Saturday, August 23, 2003

County Fair Midweek

Uncle Billy sat on his shavehorse and inspected the sassafras stick clamped in the jaws of the bench. It was dried well and was straight. The bark was still on it an' would mostly stay that way. Folks at the fair didn't much want a good kitchen broom or house broom. They wanted somethin' pretty to hang on a wall or some such thing. He thought it was nonsense, but the fancy ones sold, so he weren't gonna raise much fuss.

He set his drawknife aside. It was too big for shavin the sassafras stick. He only wanted to take the rough off the bark an' maybe have a few places the wood would peek through. Folks liked that real good. He picked up a spokeshave and set it to the rough bark of the stick.

Folks standin' an' watchin' smelled the sassafras as soon as he took the first stroke. Several of the youngin's took deep sniffs real loud. Uncle Billy chuckled an' looked up.

"Y'all like that smell don't ye?"

Course, the youngin's nodded their heads to beat the band. Nothin' smelled better than fresh sassafras. Uncle Billy set the stick he was workin' on aside an' picked up one that was rougher an' not fit for makin' a broom handle. He kept a couple o' sticks like that layin' round for just such an occasion.

"Let me give you'uns somethin' to carry round an' snort on for a while." he said as he picked up his drawknife an' slid it quickly down the stick. The fragrance filled the area around him with the sweet smell of sassafras. He quickly made a small pile of shavin's and handed a couple to each youngin'. In the back o' the group was a little ol' girl with blond hair an' brown eyes. She was a grinnin but hid behind her mama as Uncle Billy approached.

"Come here, darlin'. I got a special one for you."

She timidly walked closer an' Uncle Billy took a long curl o' sassafras an' dangled it from her ear like an earring.

"What 'bout the other ear?" she asked.

Uncle Billy laughed right hard when she spoke up. "Here ye are, darlin'. One for the other ear. Gal's gotta look good for the fair."

She felt each one as if to be sure they were in just the right place and grinned. Uncle Billy handed out the rest o' the shavin's. More than one grownup reached out a hand for their own shavin'.

As folks left Uncle Billy went back to work on the broom handle.

Later in the evenin' he stopped to get a bite to eat. As he was headin' over to the Clay County Pork Producers booth to get a big ol' grilled and butter-flied pork chop he saw that little ol' gal walkin' with her mama.

When she saw Uncle Billy she grinned an' pulled back her hair from her ears. Right there, danglin' from each ear was a long curl of the finest red sassafras the mountains o' Kentucky ever did grow.

Uncle Billy chuckled an' hollered out, "Are you a flirtin' with me? I'm too old for you now!"

Don't ye know, that little ol' girl grinned, blushed an' ran to catch up with her mama as fast as she could.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Sunday Dinner on the Grounds

Lordy, will y'all looky at the tables out yonder under the maple trees. They are plumb full of food. I don't know if the preacher will be able to get done preachin' before his tongue starts a beatin' his lips to death if he smells all this here good food. Mama used to say they wasn't nothin' better than a dinner on the grounds here at Booger Holler Holiness Church.

The Women's Missionary League set up four o' them foldin' tables. Ever' one of 'em is plumb full. Why don't you'uns walk over an' take a look with me. Now keep your hands to your own self. One thing I don't stand for is youngin's stickin' dirty ol' hands into the food.

Looky there, that first table has all the salads an' such. There is three kinds o' tomatoes! Big ol' Better Boy beef steak tomatoes, regular slicin' ones an a big ol bowl o' them little tommy-toes. I like them best. See there, someone has sliced some o' them tommy-toes with onions an' poured I-talian dressin' on em. Mmm, fresh from the garden green onions, sliced bell peppers, banana peppers, cucumbers sliced both ways an some in vinegar with onions sliced thin enough to read a paper through. There is some of Sister Hazel Budder's layered salad an' beside it home made slaw. I hope that is Sis Carpenter's slaw. She makes her own dressin' don't you know. Oh, right there, big wedges of iceberg lettuce an' fresh made roquefort dressin'. I know someone is gonna have wilted lettuce, they just don't want it to sit too long, so they have to make it up hot an' fresh. They is no place on earth with better fresh vegetables than right here in Beloved, Kentucky, sure enough.

Well, I better move on to the table with meats an such before I get full from lookin'. There, I knew they would be fried chicken. I see 7 different kinds of fried chicken. See that bowl there? It's Sister Delly's chicken. She has a batter recipe I would give my right arm for. It is a big secret though. She won the County Fair with it 10 years runnin' before they retired her chicken an' made her the Fried Chicken Queen a year or two ago. Oh, Looky, looky...Uncle Billy has baked a whole country ham an' sliced it up right thin. Them is the beaten biscuits he makes sittin' there. Since his wife died he has been makin' 'em with her recipe. Chicken an' dumplins AND squirrel dumplins. There is a city ham for folks don't like country ham. Cain't 'magine who that would be though. Oops, almost missed the chicken fried steak an the big ol' bowl o' milk gravy sittin' by it. Whew, looky at the plate o' sliced beef roast. Wait a minute, see there on the end? That kettle with them boiled hot dogs in it? Can you imagine? Don't even think about eatin' one o' them hot dogs. Yessum, I know it is terrible to bring hot dogs to a spread like this, but they is another reason ... Peanut Chappell brought 'em. Y'all don't want a thing he had hold of. Just you take my word for it.

Well, come on now, we got two tables to go. Green beans, fresh from the garden an' cooked long an' slow with ham pieces. Some folk still use salted jowl or fatback. I like them beans best. Gee oh, a bean pot full of baked beans. Now, them is good eatin'. Course over there is a big pan o' baked beans with bacon on top. Mashed taters with country gravy, sweet taters with mushmellers on top, sweet tater cassarole, fried irish taters, tater salads...four tater salads, one with bacon in it. Green bean cassarole, ham an' tater cassarole, squash cassarole an' stuffed zuchinni boats. Pickled beets, pickles o' ever' description. Little ones, sliced ones, big ones, pickled eggs, pickled baloney, pickled okra, even pickled green beans.

Well, better get a look at that there de-ssert table 'cause it will empty first. Chocolate cake, carrot cake, that there Mexican Fruit Cake Sister Budder makes an' ever'one has to have the recipe each year. She comes with copies run off on the mimeo machine 'cause she knows folks will ask. Apple pies, mock apple pies, apple pan dowdie, apple cobbler, peach cobbler, blackberry cobbler, blueberry cobbler, peach pies an' fresh, sweet peaches peeled an' sliced. Pecan pie, shoofly pie, sugar pie, lemon pie, vinegar pie. Strawberry shortcake with real whipped cream. There it is. Looky yonder in the middle, a home made chocolate pie. I don't know who brings that 'un, but I am gonna cut me a piece now an' get the recipe before I leave this here church today.

Well, youngin's, we done missed the card table set up with home made bread, biscuits, cornbread, Mexican cornbread with hot peppers an' cheese in 'er, big ol' yeast rolls, them twisty crescent rolls, breadsticks with butter an' garlic powder sprinkled on top. I reckon that's my diet, missin' the bread table!! Don't you'uns go spreadin that I am on a diet. I just am a watchin' what I eat.

Oh, Lordy, we best go in an' start a prayin' for our sinful ways right now, cause I just got some gluttony flung on me!!!