A lovely December day opens up before us, with blue skies and sunshine blessing our hills. It is such a privilege to live where the seasons do change, with each one with its special beauty and benefits. Some folks are hoping for a blanket of snow to cover our brown landscape, while others look in vain for Indian summer. I am just thankful for another day that the good Lord gives us and for the ability to enjoy it.
When the very first day of December rolls around on the calendar, I am always reminded of my Grandpa Hooge, my maternal grandfather. When we lived down on Davis Creek, which was a good distance from him, he wrote to my mother. His very first sentence was, “This is Christmas month!” He loved Christmas, and we loved him. I have a vivid memory of his fluffy, white beard and kind eyes that twinkled.
I remember the little one-room log cabin where he spent his last years alone, after living on Big Laurel Creek all his life. He had a fascinating clock on a shelf against the wall that tick-tocked away the hours. It was warm and cozy there, and I loved visiting. As we were leaving one day after a visit, he handed me a large hunk of warm bread that he just taken out of his wood cook-stove. He had spread it liberally with white cow butter that he had churned himself. As we climbed the hill back to the car, the melted butter ran down my elbows and off my chin, and I thought it was the most delicious food I had ever eaten.
He passed away when I was around 12 years old, and I can remember how we grandchildren (and there were many of us) mourned and cried. He was a godly man, and lived such a spiritual life that he left a lifetime legacy for all of us.
When he wore out a Bible, and in his lifetime he did, he thought it was a sin to destroy it by burning. He would reverently bury it. He and Grandma Alice raised 11 children down on the banks of Big Laurel Creek.
After Grandma passed away at the relatively young age of 52, he mourned her so much that he slept with a bundle of her clothes at night for months. I was thinking about her this week as my mother was born on the 22nd of this month. As Mom told about it, she recalled, “I was born on the longest night of the year, and for my mother it surely was. It was a breech birth, and Mommy had a midwife to deliver the baby. Helen Keller said later that it was a miracle that the baby lived.”
Grandma Alice had one more baby after that, a little boy who was my Uncle Gene. Mom was 11, and Uncle Gene must have been about 9 when Grandma Alice passed away from what was called “consumption” at that time. Mom said later that it was probably cancer, as she was kicked in the chest at one time by an unruly cow. If it had been tuberculosis, it surely would have been passed on to some of her offspring.
Old-time women, such as my grandmother, lived strenuous lives and knew nothing except hard work. We owe them much honor and praise for having passed on their dedication and lifestyle to us. The Samples women were strong women with plenty of grit, and I am thankful for their passing their example on to us. They are all gone now, with my mother being the last one to leave us. Now we are the next generation, and our time is soon coming. I’ll see Mom again, and what a reunion that will be!
I found a poem written by my late Aunt Eva Samples King that I would like to share. My aunts were not only strong women, but they had sharp minds and literary talent.
Rain on the roof, snow on the pines,
Smoke from the chimney, these were the signs,
Inside there’s happiness; peace reigns inside,
Somebody’s happy home; somebody’s pride.
Laughter of children, great was their joy,
Parents were thankful, for each girl and boy.
City-raised children, my, what they miss!
Small country cottage, much happiness.
Rain on the roof, snow on the pine,
Oh, I remember that home once was mine.
Memories still linger, we’ll never forget
Mommy and Dad, we think of you yet.
Thanks at the table, prayers at night
Made us all thankful things were all right.
I am so grateful, deep in my heart,
We had each other, e’er we had to part.
While we are reminiscing about Mom’s family on Big Laurel Creek, I’d like to share another poem by my Aunt Eva.
I would like to
I would like to hear the babble of Big Laurel ‘neath the ice,
I would like to see Ma making apple pie so rich with spice.
I would like to hear the axe ring, as Pa chopped wood for fire.
I would like to lick the skimmins that was made by Uncle Squire.
I would like to hold the rabbits while Dick peeled away the hide,
Ma cooked them very tender, then in gravy they were fried.
I would like to hear the munchin’ of the cows a’munchin’ corn.
I would like to feel the warm fire after bein’ in the barn.
I would like to eat Ma’s cookin’ apples, dried, and fodder beans.
Taters in the iron pot cookin’, and a skillet full of greens.
I would like to crumble corn pone in some buttermilk, fresh churned,
I’d like to go back home again, but time can’t be returned.
I would like to gather chestnuts, and the blue grapes hanging high.
I would like to catch the snowflakes softly falling from the sky.
I would like to go a’huntin’ with Old Karo and Old Zip,
Many times I followed Grover with his rifle on his hip.
I would like to visit home folk, it can never be the same,
For the old house is so empty, and there’d weeds along the lane.
Let Big Laurel babble softly, no one’s there to hear the sound,
For the ones we loved so dearly, some are sleeping in the ground.
Let us remember that “time can’t be returned” so we must make the most of every day that we have left.