The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

From The John Hayes Hollow

By George C. Parker © 1985

Issue: March, 1985

I remember Mama when the winters were long and cold. Christmas was over and we had finished the few oranges and stick candy that had been a greater part of our gifts. We were now in the beginning of the New Year, with a few months of hard cold winter weather facing us before spring. About this time of year the canned food that had been stored in the basement was running low, the potatoes that had been banked away under straw and dirt out back were getting hard to find. The corn in the crib was down to a few bushels of nubbins. The ham in the smoke house was nothing but a well stripped bone and the cold weather had caused the chickens to stop laying. In a few weeks the cow would be dry in preparation for her calf that would be born in the spring. There wasn't much meal or flour left in the old meal chest either. To the eyes of a stranger there would have been no doubt that we were a welfare case. But not us, for Mama always had a plan.

Mama taught us many things about how to live when times were good or bad, but she never taught us how to lose. When times were the worst, Mama worked to make do with what we had to do with. With a little digging around, she would find a few pounds of pinto beans, a bag of dried sweet potatoes and a bag of dried green beans. (We called them leather britches.) We went through the corn nubbins and picked out the best for enough corn to take to the mill. A bag of flour and a gallon of good molasses from Grandma, and we were back in business.

Mama would put part of the ham bone in with the pintos, the rest she would boil in a big pot of water to which she would add the last can of liver, a little sage, and enough corn meal to thicken it into what we called liver mush. Let it cool, slice it and fry it brown and serve it with hot biscuits - the making of a mouth watering treat!

Mama knew the cold weather would make the rabbits easy to trap, so she would encourage Dad and us boys to get out all our rabbit gums and set them in a good spot. Soon we would be eating like a king in the country - hot biscuits, molasses and fried liver mush for breakfast. Pinto beans and corn bread for lunch and fried rabbit and leather britches for supper. Who could ask for better?

After supper we would sit around the fire while Mama read a story from "Little Women" or "Heidi" for us. Sometimes Dad would play his "juice harp" and we would sing. For our snack time, we would pop corn or roast dried sweet potatoes over the open fire in the big fireplace. Of course, there was always walnuts to crack and other things to do if we did not want to snack.

We were far from needy, we were basking in living the way it should be - parents loving and sharing with their children and the children loving their parents and each other in return. Isn't this what a home should be? Mama taught us how to live and how to love. I remember, yes I do!