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NEWS FROM THE HILLS : CHRISTMAS

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ALYCE FAYE BRAGGThe days are growing shorter, and the fields are growing browner as late fall makes its way through our hills. Rather than mourn the passing of the dead cold year, we can lay her down to sleep, cover her with a blanket of brown leaves and a coverlet of white and look forward to her awakening in spring's gentle sunshine.

Although the fall flowers and colorful leaves are gone, what can be more beautiful than new-fallen snow on green hemlock boughs, or red holly berries peeping through a covering of white? Each season has its own beauty, and holidays that are featured for that time.

Christmas season is drawing near, with its traditional pleasures and good will. We should never get so caught up in the rush of the season that we fail to enjoy the small things. The merry trill of a songbird singing unexpectedly from the top of the bare Rose-of-Sharon bush, the pink glow of the sunset in the western sky, the tinkle of the wind chimes as a wayward breeze passes through them—these are things to make your heart glad.

Most of all, we need to remember what Christmas is all about. We know that it is a time for families to draw closer together, a time to remember the Christmas seasons that are past and gone, and a time bury old hurts and grudges and renew friendships.

Without acknowledging Christ as the Redeemer sent into the world and our coming King, all these other things are merely trappings. The world in general professes to celebrate Christmas, yet many hearts are far from the true worship of God. A real Christian celebrates the coming of Christ every day.

We are still trying to clean out clutter, and I wonder why it is so hard to get rid of things that are past using or no longer fit? Criss has worn an old flannel shirt for years. The tail is tattered and torn, and there are large bleach spots from where he power-washed the house. It is faded and literally hanging by threads. He took it off yesterday and said sadly, "I reckon you'll have to throw this away," then he added, "Just don't let me see you do it!"

I wonder if this is hereditary? If it is, Crystal must have inherited the same gene. A few years ago Patty and I were going through her wardrobe, helping her sort out her clothes and we found a blouse she had worn in the seventh grade. (She graduated from high school in 1987.) "Don't touch that!" she shrieked. "I want to keep that!" (I wonder if she still has it.)

Perhaps certain articles of clothing bring back fond memories. I was mulling over the matter as I snipped the buttons off his beloved shirt, preparing to throw it in the rag bag (another custom handed down by Mom.) The only memories that shirt could invoke are days of hard work.

I realized then that I was doing the same things that Mom did. I save old worn out garments for rags, and this time I also salvaged the buttons. Mom always saved every button (she sewed constantly) and she kept a button box full. Sometimes she would let us get that box down and sort out the buttons. It provided hours of enjoyment.

We would sort out odd-shaped buttons, and string matching ones on a thread. We used them to play checkers, and a large one made a lovely "hummer." Threaded through a length of twine, it was a favorite toy of the boys. Sneaking up behind one of us girls, it would wind up beautifully in our long hair. It didn't take too much to start a fight.

We have a chicken story from Preston Sheets of Hurricane, which may be unseasonable—but then so is the chicken. He has a little golden game hen that he calls Goldilocks. Back in the spring she hatched some chicks, which she took back to her nest in the shed until they could get around some and fly a little with their tiny wing feathers.

Goldilocks normally roosts in the big maple tree in the front yard, and when she thought (yes, this chicken thinks!) these doodies were big enough, she tried to get them up in the tree. She flew up high on a limb and clucked to her little ones, but they ran around on the ground, peeping loudly.

They slept under a flower bush the next night or two, and she tried again to get them up in the maple tree. They couldn't fly that high, so she flew down to the ground and went to a flower bush growing near the tree. She started on the lower limbs of the bush with her chicks and began leading them from limb to higher limb until they could walk out on a maple limb to the spot where Goldilocks chose to roost.

She only raised one chick, as a varmint caught the other four. She doesn't give up easily. The other day (the weather was bad, even snowing a little) Goldilocks came in with ten little golden chicks. He put her in a small coop, safe from predators. He says she is one smart hen—he has a big red hen that can't find the gate to the chicken lot. She is happy with her little babies.

We've had more suggestions about storing turnips. One from Kitty James of Newville. She says that she washes them, and then puts them in a 13-gallon plastic bag and folds down the top. The moisture from the turnips will keep them all winter in the cellar. Thanks to all who wrote.

Merrill Jividen of Red House sends a simple and effective way to store turnips. "Place turnips on top of a pile of leaves (leaf bed about six to eight inches deep.) Place turnips on top of the leaves, then cover with a piece of plastic (may use garbage bags.) Cover with more leaves—the more the better. The turnips will not freeze, and will draw enough moisture from the leaves and ground to keep them from becoming pithy. By early spring the turnips will still be very firm. Works for me all the time!"

(It's not too late to order books for Christmas giving. "This Holler is my Home," "Homesick for the Hills," and "Laughter from the Hills" can be ordered from Alyce Faye Bragg, 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. They are $15.33 each or three for $40, which includes mailing costs and tax. I can autograph them as you wish.)

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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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