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Hobos During the Great Depression — Sheila Ingle


Today I’m happy to welcome author Sheila Ingle as she shares some of the history behind her latest story. Read through to the end to find out how to enter for a chance to win Tales of a Cosmic Possum.

It was the worst of times. President Franklin D. Roosevelt described America during the Great Depression as a nation “dying by inches.”

When the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, people lost everything. Not only their jobs and their money, but also their homes, cars, and peace of mind.

A hobo is a traveling vagabond who goes on and off trains looking for work. Hobos couldn’t buy tickets, so they sneaked onto trains. They would run beside the train, grab onto to it, and then climb in. Hence, the name riding the rails.

 In Union, South Carolina, there was a hobo camp/jungle where the Buffalo…

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“Brave Elizabeth”

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Brave Elizabeth is a biography of Elizabeth Jackson, the mother of President Andrew Jackson.

I believe that environment and heredity influence a person, and it was fascinating to me to research the mother of one of our Presidents; here is a snippet of her life.

Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson were living in Boneybefore, Ireland, in 1764. They were tenant farmers and not making enough money from their crops and sheep to make ends meet. Taxes continued to go up, and the weather continued to cast blights on their harvests. The Scotch-Irish couple worked hard, but life under the British rule was a hard-scrabbble existence. Disrespect and prejudice for their Presbyterian religion was also challenging.

A new life in a new land captured their thoughts.

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In April, 1765, Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the colonies with their two children. Hugh was two, and Robert only a babe. The eight week voyage from Larne, Ireland, was uneventful.

They bought land close to Elizabeth’s family and erected a small one-room cabin. They planted crops and started over. Happily for two years, the Jacksons worked hard and struggled to eke out a living in this red clay, but in March, 1767, an accident occurred.

While chopping wood on a cold, spring day, Andrew Jackson had an accident and died shortly thereafter. Elizabeth, nine months pregnant with their third son, was a widow at thirty with all the responsibilities of a single mother in 18th Century America.


Though small in stature, Elizabeth was strong and resilient in spirit. She adapted to life’s changes and disappointments and put other’s needs before herself. Working hard and pushing forward through challenges was the model she set for her sons.

After Andrew’s death, her sister and brother-in-law, Jane and James Crawford, asked Elizabeth to move in with their family. Jane had been sick for several years and needed help with the housekeeping. Their eight children needed more supervision than she could give, so the Jacksons joined the Crawford household.

“I was born in South Carolina, as I have been told at the plantation whereon James Crawford lived about one mile from the Carolina road of the Waxhaw Creek……”
— Andrew Jackson, 1824

Busy with the daily chores of planning and preparing meals for 14 individuals in a fireplace, tending to the needs of 11 children and her ailing sister, mending, spinning, managing a garden, churning, etc., Elizabeth continued to weave cloth for the community. She earned money from the neighbors by selling it and was known for the quality and expertise of her work.

Elizabeth wanted her sons to have a formal education. All three attended the church and community schools, but Hugh and Robert had more aptitude for outdoor activities, and they wanted to farm. Andy learned to read at an early age, and his mother thought he might become a minister. His personality was not for a scholar’s life though, and the Revolutionary War interrupted his education.

Elizabeth’s faith in God and His Providence was a major ingredient in her character. She had a small Bible that she carried in her pocket and prayed often.  She taught her sons the importance of obedience to the Bible’s teachings and encouraged them in their loyalty to each other and the rest of their family. Elizabeth urged deeds and words honoring God, family, and country. She and her family attended the Waxhaws Presbyterian Church.

The Waxhaws settlement was connected to Charleston via the Catawba Path, also known as the Camden Salisbury Road, with many travelers. Merchants and Indian traders carried their wares to markets. Farmers drove their cattle to sale. New settlers in the Conestoga wagons or on foot were daily visitors. All of these travelers kept trade, culture, and news flowing into the upcountry where the Jackson family lived. Because of the proximity of the Crawford home, visitors kept them in the know with information and intelligence.

On June, 20, 1779, sixteen-year-old Hugh died after the Battle of Stono Ferry near Charlestown. The two hour battle was not a win for the Patriots, but the militia fought bravely. Hugh was not wounded but died of heat exhaustion.

Elizabeth nursed the dying and wounded after the Battle of Waxhaws. She hid with her family from the British, as they stole and burned the patriots’ farms.

Robert and Andy were under the command of the experienced Major William Richardson Davie. Because of his youth, only 13, Andy served as a messenger. Guerrilla warfare and destruction was the aim of both sides, and enemy neighbors paid back old insults.

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Then in the spring of 1781 both Robert and Andy were captured by the British, along with others in the Waxhaws militia. They were taken to the Camden Jail. Smallpox was in every cell, and before long both boys were afflicted.

Elizabeth Jackson was determined to rescue her sons from this hell hole. She audaciously went to see Lord Rawdon and asked for him to add her sons’ names to a prisoner exchange that was in the works. He was not unhappy to release two sick prisoners.

Their mother nursed them for several weeks, but Robert was too weak and died. She never left Andy’s side until he could walk by himself.

     Horrific tales about how the Patriots were being treated on the British prison ships in the harbor of Charlestown began to circulate. Elizabeth found out that several of her nephews were on those ships suffering with cholera. Knowing their chances to survive were small without some kind of nursing, Elizabeth and a couple of women from the Waxhaws community decided they needed to go help the young men. In the fall of 1781, three women left home on a mission of mercy.

Elizabeth’s nephews survived, but she did not. She caught cholera and was buried in an unmarked grave in Charleston.

Elizabeth taught her sons the (1) difference between right and wrong, freedom and oppression (2) the importance of helping family and friends (2) reverence for truth, justice, and freedom, (3) a deep patriotic devotion to country.

      Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson was a Patriot, a SC Revolutionary War Heroine, and the mother of President Andrew Jackson. Her story is worth remembering.

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Be Kind

Over the past week, I have been slammed with reading about kindness or hearing stories about how being kind can change lives. I thought I would share a few with you.

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I read a story about a bubbly, older woman visiting a book store. Talking to the clerk, she added chocolate to her stack for her husband waiting patiently in the car. Then a college student slammed down heavy tomes on the counter beside her. Looking at his face, she grabbed up the books and said, “Put these on my bill.” The young man loudly protested, but she was determined. She decided he needed chocolate candy, too. As he walked out the door with his sack, he turned back to her with an uncertain smile, “Bless you, ma’am.”

“Why did you do that, ma’am? Wasn’t that a little crazy? You didn’t know that boy from Adam’s house cat,” asked the woman, as she packed up the smiling customer’s buys.

“Oh, my son is incarcerated now. Drugs just took him over. Nothing we could do or say helped him. I tried to bring him up right, love him, and teach him the difference between right and wrong, but somehow he chose another path. Maybe, just maybe, if someone had been kind to him, it would have made a difference.”

Still smiling, she reached inside her purse and handed the clerk a piece of chocolate. “Be kind,” and she bounced out the door.

Then this morning, our teacher read the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, as part of our lesson. There was a little bit of enmity between the Samaritans and the Jews, and that is putting it mildly. Luke 10 describes a Jewish traveler who is attacked by thieves and left by the road for dead. First, a Jewish priest and then a Levite see the man and walk on by. Next a Samaritan journeyed on that same road, saw the naked and bruised man, stopped,  and put oil and wine on his wounds. But that wasn’t all; the Samaritan took the hurt man to an inn to be cared for and paid for his stay. Jesus tells us to do the same as the Samaritan and be kind.

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We have precious neighbors: Emily and her three children are the best. We hadn’t been home long today when Emily, her eight-year-old daughter Eliza, and cousin knocked on the door. They had seen our dogs Kita and Folly in the middle of one of the roads close to our house. There are plenty of neighborhood dogs around us, and all enjoy walking. With two days of rain, there had been no walks. Somehow the two escape artists opened the gate and found freedom. The girls wanted to help catch them and were following John when the two dogs came bounding up the sidewalk. Sweet Eliza told me we were always doing nice things for them, and today was their day to help us. Emily and I both smiled at that.

What a sweet heart this child has! She knows about being kind.

Do you remember a movie called “Pay It Forward?” A teacher gave an assignment to his class middle schoolers to design a project that would change the world. Seventh grade Trevor decides that good deeds for others would be a novel adventure. The title of the movie is the title of his project. And, yes, kindness changes lives even in a movie.

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Seems like kindness should be our first choice…. will you join me?


Cotton Mill Women — Sheila Ingle


Today I’m happy to welcome author Sheila Ingle as she shares about the history behind her story. Read through to the end to find out how to enter to win a copy of her book, “Tales of a Cosmic Possum”.

Cotton mills in North and South Carolina hit a boom in the late nineteenth century, and hundreds of mills were built. They advertised for workers from the mountains and the farms. Employment benefits were posted, and company men visited homes to encourage families to move to the mill villages. Mill workers were promised a home, a school for their children, and a weekly pay check. For those, bound to worn-out farms, a mill village sounded like the “promised land.” They traded a lifestyle governed by the seasons to a lifestyle controlled by a mill whistle.

Adjusting to life in mill villages was not easy. Work hours were long, and the…

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Cornbread and Vegetable Soup

As I realized we really were going to have snow on Tuesday, my cooking plan knew that vegetable soup would have to be made. Yes, to fresh and canned vegetables and ground chuck. Yes, to the smell of it in our home, as it simmered for several hours. And, yes, to cornbread as the perfect side! Whether crumbled in the soup or dripping with butter, I am so glad we have left overs of soup and cornbread for today!

My grandmother Nanna had an iron skillet for frying chicken, and Mother had her smaller cast iron pan, exclusively for cornbread. I enjoy using both of these, and have added a corn stick pan, two griddle pans, and a grill pan that John uses on our gas grill.

Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread

Have you ever wondered why cornbread and biscuits were a staple during Colonial Days?

Corn was the first crop planted after the land was cleared. Both the colonists and the animals ate corn on a daily basis. For the family, it was some type of cornbread. Cooked in a Dutch oven in the coals on an open hearth, the smells filled the room.

There was plenty of corn available, so it was used. For many settlers, a mill soon made grinding the corn easier. There were also small kerns that could be used in the cabins to grind their own corn. Since there was a shortage of sugar and flour, it grew in its popularity. It was one of those stick-to-your-ribs recipes, and it was also quick and easy to make. Since it was good either hot or cold, it was good at home, on a hunting trip, or working in the fields. It could be made into Johnny cakes, spoon bread, corn muffins, Bannock cakes, ash cakes, corn dodgers, journey cakes, or slapjacks.

A simple recipe could be

1 cup cornmeal

4 Cups water

1½ cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp salt

Of course, using milk rather than water and adding eggs made for a creamier dish.

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This picture is of a typical open hearth. Wood is placed under the oven for a fire to cook the bread. The wood has to burn down to hot coals, and that means lots of hot coals to bake anything.

The pots over the fire on the crane would be for cooking soups and stews. You might have heard the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot. Peas porridge cold. Peas porridge in the pot nine days old. Some like it hot. Some like it cold. Some like it in the pot nine days old.” By adding meat and vegetables to the stew or soup, it could continue to feed a family for several days.

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Below is a picture of some of the necessary items for cooking on an open fire in a hearth. Under the trivet are the hot coals, and the skillet is placed on top. On top of the lid are coals to keep the baking even on the top and bottom of the cornbread. (Biscuits and cake were also baked in these Dutch ovens.)

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The floor near the cooking hearth was swept constantly, and the hearth itself scrubbed often to keep it free from grease. Dripping pans were used when roasting or boiling to prevent the grease from dripping directly on the hearth.

Usually the coals have to be replaced at least once during the baking, particularly on the lid.

When our son went on camping trips with his scout troops, they would often use this same method over the campfire to bake cornbread and pineapple upside-down cake. Isn’t it interesting that some things never change?

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National Spaghetti Day

Who knew?

Pick your sauce!  National Spaghetti Day is today, January 4, and it recognizes that long, thin cylindrical pasta of Italian and Sicilian origin.  Usually made from semolina flour, this pasta has been a worldwide favorite for ages and loved by millions.

Spaghetti was a staple in my home growing up. Mother made a simple meat sauce using only salt and pepper for seasoning, but we enjoyed every mouthful. She never served salad with it. The meal consisted of spaghetti and toasted, buttered bread as a pusher. And, yes it was quite enough.

There are a variety of different pasta dishes that are based on spaghetti from spaghetti ala Carbonara or garlic and oil to spaghetti with tomato sauce, meat sauce, bolognese, Alfredo sauce, clam sauce or other sauces.  Spaghetti dishes are traditionally served topped with grated hard cheeses such as Pecorino Romano, Parmesan and Grana Padano.

The word spaghetti is plural for the Italian word spaghetto, which is a diminutive of spago, meaning “thin string” or “twine.”

In the 19th century, American restaurants offered Spaghetti Italienne, which was spaghetti noodles with a mild, tomato sauce enhanced with cloves, bay leaves, and garlic. It was decades later that oregano and basil were added.

As to the origin of spaghetti, there is debate. In the Jerusalem Talmud, itrium, a boiled dough was common in Palestine for the 3rd to 5th centuries. An Arab dictionary refers to itriyyas as string-like semolina dried before cooking. Itriyya was manufactured and exported from Norman Sicily. Because dry pasta could be easily stored, ships took it to America and other explored countries.

In March of 2009, the world record for the largest bowl of spaghetti was set and then reset in March of 2010 when a Garden Grove California Buca di Beppo restaurant successfully filled a swimming pool with more than 13,780 pounds of pasta.

  • The Buca di Peppo 13,780-pound bowl of pasta was set up in the parking lot of the restaurant's Garden Grove location in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record.
  • Eddy Suarez, a regional culinary supervisor Buca di Peppo, tosses a bucket full of sauce onto a 13,780-pound bowl of pasta as part of an attempt to break the Guinness World Record. The event took place at the Garden Grove restaurant on Harbor Blvd.
  • Buca di Peppo employees put the final touches on a 13,780-pound bowl of pasta in their attempt to break the Guinness World Record.


My grandmother Lulu found a new way to serve spaghetti and passed it on to her family. This easy casserole consisted of 6-7 cans of Campbell’s spaghetti, two pounds of cooked ground chuck and one medium onion, a drained can of mushrooms, all mixed together and topped with grated cheese. Season to individual tastes, the mixture is placed in a 8×13′ dish and baked at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.

  • Campbell's Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce with Cheese, 14.75 Ounce (Pack of 12)

It became another favorite at our house, and I am the third generation to make it. This recipe has been enjoyed by the fourth generation of the Collins family.

Now you must be wondering why I am writing about spaghetti. Before reading that this was National Spaghetti Day, I had placed on my kitchen counter seven cans of Campbell’s original spaghetti, an onion, and a large can of mushrooms. In the frig is the ground chuck and cheese.  Who knew?

Sung to the tune of “On Top of Old Smoky,” the fun children’s song, “On Top of Spaghetti” was written and originally sung by folk singer Tom Glazer.I remember singing this song, and perhaps you do, too.

“On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball,
When somebody sneezed.


It rolled off the table,
And on to the floor,
And then my poor meatball,
Rolled out of the door.”

I remember singing this song, and perhaps you do, too. There’s nothing like a little nonsense nostalgia to start off a new year! Happy New Year!



Stringing a Package

Christmas memories seemed to be flooding my heart and mind today.

One of them is about the packages Lulu/Daddy’s mother used to send us from Mirror Lake Farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Lulu was quite the cook, and she sent two of her backed goods to Daddy.

She made salt rising bread. She wrapped it in cheesecloth or a worn dish towel. Then she placed it in a box, wrapped it in brown paper, and tied it with string. She usually used old shoe boxes for the mailing. Buttered, toasted in the oven, and smeared with Mother’s homemade preserves, it was delicious.

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This looks like the small loaves she used to send.
Slicing thin slices, it would usually last two meals for the four of us.
Enjoyed by Appalachia families, this dense, white bread uses a starter with no yeast. The distinctive smell (a little stinky) is not a pleasant one, but the taste is golden. Some say the smell is “cheesy.” Tracing its history, this recipe appears to be totally American, becoming popular during the nineteenth century.

The origins of the name are also unclear. One explanation is that pioneer women who crossed the country kept their starter dough warm in the salt barrel, kept atop the wagon wheel. By day the sun would warm the salt, which would warm the starter. The bread could be made in the evening.

Of course, when we visited the farm, there was always a loaf or two in her bread box


Another of Lulu’s specialties that Daddy received before Christmas was fruit cake. Loaded with dried fruit and soaked in Bourbon, it was also fragrant. I can’t tell you much about the taste, because fruit cake is not my favorite. The many raisins turned, and still turn, me away from this holiday favorite.

But these baked gifts were a taste of home, and there was plenty of excitement when they arrived.

Just as Lulu’s packages arrived in brown paper, Daddy also would string his packages for mailing. String, scissors, tape, and brown paper were required.

He would clear the kitchen table, pack the boxes, and start wrapping. The process was much like wrapping a package for mailing today, except for the string. To begin with, string was tied, knotted, and clipped short horizontally around the box, and then vertically. Critt and I held our small fingers on the loops for Daddy to knot them. He always tied the package with two more strings to be sure it wouldn’t open in transit. Then assorted labels were added to help the mailman: Fragile Handle with Care, Do Not Bend, Do Not Crush, Handle with Care, This Side Up. Since these labels were red, they were like decorations on that brown paper.

Soon there was a stack of brown paper packages on the kitchen table. As with everything he did, Daddy was meticulous. The string had to be straight and was usually adjusted several times. Celebrating a completed job that showed how much he cared for his mother, a cup of coffee was always next.

Oh, how I wish I could help him with wrapping some presents today. So thankful for the memories and the way I was taught by example to do even the little things to the best of my ability.  Looking back, I realize he tied up those packages with love, not string. Thank you, Daddy!

Merry Christmas…