The winter of 1900 had been an unusually bad one. A true story book picture of what a Christmas scene must be like. It seemed as though the bad weather kept roaring into the Shooting Creek Mountains day after day without ceasing. First the freezing rain came, piling up on the earth and timber causing the mountains to sound like a battle was taking place as the trees gave way to the awful weight of tons of accumulating ice. The snow had piled up at the Abraham Anderson cabin there in the Bethabera section of the county with little chance for folks to get any work done other than to break a trail to the barn to feed the animals and to find a decent pole of standing dry timber to fuel the fireplace.
Abraham hadn’t been able to get to the mill that was situated further down the valley to try to buy or trade for a turn of cornmeal so his new wife Mae could make their everyday cake of cornbread for their table. Fact was that if he had been able to get to the old tub mill he wouldn’t have been able to get any meal since the miller wasn’t there to do the grinding. The miller like everyone else in the settlement was shut down solid. Mae, the young bride, had worries that went a little deeper than those of Abraham. Although she was just a recent bride she felt an obligation to provide a good meal for their table as this was the tradition that was understood by most women of the time, young and old alike.
The old peddler, Mr. Bramlett, who came over their way from across the mountain in Georgia and who made his usual rounds every few months with his wagon and team, had not showed up because of the bad weather as well. The folks who depended on him to deliver their short grocery list of coffee, salt and other such items that they couldn’t produce on their small mountain farm were pretty much in the same shape as Abraham and Mae.
Finally the weather began to break sharing a bit of sunshine from time to time to perhaps shorten the life of the thick covering of snow. As night time slowly began to settle upon the valley Mae called to her husband and with a tone of sadness and some measure of defeat in her voice she told him to come and sit down at the table for a meager bite. With her call she explained that this was the last bite of anything in the house for them to eat. There was nothing else left in the house that she could cobble together to be made into another meal.
As they sat down at the table and started to eat their supper they both began to hear faint sounds coming up the cove. Could it be the gentle sounds of trace chains and the crunch of snow falling under the feet of a struggling team? As the sounds came closer, sure enough that was what they both were hearing. It had to be the peddler, Mr. Bramlett! As the sounds came closer, and finally stopped in the yard Abraham stepped out the door to greet this night traveler. A better Christmas gift could not be found on the earth than just to know that sitting outside their door was a wagon that held provisions enough to get them through the darkest and leanest winter that Abraham and his young wife Mae would ever have to endure.
This is a true story often relayed to me by my father many, many times. Abraham was my father’s uncle. My grandfather was married in 1899 there in Shooting Creek and Abraham was next down from him in age, so his marriage to Aunt Mae was very near this time. Aunt Mae and Abraham later moved over to Union County GA where they raised a large family. Uncle Abraham lived until 1957-58 and was taken back to be buried in the Bethabera Church Cemetery. Aunt Mae died in the middle sixties and was buried beside her husband a stones throw from their cabin there in the valley of their birth. My great-grandfather was Col. Bramlett, so not knowing the real name of the peddler I have substituted the Bramlett name. Artistic license??? You understand. -David Anderson
I hope you enjoyed David's Christmas story as much as I did!
This year Sow True Seed graciously donated extra lettuce seed so that I could deputize @ Large Lettuce Reporters during the fall gardening period. There are 12 folks taking part in the lettuce reporting including me.
Here's a short update from myself and another reporter @ large.
As you can see from the photos above my lettuce from the reporting project is doing great! I also planted some Sow True Seed Kale and it's coming right along too.
My other report comes from Don Tomlinson:
If you've been reading the Blind Pig and The Acorn for a good while you already know I'm plumb foolish about snow. I just love it! I can only remember one or two Christmases that were actually white even though the holiday certainly brings to mind snowy drifts.
With the chance of the first snow of the year coming later this week (I'm keeping my fingers crossed!) I found myself thinking back to the Christmas of 2010. It was truly a magical White Christmas.
Keep reading to re-visit the post from the archives that I wrote about the snowy event.
After the lights went out on Christmas afternoon, the Three Indian Princesses went out to play in the snow, and I convinced The Deer Hunter to hike up the creek with me.
I've written about the old logging roads and trails that criss cross the acreage around my house before, if you missed it you can read about them by clicking on the following:
The scenery was breath taking. There were intricate arches to walk under all along the way. The sight made me wonder if an earthly being could create something as spectacular.
Squirrel nests stood out like dark balls against the snowy skies.
There were icicles galore-some over a foot long.
After we told them how much fun we had on the hike they both gave us this look. They wanted us to turn around and go back up the creek right then. We convinced them to wait till the next day. You can follow this link to tag along on our second hike and to see the mysterious tracks we found on the way.
p.s. The winner of the Christmas Barn book giveaway is...Francis P. Page who said: I was blessed to grow up in beautiful Andrews, NC. My family shares a deep love for our mountain heritage even though we are scattered over the world. I was a lonely only child who GOD has abundantly blessed with large family. 29 ( twenty-nine) GreatGrandchildren. 54 kin now..from our marriage of 70 years! We are Readers, big time, and would love this book about my Cherokee County. A cousin in Hayesville put us in touch with your wonderful site. Grateful! Delightful! Have a Merry Christmas.
Francis-email your mailing address to me at email@example.com and I'll send you the goodies!
Granny always made fruit salad for Christmas dinner. She calls it Heavenly Hash. As I got older I noticed other folks called their fruit salad Ambrosia.
According to John Parris true Ambrosia consists only of fresh coconut, oranges, coconut milk and sherry or rum (optional).
"Ambrosia at Christmas dinner is a long-time tradition with many mountain families. They consider the addition of bannans, pineapples, grapes, apples, and other fruits a heresy. They say such additionals make it a fruit salad."
Mountain Cooking by John Parris.
I'm sure Parris's statement was very true at the time he wrote the book, but over the years ambrosia has changed to include various other ingredients. Like many other common recipes, there are great variations in the ingredients folks use to make their own favorite bowl of ambrosia...or fruit salad.
My favorite recipe comes from Miss Cindy.
- 2 large cans of pineapple chunks
- 1 small can of Mandarin oranges
- 1 pint sour cream
- 1/4 of a large bag of shredded coconut
- 1/3 of a bag of mini marshmallows
- a handful of nuts-I like pecans the best
- optional-a few spoonfuls or small jar of maraschino cherries (I never add them)
Drain all the fruit then mix with the rest of the ingredients. It's better after sitting in the frig for a while, but I can never wait that long to try it.
If you have a favorite Christmas Ambrosia recipe I hope you'll share it with us.
Steve & Tipper Christmas 1971
Away In A Manger is the lullaby of Christmas songs. I've always thought the simple lines of the song make it sound like a folk song and the visuals of stars, hay, cattle, and meeting in heaven help reinforce the folk song feeling. The fact that no one knows who wrote the song also aligns it with other folk songs from the same era.
For many years Martin Luther, Protestant Reformer from Germany, was credited with writing the song. No one knows why, but in 1887 James R. Murray published the song in his book Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses listing Luther as the writer of the song. Murray was a hymn writer and worked for a publishing company, so it's probable that he truly thought Luther was the person who penned Away In A Manger. The version of the song published in Murray's book only had 2 verses. During the years after the publication, the song spread in popularity as did the notion that Luther wrote it.
Two years before Murray published the song, the Lutheran Church published Away In A Manger in a book titled Little Children's Book giving credit to no writer and showing a completely different tune than the one so many of us know and love.
Shortly after WWI a Boston publishing company published the song crediting Carl Mueller with composing the music for the song.
During both World Wars people in the US shied away from singing Away In A Manger because of it's supposed connection to Martin Luther and Germany. But the popularity of the song returned after each war ended.
In 1945 American writer Richard Hill decided to unravel the confusing past of the song. Hill discovered Luther was not the writer of the song. Away In A Manger was practically unknown in Germany until it was introduced to the country by Americans. Hill verified that Murray composed the tune we are familiar with today. But Hill's research could not find the original writer of the song. Research did show evidence that most likely an American during the mid 1800s wrote the song and then the song was passed down orally like so many of our other folk songs.
Watch the video below to check out Pap and Paul's version of the song.
Away in a Manger is one of the songs on Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas cds. There are 14 other Christmas songs on the cd as well.
You can go here Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas to purchase a cd of your own.
*Source: Collins, Ace. Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.
Sometimes we shorten words in Appalachia and sometimes we lengthen them. One way we make words longer is to add ed to them.
Ed is often added incorrectly to words to make the past tense and past participle of the words.
Here are a few examples:
- I swear you've growed a foot since the last time I saw you!
- The little rat has blowed on that whistle all day. I shoulda throwed it in the trash when he laid it down yesterday.
- I had just started into Walmart when it fell a flood and I got drownded.
Would I use the words in the sentences above? You better believe it!
If I were writing, I'd likely use the correct tense of the words, but if I'm talking I'm going to say the sentences above exactly as they are written.
In Appalachia grandmothers love their grandbabies beyond reason...which is a good thing if you ask me.
p.s. The winner of the Jan Karon book and Granny's goodies is...Cheryl who said: The book looks wonderful, and Granny's crocheted goodies sound even better! Thanks for the opportunity to win! I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and may God bless you all with a blessed and healthy Christmas season!
A few days ago I told you about the discarded library books at the college where I work. Today I'm giving away another one of those books - The Christmas Barn written by C.L.Davis. The book is set in the 1930s.
In the first few pages you discover one of the characters is named Frank Dockery. As I was reading the passage where his name appears I thought "Hmph I've heard that name before right here." A few paragraphs later I discovered the family goes into Murphy to purchase supplies they can't produce on their farm. I couldn't believe it! The book was about my very own county.
Turns out C.L. Davis wrote the book about his mother's memories of a childhood Christmas.
The story is perfect for Christmas and the characters are so real I felt like I knew them, especially the two youngest sisters. I loved the book so much I wanted to share the story with you, but I also wanted to keep it for myself. So I bought another one so I can do both!
The giveaway book doesn't have a dust jacket but it will come with one of Granny's crocheted toboggan ornaments and a canvas stocking. Leave a comment on this post to be entered in the drawing. Giveaway ends *Friday December 1.
I love to make Christmas decorations. I'm sure it's because Granny made Christmas decorations every holiday season. Actually she still does, although these days her creations are limited to the crochet variety.
I found this simple tutorial on how to make Christmas trees and decided to give it a try.
With The Deer Hunter's help the project was done in no time.
We headed out into the woods beyond the chicken coop with his trusty folding saw. We cut down a small tree and went to his workshop in the basement.
Click on the video to watch - Click on the video to stop it
The tree was about two inches in diameter. The Deer Hunter sawed the tree into small 1/2 inch lengths. After the rounds were cut he used his drill press to drill a small hole in the center of each. I'm sure a hand held electric drill or even a hand powered drill or screw-driver would work to make the holes too because they don't have to be very large or deep.
I went out to the back yard and cut off small pine branches to stick in the drilled holes.
I think they turned out just dandy! The day I made them I baked a Black Walnut Pound Cake. Late that evening I took Granny some of my cake and I took along one of the little trees we made. She thought it was the cutest thing! She said "Do you think it'll make it till Christmas?" I said "Well if it don't just go get you another piece of pine to stick in the hole."
I love to use fresh greenery during Christmas and I know I'll use the small rounds for years to come.
There are a lot of good things about working at a college. I love my co-workers and I love love watching and hopefully helping the students achieve their educational goals.
I have a great office it even has a window. Not that I ever look out the window because it's directly behind me! Anyway the best part of my office is that it's in the building that holds the library. I like knowing all those books are just down the hallway from me. The library ladies are wonderful and are always helpful and encouraging to every person who visits.
As with most libraries every once in a while the books have to be cleaned out to make room for more. As an avid book reader I keep an eye out for books that are being sold as discards and sometimes they even have books for free!!
Way back in the summer with the hot sun beating down I found several Christmas books among the college library's discards. I grabbed them up thinking I would read them later in the year as my favorite holiday approached. The book in the photo, Esther's Gift, was one of the discards.
The short book tells a sweet Christmas story. Since it has a phrase I've shared on the blog: "Before you could say Jack Robinson" I decided to give it away as part of my Thankful November. If you missed the post about the phrase go here.
Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win the book along with a crocheted Christmas stocking and star ornament made by Granny. Giveaway ends on *Thursday November 30.
Winners from the last two giveaways:
More Than Moonshine - Appalachian Recipes and Recollections by Sidney Saylor Farr - the winner is...Jim Keller who said: Tipper, Farr's statement about it being a social occasion, was most definitely true here in East TN. I remember the anticipation the day before everyone trying to have everything prepared for hog killing day. There was one group of men that helped every year from a local community named "Bear town " that were very skilled helping in hog processing that you only saw for that event. I think it did bring the family and community closer together.
Allison Britt's beautiful Christmas cards: - the winner is...Sue Crane who said: Such a talent. Beautiful cards. Where did November go????
Sue and Jim if you'll email me your mailing address at firstname.lastname@example.org I'll get the goodies sent right too you!