The old year, with all its happenings, has limped out. It seems that our minds go back to all the things that we encountered, good or bad, over the past 12 months. We need to be thankful that God has brought us through, and is still with us as we enter into another year.
We don’t know what the new year will bring — and it is a good thing that we don’t — but we do have a promise. In the words of this song, “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand, but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.”
Criss and I just passed our 65th wedding anniversary on Christmas Eve, and I’ve been thinking about all the moves that we have made. Criss had gone to work in Warren, Ohio, and the day following our marriage, we traveled there on Christmas Day to a little apartment he had rented.
I reckon it is true what Mom used to say about living in West Virginia, that if you drink out of one of the springs in our state, you will always come back. I don’t know if it was the water that called to us, but by May the next year, we were so homesick that we came back to the hills of Clay County.
There was a little house right on the bank of Summer’s Fork Creek, where Mom and Dad lived when I was just a little young’un. It was just a modest little shack, with red and pink rambler roses climbing up the bank behind it.
I can barely remember an attached cellar, where Mom kept her canned goods and winter vegetables. The only reason I can remember it is that one Easter, Daddy hid Easter eggs in the mud between the logs. The memories I have of that little house are sweet, growing up with Larry, Mary Ellen and Mark. Later we moved to Davis Creek, in Kanawha County, and memories grow more vivid.
It was wartime then, and rationing books were issued to families. We lived in an old farmhouse that had been empty for years. When Daddy was working on the house prior to our moving, a blacksnake fell from the rafters and looped around his neck.
We must not have had electricity, as I remember the oil lamps we used at nighttime. We lived close to the Nazarene Church there, where we met many kind and friendly people. Of course, that was years before I grew up and married. That must have been my first move, and we later moved back to Summer’s Fork after the war was over.
We were happy there in that little house, when Criss went to work at Ravenswood at the aluminum plant. Daddy bought a 310-acre farm at Sandyville, in Jackson County, and we moved there to the old two-story farmhouse with Mike and Patty.
We loved it there, but Criss was laid off from the aluminum plant not long after we moved. He was able to draw $11 a week in unemployment, and there was a mild recession at that time. We had laying hens and purchased a milk cow, so we managed to survive.
The farm was an ideal place to live and raise a family, and I was soon expecting Kevin. I was terrified that I would get snake bitten and it would kill the baby, or I would have been perfectly content.
We had a wood-burning kitchen range and a dug well on the kitchen porch, which gave us good, cold water. Of course, we had “the little shack out back” and a wood stove for heat. The worst drawback was no employment for Criss, except a day or two of farm work for neighbors. We stayed there until he got work at Carbide, and we moved back into the little house again on Summer’s Fork.
Kevin was born in Dr. Archibald Smith’s clinic at Clay, and cost us $45. (He’s been worth it!) That winter was as mild as the one we are having right now. I remember sitting out in the yard on Christmas Day, joined by our neighbors Bud and Liddie Coon. We moved to Spring Hill the following day in a snowstorm, and it seemed to snow almost all that spring.
We moved to Nitro for a short time, and Criss was laid off from Carbide. We moved to Wallback when Andy was three weeks old, and Criss tore down an old company house at Swandale and built the house beside Summer’s Fork Creek where we raised our six children.
We adopted the sixth one, Crystal, when she was 11 months old and she has been one of our greatest blessings. Our youngest son, Matthew, is now our loving pastor.
In 1990, Criss built the house here — still on Summer’s Fork — where we now live. I told him that I was not going to move any more, and I meant it. I have lived here in almost the same spot for 83 years (I was a year old when my parents moved me here). Now it is my desire to be buried here in the O’Dell cemetery at the Church of God when the Lord calls me home.
We have left a heritage here. We raised six children and have 22 grandchildren, 40 great-grandchildren (this includes step-great-grandchildren, and they are just as loved), and three great-great-grandchildren. There are more to come, as several of the grandchildren haven’t married yet! This is proof that a pair of teenagers can marry and populate the hills with their offspring, and enjoy life while doing it.
I have rambled around through the years until I am sort of disoriented. I need to come back to the present and wish all my friends a very happy New Year, with each day, each week and each month a special blessing.
Softly now the light of day
Fades upon my sight away;
Free from care, from labor free,
Lord, I would commune with Thee.
Thou, whose all-pervading eye
Naught escapes, without, within!
Pardon each infirmity,
Open fault, and secret sin.
Soon for me the light of day
Shall forever pass away;
Then, from sin and sorrow free,
Take me, Lord, to dwell with Thee.
Thou who, sinless, yet hast known
All of man’s infirmity!
Then, from Thine eternal throne,
Jesus, look with pitying eye.