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WILD ASTERS - NEWS FROM THE HILLS

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The little wild asters are making their appearance now, leaning over the creek as if watching the yellow leaves floating by. These are the blue-petaled flowers with yellow centers, probably the New England aster. They grow in clumps this time of year in wet thickets, meadows and swamps.

There are so many varieties of wild asters, from the calico aster which is distinguished by the fact that they are at first yellow, and later turn purplish-red. Sometimes there are several colors on one plant. One of my favorites is the small-flowered white aster, which has numerous white flower heads and smells like honey.

The goldenrod is rife now, blooming along roadsides, fields and thickets. Like the wild asters, there are many varieties of this flower, and probably the most prominent is the tall goldenrod, which towers over the others and can grow to seven feet tall. The showy goldenrod is one of the loveliest of these flowers, and has a dense pyramid of small yellow flower heads.

The sweet goldenrod is anise scented, with flower heads arranged along one side of slightly arching branches. The crushed leaves of this flower give off a licorice scent that makes it easy to identify. A tea can be brewed from its leaves.

Physicians in ancient times believed that goldenrod had healing powers, but in modern times this plant has gotten a bad reputation. It has been blamed for causing hay fever, but actually allergies are triggered by ragweed, whose pollen is abundant the same time that goldenrod blooms. Goldenrod is innocent.

Autumn really has arrived, with cooler nights and shorter days. A blanket on the bed feels good at night and these cool mornings call for a jacket or sweater. It is the season that I love best, with the air as invigorating as a crisp Winesap apple, and the smell of burning leaves in the air. Daddy always burned off the garden after the last vegetable was harvested, raking the dead weeds and debris in a pile, and burning it. He said that it got rid of pests and weed seed, making the ground ready for spring planting. I don't know about that, but it is the true perfume of fall.

We received a letter from Mildred Womack of Oceana, which I tried to use in my column last week. I have a gremlin in my computer that will delete whole columns, and even my gifted son-in-law Bob couldn't retrieve it. It is too good not to share, so here it is. She is 92 years old, still drives her car and does her own work. But—she adds—"I never had time to sit!" (Maybe that is the secret to long life.)

"My first husband died at age 29, and we had four children. There was none of this free stuff then, so when people ask me how I can get around so good, I tell them that I never had a chance to sit down!"

She sent a poem that she wrote pertaining to school days. And it is good. For some reason, grade school memories are more vivid in our minds as we get older, more than our high school days. It is probably because a lot of us went to a one or two room school, and thus spent eight years with the same students compared to only four years in high school. And some of us even spent all 12 years together.

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES—LOOKING BACK
By Mildred "Gig" Collins Womack
Student at Trace Fork Grade School in the 1920s and 1930s
I don't have to search for memories.
Sometimes they return with a tear
To the humble, old family homestead
And memories of our childhood years.

There was no wall-to-wall carpet,
But wall-to-wall with us kids.
Not many households were different,
Trying hard to make it like everyone did.

On Mill Creek, there was no wealth,
No problems with plumbing, no problems with health.
The air was pure and in early morn,
You could hear the train and its whistling horn.

We waded the creek, played in the sand.
Worked in the garden, helped Mommy can.
We went to church and Sunday School
But there were no movies or swimming pools.

We'd hoe in the fields in summer
And go off to school in the fall;
Attend church always on Sunday
And sometimes afterward, play ball.

If school days were in session,
We hardly could wait for the next day
With Gladys, Maudie or Nancy
To go out at recess to play.

Sometimes we'd play "Ant'y Over"
With Orville, Soup and the rest.
No matter how hard we tried,
The boys were always the best.

At times we'd search in the clover
To find a four-leaf like Minnie.
But when our recess was over,
Most of us hadn't found any.

Our teacher would doze off to sleep
And back we would go to the clover,
Hoping no one would wake her
For recess period was over.

The leaves would soon start to fall
And one recess you would see
Minnie come in with a lap-full
Of beechnuts from the beechnut tree.

Then it would start all over;
The bell, and the scramble to see,
With the clover bed forgotten,
Who could beat to the beechnut tree.

When the school term finally ended,
There was gladness in every heart.
There were little huddles together,
Laughing and talking before they part.

There was Beck, Minnie, Pearl and Nancy;
Gig, Gladys, Sadie and Soup.
No one had clothes that were fancy
But everyone was happy in this group.

When I am alone, all alone.
And my memory returns to those years,
I can see all my schoolmates and family,
And know they were my most precious years.

My heart still lives in memories
Of those years and wonderful ways,
And if I could swap them for riches,
I'd swap not even one day.

Those days are gone forever'
They remain in memory only.
But sometimes in thinking about them,
My eyes are tearful, my heart lonely.
Please turn back "Time" and let me be
Back with those friends at the beechnut tree.
Back to the teacher and the friends that I knew;
Back to Mill Creek and the old church pew;
Back to those days of long, long ago,
And let eternal ages flow.

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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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