A Hog a Day

Photo from Library of Congress. Notice images of mother and child, fashionable young woman and Santa Claus, and other papers papers on wall.

“I had to kill a hog a day to feed them boys of mine.”  I was impressed.  Mr. Rose’s boys were grown and  gone, but I couldn’t get that image out of my mine as I looked around at the house the old man  shared with Miss Bessie.  Kids have the luxury of not having the responsibility of conversation, so I could enjoy the whole experience of listening, hospitality, and looking at everything as much as I liked, as long as I didn’t touch anything.  Believe me, I was not tempted to touch with both my parents vigilantly looking on.  The room was fascinating, but I did wish I could see those boys who could eat a hog a day.

No rug covered the white pine floor. Old newspapers and magazine pages were tacked  on the exterior walls of the room with no regard for their orientation served as wallpaper.  The loveliest was a beautiful young woman with blonde curls piled high on her head.  She wore a blue gingham dress with ruffled sleeves and carried an equally beautiful ham on a large platter.  That gorgeous ham was crisscrossed with slashes and garnished with pineapple slices, maraschino cherries, and cloves.  I practically salivated at its loveliness.  Its charm was enhanced by the fact that the image had been tacked upside down.  Somehow, seeing it upside down made it more memorable.  Though I have tried many times, I have never prepared a ham so lovely.

A large fireplace made of red iron ore rock centered one end of the sitting room.  The brick hearth extended out a few feet into the the  room.  Miss Bessie invited me and my brother to sit on the hearth and warm up.  I sat flat at a safe distance from the glowing embers.  Its waxy-looking orange and yellow coals looked alive.  I couldn’t look away from the story they seemed to be whispering to me.  Though the conversation was fascinating, both me and my brother eventually nodded stretched out on the heat-soaked hearth before the glowing fire in the way only a small child could.  I know now, Mother had to have had her eye on me to keep me safe from the fire.

Before dozing off, I heard Mr. Rose tell of the night the house almost caught fire.  He must have thought I was asleep or he’d never have told of being naked, a thrilling tidbit..  “It was way over in January, the coldest night of the year.  I banked the fire real good like I always do.  We was in bed soon as Bessie got the kitchen cleaned up, right after dark.  Seems like the cold went right through me.  I just couldn’t wait to git under them quilts.  I always slept naked, I don’t know why.  I just got the habit early and never changed it.  Anyway, I was dead asleep and Bessie woke me up.

‘Grady, git up!  I smell smoke.  The house is on fire!’

“I jumped out of that bed!  Sure enough, I smelled pine burning.  I seen where a spark had done dropped down where some mortar had fell down n the back of the firebox between a hole in the bricks.  I clumb  under the house and found where it had set the pine sleeper that run under the floor on fire.  They warn’t no flames yet, but it was getting ready to bust out.  I called Bessie to bring me a bucket of water.  She come flying up and instead of passing it to me, she doused me with that bucket of water.  I mean to tell you I put that fire out!”

Trip in Time

mother and dana

Mother and our friend Dana took a day trip to a local Jonquil Festival Saturday. After so much rain and dreary weather, it was a glorious gift.  We spent the day tramping through displays, enjoying the glorious blooms.  The sunshine and blooms sent my mood off the Joy Scale.

door  Later we found a wonderful old abandoned house.  Can you imagine how many times this old door must have been slammed by children as they came in calling, “Mama, Mama!’ ?  Late-arriving teenagers must have crept in quietly, hoping not to be caught.  Drunken husbands may have banged it as they came in late after blowing their whole paycheck, not caring that a furious wife lay waiting. New mothers opened it, bringing their new babies home to meet Grandma and Grandpa. Hopefully, it opened to more good times than bad.

side porch

This shady side porch must have seen wonderful times.  The family probably sat here to shell peas or eat watermelon.  They probably ate out here on hot summer afternoons and evenings, as the babies napped, flies buzzing on the screen. Likely, they’d have pulled their beds out here in summer to catch a breeze.  This is the haven to visit with neighbors in rockers and straight back wooden chairs as children shrieked and chased fireflies and young people slipped into the shadows to court.