Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

If people were as loving as our canine friends, everyday would be Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my readers and may each day of your New Year be as joyous  as Doodle’s ( my poodle) will be.
Carolyn Stewart – Stone

Doodle the Poodle wishes you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Doodle the Poodle wishes you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

December 5, 2011 · Carolyn · One Comment
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Holidays

Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot

“I’m going to have a turkey for thanksgiving this year,” Barnard, my brother, declared thrusting his chin out.

“Just where will you get the money to buy it?” I challenged. We didn’t raise turkeys and had never in my memory eaten one.

“I don’t have to have money,” he said pointing at his head, “I’ve got a plan.”

Barnard found a willing accomplice in Bruce, our only neighbor. While Barnard fed livestock and milked cows, they discussed whether he could shoot well enough to win a turkey at the Turkey Shoot – that was the first time I’d ever heard that term. I knew their concern was legitimate for Barnard had a lazy eye, causing him to need a spotter for locating game in trees.

For several weeks before the turkey shoot, after chores, Barnard gathered up our squirrel dog – a mutt named Poncho – the twelve gauge and me, and we trundled to the woods for his shooting practice. He only asked me along to spot the squirrels and then help him find them.

I did so love the woods. I skipped, kicking up freshly fallen leaves to enjoy the musty and pungent smells of bay, hickory and sweet gum.

“Stop that,” Barnard scowled. “You’ll scare every squirrel within a mile into its hole.”

“And Poncho,” I pointed at the barking squirrel dog, “won’t do that?”

“It’s not the same.”

Many days when Poncho didn’t tree a squirrel, he’d run back to his old faithful, an enormous sweet gum just below the barn where a colony of squirrels lived and hid in its multiple holes, and start barking like he’d found something.

Other times, Poncho would run eagerly ahead of us and suddenly start barking wildly. When we’d get to him, he’d be jumping up on the tree trunk like he wanted to climb it and grab that squirrel. We knew we had one! That is, if I could find it and point it out to Barnard.

Those nights, supper was gooooo-d. Momma fried the squirrel, made biscuits, brown gravy and coffee so hot we poured it into saucers and blew on it before sipping.

The long prepared-for date finally arrived. Barnard and Bruce left for the turkey shoot in one of Daddy’s logging trucks, also with Daddy’s prized L.C. Smith, double barreled, twelve gauge.

After they left, I worried. At ten, I had no idea how turkey shoots worked. I thought all those men going to line up, find and shoot the same turkey in a tree. Would Bruce be able to spot the bird in the tree and point it out to Barnard?

It also concerned me that even if Barnard got a turkey it would be full of lead and uneatable. I didn’t mention this to anyone fearful it would sound Girlish.

After waiting what seemed like forever, they returned. Barnard had gotten his turkey and to my relief, Tom came home in a crate, alive and gobbling.

He was a beautiful bird and strutted around our yard like he owned it. Neither Daddy, Momma nor Barnard had the heart to kill and eat that turkey.

Tom lived a long and pampered life at our farm, a constant reminder of Barnard’s triumph.

November 22, 2011 · Carolyn · 2 Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: country life, Holidays

Sunday Dinner and the Preacher

I believe I’ve mentioned in earlier stories that Mama had a religious turn about her, thinking that preachers spoke the inspired word of God. Daddy, on the other hand, having spent the depression making his living singing high tenor for evangelists, had a firmer grasp on the fact that preachers put their pants on one leg at a time just like any old sinner did.

Unfortunately, no matter what Daddy told her about his experiences with said preachers, Mama chalked it all up to Daddy being a backsliding reprobate. This created just a bit of tension in their relationship.

Throughout Daddy’s life experiences, he developed and lived by a code of ethics that any Buddhist would recognize. Mama based her life on the literal translation of the Bible, and she too, lived her beliefs.

Between the two of them, philosophical discussions around our dinner table ranged wide in concept, and as hot as the coffee we drank. I thrived on those discussions.

Some very early memories were of Mama, every Sunday getting me up early, scrubbing me down with what felt like lye soap with a wash cloth akin to steel wool. Then I’d be dressed in a frilly dress, that I didn’t mind, patent leather slippers, which I did mind, and dragged off to Church.

Now, I must admit, that I loved the singing at Church, that is, if Daddy was there to lead it. Oh my, that man could sing down the spirit! Many a time, I watched the audience fascinated by their response to his singing; their faces would begin to glow, eyes grow bright, then with tears streaming down their faces, they’d get out in the aisles and shout and praise God. Those are precious memories.

After the singing, the Preacher would take over and preach us all into hell, where as Daddy left people high on God.

As long as the singing was good, Church was tolerable. Unfortunately, Mama had a habit of inviting the Preacher for Sunday Dinner.

One time in particular, Mama was having fresh, fried chicken. Now, in the country, the first fryers of the spring were a delicacy, cause chickens didn’t seem to want to start families when the weather was turning cool, so we didn’t have tender fried chicken till the hens turned amorous as spring approached.

And she chose that Sunday to invite a new Preacher for Sunday dinner. There was this tradition with country folk of not allowing younger children to eat if company came to dinner. That fate befell Barnard and me that Sunday, and we were banished to the front yard until the Preacher ate.

You can imagine how we felt. He and I sat on the roots of the huge oak tree, that dominated the whole area, doing some impressive grumbling. Running away fingered prominently in the grumbles, after all, they couldn’t possible care for us, throwing us out like that. Applying astute reasoning to the plan, we concluded it would be best, if we first waited to eat the chicken before sneaking off to become hoboes.

He and I thanked God when the Preacher finally left, and we raced to the table. The fried chicken platter was big, white and oval. My eyes rifled to that platter, which held two, scrawny chicken feet, toes aimed heavenward. That was all. Barnard got one; I got the other.

I must confess to a certain amount of coloring that experience had on my views, where Preachers are concerned. To this day, every time I see a well fed Preacher, I see two chicken feet in the middle of a big white, otherwise, empty platter, toes pointing toward heaven.

February 9, 2011 · Carolyn · One Comment
Tags: ,  · Posted in: country life, old time religion

Stolen Treasure – Con Men Strike

Most children, and adults – if they would admit it, dream of finding buried treasure. Barnard and I were often seized by this urge, and would grab-up shovels and run off to dig up a most excellent spot.

At seven years of age, I thrilled to a real treasure adventure, when Daddy arrived home from work, telling us about a buried treasure found close to Vida, AL.

Barnard and I hurried through supper, rushing Mama and Daddy, “Let’s go! Let’s go, we wanta get there before dark.”

Everybody seemed to know Daddy. If he hadn’t met them through buying timber, land and pulpwood over five, central Alabama counties, they knew him from all-day singings at their churches.

So it was no surprise, when the elderly couple came sprightly from their house into the front yard to greet “Mr. Stewart”, waving us to their backyard to see the hole, where the buried treasure had been pulled.

After much discussion amongst the adults, we trooped inside to behold what had been buried.

The house was the common, wood-framed, farm dwelling with parts of the ceiling floored, serving as a loft, and part open to the rafters.

A large crockery churn sat in the loft with a rope around its neck. This rope ran from the churn threw a block and tackle – a necessity – they said, to raise and lower the heavy treasure.

The churn, pitted and leached by alkalinity in the soil, looked old. It had inch wide, red writing, brushed on it, stating the amount inside, and that it had been sealed with lead and acid.

They eagerly told their story:

Two men, strangers, stopped by their place about six weeks before, telling them that there was treasure buried in their yard, and if the couple consented, the strangers would dig it up, and split it equally between them.

“We thought we had us a couple of crazy city-slickers.” The woman said, “I mean, look at this house, ain’t nobody ever lived here with money enough to bury.”

“And you could tell they were from some city; they talked funny, and had hands that had never shelled an ear of corn,” the man said showing his well callused hands.

The woman took-up the story. “So we just listened to them talk, and well, if they wanted to dig up our yard, didn’t put blisters on our hands, and I can plant petunias in the hole come spring.”

“We were danged-sure surprised when those two hit that churn. Lordy, it was so heavy, took me and those two all we had, to lift it out of that hole.” The man explained.

The strangers convinced the couple to store it in their loft, unopened for some days, before they all got together to divide it, cautioning the couple to tell no one lest the government take it away.

A few days later, one of the guys stopped by, wanting to take the elderly couple to a fine restaurant to celebrate. These were country folk, who didn’t own a car, and who had never been to a fine city restaurant. They were delighted, cleaned-up, dressed in their finest and went with him.

The date set to divide the treasure came and went. The couple became antsy and decided to open the churn for a look-see at the treasure.

They knew something was wrong as soon as they began lowering the churn – it was way too light. When it reached the floor, the seal had been broken, the top loose enough to move around and nothing was left in the churn.

To my knowledge the loot, nor thieves were ever heard from again.

November 23, 2010 · Carolyn · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: country life

A Wailing in the Night – Mysterious Death on the Railroad Tracks

The house, where I came into this world, was situated about a third of a mile from the GM&O railroad, that ran from Montgomery to Tuscaloosa and had a depot in Billingsley. In the middle 40’s, steam was still king, and I was three or four when I saw my first steam locomotive, but I remember it well.

Mama and some neighbors gathered at a house down by the public road, busy doing grown-up stuff. The railroad tracks were about 150 yds away, and left to my own devices, I began wandering closer to them. I was familiar with the sounds the trains made, but I had never seen a freight engine up close.

I heard a train approach, so I waited for a good look at it. I had just looked up, and from around the curve came a big black-iron monster; a monster that could have only come from That Book Of Revelations Mama talked about so much: black smoke belching, demonic sounding whistle screeching, big arm like-things (side and main rods) sticking grotesquely from its sides, pumping those iron wheels – I turned and screamed all the way back to Mama and hide my face in her skirts. The adults were very amused.

I now had a picture to go with the train sounds. It wasn’t long and the night trains became just another sleepy-time sound, sort-of a lullaby.

One cool dark and quiet night, I slumbered, hearing the approach of the nightly freight train. It’s steam engine chug-chugging in faster and faster intervals picking up speed to climb the hill beyond our house, when the familiar lullaby was rent, simultaneously by the scream of the whistle and the shriek of iron wheels locked, sliding on the metal rails until it stopped.

The engine huffed, steam ssss-ling. Then a different, hair raising, wailing whistle pierced the quiet air of the country night. The train huffed, backing up.

The whole household erupted into activity. Daddy was dressed in seconds after his feet touched the floor. Mama ordered me to stay in my bed. No problem there.

Daddy discussed with Mama, what action to take, but that was decided for them.

“Thwack.” The front door vibrated in it’s frame with urgency. Railroad men wanted Daddy to bring his car (need for transportation again) and identify a victim.

Daddy was gone for hours and I, no more than five years old, was sleeping when he returned. So it was the next day that I learned Ole Ty, a neighbor who lived so far back in the woods that only a foot path led to it, had been lying on the tracks with his neck across one rail, was killed.

Daddy described the headless and mangled body condition of Ty. It gave him bad dreams for months.

Much speculation ensued. The engineers reported Ole Ty. never moved and it looked like he had been carefully placed with a gallon jug of white lightning by his side.

There were no law officers in those parts, and Railroad detective’s concern was with the RR’s culpability.

We’ll never know what brought Ole Ty to that pass, but the sounds of that night were imprinted in my memory and easily recalled on a dark, cool and quiet night.

October 28, 2010 · Carolyn · 2 Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: country life