Sunday, December 12, 2004

Soup Pot

Marie Lawson sat in the room that was her living room and bedroom.  It was the only room in the house she kept heated all winter.  The room was also the room that her Great Great Grandpa built first when he homesteaded this here little holler in the hills of eastern Kentucky.  The outside of this part of the house was logs, but the inside had been covered with layer after layer of newspapers stuck to the walls with home made flour paste.  Marie's Mama had gotten snooty, or at least that's what folks said when she sent away to the Sears and Roebuck an' ordered wallpaper to go over those layers of newspaper.

The fireplace in front of her had a coal grate burning warm and a big ol' pot simmered close to the coal fire.  Inside was a thick soup Marie was cookin'.  She had started with a little bacon grease to coat the pot an' to brown the deer meat giver to her by Hap Ledford.  Some soup bone stock had gone in next 'long with a couple quart jars of her prize winnin' home canned tomatoes.  Over to the side of the coal grate was quarts of other home canned vegetables from Marie's garden waitin' their turn to go into the soup pot.  A salt celler an' pepper mill stood guard over the event, waitin' to step in now an' again to add the right taste to the proceedin's.

Marie enjoyed sittin' in her rockin' chair every Wednesday in winter an' makin' soup.  It was an all day process.  Folks just don't want to hurry good soup.  It needs to steep an' blend in a slow an' steady dance of tastes.

Right now she was a' peelin' taters that she would leave sit in water till time to throw them in. They was still nice an' firm with few eyes in them just yet.  Later in the winter she would go to the root celler an' scrounge through the ol' wizzled taters to find a few that looked an' felt good to the touch in the darkness of the root cellar.

Later in the day, 'bout the time she added the quart jar of sweet corn, Marie took time to darn a sock that had worn at the heel.  Her darnin' egg was placed in the heel an' she carefully pulled tread back an' forth along the thin threads left in the heel.  Back an' forth, back an' forth, over an' under, her thread filled in line after line of the heel till it was near good as new.

Although there was a basket with quiltin' pieces layin' next to her rocker, Marie determined it was time for a short nap.  She laid her darnin' egg an' sock in the basket an' folded her hands in her lap. Her Mama used to say that "idle hands was the Devil's playground".  She still missed her Mama to this day, but was glad to have the peace an' solitude to do what she wanted.  She didn't happen to agree with that piece of theology an' proved it by takin' naps most every day.

Lunchtime was called by her ol' dog scratchin' at the door wantin' to eat.  She had spoiled that ol' dog by feedin' it three times a day, but it was good company.  It knew better than to get too close to her soup pot or the fixin's waitin' to go in.  A couple biscuits filled with country ham an' a little spoon of her muscadine grape jelly to grease it down was sittin' on a plate with a glass of cold milk.  When it was this cold she didn't need to put the milk in her Frigidaire to cool it down, she just left it on the back porch after she was done milkin' an' covered it with a clean dish towel.

Her ol' dog, Luke didn't know, but she didn't ever feed him exactly what she was eatin'.  She kept her food scraps in a bowl an' brought it with her when she sat down.  As she ate her biscuits an' ham, she would reach in an get a little scrap from the scrap bowl an' feed it to Luke.

"Well, Lukie, time to add the beans an' taters." Marie told her dog.  She had already added corn, okra, peas an' carrots.  The green beans an' taters was always the last in the pot.  She sat an' stared at the coal grate as the soup pot simmered.  As she sat, she could swear the flames made odd things as she watched, pictures in the burnin' fire.  Pictures an' faces an' places Marie had only dreamed of would appear as she gazed an' daydreamed.

Later in the evenin', Marie doled out the hot soup into Mason jars she would seal an' take to the shut ins an' sick around her hometown of Beloved, Kentucky. She sat aside a small portion to go into her own Frigidaire for her own use.  Twenty-seven jars later an' she poured one little bit into a coffee cup.  Quickly she sipped on the soup as she checked the seal on each jar.  She wiped each with her dish towel an' set them upside down so they would seal.  Most folks would eat the soup right away, but if they was a reason it could not be eat, it was still good for a long while, sealed like it was.

About six o'clock, Uncle Billy Gilbert an' Sister Hazel Budder, the preacher's wife would stop by to pick her up for Wednesday Night Prayer Meetin' at Booger Holler Holiness Church.  Uncle Billy had stopped to pick up Sister Hazel just down the street so folks wouldn't talk as him an' Marie delivered her soup on the way to church.  They left an hour early every Wednesday night just to deliver a bite to eat to the folks in Beloved who might not have or be able to do for themselves.

Marie would arrive at church just like everyone else.  She didn't ever say a word about her day long venture.  She never told folks or bragged about the good she did. Uncle Billy never even said much about pickin' Marie up.  They just did it.  No need for braggin'.  No need to talk about it.  It was just what they did.

Years later, when folks talked about the saints they had known, two names always came up.  Uncle Billy Gilbert for the many things he did over the years for any an' everyone in the' Marie Lawson.  When they talked about Marie, they always called her "the soup lady, Marie".  Funny thing, no one could mention her without pausin' an' sayin', "she sure knew how to make good soup."

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