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Alyce Faye Bragg: New school year brings a mix of sadness and relief

The month of August slips away and fall has laid a cooling hand upon summer’s fevered brow, bringing lovely days and cooler nights. Blending in with the yellow of the goldenrod, the blue of the gentian, and the purple of the ironweed is the bright yellow of our county school buses.

It seems only a breath ago that the same school buses picked up the children in the morning as spring classes began. Time has moved so swiftly along that it is hard to grasp.

It is with a mixture of sadness and relief that mothers see their children off to school for another year. Sadness, because they see their children growing up and preparing for their own lives (but wouldn’t the nest be crowded if they never left home?). Relief, because they can finally get back on a schedule of sorts.

For myself, I would love to have a “normal” day — a “normal” day would be “abnormal” around here! My neighbor asked me the other day if it was wrong to be glad that your children are back in school. If that is so, then there is a lot of “wrong” people around.

This has always been my favorite time of the year. I love stripping the garden of the last of its produce and knowing that you haven’t let anything go to waste. We canned the last of our Blue Lakes green beans today. I love that secure feeling you get when you walk in the cellar and see the rows of canned goods on the shelves, and knowing that your summer’s work has been canned and preserved, pickled and frozen.

It’s the same feeling you have when you look at the pile of neatly stacked firewood and can say, “Howl and blow, ye winter wind, we are ready for you!” Although we don’t burn wood for winter heat now, I remember the glowing fireplace and the wood stove that put out such warmth. We could do it again if we had to go back to that.

The gardens are tapering off now, and the hectic pace of canning and preserving has slowed down. I love to see the first new shoots of the vegetables as they come up in the spring, and I also love to see the corn patch mowed off after the last nubbin has been pulled.

Instead of 25 drinking glasses draped all over and around the sink (I do have great-grandchildren!), the dishes stay neatly stacked on the cabinet shelves. After canning season is over, the house always needs a good “going over,” as everything seems to be moldy, musty and cobwebby.

As the weather becomes cooler, and a little fire in the mornings feels cozy, there will be time to sew and read, or just sit and enjoy the beauty of autumn.

•••

I am looking forward to our annual Hagar Grade School Reunion, which is to be held today at Bethel Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. It has been many years since I attended the two-room grade school, but the memories are still precious of that time. I went to school at Davis Creek my second year of school, but was promoted to the fourth grade.

When we moved back to Clay County the following year, I discovered that the rest of the first grade students at Hagar were also promoted to the fourth grade. There were several of us who graduated from high school at 16 years of age.

The two-room schoolhouses are a relic of the past, and perhaps they have outlived their usefulness. But I am thankful for the memories I have of my first years of schooling, and wouldn’t trade them for the most modern means of education devised. Hagar School is gone now, and the big beech trees that supplied us with the largest and tastiest beechnuts that I have ever seen were cut down years ago.

Most of the teachers (perhaps all) are gone, and many of the students — but the memories linger on.

In my mind, I am a little girl again with pigtails and butterflies of excitement fluttering in my stomach, walking up to the white schoolhouse on the hill. I pass the trash barrel burning, that unique and not unpleasant odor of pencil stubs, bits of crayon and discarded paper. I go past the well house to stand at the foot of the steps, and salute Old Glory as she waves proudly from her high flagpole. The “Pledge of Allegiance” is chanted by all the students, and I walk into the “little” room to greet Miss Carper.

Oh, those were good days! How thankful I am to have experienced them! God has truly been good to me.

•••

I am back in the present now, and I want to share a recipe that I have used many times. If you have tomatoes still to be canned, you may want to try this canned tomato soup. It is delicious for a winter meal, especially when teamed up with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Canned Tomato Soup

Take two gallons of tomatoes, cut into pieces, one cup of diced celery (I use more) and four large onions, chopped. Partially cook onions and celery before adding the tomatoes, and then cook all together until celery is tender. Put through colander (I use Foley’s food mill) and add one tablespoon of celery seed, one half teaspoon pepper, ¼ cup salt, and two cups of sugar. Mix together one cup of butter and one cup plain flour with enough of the of the tomato mixture to make a smooth paste. Add to the boiling soup and stir to prevent scorching. Fill clean jars to within one-half inch of top; adjust lids. Process for 15 minutes in hot water bath. I double the recipe and it makes 14 quarts of delicious, economical soup.

•••

Labor Day, and the last official holiday of the summer, is right upon us. It is time for that last picnic or get-together before cool weather. The good times we have with our families make memories that stay with us for a lifetime, especially for our children.

The accusing cry of the katydids grow louder each night, as they call “Katy-did-Katy-did!” It won’t be too long until we will wake up to frosty mornings. The lines of an old church song goes like this, “Soon the summer will be ended, and the harvest will be o’er, soon the day of offered mercy will be past forevermore.”

Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at

alycefaye@citlink.net or write to 2556 Ovapa Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.

Funerals for Friday, September 20, 2019

Barton, Richard - 3 p.m., Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery, Dunbar.

Birthisel, Avis - 11 a.m., Casdorph & Curry Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Call, Denver - Noon, Allen Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Dearien, Tommie - Noon, Stevens & Grass Funeral Home, Malden.

Fletcher, Joanna - 1 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Keeney, Steven - 2 p.m., Keith Full Gospel Church, Keith.

May, Rosa - 2 p.m., Bartlett - Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Morris, Linda - 1 p.m., Deal Funeral Home, Point Pleasant.

Parsons, Harry - 11 a.m., Ellyson Mortuary Inc., Glenville.

Pauley, Clarence - 10 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Pino, Patricia - 11 a.m., Bradley FreeWill Baptist Church.

Rogers, Marilyn - 11 a.m., Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, South Charleston.

Satterfield, Kenneth - 5 p.m., Satterfield residence, 1161 Daniels Run Road, Millstone.