Saturday, May 24, 2003

Sheep Dip Days Parade

I had to take a moment before I get over to the festivities of Sheep Dip Days here in Beloved to tell you about the parade. It was incredible.

First of all, the whole town is decorated for Memorial Day. The VFW put them little flags on all the graves of folks who served in the military. I reckon every single grave in Ledford Cemetery had flowers on it from family members...everyone buried round here is kin to someone so no grave is left unremembered. Flags and bunting hung all over the place. The town elders put the decorations up now and leave 'em up till after the 4th of July.

I had to laugh though. Annie Pankey runs a little shop in downtown Beloved where she sells antique and new linens, lace goods and such. She calls it Pankey's Hankies (great play on words). Well Annie is pretty old and don't much favor buyin' new stuff. She put a flag out in front of her shop. I was standin' jawin' with some fellers and as I looked at that flag it just didn't look right. The more I looked the odder it was.

Then I realized!!! It only had 48 stars! Annie Pankey bought an "antique flag" from before Alaska and Hawaii were states! We told her the flag only had 48 stars and after a little persuadin' she went and bought a new one. She laughed and laughed when she realized it.

The Founder's Well had been cleaned till it looked new and the gazebo that houses Sleepy Jean had been painted all white and the little ol' gingerbread woodwork looked beautiful. Folks don't add detail like that these days.

The parade started with Johnny Sizemore at the lead. He was wearin' the Raggedy Taggedy Shaggedy Coat from the museum and was dressed like John Henry Bowling - the real raggedy taggedy shaggedy man. Folks got teary eyed right off when they saw him wearin' that coat. He marched to the town's song - "Beloved is Beloved to me". The high school band marched behind him playin' the song and they were dapper in their new uniforms. Them uniforms is what the proceeds from last year's Sheep Dip Days went to.

Then the fire department from Beloved came, si-reen a blowin' and the fire folks was a throwin' Tom's peanut logs to the crowd.

The VFW came next - some of the older guys wore their uniforms - most couldn't fit in them if they was paid!

Folks in Beloved had asked all the Viet Nam era vets from all over Clay County to march next. They were finally given a welcome home parade.

When they got to the center of town the parade stopped and the VFW fellers came to attention. An about face was called and as a unit they turned - faced the Viet Nam vets as the commander of the VFW ordered a salute.

There wasn't a dry eye as the older fellers stood at attention and saluted the Viet Nam vets. They returned the salute and I believe every man jack of 'em stood a little straighter and marched a little prouder for the rest of the parade. Folks cheered 'em as they passed.

There was 16 horses with riders - some with awesome costumes. Anse Collins was ridin' in his farm wagon - decorated by his youngin's with crepe paper. The wagon was pulled by Anse's matched pair of mammoth red mules.

The York Rite Masons marched in their full garb - them feathered hats looked like royalty or something. The Shriners from all over came and was a ridin' them little ol' dirt bikes and little bitty and out, in and out.

Birdy Sue Poovey rode in a big ol' Dodge from the 30s or 40s - a convertible. She was a sight to behold. Feller could fall in love with her, sure enough.

Ya might remember the original squirrel fishin' club I put together - the one that made squirrel fishin' a household thing in the south - was right here in Beloved. Well, they was there too. A dozen fellers had took little red wagons, just like mine, had welded hamster wheels to either side of the tongue of the wagon...just like mine and had taught 8 little squirrels each to run in those wheels and pull them in that red wagon.

Hold a fishin' pole in front of them squirrels and holler gee or haw to turn and they would go anywhere. They had them doing precision drills - in and out, left and right. It made me proud. And they say ya cain't go home agin.

Three other fire departments sent trucks. They was 28 old cars in the parade. I counted over 53 youngin's with their bikes decorated ridin' along. 14 folks leadin' huntin' dogs.

On the very last fire truck...the last thing in the parade...lights a flashin'. Si-reens a hootin'...there was Annie Pankey - sittin' backards on the ladder....

Wavin' that dang 48 star flag as hard as she could.

Ya know, I don't know if she is just cantankerous or has a bolt loose in her manifold.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Sheep Dip Days

I am pretty excited! Today and all this weekend we have our World Famous "Sheep Dip Days" in my hometown of Beloved, Kentucky!

There are lots of fun activities, like the sheep dip grope where you feel around in a big tub of sheep dip for lil ol plastic toy sheep...the sheep dip free fer all where folks all jump into a huge pit of sheep dip and do a sort of sumo wrassle to see who gets thrown out of the dip...last one in wins!

Then there is the famous "take home your own bottle of sheep dip" stand run by Lucinda Precious. She is kin to the folks what run the Precious Smoked Meats shop in town. A whole pint bottle is still only $3.98, if ya can believe that!

And the things folks think of to put sheep dip in...sheep dip kraut, sheep dip cookies, sheep dip stew is my favorite. The sheep dip slathered barbeque mutton is right good as is the sheep dip and possum burgoo.

I didn't care much for the sheep dip beer, not bein' much of a drinkin' man. Other folks like it cause not only does it give ya a also cures worms.

Birdy Sue Poovey was selected as this years "Sheep Dip Queen" and she does look purdy. She had her hair all permed up with one of them home "do it yersef" kits from Toni! It is so fuzzy and looks just like a lambs behind.

Cousin Peanut has his Maytag in a barn on the fairgrounds and is sellin' rides, if ya want to ride the Maytag.

My Uncle Festus Hollen has several of my Grandpa's home made weed whackers...took a couple of ol' tobaccer sticks and tied mosquitoes to the end. shake 'em real hard and they start a buzzin' and they wings is a goin'. Then ya turn 'em upside down and let their wings cut down the weeds round the ol' cabin. Uncle Fes sells 'em for $14.98. If ya want one what has his beak dulled it is $19.98. I recommend these cause ya don't want to get bit by a skeeter the size of a small poodle!

The Booger Holler Community Choir will be singin' their critically acclaimed "Watermelon Chorus". Yeah, I know it ain't Christmas, but the Mayor asked 'em to sing and Sister Hazel Nutt Budder is all a flutter over it. Course, that is another story 'bout how the Watermelon Chorus got started.

Hope to see ya there. I'm guest judge at the sheep dip guzzlin' contest! Ask anybody, they'll know where I am.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Springtime Quilt

It rained much of the day yesterday. As I drove throughout the day the rain was a constant companion. I put on a little music - three part harmony of old time music sung by a group I met at a festival. It was moody and full of sadness and regret. It reminded me of the hills, of promises made and forgotten, of loves lost, of loved ones gone on before me to that home beyond the hills, beyond the mist, beyond time.

Later in the evening Oh My Darlin' went to bed before me. When I quietly slipped into our bedroom I could hear her soft breathing as she slept. I carefully took my keys and pocket knife out of my jeans and realized how cold it was in the room. The window was open and the night air was as crisp as the sheets I hoped to slide into. When I shut the window, I then headed for bed.

We still have 2 quilts on the bed, mostly for Oh My Darlin'. I don't reckon we operate on the same thermostat. Last night was an exception. She had pulled the top quilt off my side of the bed, but I did not hesitate to pull it back on.

I pushed my way into the sheets and pulled them up to my neck. They quickly warmed and I smiled as I remembered many nights in the warmth of a featherbed and 5 or 6 quilts there on Arnett's Fork of Double Creek, yonder in Clay County. I remember laying in bed after my Great Uncle Bill had fallen asleep across the room, listening to the night, glad for the warmth of springtime quilts. Every treefrog seemed to be calling for a cover to warm themselves. Every cry of an owl was seeking just one more quilt on their nesting place.

My nesting place was warm and secure. The cold air on my nose felt right and the woman I love slept on as I wandered the hills of Appalachia. I don't reckon she even missed me as she slept.

I think I will always keep a quilt on my bed.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Balm in Gilead

I don't know why it is that I get lonely for the hills of Kentucky. I can't say why my mind races back there like the mind of a young boy thinking of his sweetheart. I don't reckon there is an answer in genetics, hormones or even environment.

I just know ever' now and again I get a cravin' flung on me to head home for the hills. It is as if the Appalachian mountains are full of sirens, calling to the poor unwitting mountain boy, calling him back over and over again to feed on the pleasure one takes in viewing the hills, the hollers, the rough cabins and wary peoples of the mountains.

I can close my eyes even now and hear them call, the hills of Kentucky. They sing a haunting harmony, calling to the heart of those born and bred there. Their song is sweet ...bittersweet even... with the toils and tears of a life that wore on those who lived there.

Do not think ever that it is or was an easy life. Clay Country, Kentucky, where my family started settling in about 1802, is one of the 3 poorest counties in the US. So it is not for the riches or income or promise of wealth that we seek the hills.

It is for the richness of a way of life, of friend and family, kith and kin. It is for the joy of listening to locusts on a hot July day and knowing that the tabaccer field is weeded, the animals fed and chores done. That joy comes in knowing you can rest for a spell. In the heat of the day you can sit on the porch and listen lazily to the laughter of a creek just the end of the cabin.

If it gets hot enough, y'all might want to go down and just sit in that cool stream

If you go to the hills, don't stay long. If you do you will never forget the beauty. you will never lose sight of the hills. They will haunt you for the rest of your days. They will call like sirens as you dream. If you go and stay for long, you will be back.

I promise you will.