Thursday, May 3, 2018

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Thursday's Story: Ree and Christmas

Thursday's Story
I was in the stores today. They were pulling out Christmas "stuff" - Santa-shaped platters and sparkly baubles... potholders that light up and play Rudolf.... So much will end up - if not in the landfill - in the thrift shop come January.
It made me think about 'Ree - Marie Whitmire - the little wiry, sweet, tough and funny red-haired mountain lady that took care of me and my sisters and brother when we were growing up.
She never looked a day older that 14. There was always a look of joy on her face - in seeing the sun shine, the chickens set, the beds made - babies well fed.
After I went to college I'd come home to the mountains for Christmas and first thing, I'd go see 'Ree. When I asked her what she wanted me to get her for Christmas, likely as not she would say, "Your moma is getting me a chicken so I can make a pot of chicken and dumplings. I don't need a thing!"
I finally learned to stop asking. I'd bring her Arnold Coconut Macaroons and a scarf I'd knitted or a quilted vest - something warm. She lived in a cabin on the top of "Blue Ridge" - one of the world's beautiful spots - and the wind always blows there. And she loved coconut.
I can smell the wood smoke and flannel now. She cooked on a wood cook stove.... She'd give me a bowl of pintos and corn bread and hand me a big spoon - I think the size of the spoon was a point of pride.
After supper we'd listen to Country and Western records with her son Charles. Between Loretta Lynn and Conway and Bill Monroe her husband Stein would be telling stories. He knew everything and everybody.
And 'Ree was always piecing a quilt - pulling small colorful scraps of fabric from a black Hefty bag taller than her, stitching by hand. Me and my sisters all sewed back then. There was an never ending supply of scraps... 'Ree sewed them into quilts one stitch after another.
Now as I spread a quilt on the bed I recognize a skirt I made, a niece's jumper, my sister's Easter dress... tiny stitches... I have two quilts from 'Ree and two from Aunt Myrtle - they are my prized possessions.
Today. As I looked at the Christmas Kleenex and Christmas Oreos and Christmas bell-shaped-Jello molds... I knew I didn't need any of that to have a happy Christmas.
I'd love a bowl of pintos. A big spoon to eat them with. The smell of woodsmoke, flannel and hot cornbread. Chet Atkins on the stereo. Stein telling stories. Ree piecing a quilt... .
I hope your Christmas is everything you want it to be. With coconut macaroons.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Thursday Story Planting Corn

Thursday Story: Planting Corn
by Cynthia Raxter 

My dad grew up along the French Broad River in Brevard NC, on a dairy farm. He was the oldest son of 14 children - born 1921. They farmed in the spring and summer and logged in the winter.

He said down by the river the corn field was so long, he'd plow down and back, and he'd have to have a biscuit. Twice again and it'd be time for lunch.  After lunch six more rows, and it was time to do the milking and get the chickens in.

When the days were long in the summer - like now - he'd get another row or two in before dark.

He wasn't plowing with a tractor - they worked mules. There was one Ford pickup on the farm to haul milk to town. (Daddy said he never had to mow ditch banks - his sisters - my aunts kept them cleaned out learning to drive.) All work was done by hand and with draft animals.

With mules you don't say, "Stop!" "Go!" "Turn right!" or "Turn left" - you say "whoa and giddyup" (which we all hopefully know from watching Bonanza!). To turn right you say "gee." To turn left, "haw."

"Gee and haw" was significant again just a few years ago:

I was home in the mountains, washing dishes with my mom. My dad was in the den. And my Jack Russel, Rascal, sneaked in despite the "no dogs in the house" rule.

Daddy wanted to read the newspaper. She wanted attention. She kept trying to jump in his lap and he kept fussing, "Rascal get off of me!" "RASCAL you're messing up my newspaper!" "Stop it RASCAL!!!"

After about five minutes, I looked at my mom and rolled my eyes and wiped the soapy water off my hands. Jack Russels - the more excited you get the more excited they get! And my father was past red-faced mad.

"Daddy Daddy Daddy! You have to say 'Rascal down!'" Rascal immediately stopped spring-jumping off the ottoman, and plopped her little bottom on the rug, and looked at me! "Okay Mom! WHAT WE DOING NEXT?"

This just made my father madder. "What's wrong with saying 'Get off of me!!!!'???"

How could I explain this? "Daddy, Rascal doesn't speak English. It's like... like... the mules on the farm... to go right or left..."

He finished my sentence, " say gee or haw!" He laughed. "You've taught her some English words! She's does what you say... Well! Most of the time!"

I laughed too. And realized for the first time in a long time, me and my father were talking - not just butting heads.

From then on when I was up home, I was showing Dad Rascal's new tricks. Then he'd take her to the feed store or the post office and show the fellers. Those years - me, him, Rascal - before Parkinson's took over... well... that time was golden.

Later, I started telling stories to children. The "gee and haw" stories and one more always seemed to be told together. Finally I realized, this last story was when my dad and his father learn to talk to each other - not just butt heads:

My father was planting corn in that long cornfield. Two kernels in a hole - a hand-width apart. Two kernels in a hole - a hand-width apart. Two kernels in a hole.... Can you imagine how long it would take a 10 year old boy to plant that field of corn? He got about halfway across and he dropped the bag of seed.

It was 1931 - the Depression - and they still had to spend money to buy seed corn.

Corn doesn't breed true. Field corn will cross with sweet corn. When it does, your field corn will rot in the silo, and your Silver Queen will be too tough to knaw.

Give my dad credit - he was only 10! "I picked it up... well, most of it." And what kernels were left he covered over and ruffled up the dirt so none would be wiser.

But we all know what happened. Spring! "And the sun comes out and dries up all the rain...."

When Papa walked in the barn my dad said he knew he was in trouble before Papa even spoke.

"Come with me, Calvin."

Across the farmyard and the old farm road and over the fence into that big old cornfield. And, there. In the middle. A hundred corn plants were growing up in a wad.

Daddy said Papa didn't whoop him, he didn't chastise him - he just looked at him and said real quiet, "Calvin, learn yourself good: no matter where you go and what you do, your sins shall find you out."

c. 2012 cynthia kay raxter

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bynum Front Porch Friday Night Music

While I'm on vacation check out the Bynum Front Porch Friday Night Music Series! Storytelling begins September 9 in Bynum! September 21 at the Pittsboro Roadhouse!

Bynum Front Porch Friday Night Music - 11th Season! 

Every Friday night from May to August, people come to the former cotton mill town in Chatham County, NC. Folks visit and talk as the crowd gathers. Food trucks are there - Barney’s Hot Dogs and Little Dipper's Italian Ice… Allen and Son’s BBQ is just up the road. Sometimes goodies from a non-profit bake sale.

At 7pm the music starts. There is an outdoor stage (and an indoor stage in the store if it rains!). A different band each week: Tonk, the Bluegrass Experience, Lizzy Ross, the Gospel Jubilators, The Durham Ukulele Orchestra… A pith helmet is passed to pay the band. ($10 suggested.) Young and old dance.

There are toys and books... and screen doors for kids to learn to bang. No pets or alcohol. Fireflies. Sometimes thunder.

Summer nights - listening to the clear voices and sweet songs melding with the cacophony from crickets, owls, tree frogs and toads. Not being able to tell if the white lights are fireflies or Christmas lights. 3/4 time. Not worrying. Not rushing. Just being. As twilight descends.

Come rock with us.

Bynum Front Porch Friday Night Music is rain or shine, 7-9pm, May - August.
May 5: Violet Bell (Lizzie Ross & Omar Ruiz-Lopez) (above right) 
May 12: Onyx Club Boys
May 19: Boys from Carolina
May 26: Milagro Saints 
Jun 2: Too Much Fun
Jun 9: Gabe Pelli & Will Ridenour (above left)
June 16 The Holland Bros.

Jun 23: Bynum Front Porch Pickers - A music fundraiser for Bynum Front Porch’s scholarships! 
Jun 30 : Heart of Carolina Jazz Society
Jul 7: Blue Cactus

Jul 14: Gray Matter
Jul 21: Bobby Gales & New Direction
Jul 28: Tonk
Aug 4: Swift Creek
Aug 11: Gospel Jubilators 
Aug 18: Durham Ukulele Orchestra
Aug 25: Bluegrass Experience

Bynum Front Porch

950 Bynum Road
Pittsboro, NC 27312

Google Maps link:

Print your own Bynum Front Porch Calendar here!