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NEWS FROM THE HILLS

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Alyce Faye Bragg October days slide by smoothly, one golden day after another, as cooler weather moves in slowly. The nights are becoming a little nippier and a warm blanket feels good. After the morning fog burns off, the days have been warm and sunny with drifting leaves and late asters blooming.

November woods were made for slow, meandering walks through their mature loveliness, and it is almost a sin not to appreciate these golden days. Although the dry weather has hindered the leaves from turning their usual vivid color, they are still gorgeous with their browns and bronzes. They are falling fast now, and the next freeze and rain will leave a lot of trees bare.

The woods in fall are a wonderful place to unwind from the cares of the day. Brown leaves crunch underfoot, and a wayward breeze blows a scattering of yellow hickory leaves down on your path. I thought of how the woods had changed since we had taken the first walk in them this spring.

The leaves on the redbuds are dry and yellow, and the green pods (we used them for green beans in our playhouses) have turned black and are splitting open. It was quite a contrast to the purplish-pink blossoms of springtime and the green, heart-shaped leaves that marked the trees.

This month is a blessing in our hills. I am so thankful that God planned for us to have four definite seasons here, as we could get bored with the same type of weather day after day. If we had nothing but beautiful days, we would never appreciate the coming of spring or the lush beauty of autumn.

The past few days have been enjoyable. I was privileged to meet with the Kanawha County CEOS ladies at Camp Virgil Tate, where several chapters of the organization met. It was my first visit there, and it was a serene and lovely place. The ladies were warm and friendly, and it was a pleasure to be with them. (Also Minnie loved her “doggie basket!”)

Criss went with me to the Church of the Nazarene at Dunbar for a luncheon. A large crowd attended “Down Home Days” and an old-fashioned farm-type meal was served. The people were wonderful, as well as the food, and we had a fine time.

Yesterday I went to the Big Otter Elementary School to talk to the students. I don’t know who had the best time, me, or the youngsters. I will have to say that I have never seen a better-behaved, courteous group of children. I went to a grade school several years ago, the students there were so rowdy and rude that I decided then and there never to go back.

Someone (all the teachers, and the principal, Mrs. Pam Mullins) are doing an excellent job of training our children. We only have two little Bragg’s there now-- Jake and Hunter-- but we are grateful for their schooling. One young fellow, Tommy Hutchinson, told me how to get rid of warts.

He said to rub the wart with a penny, and then throw it over your shoulder. Don’t pick it up and don’t look back. He didn’t say how long it took.  I received a lot of comments, but what I liked most was the hugs—I got a lot of them!

My cousin Bobby sent me a wart remedy some time back. He said his dad (my Uncle Dick) would remove warts by tying a thread loosely around it. Then he would leave and tell the patient not to follow. He had a phrase that he quoted and then would bury the thread secretly. A lot of people were sure that was why their wart disappeared.

He added, “Personally, I know that acetone, applied regularly, will remove seed warts. Many years I worked in a laboratory and my hands were wet with acetone several times a day while cleaning glassware. Neither I nor my fellow techs ever had a wart.”

We’ve had a lot of good response concerning iron skillets and apple butter. Dayton Reynolds writes from California that one of his best childhood memories was helping make apple butter at the Reynolds farm on Poca River. He writes,  “We’d gather the night before in the well room and peel apples with a hand-cranked apple peeler.

“The next morning we’d build a big fire in the barnyard and put on a copper kettle. The women would add the apples and sugar with other ingredients. We would stir the kettle with a big paddle with holes in it (I stirred sometimes.) It would cook for hours, but the good apple butter was worth it!” Ray McCune of Indiana adds the comment that his mother used wintergreen flavoring in some of her apple butter. It was his favorite.

These things make Bernie Fulks of Texas homesick—he says he’ll never forget the hills, especially in the fall.

We got some practical advice concerning cleaning iron skillets from Ray McCune of Indiana. He teaches cooking to Boy Scouts, and the main thing he tells them,” Never, never, never wash cast iron in soapy water!”

Here is his advice: “After cooking whatever you want in a cast iron pot or skillet, wipe it out with paper towels. Grease from eggs, etc., will only season a skillet more. Food containing tomatoes (chili, spaghetti sauce) needs to be cleaned with hot water and a stiff vegetable brush. Anything with sugar needs to be half-filled with water and boiled for a few minutes. Do the same when you use the skillet for making gravy.

“Once you have the cast iron ‘cleaned,’ coat it with vegetable oil and let it sit in a warm oven for awhile, and then wipe it clean with paper towels. To get the crusty residue (actually baked on grease) off, put them in your campfire and the crust will turn to an ashy residue.  Cool, wipe them down with paper towels, run warm water over them and wipe them down again. Dry in a warm oven and coat with vegetable oil; put them back in a warm oven. Wipe, but leave a slight coating of oil on them.”

J.D. Beam tells how he cleaned iron skillets. He had cleared a parcel of land and had the debris piled up, waiting for a snowfall in order to burn it. His wife Janice asked him to put some of her iron skillets in the fire. He did, and ‘bout a week later he got in the ‘dozer and proceeded to push the ashes down. He forgot about the skillets and ran over them with the ‘dozer.

He then went to town and bought four new skillets.

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Alyce Faye Bragg
About This Author
She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published.
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