Auburn, Kentucky

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Preparation for Winter


Christmas Visitors


Preparations for Winter

                                                                                                                            by F. Marie Foley

When the first week of November rolled around, it was time for Dallas to make an appearance. Dallas was the man who drove a large coal truck and delivered coal. For whatever reason, maybe because he knew my grandfather got up at four thirty every morning, Dallas always arrived at our house before daylight.

After the coal was shoveled into the old garage house, my grandfather would ask Dallas in for a cup of coffee and conversation. Apparently Dallas knew a lot of the same people my Pappy did in Butler County and had news of them to tell.

As a young child I looked forward to the first load of coal, because in my mind the approaching cold weather was linked to Thanksgiving and Christmas. My grandparents thought of it as the time to start preparing for winter

The old garage house once more bulging with coal, my grandmother and Aunt Bonnie would begin preparing the big black stove in the bedroom and the sitting room fireplace for the work ahead of them. After a through cleaning the old iron giant, pipes and all stood proud. The hearth in the setting room seemed to say, “Pull up a chair”.

The wood cook stove in the kitchen was supplied with an extra amount of seasoned wood that had been split and stored on the back screen porch. I often dream of that porch. Along with the wood that was there to keep us warm through the winter and heat the stove that cooked our food was an old cupboard. Inside the cupboard were jars filled with the hope of spring. Each jar held seeds of various kinds to be planted when the earth was warm once again.

Bails of straw were laid around the north side of the house to protect against winter winds. To let the fire go out in the old Warm Morning between November and April would have been unthinkable. Still, many times in cold January my grandmother would spot frost on the flowered wallpaper in the bedroom and pull the beds away from the outside wall.

In winter my grandmother and aunt were hard pressed to keep remedies on hand for all the aches, pains, colds and flu that we had. Their remedies didn’t always meet with the doctors’ approval, but they seldom failed, probably because a lot of love was in each dose.

Asafetida was a common cure for warding off colds and other diseases. Worn around the neck in a bag, it smelled so bad no one, with a cold or otherwise wanted to get near you, so no wonder it worked. I never wore one, but had an uncle that swore by them. I think every female in my family believed that a big dose of Castor Oil would kill anything inside you or on your body that wasn’t suppose to be there and would put you on the high road to recovery if it didn’t kill you. A half teaspoon of whiskey with honey and lemon was a sure help for coughs and a nice nap was thrown in for good measure.

I often as a child had what was referred to at that time as “risens” in my ears. There was as far as I was concerned only one remedy for the awful pain I was experiencing and that was Dr. Charlie Wood. When Dr. Charlie came in the door I knew my pain would soon be gone and it was. I was not the only child in Auburn that loved and trusted him.

Food was plentiful in the winter because of the preparations made in the summer. We had shelves of canned goods from the big garden my grandmother and aunt planted and harvested. Working in the garden, harvesting the results of their labor and preserving it were happy times and though the work was hard, there was great fun also. My aunt Bonnie was a jovial lady with a loud laugh. She had a gift of turning work to play

My grandfather had his own preparations to make for the livestock in the barn and field. Little did I know of that hard work, except for his timetable, which I knew by heart. If I was looking for my Pappy, I always knew where to find him.

Although the hard work never stopped in the winter for the adults, we were prepared as well as we could be.  The short days and cold temperatures brought us together around the open hearth fireplace; the black iron stove its belly glowing red with heat and the wood cook stove in the kitchen. All of these became centers of our activities as the cold weather settled in. Around these we gathered to tell endless stories and riddles. My grandmother loved riddles. We never tired of the constant retelling of these brain teasers.

When the snow begin to fall and icicles hung from every roof, we could say with John Greenleaf Whittier-

“What matter how the night behave?

What matter how the north wind raved,

Blow high, blow low, not all its snow

Quenched our hearth-fire’s ruddy glow.”








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