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
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
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.”