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NEWS FROM THE HILLS : THE STRETCH AFTER CHRISTMAS

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ALYCE FAYE BRAGGHYMNS OF SPRING
By Betty J. Banks
Skeletons of winter,
Their blood pooled
In their feet,
Their bony arms
Raised to the sky.
Pray for resurrection.
Sol's breath warms,
The earth stirs.
Sleeping life awakens,
Stretches upward,
Humming psalms.
Skeletons of winter
Harkened to the tidings,
Spring forth singing
Hosannas.

There seemed to be such a long stretch between Christmas and Easter when I was a youngster in school. Christmas was our favorite time, of course, and we celebrated it in high style. For weeks before the big event, we practiced our Christmas program with fervor. Excitement ran high, and the anticipation was almost as good as the actual happening. Then we enjoyed a week's vacation.

Of course February was punctuated by Groundhog Day (which we barely acknowledged) and Valentine's Day, which we celebrated with homemade cards and penny valentines. Sometime during the cold winter months after Christmas, the principal of the grade school would suggest having a Pie Social.

It was a fund raising event for the school, usually spent on new library books. (Our library was merely a large bookcase, set up in the corner with well read books. In fact, I think I read each one at least three times.) We had a lot of the old classics, such as Black Beauty and Heidi of the Alps, also Zane Grey's westerns. My love of reading began there.

It was also a social affair, as there were not a lot of activities in our little community, especially during the winter months. I haven't heard of a pie social (or pie supper, as some called it) in years. Now they have school carnivals, ball games, and even rummage sales. Our pie socials were a lot of fun.

It was advertised by word of mouth, and was usually held on Friday evening in the school house. Boxes that held the pies were painstakingly decorated with crepe paper and ribbons. The idea was to keep secret which girl made which pie, so when they were bid off it would be a surprise. People came from all around to participate in this, and we would have a large crowd.

Some of the girls would fix box lunches, with sandwiches, fruit, pie or cake, but the boxes were decorated just as carefully. One of the men would be chosen to auction the pies and the fun would begin. Of course a steady boy friend would try to get his girl's pie, and other young swains would run the bid up on him. Whoever bought the pie got to eat it with the girl who made it.

There was always a cakewalk too, with everyone holding hands and going around in a circle. Someone who was blindfolded stood in the middle of the circle holding a broom aloft, and at a given time would lower the broom between a couple. Sometimes the broom would come down on an unsuspecting head, and I've often wondered if it was an accident.

We would have a pretty girl contest, and an ugly man contest, with votes going for a penny a piece. It really was a social affair, with neighbors catching up on the latest news, and plenty of flirting among the single girls and boys. I'll never forget the pie social I attended when I took my first pie. I was 12 years old, and Mom made one of her famous caramel pies—it was soupy! Some memories are better than others.

We had one response to the song that Grace Rinehart requested. It must be a real old one, and is one of the "tearjerker" songs that was popular during Mom's day. It was submitted by Marjorie Croson, and we thank her very much.

DENIED A HOME
By Harry S. Miller
A poor, aged couple one day on the street
Stood asking assistance of each one they'd meet;
The snow it was falling, they shivered with cold-
I thought, what a pity, so feeble and old;
I gave them assistance, they thanked with a bow:
I asked if they'd no one to care for them now-
Have you no children to whom you could look?
They answered me sadly, their old heads they shook: Yes-

Chorus:
We had two children, two bright, loving boys;
They were our idols, our pride and our joys;
The youngest, he left us, the wide world to roam.
The other's a banker, denies us a home.

While hearing their story, a stranger drew nigh;
I saw, by appearance, he'd not pass them by;
He gazed but a moment, then cried in surprise:
"What? Father and Mother?" while tears filled his eyes.
He spoke of a brother he left years ago
"Oh, is he so cruel, to treat you both so?"
"Now I have plenty you'll not want in vain."
And still I can fancy I hear them again-Yes-
Chorus again:

A year has rolled over since first I did meet
The old couple begging out in the cold street;
The son, who in luxury, was forced to the wall,
In wild speculations lost fortune and all.
The old folks, in pity, they took him in then;
A home, too, they gave him, which he denied them;
Now they are happy and thankful today,
And yet I can hear them as on that cold day: Yes-
Chorus again

We've had some more feedback on the old timey expressions we once used (and still do!) George Rollins Jr. elaborated on "getting a good scald." In Jackson County where he was raised, they also dipped the hog in boiling water. It was tested by either pulling some hair or checking the front hoof. If the covering of the hoof popped off, it was a good scald.

He also gave more advice on keeping turnips. He said to use a five-gallon bucket and sawdust. Put a layer of sawdust in the bottom of the bucket, then a layer of turnips, alternating with a top layer of sawdust. Store in basement or cellar.

Betty Hutchinson of Belle reminded me of a saying which we still use. If someone got strangled while drinking a glass of water, we'd say, "Got a bone in it?" Our son-in-law Bob came up with a new one, "A wink is as good as a nod to a blind mule!" I think he got that from an Andy Griffith show—but what does it mean? Clarence Powers of London (WV) wants to know why I've never mentioned "Jacks" when I describe childhood games. Well, we played Jacks, and so did our kids. Did you ever step on one barefoot? Maybe I wanted to forget them!

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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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