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NEWS FROM THE HILLS

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Dear Cousin,

 

It is a silent, white world in our hills this morning. Deep snow muffles the everyday sounds; not even a blue jay's scream or the caw of a crow is heard. There is virtually no traffic on the narrow road up the hill, and no airplanes can be heard. We seem isolated in our own little world, and it is land of pristine beauty. From the tall hemlocks that droop heavy-laden boughs toward the ground, to the lowliest twig on the azalea bush, everything is covered with white.

Snow covers a multitude of ugliness. Landscapes that were littered with trash and broken toys are magically transformed into smooth humps and gently rolling plains of velvety white. It is a soft, clinging snow that outlines and drapes the naked branches of the trees and blots out the surrounding hillsides. It is still drifting down in feather-light flakes.

The younger generation revels in it. With a holiday from school, they romp and play and roll in it. Muffled from head to toe in insulated snowsuits, heavy boots and gloves, they defy winter's blast with shouts of joy. With sleighs and saucer-like sleds, snowboards and lots of nerve, they swoop down hillsides and steep banks to roll and tumble in the deep snow. With youthful exuberance, they climb back up to repeat the performance. With all their factory-made toys, the most fun they had was with an old inflated rubber inner tube. It reminded me of our growing up days when we slid down the snowy hillsides on whatever was handy.

I was reading a letter that I received some time ago from Margaret Brooks of Albany, Ohio, which was recalling the joys of her childhood. She wrote, "I grew up in Kanawha County, and we were poor, but we didn't know it. We entertained ourselves. We never owned a bicycle or a sled, but we did sleigh ride on cardboard or a shovel - anything we could find. My brother Larry had a sleigh with steel runners that went like the wind, and Daddy would make us sleds with wooden runners that traveled fast enough for the little ones."

Like Mrs. Brooks, when a sledding snow came we utilized whatever was on hand to use for a sled. One of the best things was a scrap of old linoleum that went faster than greased lightning. Of course there was no way to steer it, and we often ended up in a heap against a snow bank or sometimes in the creek. It was all great fun.

This kind of snow calls for a pot of vegetable soup. As I dragged out the big soup cooker this morning, I thought of the cold winter days of childhood when Mom would have the soup simmering and fragrant when, chilled to the bone, we would troop in the house. Throwing off our rubber galoshes, usually filled with snow, and wet mittens and toboggans, the tantalizing aroma of the soup set our mouths to watering and our stomachs to growling.

After a hard day of play in the snow, there was nothing better than that homemade vegetable soup with a hunk of batter bread slathered with real cow butter. (If you've never been privileged to eat batter bread, it is soft biscuit dough poured out into a hot iron skillet and baked in a pone. We still eat it.) Sometimes Mom would make cheese toast in the oven for us to eat with the soup, and mix a kettle of hot chocolate to drink. We usually had some of the neighbor kids to join us - Coda Spencer and Peter and Denny Payne. A big pot of soup would feed a horde of hungry kids. Now when snow begins to cover the driveway and walk, and place white caps on the fence posts, my mind just naturally goes to beefy vegetable soup. Soup and snow days just go together.

There is a little PS to one of our snow-covered days that involved grandson Nicholas, who is 6 years old. School was in session in spite of the snow, and he got on the school bus early that morning, still half asleep. The bus makes a run to Valley Fork Elementary School, where Nicholas is a first-grade student, then transports the rest of the children on to the town of Clay.

Nicholas was fast asleep when the students got off the bus at Valley Fork, and when the bus driver got to Clay he found this little boy who didn't belong there. Instead of being scared, Nicholas was thrilled at the adventure. Someone called for transportation, and Mr. Jerry Linkinogger, county superintendent of schools, volunteered to take him back to Valley Fork. The roads were snow-covered and icy, and he rode along in style in Mr. Linkinogger's four-wheel-drive vehicle. They made small talk, and Nicholas commented, "These roads are really bad - somebody should have called school off!" Mr. Linkinogger smiled to himself and asked, "Nicholas, do you know who calls school off?" Nicholas answered quickly, "Why Mr. Schoonover - he's the boss of the world!" Mr. Schoonover is the principal at Valley Fork. Snowy days and soup and grandkids - they make a good mix.

 

Love,

Cousin Alyce Faye

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