Come sit on the porch awhile. Enjoy a glass of sweet iced tea as you peruse my thoughts, memories, dreams and images of family and friends - things trivial and not so trivial - past, present and future. I write and post for the simple pleasure of doing so. If you reap some small amount of pleasure from what you find here please come back again soon.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What to do with the trash? Put it on the porch!

What do you do with the trash when the neighborhood is full of hungry stray dogs?
That's easy. You put it on the porch. Way up on the porch!

And why is all that other stuff out in the yard? Because there's no room for it in the house, silly.

You've got to love a humble little Appalachian home with a flag flying in the front yard. Just goes to show the American spirit lives on. Also looks like they're all set for tonight's weiner roast. Wish I was invited. I love a good hot dog!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Back on the Porch, Wishing To Be A Little Girl Again

Wanda Reed is a very special new friend who has given me the greatest gifts of all...inspiration, hope and kindness. We met at the health center where she works and where I have been going, trying to regain some of the strength I have lost during the past year. Wanda has shared with me kind conversation as well as her very special talent. She is a country gospel singer/songwriter and has just released a compact disc featuring songs written by herself and her mother. This spirit filled music reminds me of the songs I heard during my childhood while attending old fashioned gospel Baptist churches with my mother and grandmother. I love singing along with her songs when riding in my car...while all alone of course...Wanda has a much greater talent than I do, thank you Lord!

In her own words:
"This CD has a very special place in my heart because it comes from the heart. Nine of the eleven songs on this CD were written by me, with the strong inspiration of Jesus Christ. Without Him, I could do nothing. The other two songs were written by my Mother, Elizabeth Keck, and Dorothy Keck Davenport, and were arranged by me. I hope you can find some inspiration in some part of this work." Wanda Reed

To hear a sampling of Wanda's talent go to:

*The CD cover photo features Wanda now and as a little girl. It is published here with Wanda's consent.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grandpa’s Honey, Grandma’s Biscuits, Delicious Memories For One Scared Little Girl

Ada & Larkin were "Grandpa & Grandma" to me

When I was a little girl I sometimes spent the summer months with my mother's parents in Madisonville, Tennessee.

Grandpa and Grandma lived a hard life in a modest two-bedroom, gray-shingled house with front and back porches. They had eleven children, made a living farming and had very few modern conveniences. Their water came from a rain-filled cistern well near the back porch. There was no running water in the house and no indoor ceramic tubs or sinks or anything like that. Baths were taken in a galvanized tub which was also used for rinsing laundry along side of the ringer washing machine. Clothes were hung on a closeline to dry in the wind. Their toilet was an outdoor wooden structure – a "two-hole outhouse" they called it – 60 feet or so from the back porch and down a slight hill to the right, as I remember.

On the rare occasions when they were not busy around the house and farm they were rocking – on the front porch on sunny afternoons and in the living room in the cool of the evenings. Grandpa always wore a fedora hat and smoked cherry flavored tobacco in a crooked pipe as he rocked. Grandma always wore a cotton dress and thick nylon stockings rolled just below the knees. Only on Sunday mornings going to church was she seen without a cotton apron over her dress. As they quietly sat and rocked, they both seemed very old to me, when I was only five.

Grandma's house was clean and tidy. The room where she and grandpa slept was cozy and inviting. The bed was made up with a lovely chenille spread and pretty ceramic whatnots adorned the night stand and dresser. A yellow bulb in the bedside lamp gave the room a warm glow. There was a radio that played in the evenings but no television.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table watching grandma kneading biscuit dough in a big round aluminum dishpan and wiping her floured hands on her ever present apron. It seemed she was all the time elbow-deep in some kind of bread makings, while her delicious meals simmered on the stove.

Grandma came from an era when families ate three home cooked meals each and every day. She never adapted from cooking for a family of twelve to preparing a meal for just the two of them. There were always leftovers to snack on between meals and perhaps that's how I came to appreciate a good cold biscuit. On occasions when family visited she was still right comfortable making huge trays of piping hot "cat-head" biscuits to go along with crispy fried chicken and creamy mashed potatoes. ("Cat-head" biscuits were so named because they were hand formed and as big around as a cat's head.)

Grandpa was a skilled beekeeper and sweet succulent honey with comb was always available in a covered glass dish on the table. One of Grandma's hot buttered biscuits smothered in Grandpa's clover honey was the best treat in the whole world and nothing has ever been more delicious. And I loved chewing on the honeycomb, it was the closest thing we had to chewing gum.

Grandpa and Grandma are many years gone from this earth now but I still have that covered glass dish. Instead of honey it now holds many precious memories from my childhood visits with them. Although their life was difficult and filled with hardships they remained kind and generous and never did I hear them complain. And they always managed to make a visiting little granddaughter, who was scared to death of being so far from home, feel safe and loved.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grandma’s egg basket and cornflakes from the big red rolling store

There was an handmade, split white oak egg basket that always sat on my Grandma's ironing board in the spare bedroom where I slept during childhood visits to her and Grandpa's Monroe County home in the mid-1950's.

Each morning Grandma and I gathered fresh eggs from the chicken house nests then washed and dried them and carefully placed them in the basket, which was lined with a worn dish towel softened by many washings.

The eggs stayed nestled in the basket – except for the ones used in her own cooking – and grew in number until once a week when the man with the rolling store came around. Grandma traded the valuable eggs for staples such as flour, sugar, salt and coffee.

One time I was allowed to pick something in the trade and chose a big box of Kellogg's corn flakes. I remember clutching the brightly colored cereal box, with the big crowing rooster on the front, to my chest as I climbed down from the big red truck. (Everything is "big" when you are five years old.) Our breakfast meals usually consisted of bacon, sausage, eggs, gravy, biscuits and milk. Cereal – even plain ole' corn flakes – was a very rare treat.

Rolling stores were common during those days and served the basic grocery shopping needs for folks who had no convenient means of transportation for quick shopping trips in town. I suppose today's convenience stores are the equivalent of yesteryear's rolling stores only now we feel the need for soft drinks and assorted other junk foods. I wonder if they even sell plain ole' corn flakes these days? Most of today's cereals are sugar coated and pastel colored. And it's a safe bet there are no stores around that take eggs in trade.

Grandma's egg basket and one of her cotton aprons came into my guardianship when my mom passed away a few years ago. I treasure these simple homespun items and the memories they keep close to my heart.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Little More About Me...

I like dogs.
I am a dog person.
Cats don't like me usually and usually I don't like them much either. I do respect them however. Over these hundreds of years while humans have attempted to tame cats they have maintained not only their aloofness but their wild skills as well.
Cats, large and small, pampered or not, are still without a doubt the best hunters on the planet bar none. If you think your cute little puss won't stalk, pounce and effectively kill anything smaller than itself you are living in a dream world. You are just very lucky to be much larger than the little darling purring on your lap right now. If you were smaller, I submit that you would be in grave danger of serious bodily injury and even death...if your "pet" was so inclined. And that's the main thing about cats, they do exactly what they are inclined to do and only when they are inclined to do it. And so, yes, I do respect cats. But I don't like them very much. The cats in my life have been few and far between but I have had a couple of good cats that I genuinely cared for and they for me. Some of my best friends are cat people and that's okay. But...

I am a dog person.
I like dogs.
My favorite breed is Schnauzer. One of my best buddies was a distinguished little gentleman Schnauzer named Jock. I lost Jock about three years ago to injury and illness. I mourned for him like he was a real person and still miss him today.
I like almost all dogs. I am narcissistic enough to appreciate their obedience and loyalty.
I would not, but you can, slap a dog silly and two minutes later he'll come back to you when called and be tickled pink to be in your good graces again. That works for me.
Am I a control freak? No, not really, but I do like maintaining control.
And I do want a companion who will listen to me without judgment, like me without prejudice, and catch my back in a fight. If you care for a dog properly, giving him encouragement and guidance and a treat every now and again, he will do that for you.
I like dogs. What else do you need to know about me?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The View From Our Back Porch

From our back porch…
We see the sun pouring through the trees in the early morning mist and the shadows stretch across the pasture in the late afternoon.

From our back porch…
We hear the birds sing – dozens of them in a rainbow of colors, each with a different note to trill.

And we see the cattle – black, brown and white – browsing on the hillside or lounging in my father-in-law's pond, muddying the water as they flick their tales to wet their skin and drive away persistent biting flies.

My father-in-law is 96 and blind.
He lost sight in both eyes in separate coal mining accidents more than 50 years ago. Even though he doesn't see the cattle, or the pasture, or the pond, just hearing them and knowing they are there means to him that things are still right in the world. If only it were that simple for the rest of us.

When we are sitting on our back porch – overlooking the beautifully scenery and hearing the lovely sounds of nature – we too can believe that all is right in the world.

But then we go inside to watch the evening news and are reminded…
the fighting continues, as does the robbing and the killing, and the drugs, and the cruel mistreatment of children and we wonder, how can this be? How can there be two worlds so contrasting?

The world of our back porch is comforting and peaceful and gives us respite from that other world that rampages on and we have come to the conclusion that the world "out there" is in desperate need of more back porches like the one attached to our modest three-bedroom rancher in our quite little world in East Tennessee.

Humble though it may be...
Our back porch is the best place to be.