Thursday, October 27, 2005

Snake Handling Religion

They [the church]once had an evangelist for revival. He was very unlearned. He had to have someone to read the scripture. But what I remember most was how he kept asking for someone to bring him a poisonous snake.

The next day we were working in the tobacco field and a man we knew came by. He saw a copperhead sunning itself on the rocks, so he put a plank on its neck and called my pappa to come and hold it so he could take out his shoestring and make a halter. This he did, slipping the noose over the copperhead's head.

My pappa told him he should not, but he said the preacher wanted it. He took the snake to the nearest farmhouse, got a fifty-pound lard can, put the snake in it, and took it to the church.

Two or three days later, the preacher called for a time of snake handling. Everyone living close enough to get there went. Well, that night the members sang very loud, played guitars, danced in the spirit, and spoke in unknown tongues for some time. There were about 15 or 20 people on the stage.

By now, the snake on the pulpit in the can was scared to death, I suppose. So when the preacher danced up to can, opened it, and grabbed for the snake, it bit him in the palm of his hand. He flinched a little. By this time we were all up on the pews.

We thought the next lady who grabbed it by the tail and slung it around would surely let it loose. But it did not have time to coiled again when she got it, so it did not bite her. By now it was evident that the preacher, who had said the snake would not bite, or if it did would not hurt him, was mistaken. His arm was swelling fast, and he became very ill. He asked his wife to close the service.

My pappa was the only one there with a car. He offered to take the preacher to the doctor, Doc Martin, as we called him. But the preacher said, "no." He had to prove that he would not take medication. He went to our next door neighbor's home where he was staying.

Of course, we had some Baptist skeptics. Several young men went home with them to see what he would do. He was very ill. They reported that he laid on the bed with his hand hanging off and poison dripped from his hand. I suppose this helped some. He did not go to the doctor or take any treatment.

What he said was the Lord would take care of him. And maybe he did, because the preacher did not die or take treatment, although he was very sick for about two or three weeks. He continued his revival with his arm swollen too large to go in his coat sleeve.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Food from the Wild

On snowy days my pappa would wrap his feet and legs with burlap socks, since he could not afford boots, and he would get out his twelve-gauge and his hound. Then he would start out looking for rabbits for supper. I could hardly wait for his return. I knew when he went we would have rabbits when he came in. I would almost pray for a big kill. Sure enough, he always had from three to five rabbits.

I would grab my coat and get ready to help him skin them. I would hold their hind legs up so he could dress them clean without leaving hair on the meat. My mamma soaked them in salt water for as long as time permitted, then cut them up and fried them all at one time.

If there was too much meat for our family, Granny Adams and Grandma Bullard were sent for. They came with their lantern to light their way home after supper. They lived only a short way down the hollow.

This happened again when my pappa raised his trot lines. If he got a big catch of fish, we invited neighbors and kinfolks in. Sometimes he would catch a large buffalo fish weighing as much as forty or fifty pounds. We cooked it all at once because we had no refrigeration except the spring house, which would hold things overnight. My pappa knew he could get more fish when needed. His luck was always good.

My pappa used dough balls for bait. These were made a special way in a big iron pot with legs. My mamma took off the stove cap and fitted a pot on the eye of the stove, just as she did for greens, greenbeans, and for pork liver on hog killing day. She put just so much water and onion to flavor. When the water boiled, she stirred in the mixture of cornmeal and flour, stirring very hard. This made a type of mush.

We then gathered around the large kitchen table and divided out the dough. We each rolled balls the size of a marble. To be just right they must bounce when dropped on the floor. This was a sight.

I have often wished I had a picture of the large table which sat close to the wall with a long bench behind it for as many kids as could squeeze in. We always had as many as twelve people at one sitting.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Country Cookin'

My mamma never knew when she started a meal how many might be there to eat. All the mailboxes for people miles around were in front of our house. Sometimes people would meet the mail carrier.

Folks came early to listen to the radio news, and they might just stay for dinner, which was a noonday hot meal for us. No one around then had a radio except us. It was battery operated because no one had any electricity where we lived.

My mamma got out all the pots and pans, which were very large. She cooked them full of whatever was available, and before bedtime it was all eaten.

She used to make huge wash pots full of hominy, which was a favorite food of ours. She cooked it in lye water to remove the outer husk, then we rinsed it many times to remove any lye left. The hominy was fried in huge iron skillets of bacon grease. It was good and inexpensive.

The foods we ate may seem strange to some folks. Often my mamma made cream-style corn, salmon patties, fried apples, or potato patties. All these foods were served with breakfast.

We ate a great deal of gravy made with water instead of milk. We called it "puppy gravy" except when the preacher was there. Once one of the kids forgot. Instead of saying puppy gravy, which they knew was not allowed before company, they said, "Please pass the hound gravy." This gave us a good laugh.

We all loved bolongna, which was a fairly new item to us. We liked it in big rolls which were sliced in thick slices and fried. We like it so well that my pappa would take big smoked hams from the smokehouse to the store and trade for huge rolls of bolonga, the all-meat kind with the red skin.

This was a favorite evening meal in cold weather when we heated up the kitchen. With this we had fried potatoes, hot biscuits and gravy, canned peaches or blackberries, or maybe half-moon fried pies of dried apples or evaporated peaches.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

After the Day is Done

After dishes at night, all done by hand in a dishpan, wood was brought in, water was drawn from the cistern - or if it was dry, carried up the hill from my grandma's spring. All stock, chickens and pets were fed.

Then we could play and eat goodies, such as, home-grown popcorn from the ears hanging from the rafters to dry in the attic. We could make popcorn balls with sorghum molasses, make candy from sorghum, or sometimes if sugar was plentiful, we could make fudge.

We also like to parch mule corn in bacon grease until it was brown and crispy. This was a favorite on Friday nights because this was the night to shell corn for the gristmill for cornbread the next week. Enough corn to mill out a bushel was adequate if we did not get too much company.