Monday, September 30, 2013

Hard Times - September 26, 2013

As published in the White River Current - Thursday September 26, 2013 So you think you have it rough, do you? You don’t even know the meaning of rough. Why, when I was a boy, I had to walk five miles to and from school, uphill both ways, barefoot, in eight inches of snow. OK, I’m exaggerating a little. It was only four inches of snow. I know most of you have already heard this story or variations of it. The point is, things are a lot different now than they were “back when I was growing up.” I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I attended an evening performance at the Ozark Folk Center. A very talented group sang an acapella rendition of an old Stephen Foster song entitled “Hard Times Come Again No More.” The verse of the song goes like this “Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count it’s many tears While we all sup sorrow with the poor. While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay, there are frail forms fainting at the door.” You can imagine the mournful music that goes with these powerful lyrics. You might also check out the version sung by Nanci Griffith on YouTube. The composer of this song, Stephen Collins Foster, is known as the “father of American music.” He wrote over 200 songs. Among his best known are “Oh! Susanna”, “Camptown Races”, “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” and “Beautiful Dreamer”. Two of his compositions have become official state songs: “My Old Kentucky Home” (State of Kentucky, 1928) and “Old Folks at Home” (Florida, 1935). Many of his compositions remain popular more than 150 years after he wrote them. Stephen died in 1864 at the age of 37. I grew up during the depression years of the ‘30s. I imagine those years were “hard times” for many families but you have to define what “hard times” and “poor” really mean. Our family consisted of my mom and dad, my grandfather and my sister and I. My dad had a regular job where he worked ten or twelve hours a day, six days a week. We lived pretty frugally but I never thought of us being poor. In today’s society, poor is determined by the federal government by the poverty level which is a combination of income, number of dependents and other things. Many people who are classified as poor today would have been thought of as rich back in the depression days. Even so, we didn’t think of it as hard times because we didn’t know any better. Our doors were never locked. We had respect for one another. I remember hobos coming to our back door asking for food. My mother always had something for them, usually a sandwich and maybe an apple. We moved a total of seven times by the time I was fifteen years old, the last house being the only one my parents owned, the others being rent houses. Seven of the fifteen years were spent at the rock house on Red Lane that I have written about in previous articles. I lived there from age five to twelve. None of the seven houses had indoor plumbing until my dad added a bathroom onto the seventh house. I was a junior in college at the time. When we lived in the rock house we were the last house on the road that had electricity. We kept the kerosene lamp handy because the lights were off a lot of the time. We were on a telephone party line with two or three other families. Our number was 29F4. That means it was number 29 and our ring was four “longs”. For me, Spring was when I changed from the long johns to more suitable under garments for the warmer weather. Summer was when I could go barefoot. The only time I wore shoes was on Sunday for church. Overalls was my usual attire. In a future article, I want to write about my playmates and the games we played. Things are much different now than they were “back then.” I won’t go so far as to say they were the good old days but we made do with what we had. I really don’t have any bad memories of those days. Yes, things are different now. The other day, a lady told me about her daughter almost going ballistic as they were driving away from their home and she remembered she had forgotten her cell phone. Of course, they had to return home and retrieve it. Contrast that to the telephones in my early years. More on this subject coming soon. Bye, bye for now.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Food - September 5, 2013

Food: As published in the White River Current - Thursday September 5, 2013 I enjoy eating. I didn’t have to tell you that. It is quite evident by the shape of my body that I like food, and plenty of it. Of course, same as you, there are some things that I like better than others, but there are very few things that I absolutely do not like. I like most vegetables such as celery, Brussels sprouts and eggplant. Now, I have never been on a cruise and you may think that is unusual. The real reason is that I have a tendency to overeat and when I do I often come down with an attack of gastritis which could last for several days. Everyone that I have heard comment on a cruise vacation always raves about the amount and variety of foods that are available for consumption at their will and pleasure. For example, Robert and Sharon went on a Scandinavian trip a few months ago. He told me that he ate three lobsters every night they were aboard the ship. Now I enjoy seafood but I can tell you for sure that if I had made it through three lobsters I would spend the rest of the cruise in sickbay. Anyway, this idea about food came across my brain when I was writing the last column which was about the “last days” if you remember. A crazy thought came to me. If I had the opportunity to choose my last meal, what would it consist of? After much consideration, here it is: For an appetizer, a half dozen oysters on the half shell; for the salad, lime Jello with pear halves; for soup, a cup of homemade vegetarian vegetable. You might be with me up to now but let’s go to the main course: a slice of fried salt pork with stewed potatoes, whippoorwill peas, turnip greens, a few whole pickled beets, a thick slice of a white onion and a large slab of yellow cornbread (you could add or substitute for the salt pork a big dish of kraut and wieners). The dessert choice is easy: Apple pie with a huge dip of butter pecan ice cream and drizzled with warm caramel syrup. No doubt about it, if I ate all that it would be my last meal. Now I feel pretty confident in saying not many of you would make the same choices that I did. I guess my desires are influenced a lot by the meals I had when I was growing up. Well, you can delete the oysters from that list because I don’t believe they ever appeared on our dining table. Lately there have been a lot of recipes that show up on Facebook that look interesting and I have been thinking about trying some of them. I’m not much of a cook but I scramble the eggs at the men’s breakfasts at church sometime if that counts as cooking. Now my neighbor, Tom*, is a gourmet cook in addition to his many other talents. In one of his recent emails he detailed a recent kitchen episode. (I must have deleted his email by mistake so I will have to pass it on as I remember it, so here it is). “My wife was out of town so I decided to make a run up to Harp’s to get something for lunch. I was delighted to see that they had just received a shipment of Ruby-throated hummingbird tongues and, since they are the best, I bought two packages. I sautéed both packages in a half cup of extra virgin olive oil that I had pressed from fruit that I had harvested the day before. When the tongues began to curl, I removed the pan and drained most of the oil. Returning the pan to medium heat, I stirred in a cup of heavy cream. When the mixture began to thicken, I added a half teaspoon of sea salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper and spooned the entire dish onto a thick slice of wheat toast. Yummie!!” Well, as you can see, our tastes differ somewhat. I prefer the Rufous hummingbird species. Their tongues are a little longer.. (Permission is granted to call this a “tongue-in-cheek” article). Welcome back, Tom* and Fredericka. We have missed you. Tom* will be here with his column for the next two weeks. I’ll see you in three weeks. Bye for now.