The last day of April dawned bright and sunny. Songbirds were warbling merrily; the purple lilac’s heavy blossoms wafted a heavenly scent across the yard, and vied with the lavender azalea bush for beauty. It was a perfect spring day to be enjoyed to the fullest.
Daughter Patty called and suggested that we clean the cellar on such a fine day. By the time she got up to our house, I had another idea. “I would love to go up Hick’s Holler,” I suggested. It is not far from our house, and has always been one of my favorite places. I hadn’t been there for a long time, due to my numerous physical problems.
Criss wasn’t here (he always puts a damper on my plans, saying I’m not able) so Patty harnessed up the 4-wheeler (RV) and we piled on—three little girls, Patty, Minnie Dog, and me. Fortunately, Criss had built a dog crate on the front of the vehicle, and two little girls rode there. Minnie Dog was squeezed between Patty and me, and one little girl hung on behind.
Hick’s Holler has always been a magical place. As soon as we skirted the meadow, we entered a shaded glade that was far removed from everyday living. At one time there was a house and a family lived there, but even the old chimney is obliterated. It is a paradise of wild flowers, and numerous woodsy plants thrive there. Roscoe, our squirrel dog, had followed us and immediately treed a squirrel.
Minnie was so excited that she ran uphill and down, while the little girls were fascinated by all the wildflowers. They found a dry land terrapin, which we always called a “torpin,” and insisted on bringing it home.
Spring beauties were wide spread, their tiny pink flowers scattered all over the ground. This is also locally called “tanglefoot” and makes excellent early greens. Several varieties of violets grew in clumps along the little branch which flowed down the holler—long-spurred, pale blue ones, the common blue (though I wonder why it is called “common”—they are beautiful.) There were the delicate white violets with their exquisite perfume, and the downy yellow ones.
This woodsy little glade was crammed full of nature’s beauty. Star chickweed, wood anemones (or windflowers, so-called because they tremble in the slightest breeze) and common fleabane flaunts its daisy-like flowers.
Golden ragwort is rampant, not only here but all over the meadows. It was a serene, quiet place; the silence broken only by bird song and the chatter of little girls.
I could have stayed there longer, but the girls got restless—Lainee was “thusty;” Maddy was tired and wanted to go home. She kept calling for “Pookey”—which is what the girls call Patty. Only Adrianna was supremely content. She announced, “The woods are my home!”
Patty found a few morels while I picked a mess of “wood” lettuce. I’m sure it has another name, but that’s what Mom always called it. I bypassed the tanglefoot—those spring beauty flowers were too pretty to uproot. I brought the wood lettuce home and wilted it with hot bacon grease and vinegar—it was rollickin’!
Of course the cellar sat there reproachfully, but when it comes to decision to clean or forage in the woods, it’s no contest. This is such a green and growing time, it’s a shame not to take advantage of it. The fiddlehead ferns are already too big to harvest, and the redbud flowers are fading. These little flowers are quite tasty sprinkled on a salad. It was a fruitful day. And—the girls found two more box turtles, which they brought home.
Poppaw will be so happy!
We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from previous articles, and I need to share some of them. Gordon Parker of Elkview writes that when they lived in Roane County, he helped his mother gather dandelion greens. Sometimes she mixed them with chopped green onions and wilted them with bacon grease. The rest of the menu consisted of pinto beans, fried potatoes and corn bread. He added, “I miss that!”
Bunny Crockett was reminiscing about her first day of high school, “I was so terrified—didn’t know where anything was. There two full floors of classrooms, and all these big kids whipped around me knowing where to go and I was lost!” I had Bunny figured as a city mouse, and unfazed by unfamiliar surroundings. I know exactly how she felt.
The town kids seemed a breed apart. They seemed so self-assured and confident, knowing all the ropes. Patsy Spencer Baughman seemed to be one of the confident ones, but she started there in the seventh grade, and most of us were in the ninth when we started. She says, “There was this huge, frightening building on the hill, and it seemed so big!” (Remember, most of the students were country kids, where the largest establishment in our community was the local post office!)
She continued, “What a wonderful group of friends we made and the enjoyment we had when we were very young! One does not forget the footsteps on the wooden stairs, the smell of the oiled floors, and the ringing of the bell as we changed classes. The surroundings have changed in those small towns that were once so vital, our homes have faded away, but memories linger on.”
Jack Moss writes, “It’s been 20 years since I drove through the streets of Clay, but please keep the memories of Clay fresh in the minds of us travelers.”
Small town America—there’s nothing like it.
We have such a good description of spring from Darren Porter that I need to share it.
by Darren Porter
Another walking barefoot in the yard season is here.
All of a sudden the hills are greening.
The dogwoods are lovely.
The crabapples are blooming.
The scents of spring are filling the breeze with perfume.
Owls are hollering.
Turkeys are gobbling in reply.
Soft evenings are upon us.
Here in the head of Dark Holler, the darkening night fades in around us while the distant ridge and hilltops still glow with early dusk highlights.
I need not tell you how pretty spring is here in the Appalachians.
Frogs and spring night sounds are outside our open windows tonight.
Thank you, Lord, for the head of Dark Holler and the barred owl that whoo-whoos out back.
Thank you for the spring wildflowers, and for the breeze coming through our windows—for all which embodies the re-birth of life in God’s creation.