The sun was shining brightly out of a brilliant blue sky this morning, while a few premature dry leaves fell on ground that is still covered in green grass. The trees are still mostly green, with just a faintly yellow one showing here and there. Frost and freeze are still lagging behind, but they will enter the hills soon. The days are still hot and humid, and nighttime temperatures have been fairly warm.

When snow and ice covers our hills and we shiver in the frigid winter breezes, we will wish for the warm autumn weather that we left behind. It is time now to gather the black walnuts and hickory nuts which nature has to offer, and hazelnuts if chipmunks have left any behind. Son Andy brought me a bucket of chestnuts, brown and shiny, and just waiting to be hulled. These are so good baked or roasted, and make delicious turkey dressing.

I always loved to find the shellbark hickory nuts with the thin hulls, almost like pecans. These are so good in homemade fudge, and make tasty cookies. My late Aunt Ruby used to make a molasses cake with black walnuts that couldn’t be beat. I miss the old time cooking that my mother’s sisters used to make for us, and I also miss my mother’s cooking.

We ate a lot of brown beans and potatoes, as most country folk did, but on holidays, she would put the big pot in the little one, as we used to say. I have never been able to duplicate her chicken dressing, which was moist and succulent. She canned a lot of pork, spare ribs and backbones, which was so delicious on a cold winter day when teamed up with hot corn bread. We grew horseradish, which we ground up in an old hand grinder (oh, my eyes!) and she would mix it with vinegar. She would also make us eat a lot of cooked apples, which she felt would counteract the pork. It makes me hungry just to think about it!

One family reunion day years ago, I was first introduced to a cake recipe which we all enjoyed. It was made by Nancy Samples, and she said it came from Karen Dawson. I have since seen it printed and have made it myself many times. Since nuts are plentiful at this time, it would be good to share.

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Veteran’s Day approaches, and it is time to honor our living veterans who have served our country in providing the liberty and peace, which we now enjoy. Veteran’s Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, as the first anniversary of the ending of World War I. Unlike Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day pays tribute to all American veterans — living or dead — but especially giving thanks to the living veterans who served our country honorably during war or peacetime.Each war has brought many veterans who are honored or mourned by families. The first family veteran that I know of was Mom’s brother, Enos Samples, who served in World War I. Her family prayed and worried about him until he was safely home again. His picture hung on the wall, and one day it fell. Such a cry went up, as they considered this a token of his death. (It wasn’t.) I remember her telling of an instance that happened while they were upstairs, all the children in bed. The window was open, and the family cat suddenly jumped through and landed on one of the beds. “Oh, it’s Enos’ token!” one of them cried. I’m afraid the family was rather superstitious, and anything out of the ordinary was considered a token. (A token is an Appalachian sign of an impending death.) It wasn’t Enos’ token, however, as he lived to be discharged, came home and married, and fathered 13 children.

Our family veteran in WWII was my cousin Leo. I vaguely remember the attack on Pearl Harbor, but I do remember the lean war years when everything was rationed. It seemed we had to have ration stamps for most everything we purchased. I can still taste the cooked apples that Mom sweetened with saccharine and it left a bitter taste.

Cousin Leo enlisted in the Marine Corps, and we were so proud of him. He came home with battle scars and a purple heart, but he never talked much about the actual warfare. I think he was one of the war’s causalities, however, as he went downhill and died a sad death.

The veteran that is nearest my heart was a victim of the Korean conflict. He was just past 18 years of age, and was scheduled to come home in a matter of days. Myles Leon Mullins was killed in conflict on May 30, 1953. This still tugs at my heartstrings, and brings tears to my eyes as I think of the boy that I loved. War brings heartache to parents, sweethearts and friends.

To all American veterans everywhere, we owe you a debt that we cannot pay. We send our heartfelt thanks to you, and pray that God will bless and keep you. It is not merely on this day alone, but every day we are thankful for those serving in war-torn countries far from home. We pray for God’s protection upon you, and for His love to surround you. May God abundantly bless you.

Here is a poem that describes our thanks:

Thank You

Our thanks to you for all you do

Defending our flag the red, white and blue.

As Americans, we know what freedom means

The joy, the peace and the right to dream.

Freedom we love, but it is not free

The sacrifice is great, and you gave willingly

Our thoughts and prayers are with you today

As you fight for freedom so far away.

May God keep you safe in all that you do

And bring you back home to those who love you.

Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at alycefaye@citlink.net or write to 2556 Ovapa Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.