took a "Tour" of Europe for several months as their honeymoon. I traveled vicariously with them, albeit pea green with envy, looking forward to her daily post.

Speaking of the infamous "Like" button, unlike (no pun intended) many of my Friends, I use this sparingly. I do not "Like" every post I scroll by. As I mentioned above, many I could do without, but to each their own. When I "Like" a post, I am saying, "I agree, I appreciate, I am amused, I am impressed, I share your pain, joy, or loss." Not getting a "Like" from me does not necessarily indicate I am against your view, hate your post, don't think your grandchildren are the cat's pajamas, or not care.

As for my posts, I take any "Like" I receive to mean someone has considered my post and either appreciated it, agreed with it, are both. I don't expect a "Like" from everyone who sees a post of mine. A prime example of this is my photos. I never receive more than 15-20 likes on a given day, yet I cannot count the number of people who have stopped me on the street or at an event to tell me "I enjoy your photos on Facebook." And very few of these are included in the "Like" numbers. (I can see who "Like"s any given post.) So, no doubt, more people see my Photos and enjoy them than "Like" them.

All this rambling came to mind this morning when I came upon a post, rather a rant, from a grandmother very upset that not one person "Liked" her post yesterday about her granddaughter's birthday. How thoughtless, how rude, how could everyone be so remiss (according to her). In her mind one would think this incident had ruined the child's special day and thrown the child into therapy for life. Spare me.

Just because I don't "Like"you, doesn't mean I don't like you, care for you, or saw your post. It just means that I did not have a comment to make about it. To each their own. To Like or not to Like is a question I take seriously.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

God's Plan

God blessed the south with many things - good food, friendly people, beautiful land. OK, so the rest of the world questions why we put 4 syllables in the words "hound dog" and are amazed at our chemical wizardry of being able to dissolve 1 pound of sugar in 1 gallon of iced tea.  

Folks not from here find it odd that we continue names for generations (William Pinckney Gadsen, William Pinckney Gadsen, Jr, the third, fourth, etc), but yet call them, Pinky, Bo, Trey, and Bub. It is not unusual for young ladies to have double names: Mary Grace, Sarah Kay, Ann Stuart. And, in the more "remote" regions: Bobby Jean, Billy Sue, Johnny Beth.

Children from good southern families (not necessarily always wealthy) have good manners, respect their elders, know how to dance, understand that socks and collards are best only after the first frost, seersucker suits are acceptable for any occasion before six in the evening, and a string of pearls makes any outfit (except a swimsuit). 

There is no such thing as a "grit". Bacon and gravy are staples of the food pyramid, and a good pound cake can cure many ills and make amends for many wrongs. One doesn't make fun of someone who doesn't know how to eat an oyster, wears white shoes after Labor Day, brings store bought potato salad to a church picnic, or wears polyester - they just don't know any better. 

Given all these idiosyncrasies of our culture, we find ourselves under assault by others. Whether they are coming to visit, or God forbid, relocating down here, the Yankees are invading. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting one. But the old man upstairs foresaw this. In his grand plan he had a 3 part strategy in mind for protecting us - no see-ums (gnats), mosquitoes, and August. 

So as we move into the Hades part of our year, fighting the gnats and mosquitoes, I realize it is all God's plan to keep the Yankees away. Unfortunately, it is not working.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

I Only Wanted To Play House

Whoever petitioned for women's right to work should have checked with the rest of us. I have no issue with anyone who wants to work outside the house, pursue a fulfilling career, make an honest living, turn around Yahoo, or whatever. However, did they ever consider in their fervor to enter the public workplace that they were letting a large Jeannie out of a very small bottle? 

Once, the men in this country got past the ego stage (well most of them, OK, OK, some of them) they realized this was not such a bad thing. More women in the workforce meant a bigger economy which meant more money for everyone. Well, that was until the Hedge Fund managers got involved. But, I digress.

Then that Jeannie was never going back in that bottle. Husbands realized that the household could now have two incomes, which soon became the norm. The rest is history. And, those of us ladies in the south who grew up thinking that life should just be about taking care of the household and our husband, raising the children, playing bridge, and having teas suddenly found those days gone with the wind. 

Well, a majority of us did. There are still those whose only concern is who has carpool that afternoon, do they have a court time lined up for their morning tennis game, and will they have Chardonnay or Pinot Grigeo for lunch. I know my Aunt Kat told me I should never hate anyone, but she is dead now, bless her heart. I loathe these women.

I would have no pride about staying home.  I have nothing to prove. My Daddy raised me with enough self esteem to know that, if need be, I could do whatever I wanted to, but I should not need to. A lady should be cared for if that is her wish. 

Yes, women should have the right to work, for equal pay, and  respect. I strongly believe in this, as it was drilled in me as a child. Ironically, Aunt Kat worked for Southern Bell for forty years and was proud to be a "Professional Women". While, my Aunt J'Nelle, the biggest 'Women's Libber' - as she was called- that I knew, had only one job in her life, and that lasted two years. Go figure. 

However, those insecure selfish women who petitioned, fought, and argued their way into the workforce did not have the sense of an earthworm to realize that by going about it the way they did and threatening the manhood of every male worker in the nation, they were making the professional road hard for every female following behind. 

Once, you threaten a man, it is like stepping on a fire ant hill - and don't think that you are the Queen Ant. That scenario doesn't fly here. Those women who thought making a public spectacle of themselves was the only way to achieve their goal, in my humble opinion, they badly mishandled the situation.  If you want to conquer men and get your way, every southern woman knows (as should every other woman in the world, if she had any sense about her) stroke their ego and feed them well. And, then make your case.

So while many of my friends seek to conquer the board rooms, the court rooms, and the halls of academia (and many - I am proud to say have!), I have set my personal goal on being a kept woman. Of course, now as I get on up there in age, I realize I have not been very successful at that goal. You know, on second thought, did anyone ever try to squeeze that damn Jeannie back in the bottle?

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

We are our Mother's Daughters

The late Cokie Roberts said it so well in her book, We Are Our Mothers' Daughters. This is truly the most frightening thought. But the older I get the more I realize I cannot escape it. Like a moth being pulled to a flame or rather a star being pulled down a black hole, more and more I find myself saying and doing things that remind me of my mother.

But so far I don't seem to have the strengths she had. I haven't managed to get those qualities that I and so many admired in her.

Did I receive her genetic disposition to remember everyone's birthday and anniversary and the obnoxious talent to always manage to have the US mail deliver the card on the appropriate day? No. I do well to remember the day at all, much less get a card, a stamp, and get it mailed. The idea of having all that coordinated in time for the thoughtful note to arrive on the proper day seems exhausting. Yet she remembered her family, her friends, members of her Sunday school class, her bridge club,current neighbors as well as those we had fifty years ago, etc. never missing an occasion.

Can I make my own clothes, design curtains for my den, or redo furniture? No. Nor can I play a piano or discuss the bible and its history from an academic point of view. A major in Religious Education and a minor in Music from Wake Forest served her well. Six years of piano lessons left me with the inability to even play the simplest verse of Red River Valley.

Mama could tell you at any given time during the fall how well any ACC football team was doing and probably most of the SEC teams, at least those in the Eastern Division. She knew baseball, the players, the rules, and the stats as well as any fan. I never knew anyone else who kept box scores.

I can remember when she was in CCU just a day or so before she died she had insisted her TV be turned on and tuned to a channel showing the Braves game one afternoon. The nurses did so mainly just to mollify her. By this point they felt they were just keeping her comfortable. 

I entered the room and walked up to her bedside.

"We're not doing so good," she said.

"You or the Braves?"

"The Braves. They can't get a man on base and the next man up is not one of our better runners."

"How do you know who's next?" I asked, not knowing much about baseball.

"They announce the lineup at the start of the game."

I just sat down to let her rest. A few minutes later, I was sure she was asleep by sound of her breathing. Then I heard from her bed, "Now, that boy is going places. They paid almost nothing for him. Everyone said he would not amount to much but he can hit. He needs to work on his fielding, but he is coming along." There was a base hit and loud applause.

The nurse came in to check on her. She looked at the monitor, adjusted Mama's covers, and made sure all her wires and tubes were not tangled. Then she came over to me, "She seems to be resting well, finally. Perhaps we should turn the TV off. I really don't want her to be bothered."

"I don't think that's the case."

About that time, from the bed, we heard, "Now Chipper Jones is up next. You know this is his last season."

"I thought he was long gone," I said.

With that she started giving out his stats for past few years, when he had been on the disabled list and for what injuries.

Oh, but I am my Mother's Daughter in some ways. Apparently I have every innate obnoxious character trait she had. My daughters are quick to remind me with an eye roll or some phrase like "Seriously" or "That is something ZeeZee would have said". All those little quirks I grew up with that drove me nuts, I find myself doing today. Mannerisms and habits that I chided her for, just come naturally to me these days.

I only wish she were here for one more Mother's Day so I could tell her how I never knew I would miss her so much, How I never told her I loved her enough. And how much being my Mother's Daughter means to me.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Far Away places with strange sounding names

I know, I know, as my Daddy used to say, "To each there own." But there are some times I just question someone's sanity - not their taste, God Bless them, or who they keep company with. But life is just too short to waste vacation time in some miserable place, doing some wretched activity, or having to put up with obnoxious people. The following is a list of vacations that I personally know folks who have these on their "Bucket List", dream of the day they will be able to take this trip, or have already had the experience and will not stop talking about the "once in a lifetime" adventure.

First, a caveat, there is no intention to offend anyone. If your dream vacation is listed here, then I hope you get to go there and return - often. That is what makes the world go 'round and keeps the economy going.

That said, here we go:

(10) Running with Bulls in Pamplona. No, not there to watch, take photos, and enjoy tapas and sangria but actually running your hiney off down a narrow street in the crowd of other insane idiots just seconds in front of pissed off Bulls with serious horns that are aimed your way.

(9) Diving off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Yes, it is the largest and probably most endangered reef in the world. But first let's consider its takes a 4 day flight to get there. OK, only 25 hours from the east coast of the U.S. But still that is a long expensive trip to snorkel and dive all the while taking a chance to be poisoned by a venomous jellyfish, the toxins of Lion fish and Stone fish as well as a Blue Ringed Octopus (for which there is no known antidote), not to mention the vicious sharks that patrol the reef.

(8) Antarctica. Why not just stick your head in your freezer for several hours? Spoiler - it's cold and frozen. Save your money and find the National Geographic special on the continent. If you have to brag that you have set foot on every continent, take a quick trip King George Island (one of the South Shetland Islands in Argentina). You can check it off your list and the islands are relatively ice free. Or you can just make it up. How many of the rest of us are going to know what you are talking about anywhere.

(7) Lego Land - Sure I played with them - but planning a vacation around these small building blocks?

(6) Atlantic City - I don't care for salt water taffy, I don't gamble, and I have no desire to be anywhere close to the location of the reality show "Jersey Shore". And, besides, any place that lists "Ripley's Believe it Not" as one of the Top Ten places one needs to visit when coming there just doesn't sound like some place I would enjoy.

(5) Gatlinburg, Tennessee - Streets full of rubber street emporia selling baubles, doodads, novelties, trinkets, and kitsch. No doubt salt water taffy is in there somewhere. It is not hard to find shelves of Cherokee Native American crafts (all made in China).

(4) Myrtle Beach - the once seaside location of small clubs playing Carolina Beach music, now columns of concrete condos lining the beach. Acres of golf courses, goofy golf, pancake houses, "Ripley's Believe It or Not", and everything found in #5 Gatlinburg

(3) Area 51 in southern Nevada. If you're not familiar move along, only believers and conspiracy theorists need venture there.

(2) The Leaning Tower of Pisa . . . I just don't get it.

(1) And my idea of Hell - an all inclusive Christmas Bus Trip to Branson Missouri that includes 5 days on a "luxury" coach with 39 other people, accommodations in a 3 star hotel (double occupancy only), all meals included (no choice there, most likely all buffet), a tour guide (to make sure no one ventures off on their own), and a personalized fanny pack and large tag to wear around your neck that identifies you as someone on a bus tour to Branson Missouri, as if you were not in enough pain and anguish. Just saying.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

You know you are getting old when . . .

Toward the end of her life, my Mama was very optimistic, irritatingly rosy at times. She always told me that life was good. Every morning it was not unusual to get a phone call from her. After we exchanged the general pleasantries, she would always say, "Did you know 'so 'n so' died?" If I was not familiar with this most recently departed, I would judge my reply carefully. If I had some time, I would ask Mama who this person was. Ten minutes later I would find myself tired, looking at my watch, and questioning my insanity to inquire.

Mama died in 2012. And with her, went those of daily updates of the dead and dying. After that, even though I was out and about in the community and kept up with friends, I often was the last person to learn of someone's (or their loved one's) demise. So I then found myself looking at the local paper's Obituary column daily. Even worse, I was able to sign up to receive an email every morning of the obituary column. One knows they are old, long in the tooth, whatever, when that message is the first one you check when opening your email every morning.

Then, while looking over my list of "Friends" on Facebook, I was shocked to see how of many them are no longer with us. Which brings up the ultimate conundrum - does one remove the names of those dearly departed? If so, is that seen as sign of respect or the ultimate insult - ie you do not care for their memory? But I digress. 

However every time I peruse the obituaries I think of my Mama. It is a generational thing.  While the ages of those listed in the daily column were once mostly of older folks. You know, in their 70's or 80's.  They are getting younger everyday. It doesn't take new math for one to realize that the difference between their ages and mine is quickly diminishing. Now, I have passed that milestone and have become a member of the generation who wants time to stop. It goes by so quickly. 

Nothing can slow time down. There is no miracle elixir (or phone app) to make it stop. Short of being in Wilder's "Our Town", we cannot go back in time - relive those moments. In that story, the stage narrator warns Emily when she wants to return for one day, “Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.”  This is a quote that has stayed with me since college.

It is the mundane that gives us comfort. Sure Christmas mornings as a child, one's wedding day, graduation, etc. would generally be the ones we want to relive. But chances are we have fairly clear memories of those particular days. Most likely there are old photos, faded flowers, or some other tangible items that tie us to those particular moments. But, it is the "every" days that would give a better look back. True, one day in a life of hundreds of thousands seems minute. But each day is part of one's fabric of their life. I'm not sure what day I would chose. But then, if I knew a day, it would have been memorable - which defeats the purpose.

My doctor once gave me wise advice when I was stressed. "Live in the moment," he said. It took me a while to grasp that concept. So I try to 'live in the moment' when I can. Worrying about something will do me no good. After all, if I could do something about what I am fretting over, I should have already done it. Otherwise I have to realize it is out of my hands. So remember the 'Stop and smell the roses', advice we have all heard. The trick is finding and recognizing the roses among all life's melee. After all, no one promised us a rose garden.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Fried Chicken - It ain't Broke

Full disclosure, even as southern born and bred as I am, I cannot fry chicken, Now that we have that behind us....

It never ceases to amaze me how folks want to mess up something good. If ain't broke, don't fix it. My theory is that it is like buying a wedding dress - they are all white, when you find one you really like, stop the madness and buy it.  But. I digress.

The Gray Lady (aka The New York Times) has done it again. There was an article in there today entitled "How to Make Good Fried Chicken."  The first sign was "making" fried chicken. My Mama said, "Don't be late for supper, we're having fried chicken." or "I'm frying chicken." My mama never said she was "making" chicken. In my house you could "make" a pie, "make" a cake, or "make" a mess.

First, they got into the chemistry of the dish -how the starch must coat the bird, then oil must be just the right temperature. I got right tickled when they suggested two or three pieces per person would leave you plenty for left overs. At our house there was never any left over fried chicken. Miraculously,  we would find some the next morning in the 'fridge but that was only because Mama, in her great wisdom, would put aside some extra pieces before supper.

Then they went on about "brining" your chicken in a buttermilk, pickle, cola, or cider brine and waiting a few hours. Next, they got into gluten free flours. This is where the the train jumped the track. I never had one of my friends or kin folks drop dead over dosing on gluten from the flour in fried chicken (or anything else for that matter).  They also suggested to cook the chicken outside if you don't want to "mess up" your kitchen.

Why not just call up KFC and order a bucket? By now everyone in your household must be starving. They already have had to wait several hours while you brined your chicken and it is going to get ugly when they realize there is a limit to their servings.

Next, the article went into the "Various flavors" of fried chicken. I never had flavored fried chicken, unless you counted "Burnt" as an alternate taste. Please tell me who as a child came home at dark for supper on a summer night or waited patiently in the food line at the church homecoming dinner or feasted on the comfort food brought by friends and neighbors when a loved one passed away only to find a platter of chicken flavored with Adobo, Korean, Nashville, or Persian spices? I think not. I can only imagine the countenance on the church ladies' faces should someone show up at a bereaved family's home with a platter of Korean flavored fried chicken. That would be worst than having dark meat in their chicken salad.

I stopped reading the article before they went as far as to say they frowned upon eating fried chicken with your hands. Please dear God, say it is not so.

Even though I am cursed and cannot create this simple southern dish, part of the southern trinity together with biscuits and collards, I cannot help but think that Clemmie,  said it best when she said, "Cook 'til done, season to taste."