Saturday, April 02, 2016

Studyin' on Things

I love the quiet times on a gloomy ol' rainy day
Time to sit a while in my favorite thinkin' chair
Little dogs asleep and snorin' comfortable
Pushin' my feet to the edge of my ottoman
Takin' advantage of my better nature.

No one home but me just now, for a while
The sound of the fireplace is just behind me
Whisperin' comfortin' sounds as it burns bright
Now an' again a little dog snores an' snorts
I smile when they wake themselves, look round
Then lay their heads back down, assured all is well.

Just yonder out the window the clouds rush
Pushed an' bullied by the Spring wind
Sometimes I just sit an' watch as they race
Movin' just now from right to left across
Like they were some type of Hebrew
Or other ancient language seen but not understood.

Yet sometimes I just sit, listenin' to the sound
Of 'all is well" in this little piece of the world just now.
Just now I'll just sit, close my eyes now an' again
An' just listen, thinkin' an' studyin' on how things was
How things are an' maybe study for a piece on how they should be.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Lost Spring

Spring has lost her way
Somewhere she wanders
Coming here and back again 
Making promises unkept
Warm days and balmy nights
Trees budding and blooming
Daffodils pushing through
Dandelions springing up
Almost overnight they bloom
Only to be bitten and twisted
As spring hides, turns her back
And Winter romps over the scene.

First poem for National Poetry Writing Month

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Santa's Cookies and Milk

When I was a little boy I could not wait for Christmas mornin' to arrive. Christmas Eve was always set aside to spend with Mama's family. Grandma always had the house decorated from floor to ceiling. Mama, Grandma and the rest of the women would cook and prepare the best dishes for Christmas Eve. Oh my, I can still taste my Aunt Geneva's Sloppy Joe's, her home made deer salami (I have the recipe, takes days to make), Someone would bring a big ol' ham, green beans, sweet tater casserole an' desserts, me oh my.
Grandma started shoppin' for Christmas right after the holidays. She planned for Christmas all year. She would buy wrappin' paper, bows an' Scotch tape right after Christmas when it was marked down 50% 'cause she had a lot of presents to wrap each year.
Christmas Eve was wonderful, full of family, good food and presents for everyone. Nothin' fancy, mind you, simple things, good things for all.
When we finally was back home it was quick to bed for it was always late an' Santa didn't want to wait on the roof for two little ol' boys who had the big eye an' couldn't go to sleep. Sleep always came an' so did early mornin'. Too early for a Daddy who was up at 4:00 a.m. an' off to work the mornin' before.
I don't remember who was awake first most of those early Christmas mornin's, Maybe me or maybe Brother Mike. The Hollen boys were early risers on Christmas mornin' EVERY year. We tried our best to be quiet, but we almost always woke Mama up. She would come into the livin' room with camera in hand. Back then it was one of them little ol' cameras with a square flash cube.
Me an' Brother Mike was like Christmas mornin' buzz saws. We could tear through tape an' wrappin' paper to get to the prize. What fun it was, how wonderful them Christmas mornin's were. Daddy was a little slower to get out of bed. We would hear the click of his Zippo lighter as he lit his first Winston of the day. Mama would have coffee on an' he would drag his sleep deprived body out of bed, head for the coffee pot to grab a cup before he sat down.
His two little boys were his world. He never said that. He weren't much of a talker, but everyone knew they was his world. He sat an' smiled, right quiet like as we dragged each an' every present over for him to inspect. Daddy loved toys an' he would look each one over carefully, tryin' out the cap guns, steerin' the remote control cars around the piles of wrappin' paper before he handed the control back.
I can still see him sittin' there. He liked to drink his coffee in a thin china cup WITH a saucer (later in life Mama would go to the thrift stores to find single china cups an saucer sets in case Daddy broke one). He'd have on his work pants, white socks, what folks call a "wife beater" sleeveless tee shirt an' house slippers. Now, many times his present from me an' Brother Mike was a new pair of house slippers, so we would haul the package over an' giggle the whole time he was unwrappin' it. Once open each of us would grab a new slipper an' ram it on his feet.We each would take one of the old slippers to the bedroom in a sort of retirement ceremony.
What I didn't tell no one, what Brother Mike never knew was this; I would always look to see if Santa ate all the cookies an' drank all the milk we left for him. I figure he had lots of cookies an' milk cause he always left part of the milk an' at least one cookie WITH a bite taken out of it!
Cousins, you don't know the joy of seein' Santa's cookie with a bite missin' an' some warm leftover milk. When no one was lookin' I would sneak over an' right quick eat that ol' cookie an' drink that little bit of warm milk. It was Santa's! Me an' him shared the same cookies an' milk. Sure, I ate the leftovers hours later, but we shared a snack together. That was one of the best parts of Christmas. Sort of like grabbin' half a peanut butter an' 'nanner sammich the King, Elvis Presley might leave. I savored ever' morsel, slowly sipped ever' last drop.
Mama an' Daddy didn't miss much. We both got caught at our orneriness an' paid the price too many times to remember. I'll bet Mama an' Daddy knew exactly what I did on Christmas mornin'. I suspect Daddy left a sip or two of milk an' took just a bite out of that last cookie on purpose. I suspect they watched their oldest little boy with smiles an' secret glances at each other as I smiled an' ate my secret prize.
Now that I wear the Red Suit, I always remember with great joy my folks an' family, Christmas Eve, Christmas mornin' an' secret treats. As I listen to boys an' girls share their wishes an' dreams, see their bashful smiles an' lean close to hear their whispers I pause often, thinkin', dreamin' of warm milk an' that cookie Santa left just for me.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Front Porch Memories

When I was a boy of maybe 8 or 10 we was visitin' my Grandpa and Grandma Hollen over to Little Creek in Clay County, Kentucky. (Mind you now, this was before Route 66 crossed right through their land within 20 yards of their home.)
I remember it was early summer. My little brother an' I was playin' in the front room - the room that was combination sittin' room an' my grandparent's bedroom. Daddy, Grandpa an' Uncle Bert were out back. Mama an' Grandma was cookin' dinner (that's lunch for you city folks. In the mountains we had breakfast, dinner an' supper.)
I heard a "halloo" called up from the front yardt an' went to the screen door. A neighbor couple was standin' there with their 5 year old daughter in her Daddy's arms. Her foot was wrapped in a towel an' blood had stained through the cloth. He asked if Uncle Bert or my Daddy was around and I said "yessir, hold on a minute".
I ran inside an' told Grandma they was out front an' the little gal was bleedin'. I ran out the back door an' called to Uncle Bert an' Daddy to come quick. They came around the house right quick but Grandma had already gone to the porch an' learned the little gal had been tryin' to hoe the garden an' had cut her foot somethin' terrible.
They wrapped her foot an' walked way over a mile down the creek to ask if Uncle Bert could take them over to Red Bird Mission Hospital. Grandma asked them to come sit for a They wouldn't come up on the porch to sit for a minute. They said no, they didn't want blood to get on the wood boards of the porch.
While Daddy an' Uncle Bert went in to put shirts on, gather up their wallets an' keys, Grandma found some clean cloth an' they rewrapped the little ol' gal's foot. I was right there watchin' an' it was so deep, so bad, still bleedin' hard.
Grandma went in again, washed her hands,got out some leftover biscuits, cut 'em open an' filled each with either sausage or bacon leftover from breakfast. She handed them to me (after she made me wash my hands) an' sent me out to give them to the neighbors. She knew the wait at the hospital would be long.
They were so grateful. Both the Daddy an' Mama thanked Grandma over an' over. The little ol' gal was so bashful she kept her face hidden on her Daddy's chest, but turned toward me to say "thank ye" as I handed her a biscuit.
They went in Daddy's car instead of Uncle Bert's truck since it had more room. I went back to playin' with my little brother. Grandpa went out to sit on the porch, Grandma an' Mama went back to the kitchen to continue to prepare dinner.
It was late in the evenin', long after dark when we saw Daddy's car come up the creek an' continue on past the house takin' the neighbors home. Mama let us stay up till Daddy came home.
We was all sittin' in the dark waitin' for them to return an' to hear news of the little girl. I remember tendrils of smoke from the gnat smoke wanderin' this way an' that as I fanned it. Lightnin' bugs danced in the dark an' tree frogs sang all round us.
Grandma was the first to see the headlights of Daddy's car way down the creek an' ask, "Reckon that is Jim's car?" It was, of course. No one else had much reason to drive up Little Creek through the rough creek bed late in the evenin'.
A few minutes later we all spied the headlights comin' back down the creek an' up the hill to Grandpa's house. When Daddy an' Uncle Bert was a' gettin' out of the car Grandma was already callin', "How is that youngin'?".
They came up, sat down an' both rolled a cigarette as they told the story in tandem. Daddy said she had a bunch of stitches in her foot but she would be fine. Uncle Bert chuckled an' said folks all over the hospital could hear her cryin' an' screamin' as they cleaned up her foot (she had been barefooted) an' then stitched it up. He laughed, "Folks probably thought they was a'sawin' it off instead of stitchin' it up.".
We all laughed an' I sat quiet as the grown folks talked about the family, "good folks", "Now who's her people", "His Daddy still goes to church over the the Hard Shell Baptist Church up on Gilbert's Creek".
Later Mama told me an' my brother it was time for bed. We grumbled, hugged necks, said our "good nights" and wandered off to crawl under the quilts on the ol' iron bed.
The grown folks stayed up for a right smart while longer. I could hear their voices in the dark, could smell the gnat smoke, (a piece of rolled up cotton still smolderin' to keep away the bitin' bugs), mixed with the smoke from hand rolled cigarettes. As I laid there I wished I was grown so I could stay up an' hear the secrets they told when the youngin's was gone to bed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Aunt Bessie's Fudge

One of my favorite memories of my Aunt Bessie (Hollen) Box was her fudge. Sometimes it would be perfect an' wonderful. Sometimes it would be almost right but "soupy" as she'd say. I remember times when she would call, "Steve, I've made fudge and it's soupy. Come on over an' grab a spoon."

Oh my, we would sit with spoons in hand, scoopin' up soupy fudge, talkin' an' laughin' for ever so long. Eventually she would get up an' make us each a glass of Lipton Instant Tea to wash the sweet chocolate down.

Lordy, she could cook. Fried chicken, pork chops, fried taters, green beans cooked low an' slow with a little pig meat. She canned so many things. I remember goin' several times to a local farm and we picked bushels of green beans. We sat outside an' broke beans all day. We'd wash them an' put them in jars. As her pressure cooker would finish one batch a new load would go in, jar after jar all day. 

She didn't use recipes when she canned or cooked. I helped her make kraut an' pickled green tomatoes, tryin' to learn her recipe. The palm of her hand was her measurin' spoon. Her measurements were "a handful", "just a little bit" or "just a pinch or two". 

I never learned to can like her. Oh, I can follow a recipe and do fine, but no one will ever can a jar of green beans like my Aunt Bessie did.