Country Whispers

Country Ramblins'

by Tamara Hillman, January

Happy New Year

OVER THE MEADOW & THRU’ THE WOODS!

     The road to Grandpa & Grandma Dicus’ in Medical Lake, Washington, (a small town outside of Spokane,) and our hometown of Twisp, Washington was always snowy, icy, and cold as we made our way to their house at Christmastime. It was a three and a half drive in good weather, but we knew it might be arduous and much longer if we had to fight snow blowing into drifts across the wheat fields inbetween as the five of us rode along in our ‘53’ Chevy all warm and cozy listening to Gene Autry, Eddy Arnold, and Bing Crosby singing our favorite Christmas songs of the time on the radio.
     I can still see Mom bundled in her long wool coat, yellow in color with big brown buttons, and Dad in Galoshes and his Eddy Bower, thirty-below-zero jacket, (just in case he had to stop and put chains on to keep us moving forward.) Presents would be in the trunk along with our one, old, battered, hand-me-down suitcase that held everything we’d need in the next few days of glorious fun, and Christmas surprises at the farm.
      I have to admit, ‘THOSE CHRISTMAS' with my paternal grandparents are the most vivid in my mind of any holidays when I was a child.  How I loved going to the old, run-down farm. I can see every nook & cranny of the house—inside and out, the barn, and the outhouse in back where we first had to pass Grandma’s tall, fenced and gated (to keep out cattle, deer, and grandchildren trampling through without her knowing,) flower/vegetable garden on the north side of the house. It, by Christmas, had long since been turned under and fertilized for next year’s planting. Beyond that path, you’d come to the steep, rock-steps grandpa forged into the hill leading down to their outdoor privy. And just beyond that was a pond lying cold and stark with a thick layer of ice with zillions of dried, frozen pussy willows all around it. In summer months, this would be where twenty cows grandpa and grandma hand-milked twice a day would graze till milkin' time, and then you'd hear the large bells hung ‘round their necks clanging in rhythm as they came in like soldiers in a straight line to  be inspected, and relieved of the weight of many gallons of rich, creamy milk.
     We kids always slept in a back bedroom with no heat at Grandpa & Grandma’s, (our folks were in another) and Gran would lay the three of us down beside each other like sticks of kindling in that big double bed, then load homemade quilts on top of us until we couldn’t move under their weight. Only our noses might get cold because it was cozy-warm under those heavy blankets.
      I, and I’m sure my one surviving brother, still remember the time we all just got settled in for a long winter’s nap one cold evening, and we heard dad scream from their unheated bedroom retreat. Everyone started hollering across the house to find out what happened, and he assured us he’d live, but when he crawled under those quilts of Grandma’s, a wasp had also taken refuge there, and gave dad a good sting on his foot when he slid under the covers.
      Grandma made three-course breakfasts everyday with homemade bread rolls, hot oatmeal, and slabs of thick bacon and lots of eggs. Fresh milk was always in huge pitchers on the table, and I can smell and taste everything to this day in the deepest reaches of my memory.
      Grandpa had a wonderful dog named Boots, an Australian Shepherd, who along with us three kids would follow him to the barn morning and night to watch the milkin’, and we’d all line up with three or four barn cats against the wall behind the cows Gramps was milking, waiting with mouths agape for him to give us a direct squirt now and then. We thought that was about the most fun ever at the time.
     Grandma called us each Snookums when she addressed us, and she always had hot Postum ready for us to drink before we trudged out through the snow for our big milkin’ adventure!
     At Christmastime she had bowls of those squiggly ribbon candies we loved set about the house, and Mom was always afraid we’d choke on them. She had a tree set up, tho’ never big or with many ornaments, but we thought it was THE BEST EVER!
      Christmas Eve, was when we opened presents, and I got a new doll every year, and sometimes Grandma had even made clothes and a blanket for her. My brothers would get cap guns & holsters, cars & trucks.
      Sometimes my Dad’s two sisters would show up with their latest husband or boyfriend, (they each married several times, but had no children.) They brought no presents for anyone, including us kids, but we never thought anything of it because, you see, in those days it wasn’t all about what you got from everyone. It was about family, and why we celebrate Christmas & Thanksgiving. The history of both holidays was told to us at an early age, and never taken for granted thereafter.
     So now, it’s a New Year, and the busy holidays are behind us, the Christmas tree and decorations are coming down, and its time to catch our breath before spring plantin’.
I hope you’ll settle back, watch it snow, cozy up to a warm fire, and nap whenever possible in beside each other like sticks of kindling the next few months.

Granny Tam

Happy New Year Hat WhiteHappy New Year Party HatHappy New Year Hat WhiteHappy New Year HatHappy New Year Hat WhiteHappy New Year Party Hat

A SNOWY DAY

Windowpanes are glistening—
ice crystals circling ‘round,
reflecting peaceful images
of home secure and sound.

Warm and cozy by the fire,
my eyes behold a scene
of snowflakes light and fleecy,
floating softly—most serene.

The wind stirs up such bluster,
the snow swirls in great drifts.
I feel the warmth here by the hearth,
my soul takes flight and lifts—

For outside powdery snowflakes
blanket o’re the bare,
transforming distant mountains
encircling village square.

Fascinating, tiny flakes—
each shape unique and white,
illuminating sunbeams
with glorious hues of light.

I’ll burrow ‘neath my quilts tonight,
embracing winter’s sleep,
and by morn’ I shall awaken
to snows piled high and deep.


Tamara Hillman
©2004

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