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Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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Snowy Memories

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 By Jene Hedden


     The cold snowy days restrict our activities and take away our desire to work outside.  But, the patterns and routines I learned as a child seem to get me up and out to do what needs to be done regardless of the weather. 
     When I was a boy of seven, the pattern of winter days began before dawn when I set off for the barn.  My job was to climb up to the loft to throw loose hay down through the trap door to my Uncle Douglas to feed the cows. I remember well the creamy smelling steam rising from the buckets in the cold barn shed as Uncle Douglas milked the cows and the sound of the milk sloshing in the buckets as we carried them down the hill to the farmhouse.
After leaving the buckets of warm milk in the care of Grandma Keltner, I followed Uncle Douglas to the wood shed where we split blocks of ash, hickory or oak for cooking and heating. I still recall the sound of the wood splitting under the blows of the two headed axe and the crunch of my boots in the crunchy snow.  It was my job to carry what split blocks I could while Uncle Douglas carried the rest to the house.  A portion of the firewood was taken into the kitchen to be used in the Warm Morning cook stove while the rest was hauled into the family room to feed the potbellied stove that heated the whole house.  This routine of my youth still comforts and warms me as I reflect on those distant winter days.
     Breakfast on the farm in winter time was an amazing feast of hot, steamy dishes.  Every morning, the table was laden with home-processed bacon and sausage, fresh whole milk, hot, home-made biscuits and eggs gathered just a few yards from the kitchen door.  The biscuits were always topped with a sausage patty or my favorite, some of Aunt Milladene's sausage gravy.  Her gravy was hot to the touch and hot to the taste with tiny flecks of dried red peppers from the previous summer's garden floating in it.  The meal warmed me as did the sound of familiar voices around the table...all part of the pattern of our winter morning breakfast.

     After I finished my breakfast, it was time for me to get ready to begin my mile and a half trek across Adams Creek and up "Dug Hill" to the one-room school I attended.  Keltner School had an enrollment of fewer than 30 students in grades one through eight, and I was the only student in my class my first and second grade school years. There was no electricity in the school house, so on dark winter days, when it was impossible to read or write,  we did crafts such as drawing, coloring and cutting. This school routine may sound difficult today, but in the 1950’s it was a pattern I adjusted to easily. I wasn't afraid to walk to and from school and didn't fear encounters with cars and trucks along the dirt road. It didn't occur to me to be afraid of kidnapping or abduction. Most everyone knew anyone we met along that stretch of road in Green and Adair County, and occasionally some farmer would stop and offer me a ride to or from school.  Of course, I always said “thanks for the ride”.
     Now, sixty years later, I sit at my study window and watch another snowfall. Another winter is here and I find myself blending old patterns with new ones. I went to my woodpile a while ago and picked up 3 or 4 pieces of wood...freshly split with my log splitter then brought them into the house and put them in our “Fisher” stove insert in the basement family room. Biscuits from a freezer bag and sausage patties from Simpsonville were on the menu this morning at breakfast, sadly without Aunt Milladene's hot gravy. These days, the patterns have changed somewhat. But the memories of winters past in Adair County and my routine this winter day on the family farm here in Shelby County are connected in my heart and serve to remind me that I still hold on to some of the old traditions.
     The clouds are gray and filled with falling snow. The yard is monochromatic with the deepening drifts. Winter is all around. But beneath this white blanket, tiny spring flowers struggle to break through winter’s crust. They will remind us of another well remembered pattern. With winter’s cold, spring is not far away.