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Alyce Faye Bragg"The charm of the goldenrod" is spreading across our hills, reflecting the rays of the early autumn sun and enticing the leaves to turn yellow also. Actually, there are 29 species of goldenrod in our state and have an undeserved reputation for triggering allergies among the susceptible. The irritating symptoms are really caused by ragweed, whose pollen is abundant when goldenrod is in flower.

My favorite is the sweet goldenrod, whose crushed leaves give off a licorice scent. I have read that tea can be made from these leaves, but I have never tried it. Many fall flowers are now appearing on roadsides and meadows. Coreopsis blooms along the ditch line beside the highway, showy masses of golden yellow flowers that thrive in moist ditches.

It is the beginning of the most beautiful season in our hills in my opinion. When the leaves are fully colored, and the season of gold begins, my heart sings. I have stated that when my time comes to leave this earth, I'd like to go in October. I could go up in a blaze of glory!

This past weekend was perfect for the many events that were scheduled. The Golden Delicious Apple Festival was a huge success, with folks coming from surrounding areas as well as many different states. It is sort of a homecoming for Clay Countians who have moved to different parts of the country, and are anxious to visit old friends and tie the bonds of friendship a little tighter.

There were several high school reunions planned during this time, and my own 60-year reunion was held Sunday. It was heartwarming to see the ones we graduated with so many years ago; in fact, we attended school for 12 years with some of them. I will have to say, time has made a change!

I was sitting in a folding camp chair at the Festival, when I noticed an older (??) lady making her way toward me. She was a stranger, and sure enough she was headed right at me. When she got closer, she braced her hands on the arms of my chair and looked me right in the eye. (I still didn't recognize her.) About that time the leg of my chair collapsed and she fell in my lap.

My grandson-in-law, Doug was sitting beside me and he jumped up and pulled the strange lady to her feet. Then he untangled me and pulled me up. When we were face to face, I screamed, "Mary Frances!" Yes, it was one of my classmates that I hadn't seen for many years. We had a giggly reunion!

We also had our annual Samples family reunion, which was a sweet and warm affair. The aunts and uncles are all gone, but cousins that grew up together (and were almost like brothers and sisters) had a wonderful time reminiscing and reliving old times. We are the present generation who will step off the "stage of action" next. It is a sobering thought. Cousin Roy Grose, at 90 years of age, is the oldest living grandchild of Abner Jehu (Grandpa Hooge) and Laura Alice Dodd Samples. Cousin Virginia (Ginny) Boggs is next at 88.

We had a visitor from Charlottesville, VA, (our "adopted" son Scott Bazzarre) who commented on the fact that reunions seem so important to us. Well, I think that those folks who are born and raised in the hills can't get the country out of their blood. They have to come home ever so often to reaffirm their roots and renew their kinship with the hills.

Mom used to say that if you ever drank cold water out of one of these mountain springs, you would always come back for more. Maybe there are some who moved away and never looked back, but the majority of folks that I have talked to always express a longing for the hills of home.

I am one who never left. I have lived most of my 77 years right here in the same spot where I grew up. If God wills, I will be here the rest of my life.

This day, the 29th of September, marks the day that my mother and dad married. They, too, stayed in the hills until God took them home. I loved the story of their wedding day. Mom was born and raised on Big Laurel Creek, and was living there when she met Daddy. He always said she was as pretty as a "speckled steamboat on a striped river." There was no road down to their house, just a path, and Daddy came to get her to take her to the preacher's house.

It was a warm, rainy September day in 1934, and Mom had waded the creek barefoot to go milk the cow. When she neared the house, she heard Daddy playing a record on the old wind-up phonograph. It was "Red River Valley" and the song went, "From this valley they say you are leaving/I will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile . . ."

They didn't really leave, though. They lived in the old house beside Big Laurel Creek for a couple of years. We were just coming out of the Great Depression, and they ate corn bread for breakfast the first winter—and were happy. I was a year old when they moved to Ovapa.

I appreciated Rev. Lawton Posey's column on the old Victrola of his youth. I know now why my mind retains sketches of old, old songs that Daddy sang while I was growing up. It was the records that he played down on Big Laurel while the water flowed by as swiftly as the years.

We were so happy to receive two recipes from Sara Riffe of Charleston for salt-rising bread. One is quite detailed so I am using the shorter one. I understand that salt-rising bread is quite temperamental, even for accomplished cooks.

MARY VIRGINIA'S SALT-RISING BREAD
Start with two potatoes sliced thinly, 1 ½ tablespoons sugar, ¼ teaspoon soda, 3 tablespoons white corn meal, and two cups boiling water in a jar. Cover loosely and place in warm place overnight. By next morning foam should have risen to top of jar. Pour one cup liquid into large bowl. Add two cups warm water, 2 tablespoons sugar, pinch of soda and sufficient flour to make mixture similar to paste.

Set aside in warm place until light and bubbly and double in bulk. Add ¼ cup shortening and one teaspoon salt, beating well. Add flour, a little at a time, to make fairly stiff dough. Knead until similar to other light breads, shape into loaves and place in greased loaf pans, filling each about ½ full. Let rise to top of pans. Bake 40-45 minutes in 375 degree oven. Makes three loaves.
Happy baking!


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