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Autumn brings warm nostalgia

Autumn has swept the rain clouds from the skies, leaving an expanse of blue heavens unmarred by a single cloud. The rain was a blessing, as the earth was dry and dusty and the lawns and meadows were crying out for moisture. The creek was almost dried completely up, and now it is running, carrying away dead leaves and debris. It is so wonderful that our Heavenly Father knows what we need and exactly when we need it.

This time of year is prone to make a person a mite nostalgic, although it seems that the older we get the more pleasure we take in memories of the past. I was going through an old folder where I had stored a lot of material and came upon several items that propelled me back in the past. I found a paper that I had written several years ago about Hickory Knob.

Daddy had passed away some time before that, but the grief was still raw in my soul. Hickory Knob was part of my childhood, and one of the favorite places where Daddy took us each year. Squirrel season rolled around, and the old tent and camping gear was brought out. Daddy usually had to patch a few holes in the tent, but Mom had to round up the food and blankets.

It was a magical trip! The narrow dirt road wound through several creek crossings, and in many places the water was deep. We had to dodge huge rocks in the creek bed, and we kids thought it was great fun when the water splashed high on the truck bed.

 There was never a creek so clear and cold, with tiny minnows darting through the water. It was an isolated place, with only one house in the whole area. Immense rocks bordered the creek, and deer berries vined across them. We would pick and eat the tasteless red berries, and sometimes would find the flavorful mountain tea berries.

 Wild grapes hung from the tall trees there, which could be attained by a barefoot boy shinnying up the trunk. The most vivid memory I have is the unique fragrance of that place. It rose up from the earth itself, the perfume of fallen leaves drying in the warm sunshine, the earthy smell of rich soil and the fragrance of late fall asters.

 Each fall, I feel the pull to go back once more. Yet I know it is not the same. The big beech tree where we pitched our tent has been cut down, and Uncle Homer's house fell down years ago. All that is left to show that people once lived there are the cellar stones that are scattered about. It is still alive in my memory, as well as the elusive image of a beloved little boy who climbed the trees and dropped wild grapes in my hand.

Here are the words I penned on my last visit there. A wildfire had ravaged the land previously, and my heart was heavy.

            To Daddy

            This hillside where I sit

            Has known the tread of your foot

            Perhaps you sat right here and dreamed --

            October sun warm on your face.

            I know you saw the drifting leaves

            Scarlet maple, bronze oak and golden beech,

            The brilliant blue of autumn skies,

                                    How could you be gone?

 

            A forest fire has raged here

            And not so very long ago,

            The mountain laurel is brown and blasted,

            Mute evidence of searing heat.

            The underbrush is black and charred

            And half-burned logs are scattered

            Like abandoned hopes and dreams.

                        I still look for you.

 

            Brown leaves have covered over

            The desolation left behind

            By leaping flames and burning tinder.

            And in the rhododendron thicket

            At the feet of a blasted shrub,

            New and tender life is growing,

            Springing forth from a dying stalk.

                        Could it be that you are near?

 We've been collecting some more country dialect, and some of these expressions we'd almost forgotten. We had an email from April Lopez, whose father was raised in Nicholas County. He used the phrase "briggity britches," and she asked several people (younger generation) in the Summersville area if they'd ever heard the word. They hadn't. Of course I have. It was one of the favorite insults we hurled at our siblings, along with "prissy cat" and "pooky-pile."

Actually "briggity britches" was used to describe someone who was a "little above their raisin'" or was "putting on airs." We would also say, "Boy, she's really putting on the dog!" I guess being pretentious was one of the worst faults to country people. It brings out the worst in our daughter Patty, which causes her to act "dumber than a sled track."

My late Cousin Hazel, who was one of the most delightful people you'd ever meet, had a collection of funny expressions. Cousin Phyllis invents them. She said that when she was young, she would fight at the "drop of a bucket." She once told her daughters, when they were trying to do a makeover on her, "that you can't make a silk sow out of a purses' ear!"

Cousin Hazel sent me some "skid talk" once. "She says one thing and out the other." "That's the best lunch I ever put in my whole mouth!" "I'm all up in a heaval." "My neighbor in Texas had short legs, and she said ready-to-wear slacks didn't fit her in the crouch."

Someone in the family made this statement when they had to go to a social gathering where they didn't know anyone, "I felt like a bird out of water!" I know that feeling. There are a lot of expressions that we used back in the years, but you don't hear much anymore. If we girls did a sloppy job of washing dishes, it was common to hear, "Get in there and lick your calf over!"

Someone who rattled on and on would be "talking to hear his head roar." If we didn't answer Daddy when he asked us something, he would say in exasperation, "Well-talk or shake a bush!" I am afraid most of these old expressions are dying out, although some of us still use them in everyday conversation.

We had an interesting letter from Bill Huffman who grew up in Gassaway, but now lives in South Carolina. His father was the last of the old hill doctors, and rode a horse to see his patients (before he got a jeep.) His Grandmother Huffman made salt rising bread, and he is anxious to obtain a good recipe of the best bread he has ever eaten.

God bless my readers who are so quick to respond. And -- thank you Marsha Winfree for the poem book! I lost your address.          

Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at alycefaye@citlink.net or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.


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