The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Diary Of Memories - Part 3 of 7

By Nellie Jewell Wilson © 1989

Issue: October, 1989

When strawberries were ripe each year in June, one thing we loved was on Sunday, Mama and Papa would let us make strawberry ice cream. Some of us girls would make a chocolate cake and Mama would have hauled the ice in on Saturday in the buggy wrapped up in a heavy sack from town. We had a gallon freezer that would make enough ice cream for us all. The container in the middle would hold enough strawberries, sugar and sweet cream and I don't remember what else. We would take turns cracking the ice to place around it, turning the crank, and putting salt on the ice to keep it from melting so fast. Each one of us would be anxious for cake and ice cream. Later in the season when the strawberries were gone, Mama would make vanilla ice cream also. Those were the good old days.

Once our large ducks left home and my brother Frank and I had to go hunt them. We started out early one morning and went down what we called Bear Branch Hollow. As the ducks had strayed off the evening before and didn't come home to their building that night, we were worried. I was about 12 years old and he was about 10 at the time. We walked three or four miles and followed the branch. We saw feathers and all evidence that some had been "pecked." Finally we found feathers that seemed like a fox had carried one off up in the old Spangler Place Hollow. We never did find a live one, so that was the end of our ducks.

Once when I was a small child, my Aunt Rosa popped a large pan of popcorn and asked us children to help make some popcorn balls. As I remember, she got some Karo syrup real hot until it began to thicken a little, then put a little butter in it and poured it over the popcorn. Then she gave it a few stirs with a large spoon and gave us a good lot each to roll into balls. After we had finished the balls, we lay them out to cool. We saved some for school. They were really delicious.

We also made crystal candy by boiling white sugar and pouring lemon flavoring in it. We would pull it by using butter on our hands, then placing it out to cool. We would plat it and hang the plats in the air to cool. We would cut chunks off of this to take to school in our lunch boxes. It was a real treat. We sometimes made taffy out of molasses. It was pulled and plated also.

One thing I loved doing when I was a small child was helping my two grandmothers, Grandma Hatcher and Grandma Jewell, wind their yam and watching them run their spinning wheel. Grandma Jewell had a large spinning wheel and I would sit for long intervals watching her spin yard to make us heavy stockings to wear in the wintertime. Grandma Hatcher would knit us gloves, make tatting with tatting shuttles and all kinds of pretty colored crepe flowers from crepe paper, little soft wires and glue. This was one thing I loved to watch most. I almost learned to make those flowers myself, but now I've forgotten how to cut the paper in the right shapes. She could fashion pretty red roses with green stems and leaves, pretty lilies and something like daffodils with yellow paper, and by the time she had finished, she had all colors of pretty flowers in each bunch.

She used the little tatting she made as lace to put on our butterfly dresses and aprons.

My brother Frank and I would play in the sand pile Papa used when he was building our house. I was 4 years old and Frank was two at the time. We would cover our bare feet and legs with sand and cover up our playthings. We didn't have pretty toys like the children do today, but played with little cans and bottles or anything that came handy. But we had lots of fun never the less.

In the spring we would always see who could beat who to the service trees. We really loved services and the trees weren't hard to climb and were generally loaded each year. They got ripe in June.

[Editor's Note... Sarvis or Service Trees have little berries similar to blueberries. They are great in pies and muffins.]