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Our Family Circle

 

I grew up in a family that ate our meals together at the kitchen table or the dining room table. We had assigned seats at each place that I never figured out. The kitchen table was round, and the dining room table was a rectangle. Mother fixed and served our childhood plates.

One of my earliest memories of a catastrophic supper was at our small duplex on East Main Street in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

As an opinionated preschooler, I had decided that I didn’t like the taste or texture of raisins. My two-year-old brother Critt was given the last of the corn flakes; he sat in his high chair munching away. The next thing I knew was that a bowl of Raisin Bran was in front of me. I questioned this decision and made quite a protest. Then I had the audacity to demand a switch with my brother. Neither of my parents listed to me, so I made a decision to take the situation into my own hands. Without thinking about possible end results, I stood up, grabbed the high chair’s tray, and pulled.

The results were not what I expected.

With a noisy crash, the high chair fell forward. Then with an earsplitting scream, my brother announced that his forehead hit the table. Bedlam reigned, as my parents jumped into protective mode. Blood, a high-speed rush to the ER, and stitches were the end result.

No, I never learned to either like or eat raisins, but my selfish, childish actions have caused me embarrassment. A smidgen of this escapade still rattles around the corners of my memories.

My dad was a stickler for manners on all occasions, even at the table. “Please” and ‘Thank you” were phrases that were expected.  If we wanted the ketchup bottle, we had to use the required “please.” If “thank you” was not our next response, the ketchup would be taken away. We learned in a hurry to not forget the phrases.

I clearly remember a few weeks at the supper table that provided distinctive entertainment.

My brother was around three, and I was six. Picking up his milk glass for a drink became a challenge for some reason. He took several sips and then spilled the rest of the glass on the table, the floor, and himself. (Interesting that this accident never happened at any other meal.) Through surreptitious glances in his direction, I remember watching to see when the trouble was going to happen, and then suddenly he just stopped spilling the glass of milk..

Critt was always a jokester and a tease. He particularly relished my gullibility, as he shared tall tales with me. To this day, I don’t know whether the spills were purposeful and he finally grew tired of the game or what. I was sorry the anticipated spills stopped, but am sure my parents were thankful.

Our family meals were not always around a table. Franklin Curtus Justus, known as F.C.,  my grandmother’s brother, enjoyed camping in Pisgah Forest. He and his wife Ina lived in Hendersonville, North Carolina, so the commute was an easy one. They often invited other family members to join them for breakfast on Saturdays.

My dad was convinced that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, so he was eager to accept these invitations to a cooked meal on a creek bank. I can see his smile of anticipation, as we walked toward their camp site.

There is a lush area of cove forests and streams known as the Pink Beds, and this was the chosen place. The area is named for the profusion of pink wildflowers, including mountain laurel and rhododendron, which appears in the spring.

It was the smells that led us to breakfast from the car. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee burst through the air. Shortly behind were the scents of bacon frying in an iron skillet over a cooking fire. Hollers of welcome soon joined the mealtime odors.

Before long, blue tin plates, almost overflowing with eggs, grits, and bacon, were in each hand. Hot coffee or milk was poured into matching mugs. A hodgepodge of forks and spoons were available, and my grandparents (Alex and Edythe Cox), parents Sam and Evelyn Collins, various great aunts and uncles found canvas camp stools, metal lawn chairs, or stumps to sit on. There were always several station wagons, and the tail gates were let down for more seating.

Image result for 1950's camping

No one sat far away from the group, because everyone wanted to be part of the conversations. As the plates were cleaned, the chats increased.

Family memories were shared about my great grandparents and the rock house that Pop (Franklin Curtis Justus, 1871-1958) built. He was a contractor for the Saluda Grade that ran through the Saluda Mountain, and he owned acres of land in Hendersonville County until the Crash and Great Depression. A tall, strong man who took what was available in the job market, even if it was bagging groceries, to keep his family together. Hearing his adult children talk about him, their admiration was evident.

Granny (Minnie Fortune Justus, 1875-1970) graduated from Asheville Female College with a degree in Mistress of Arts and Sciences. To make ends meet for their large family of ten children, she took in boarders and used her gift of hospitality to make all welcome. From using clean, ironed cloth napkins at each meal to seeing that fresh room linens were always available, she taught her daughters why sharing the best was important. Even into her late 80’s, all received a warm welcome to her home.

I learned some of my family history at these breakfast picnics. This generation learned how to ride horses, before they drove cars. They plowed, planted, and weeded gardens before they ate the fruit of their labors and sold the access. Fishing, hunting, and raising beef cows, hogs, and chickens added to the vegetables they grew. Being only familiar with grocery shopping, their lives sounded like fascinating tall tales to me, similar to one of my favorite books, Little House on the Prairie.

Mostly I caught and grabbed hold to the love and respect that was an essential portion that tied them together. Though they lacked much in worldly possessions, they relished the retelling of stories about their kinfolk and lineage.

On my dad’s side of the family, we also often shared meals outdoors, rather than indoors.

For years, we spent his week of summer vacation at Mirror Lake Farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Though born in Louisville, Daddy, his two brothers, and sister learned to walk, climb trees, and milk cows on this dairy farm.

My grandmother Lulu and her brother and sister enjoyed getting together. When we visited, we spent one day in Lexington with her brother Owen Hitt. They lived outside the city, and his wife Carrie Lee would prepare a picnic lunch to be eaten on a picnic table under the trees in their back yard. There was fried chicken, an array of vegetables from her garden, hot biscuits with homemade butter, and cobbler for dessert. Sweet ice cold tea was the beverage. It was a feast! Our hostess was full of laughter and energetic. Our next treat was to go to the fence to talk and pat the horses in the field, and the adults joined us.

On another day, we went to Louisville to be with Aunt Kitty. Here we were back to the dining room with the lace tablecloth, silver, and lovely china. Our hostess was conscious of good eating habits, so baked chicken or ham, a couple of vegetables, yeast rolls, and usually a slice of pie were served. Water in goblets and coffee were served. This was where I first saw individual salt and pepper shakers and bread and butter plates and knives at each place, The table cloth and napkins were hand embroidered by her mother-in-law. I felt like a princess here and learned that table conversation can be quiet. Trying hard to be compliant and well-behaved in such surroundings was a challenge worth meeting. Going through the many book shelves in her home were the entertainment as the adults visited.

Lulu prepared a family picnic the day before we left for home. Contributions from everyone led to two eight-foot tables sagging under the weight of all the food offerings. Lulu’s garden served up lima beans, corn, tomatoes, green beans, and beets. Her blackberry cobbler and chocolate pie had to be tasted by all. Cousins came to play, and the yard was our playground. There was no jungle gym, but a tire swing hung from the apple tree. We hung on the rail fence to watch the cows meander back and forth from the barn. A game of softball catch was fun, and we tried our hands of little skill at horse shoes.

Image result for tire swing

Ladder back chairs and stools were brought out from the kitchen. The cast iron outdoor glider, swing, and chairs were arranged in a circle, so the adults could hear each other. We children were allowed to roam free after the blessing. Laughter and loud talking were in equal measure, as plates were refilled from the lavish tables.

They shared both familiar and new stories. Our ancestor Jesse James, the bank robber, was vilified and defended. Since we had all visited Boonesborough, Lulu would disclose her knowledge about Daniel Boone and his clearing a path through the Cumberland Gap. Then we begged for the story of Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia and his adventures in finding new land in Virginia with his Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. Sitting on the grass, making daisy-chain necklaces, these adventures became real.

Related image

Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (George Caleb Bingham, oil on canvas, 1851–52)

It is no wonder that I used to pack my little brown suitcase and want to go to “Tucky. Since it was my doll’s luggage, there was little room for anything. But I wasn’t planning on an extended stay; I was yearning for my family and their stories.

American writer, Michele Huey, said “Roots are, I’m learning, as important as wings.”

Our stories are important; let’s share them with family and friends.

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday, Daniel Boone!

Daniel Boone
The above 1820 portrait is the only known portrait of him created during his lifetime.

American explorer and frontiersman Daniel Boone was born on November 2, 1734, in a log cabin in Exeter Township, near Reading, Pennsylvania. His father, Squire Boone, Sr., was a blacksmith and a weaver who met his wife, Sarah Morgan, in Pennsylvania after emigrating from England. They were Quakers. Daniel Morgan, famous for his win at the Battle of Cowpens, was a first cousin to this Daniel.

Daniel, the couple’s sixth child, received little formal education. Boone learned how to read and write from his mother, and his father taught him wilderness survival skills. Boone was given his first rifle when he was 12 years old. He quickly proved himself a talented woodsman and hunter, boldly shooting his first bear when most children his age were too frightened.

Boone Home in Pennsylvania

At age 15, Boone moved with his family to Rowan County, North Carolina, on the Yadkin River, where he started his own hunting business.

Daniel Boone did not attend school. His older brother’s wife taught him to read and write. Though he mastered the basics, Boone’s grammar and spelling remained poor. Boone could sign his name, though, which set him apart from most frontiersmen, who used an “X” for their signature.

Boone traveled the frontier wearing buckskin leggings and a loose-fitting shirt made of animal skin. On his leather belt he attached ahunting knife a hatchet, a powder horn, and a bullet pouch. Many images portray Boone wearing a coonskin cap, which was popular with trappers. Boone preferred wide-brimmed beaver felt hats to keep the sun out of his eyes.

In August 1756, Boone wed Rebecca Bryan, and the couple set up stakes in the Yadkin Valley. Over a 24-year period, the couple would have 10 children together. At first Boone found himself content with what he described as the perfect ingredients to a happy life: “A good gun, a good horse and a good wife.” But adventure stories Boone had heard from a teamster while on march ignited Boone’s interest in exploring the American frontier.

1778 depiction of Boonesboro

Boone’s fame stems from his exploits during the exploration and settlement of Kentucky. One time he said, “I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.” He first arrived in the future state in 1767 and spent the better part of the next 30 years exploring and settling the lands of Kentucky, including carving out the Wilderness Road and building the settlement station of Boonesboro.  His son, Nathan Boone, was the first white man born in Kentucky.

 Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (1851–52) is a famous depiction of Boone by George Bingham.

After his death, he was frequently the subject of heroic tall tales and works of fiction. His adventures—real and legendary—were influential in creating the archetypal Western hero of American folklore. In American popular culture, he is remembered as one of the foremost early frontiersmen. The epic Daniel Boone mythology often overshadows the historical details of his life.

Walt Disney hired Fess Parker to bring Daniel Boone to life in a series by the hero’s name. It ran for six seasons, and my brother and I enjoyed each episode. The theme song described this hero as the “the rippin’est, roarin’est, fightin’est man the frontier ever knew,” and we believed it.

As Daniel Boone said, “I was happy in the midst of dangers and inconveniences.”

On September 26, 1820, Daniel Boone died of natural causes at his home in Femme Osage Creek, Missouri. He was 85 years old.

“Do Lord, Do Lord, Do Remember Me”

On our summer vacation trips, Daddy taught us lots of songs. “Do Lord” was one of those that we enjoyed singing and clapping our hands to. The melody and lyrics are simple, but it is one of those tapping-the-feet songs.

There were times that we sang it at family reunions and in Sunday School. Unless you’re in a car, a person has to stand to sing, because sitting just won’t do. “Do Lord” is such a fun song. Adults also liked it; their smiles, hands, and feet proclaimed their enjoyment.

John’s family used to sing it in church and on the porches as a family.

In 1925 Garner Bros. released the first recording of this song. Johnny Cash made it famous. Even though an author isn’t clearly identified for this gospel song, it is attributed to Julia Ward Lowe, speaker, author, and promoter of women’s rights.

Image result for julia ward howe

“Do Lord” also falls into the category of a camp song. At camp, children sing songs that are fun, upbeat, harmonious, or inspiring. Most of all, the songs are easy to sing and remember.
They sing folk songs; spirituals; patriotic songs; religious songs; fun, nonsense, novelty, action songs; and melodious (rounds, partner songs).

I have seen “Do Lord” listed as a spiritual, along with “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” and “When the Saints go Marching In.”

Songs are universal. I can remember at church camps one of the favorites, accompanied by a guitar, was “Kum Bah Yah, My Lord, Kum Bah Yah.” Just recently I found out there were other versions: French: “Venez par ici, mon ami,” Spanish: “Venaca, amigo, venaca,”Russian: “Prihadi, moi druk, prihadi,” and
Japanese: “Wareno, motoni, kitare.”

Folk song writer, Pete Seegar, pronounced the importance of song with these comments.

“Once upon a time, wasn’t singing a part of everyday life as much as talking, physical exercise, and religion? Our distant ancestors, wherever they were in the world, sang while pounding grain, paddling canoes, or walking long journeys. Can we begin to make our lives, once more, all of a piece? Finding the right songs and singing them over and over is a way to start. And as one person taps out a beat while another leads into the melody, or when three people discover a harmony they never knew existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know there is hope for the world.”

The floods in Kentucky, my dad’s home state, have shattered both homes and communities this week of July, 2015. Pictures of houses floating in flash floods have been terrifying. Acts of nature debilitate and destroy on one hand and give joy on the other; the weather is fickle. The regions of Appalachia have given us so many songs through the years: soulful melodies and lyrics that look backward and forward. With the inborn strength of preserving their culture, I know they will build again. I am sorry they are faced with another endurance test.

Let’s hope together and sing along,
/www.youtube.com/watch?v=plA2vi7mWc0

Daniel Boone

My dad was raised on a farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and this was our vacation spot when my brother and I were growing up. It was a twelve hour drive to get there, and leaving at 5:00 in the morning was part of the journey. This was before interstates, but not before our going through the Cumberland Gap from Tennessee into Kentucky.

The Smithsonian Channel has this video.

 http://bit.ly/1M7Jc1f

Daddy started the ritual of yelling with glee as we crossed the state lines, and we all followed suit. There was always laughter next. This man loved his home and family, and it always showed. He was thrilled to be in the same state as Mirror Lake Farm, his relatives, thorougbred horses, Churchill Downs, Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls, and the blue grass.

John and I told Mother and Daddy to Kentucky when they were 84. Though he had lost part of his sight to macular degeneration, he leaned forward in the back seat as we moved closer to the state line. His holler was loud and clear; he was in his home state that he loved. We went to the races at Keeneland, visited his cousin Toodlie, ate at Claudia’s Kitchen, and visited the farm. Even though he could see little, he regaled us with his memories at each stop.

Daddy and Mother were content to stay in the car at the farm, but the new owners were kind to show John and I around the house. Their improvements on the farm house built in 1924 were minimal. The wealth of memories that flooded my mind and heart were amazing, and I savored walking again in this house.

Boonesborough was a favorite site for us to stop on some of our trips. By this time, we were all enamored with Fess Parker portraying Daniel Boone. One year, the folks bought Critt a coonskin hat that he begged for. He loved that hat and sported it until it was rotten and fell apart.

“All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife,” said Daniel Boone.

Daniel Boone was born on November 2, 1734, near Reading, Pennsylvania. In 1755, he left home on a military expedition during the French and Indian War. In 1769, Boone led an expedition and discovered a trail to the far west though the Cumberland Gap. In 1775, he settled an area he called Boonesborough in Kentucky.

Daddy’s mother was a storyteller and avid reader; she shared these with us. One of the ones she told us was about Daniel Boone rescuing his daughter and her friends from the Shawnee. Critt and I used to pretend to be these characters and play out the story in our backyard; he always wore his coonskin hat.

Here is a video about that rescue.

http://www.biography.com/people/daniel-boone-9219543/videos/daniel-boone-jemimas-rescue-2080045648

Daniel Boone left Kentucky and moved to Missouri, because Kentucky had become too crowded He died and was buried there in 1820. But his body and his wife’s Rebecca were moved to Frankfurt, Kentucky in 1845. From his grave, a person can look over the beautiful and winding Kentucky River and the gray dome of the capitol building. Yes, Daddy took us to this site, too.

Daniel Boone was an adventurer and was always looking around the next bend. He was inquisitive and a man of action. As he said, “Curiosity is natural to the soul of man and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections.”

Perhaps we all need to be more curious about what is around the corner; we might miss a surprise blessing if we don’t take that first step forward.

 

 

“Soldier Comes Home For Bride”

Lawrenceburg Boy Drives to Woodford, Wakes Officials, and Gets Married”

“Versailles, Ky, Sept. 15 –

Wallace C. Collins, 30 years old, stationed at Camp Shelby, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, arrived home last night for a visit to his father, R. S. Collins in Lawrenceburg. As he only had 24 hours leave, he drove to this county accompanied by his father, went to Mr. W. H. Hitt’s home in the country, got his daughter Lucile 22, and drove to Versailles. As the hour was 12:30, he was compelled to awaken Mr. Lewis to issue a marriage license. Rev. M. D. Austen was aroused to perform the wedding ceremony, and the happy young couple drove back to Mr. W. H. Hitt’s house, where they will spend Mr. Collins furlough.”

Wallace and Lucile are my grandparents, and I found this article mixed in with some photos yesterday. I love that their wedding announcement was so unique in the paper, but what a picture it paints in my mind. I can imagine the excitement on their faces with this middle-of -the night wedding. This could easily be the beginning of a romantic, war story of WWI.

Lulu told me that story, and I can still see the twinkle in her eyes, as she remembered it. The headline in the newspaper celebrates the event in only a few words. This September wedding was in 1916, and their anniversary is around the corner.

Family stories make up history, not only those factual accounts we read about in books. “What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life — to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories. ” George Eliot

Yesterday at a funeral service for a friend of my dad’s, the story was told about how the two used to go pick corn and then take it around to friends and family. I can remember being on the receiving end of their times spent in the corn fields. After their corn-picking days were over, Daddy used to deliver a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts just because. Not too long ago, his mechanic told me how much those donuts meant to the men in his shop.

Celebrating today that soldier who came home for his bride! Celebrating family memories!