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Alyce Faye Bragg: Start of new school year rekindles memories

Sweet August, that pause between summer and fall, moves swiftly along with Joe-Pye weed and goldenrod blooming already. The fall term of school will begin soon, and it seems such a short time when summer

vacation began.

Although it has been many years since we had youngsters to prepare for school, I still have dreams about it. In my dreams, I am usually trying to get the kids out the door before the school bus pulls out, and it is a real struggle.

After all, we did have six children in school at one time, and a gang of others who sheltered in our home between the charter vehicle run and the regular school bus — about half an hour. Thus, we had 17 students who had to catch the bus from our house. I was always afraid that someone would be left behind, and one morning, after the bus had left, a young girl crawled out of the culvert beside the yard. She just didn’t want to go to school. Her disgusted mother came and took her to school.

I did enjoy shopping for school supplies though. We didn’t have to buy much then, just basic things as crayons, scissors, paste and lined paper. The school paste smelled like sassafras, as well as I can remember, and Kevin ate his jar promptly. It must have stimulated his growth however, as he topped out at 6 feet, 4 1/2 inches tall. I remember those long ago days with a pang of the heart.

August is bringing the gardening season to a peak, with crops of vegetables ready for the harvesting. This has not been a good gardening year, with so much rain earlier in the season.

Like a lot of folks, we “make do” with what we have. I can’t imagine living without a garden in spite of all the hard work, and the rush of harvesting and processing the vegetables for winter’s use. When we sit down to tender yellow squash steamed with a pat of butter, sweet ears of corn on the cob and half-runner beans fresh from the patch, then we know that it has been worth it. I didn’t mention the juicy red tomatoes that have ripened on the vine — so good!

It seems the garden pests are not as bad this year. Usually by this time, we are fighting the Japanese beetles with a vengeance. I remember my late friend, Freda, recalling a visit with her doctor about the beetles. He told her, “The Japanese beetles have almost eaten my garden.” She advised him to get some guineas. “They won’t hurt your garden, and they really take care of the bugs,” she told him. “I don’t know,” he replied doubtfully. “I have always said that I didn’t want to fool with animals. Do you have to tie them up?”

That reminds me of Luke when he was just a little boy, and his mother Patty caught a bright green June bug and tied a piece of twine to one of its legs. He was enchanted with it, and played with the buzzing insect for hours before he turned it loose.

A couple of days later, he came in all excited with something in his hand. “Mommy, you ‘member that bug we played with the other day?” he asked. She replied, “Oh, that June bug?” “Yeah,” he said softly. “I just found a tiny, new-borned one!” Tenderly cupped in his grubby, little hand was a Japanese beetle!

Speaking of guineas, that is one fowl that we have never had. My friends tell me that they are odd little creatures, quite shy and evasive. I can’t imagine a farm animal that can’t be petted — even our laying hens follow Criss around, wanting to be picked up and petted. Guineas shun a chicken house, and prefer nesting in trees. If you remove an egg from its nest, it has to be done with a long-handled spoon — so I am told.

They will abandon a nest that has been touched by human hands. Sometimes they will steal their nests out and appear later with a whole flock of little ones, when you had no idea they were even nesting. People tell me they make excellent watchdogs; raising a raucous alarm with their “pot-rack, pot-rack” when a stranger ventures on their territory. The only experience I’ve had was when someone (was it Mark?) had some in the field next to us.

One of the hen guineas made a nest and hatched out a brood of babies. I gathered up the little ones in my arms and that was when I was attacked by a mad mother. She sure wasn’t shy or evasive then.

I have always liked chickens, and baby “doodies” which we used to hatch. I remember one time when Larry and I were pretty young that Daddy took us up a tributary on Williams River. We startled a mother turkey and her little ones. Larry and I caught one each, and the mother followed us for miles on up the stream. Daddy finally made us turn them loose, and the mother quickly reunited her family.

Sometimes an animal mother is more attached to her young than a human mother is. It is unbelievable that babies and young children are exposed to so much cruelty and even death sometimes in this age in which we live.

The Bible predicts this however. In Timothy 3-1:4 it says, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall become lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”

“Without natural affection” covers the mothers who seem to give their babies away without a backward glance, and those who treat their children shamefully. I am so thankful for the loving women, such as my granddaughter Abigail, who open their hearts and their homes to take in these little ones. May God bless them and the babies whom they adopt.

Since the garden is producing now, Betty Pickens of Dunbar sent a recipe for canned Ragu sauce. If you have extra tomatoes, you may want to try this.

Ragu Sauce

10 quarts tomato juice

4 cups chopped onions

4 green peppers, chopped

2 cups oil

1 ½ cups sugar

1/3 cup salt

2 tablespoons oregano

2 tablespoons basil

4 small cans tomato paste

Combine all of the above and simmer one hour. Fill pint canning jars and seal. Put in boiling water bath for about 15 minutes.

May your summertime be happy!

Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at or write to 2556 Ovapa Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.

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