Sunday, January 05, 2014

Life on PZ Ridge

As a child, I could make mudpies and wade mud puddles to my heart's content. This was so relaxing - to feel the mud between my toes. When it rains, just try walking barefoot in your garden or yard - it saves lots of nerve pills.

I learned kinds of trees, plants, birds, and insects, and all of this was very important to me. Lots of people that I know ask now, "As you go along or look out, what do you see?" They just see trees and plants, but not kinds of trees. Then they say, "Well, I know this is an oak or pine."

I think this is so sad because as I ride along, I see all kinds of trees, which I know by the leaves, bark, and shape. I would be most miserable to just see a cluster of trees. It bothers me to see one kind that I cannot recognize. I try to remember to look it up later.

Once I rocked my baby brother Lee all night when he had pneumonia. He grew up to be very special. Like all of my sisters and brothers, he has a fine family of his own now. I too am married now, since 1941. I met and married a wonderful person and have two daughters. I will not talk of this much as my husband does not want me to. But someday I may write of my grownup life and raising my own dear children.

I have often wished I was more like my mama. She seemed to always enjoy everything. Now as I write, she is 94 years old and does not know any of us when we visit her. But she is so happy. She whispers and giggles all of the time and never complains. She eats every bit of her food, even though she must now be fed. She still loves chocolate candy and bananas.

Most of the people I knew back then are gone, dead or moved on to other places. Only memories remain - memories that fade a little more each year. And so I write them down so that the children and grandchildren of other generations may know and remember how it was back then growing up on PZ Ridge.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Tobacco Farming

I remember working in the tobacco fields when the tobacco was almost over my head, so big it lapped together between rows. One day we were working, all sticky and gummy with tobacco juice, and my mamma's sister and her kids came down from Nashville.

Well, we thought they were a big city bunch, and it would be a tragedy for them to see us dirty. As the grown son came looking for us, he saw several heads - and we saw him. Just before he got there, we all went under the tobacco. Not a person could he see. We heard him mumbling to himself, "I know I saw them. What went with them?"

When he left, we slipped to the smokehouse where we washed up and left our dirty clothes before dinner time.

We often hid as someone passed if we were working near the road. I guess we had too much pride. The river-bottom farmers that lived near us counted hill farmers poor and beneath them. They referred to us as "ridge rooters" or PZ people. PZ meant "poor zone."

They thought their young men were too good to date PZ girls - and vice versa. Our boys on PZ were on guard to see that their territory was not taken over. The boys across the river from "Pot Neck" did not dare come over to our church alone. They came in groups.

It was a kind of territorial prejudice which seems comical to look back on now. We had many "all day singings and dinner-on-the-grounds" when both groups came together. But the line was very clear as to who dated whom.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Stalking Wild Herbs

My grandma was a great one for hunting wild herbs in the spring of the year. She called this "going 'senging." She would get her herb apron on and her 'seng hoe, pack a lunch of biscuits, fried eggs, hog jowl, green onions and radishes from her garden.

She would always take us with her and we would roam the woods all day for weeks. She would dig only ginseng. She let us dig star grass root and yellow puccoon. It was too difficult for her to carry all those heavy roots, and ginseng was worth a lot more. We dug mayapple root near home as it was too heavy to dig far off.

All of these herbs were dried, and we sold them when the "root man" came by. (He was also the "old rag man" and the "scrap metal man.")

While 'senging, my grandma would not let us eat lunch until the train called the Pan-American ran. It always blew its whistle at 12 o'clock and was always on time. You could hear it for miles. At this time she would find a little stream or wet spot. She would dig out a little hole, and we waited for it to run clear. Down on hands and knees, face down, we would drink water with our lunch.

Oh, this was the greatest time for me! I could hardly wait until spring. We would watch for the signs of the herbs coming up. Grandma knew every herb in the woods and what was etable. We chewed on sassafras buds, anise stems, berries, nuts, red haws left over in the leaves of winter, mayapples, and sometimes even ginseng roots. So we did not go hungry.

We also ate locust beans, persimmons, wild grapes, and black haws when they were ready. I guess I could almost live in the woods. I used to love watercress, which was wild and grew in spring-fed streams. I picked it for a salad green. Sometimes I would take bacon grease, salt and cornbread to the creek and just sit by the water and eat my fill right there.

I remember a tree halfway to my grandma's spring which we called the "heart tree." It was really a redbud tree. When it was in bloom, we would climb it and strip off the blooms by the limb full. We would put them in a can and carry it around and eat the little pink flowers. They had a very good flavor.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Country Courting

Like death and birth, marriage and courtship came to our house in its own time. According to our custom, courting was done on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, and Sunday night until 10 p.m.

We had a Victrola, and we played that a lot when our dates were there. One record, large and with recording only on one side, was entitled Love with a Capital L. It was a favorite of mine.

The courting room was separated from the rest of the house by an open breezeway and was heated by an old wood burning stove with the stove pipe through the wall. It smoked when the wind blew a certain way. But we stayed there, smoke and all. Sometimes we had to open the door.

Our signal that courting time had ended was when my mamma pulled out the daybed for the kids to sleep. This meant "all beaus go home."

The room served a double function and was also used a bedroom after beaus went home. I remember going to bed in there at night with no heat in the cold winter, sometimes with my hair wet. I would cover my head all but my eyes and nose. I have awaken in the night with my bangs in icicles.

The rule in our house was that any boy with marriage intentions must ask my pappa for the girl. Well, the first to marry was not the eldest, it was the third daughter, Took, at the age of 14, with her husband almost twice her age.

The couple had been sneaking around "courting" as it was called then. My folks found out about his and my pappa set his foot down - no more of that. But they continued sending word and notes until one night at church.

When the service was dismissed, Took just rushed out to a waiting car and friends. Off they went to the Justice of the Peace and were married. Oh, what a night - it was like a kidnapping. My folks and visitors stayed up all night. My pappa walked the yard and cried and beat his fists saying he would kill her husband at first sight.

But he soon calmed down and took them in for the first year, even letting them grow a crop and get a start for his first grandson who was on the way by now.

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