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by Frank Shortt
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Never a Sunday went by in the mountains that did not witness the coming of one relative
or another. Sometimes we went to visit other relatives or church friends, but more often or not we ended up going to our house. It
seemed that mom was the best cook around for miles, and restaurants were out of the question.
The men who came more often were uncles of mine, towing all their children along and sometimes a few of their inlaws. I sometimes
felt that these people waited all week to eat so they could come to our house and partake of what we had. We weren't exactly rich,
but mom could make do with pretty scant fare. She'd always come up with chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, etc. These
were brought up from the basement where we had spent the hot summer days over a boiling tub canning everything that dad brought in
from the garden. The potatoes were gotten from a large hole in back of the basement, always covered with boards and dirt over the
boards. This was to keep them from spoiling until next potato season. It always seemed to work.
All the kids were sent outside to play until the grownups ate unless we had let some chore go until the last minute, such as bringing
in some wood to fill the wood-box. If there were no chores to do we'd go up to the woods and either play cowboys and Indians or swing
on grapevine swings. Our guns were cut out pieces of wood made to resemble the six-shooters carried by our favorite characters we
had seen at the Richlands or Raven shows. If we didn't have time to make a six-shooter we'd just point our fingers and say, “bang”.
The girls would make playhouses by arranging rocks to outline the rooms and use dads old
discarded powder boxes and kegs for furniture. The boys were always getting into trouble by tearing these playhouses down, either
by stumbling into them while falling from being shot, or just because we wanted to stir the girls up a bit. Sometimes the cousins
were a bit too energetic and we'd have to cool their heels a little. I have fought many a boy cousin just to see who could outdo the
After the grownups ate, it wasn't uncommon for one of the men to come out to where
we were playing and say,
“Boy I'd sure like a fresh drink of spring water”.
This usually stopped our playing and somehow I was always elected to go to the spring which was about a half a mile away through a
snake infested field. I dreaded this more than the inevitable beating that would follow in case I refused to stop playing and go right
away. My fear of these uncles was uncanny. They'd use any amout of coercion to get us to do what they bade us do. A mountain child
did not talk back to a grownup as this was an unwritten law. This also delayed my eating and I was already having hunger pangs. That
old half a bushel tub I used for carrying water was much to heavy for one so frail as I, but I carried it anyhow. I have attributed
the later back surgery to having to lug that heavy thing up that hill.
Finally, I would
get to go to the kitchen/dining room to try and fill my belly. There would be the empty plates stacked up on the sideboard left by
the grownups. The chicken bones gave a ghastly appearance all crisscrossed on top of each other. Our wide eyed expectancy would be
that there would be enough food left for all the hungry children. This is where we learned to eat necks, backs and wings.
After all the trouble of killing the chicken, scalding off the feathers, picking it, singeing it, parboiling it and frying it, there
before our eyes lay everything that the grownups didn't care to eat. It is no wonder that we today feed the children first or allow
them to eat with us. The code of the mountains has finally been broken.