Books, Movies, and the Christmas Spirit!

December 13, 2008 at 5:15 am (Authors, Beekeeper Dan, Books, Brother John, Christmas tree, decorations, Espresso Yourself, Eydie Wight, Family, holiday, hot chocolate, movies, poetry, Recipes, Terry Pratchett, The Hogfather) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

By Eydie Wight

Lot's of Ornaments!

Well, Brother John has been wonderfully patient with my absentee blog-ism. The last week has been filled with social events, Sammy’s tooth extraction, un-successful hunting, decorating mayhem, and the advent not of a calendar filled with little doorways and goodies but of our busy season at work. ‘Tis the season to be wheezin’ as we respiratory therapists like to say.

Last Saturday I had the “coming out” party for my poetry book at the open house for our county’s Arts Council. I was pretty nervous that no one would show up and I would sit there at the table with an ever increasing mountain of books and a stack of brand new Sarasa black gel pens listening to the clock tick, tick, tick as I tried not to fidget too much in my black velvet skirt, glittery velvet top, and knee high black polished boots. I figured it would have been stretching the eccentric writer persona a bit far to show up in my everyday apparel. Do they make book signing pajamas? Hmmm. They should.

But, not to worry. When Sammy and I arrived Mom and my “earth sister” Joanne were already there and had broken the ice for me. Mom had brought a big batch of my dad’s chocolate dipped peanut butter candy balls and had introduced herself to everyone. My dad’s name is John Richard (he’s called “Dick”) and I tried not to cringe as Mom asked people if they wanted to try Dick’s chocolate balls. It was sort of like a South Park episode. (Brother John here… OMG! It’s as bad as when Granny used to compliment Dad on his cooking… “This is GOOD DICK”). The Arts Council has a gallery of rooms dedicated to the work of local artists. There were artworks on the walls, framed photography, note cards and pictures, music CD’s, jewelry, knitted scarves, purses, and hats, woven textile clothing, and sculptures done in all sorts of media. They had set up two tables for us “Authors” to sit with our books. They had even made a sign. The sign had my name on it. Spelled right and everything. My friend and mentor Tony arrived, our friend Dave was there to provide some acoustic guitar background, fellow poet Siggy set up at the next table and Jonas was there with his book about a half hour later. Suddenly the gallery was filled with people. They were shopping. laughing, eating cookies, pate, and Dick’s chocolate balls. Sammy and I uncorked bottles of our homemade elderberry and blackberry wine and things had the making of a holiday party.

I signed and sold my first seven books! They were all to Mom! But that was okay! It was exciting!

The afternoon flew by. So many of my friends came out to show their support. Some of them hadn’t even been begged beforehand to casually “stop in.” I signed and sold a few more books, one to a perfect stranger, and then during a lull in the crowd we decided to play the part of “starving artists” and all go across the street to the local coffeehouse, “Espresso Yourself.” There were ten of us including Mom and Joanne, Tony, Siggy, Jonas, Dave, Gary, Beekeeper Dan, Rog, Sammy, and me. Mom and Tony were in rare ribald humor and Dad’s chocolate balls were the source of much raucous hilarity. I smiled so much my face hurt. Of course I hugged everyone and the glitter on my velvet blouse left it’s mark everywhere I went. Tony had glitter in his beard, Mom had a little glitter speck on her cheek, Beekeeper Dan had glitter on his shirt sleeve, Sammy had glitter on one eyebrow, Dave had glitter on his guitar.

That evening Sammy and I “found” our favorite Christmas movie for this holiday season. My friend Carole had said her son had told her she “must see” the movie “The Hogfather,” a TV movie from 2006 based on the Terry Pratchett novel. We sat down to watch it, not knowing what to expect, and it was great. Wonderful music score, twisted characters, fantastic sets, dark humor and witty asides. I had gotten together all my paraphernalia to wrap presents and ended up sitting with the same unwrapped present in my lap for over an hour until I just gave up and moved to the couch. As good as the movie was, it was in two parts and nearly four hours long. A combination of the excitement of the day, the couch, the couch blankey, my pajamas, and elderberry wine soon had me romping in dreamland.

That was Saturday, a good day indeed. Sunday I got up early, did the house chores, and started in on my unfinished wrapping. It was a gray, dismal day and as I rewatched the first part of “WolfieThe Hogfather” I wrapped, and wrapped, and wrapped. The stuff was multiplying, I swear. Now, somewhere in the murky ghosts of Christmas past my mom started the tradition of labeling the packages in cute or sometimes just strange ways. Instead of, “To Eydie, from Mom” a package might read, “To Good Girl Eydie Lynne from Barbie Santa.” Or, “To Johnny from the Wolfie Santa.” (What!!! Mom didn’t call me “Brother John” back then???!!! And I miss my Wolfie!!!) Thanks to me, this year we have, “To little Mary from The King” and “To handsome Sammy from the fashion Santa.”

Sunday evening I decided to put up the tree and decorate the house a little while Sammy put up some outside lights. The plan was, this year, since no one will actually be at home for Christmas, to decorate minimally. Sammy helped me bring down the Christmas storage bins from the attic. There were eleven of them and the 30 gallon tree container. All stuffed full of treasures from my nearly five decades of Christmas. I have one lone surviving angel hair (long since banned) ornament from when our Pop-paw was alive. I have a few pieces of Granny’s holly and ivy dishware. I have an ornament I gave big Roger the first year we were married and a half dozen frog ornaments that Greg had collected. I have Rog’s “Baby’s first Christmas” ornament. I have a ballerina, unicorns, a banana, a Boeing plane, Sherlock Holmes, a Scottish bagpiper, Mr. Potato head, and the Mystery Machine from Scooby Do. My life chronicled in ornaments.

Of course I ended up putting out far more stuff than I’d planned because I like my Christmas stuff and I want to look at it for a few weeks. It’s glittery and shiny and full of memories. Better than a bag of gingersnaps and a half gallon of vanilla ice cream to dip them in. Although I wouldn’t say no to eating the aforementioned while I admired my Christmas decorations while sitting on the couch watching part two of “The Hogfather.”

Sammy did manage to get a little deer hunting in during last week. Our work schedule wasn’t too conducive to prime hunting times so we gave our Amish neighbors permission to hunt up in our deer stand. They got an eight point buck and two doe so far from up on our ridge. Two were from our stand, one from theirs. I hoped Sammy would have some luck, but I didn’t relish the butchering process that follows. The year after my second husband died our unidentified neighbor, knowing we counted on venison as a major meat source, offered to share his deer meat with me if I would process it. I jumped at that idea, and sure enough, he arrived one morning with a gutted, skinned, and quartered deer. The first bit of processing is to cut out the tenderloins, the most tasty and tender back strap of the deer. Around here it’s jokingly called “poison meat” as in “You don’t want that old poison meat, you’d better give it to me.” Then the steaks are cut out, chunks are cut for stew meat, and the bits and pieces are ground for burger or made into jerky. I have my Granddad’s jerky recipe. I may include it on the recipe list, but then again, maybe it will remain a family secret passed down through the generations. But (as usual) I digress. The year my unidentified neighbor brought me the deer three of his brothers showed up through the season with deer for me to process and share in the meat. I suspect their mom, knowing I wouldn’t have time to hunt that year, made sure I was taken care of. One reason why I love living in the country.

Sledding Disaster

The unidentified neighbor has nine brothers and sisters. Their mom lives on the “home place” and throughout the year the whole clan shows up for summer picnics and swimming in their big farm pond, the men all come and bring their sons (and a daughter or two) to hunt deer in the fall, and or course, everyone shows up for Christmas. One Christmas when Rog was young there was a big snowfall just before Christmas vacation started. Then there was a freeze so the snow stayed around. The farm has a perfect sledding hill and that year it had a perfect crust for tobogganing. Some of the teenage boys built a big ramp about halfway down the hill and would ski or snowboard off it. All the neighbors, including me, my second husband, and Rog, showed up for the sledding. There was a bonfire to stand around and thaw out in front of, and some of the dad’s were engaged in building competitive snow forts for later snowball battles. We all took turns going down the hill. Mostly toboggans, but some runner sleds, snow tubes, a big tractor inner tube, and some sheets of paraffin coated cardboard. The hill was fast enough that the runner sleds and toboggans were too fast for me. I like my sledding sedate. So I took one of the snow tubes and happily slid down in lazy spirals and curves along with the toddlers. Unfortunately one of those lazy spirals brought me, now sliding backwards and all unknowing, onto the path of the big ski jump ramp. Next thing I know I had an excellent view of the downward slope of the hill. Unfortunately it was an upside down view as the tube performed complete 360 in the air (with me still hanging on out of desperation and shock.) The tube and I landed to applause from all and sundry and calls of “Do it again, Mrs. Hall. That was soo cool!” I gathered my wits and waved as my heart slowed from it’s trip hammer pace and I (hopefully) nonchalantly ambled off in search of home, pajamas, and hot chocolate.

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Cooking Thanksgiving with Uncle Mike

November 26, 2008 at 9:26 am (Brother John, Family, Friends, Stories, Visit) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Cooking Thanksgiving with Uncle Mike

First of all, I’d like to issue a disclaimer. To any family members who were actually AT this Thanksgiving dinner, and actually READ this: I have a somewhat dim recollection of all the events that occurred but I’m going to write about them anyway. This is how I remember it!

It was the first Thanksgiving after Granny died and the whole family was making a special effort to get together for dinner at Granddad’s. My second husband Greg, my son Roger, and I had made the trip in from Indiana to stay at my parents for a nice long visit through the holidays. Rog was only about three and I was still in respiratory school. I volunteered to go over to Granddad’s the evening before to help Granddad shop, get the turkey ready, make the pies, sweet potato casserole, and anything else that could be done ahead of time. My Mom said she would stay home with Rog and then they would all come over early Thanksgiving morning. I was surprised when Uncle Mike said he would come down the night before and help with the cooking, but tickled too.

Uncle Mike has always been a very cool uncle. One year when Brother John got a microscope for Christmas Uncle Mike not only let us stick pins in his fingers a billion times so we could look at blood, he also let us look at skin flakes, boogers, arm hair, and spit. He would babysit us when we were kids. I don’t think we ever got to bed on time when Uncle Mike was there. I can remember being cranked up on soda and candy and jumping up and down on the bed yelling at the top of my lungs just for the sake of the irritating noise of it. Uncle Mike took it like a sport.

Now, by this time I was a grown up married lady and had had my hand up many a turkey’s cavity to fill it with stuffing, but mind you always with my Granny or my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law around for moral support. This would be my first solo run without a matriarch to guide me. But, I was no stranger to cooking and was ready for the task at hand. Sure I was.

I arrived at Granddad’s and after he greeted me with his usual “How are you Sweet Thing?” we settled in at the table to make lists. Or rather I made lists, consulted Granddad, and he read me bits and pieces from the newspaper and showed me the Thanksgiving cards he’d received. God love him, he wanted everything to be just like it was when Granny made Thanksgiving dinner. As he went down the list of food I began to feel the first creeping signs of unease. Surely in past years we hadn’t had all that food? Yes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, corn, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie. But did we really have in addition corn bread, deviled eggs, pickled eggs and red beets, three bean chowder, Lima beans, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, stuffing balls, ham, pineapple upside down cake, cookies, apple dumplings, a pickle and olive tray, dips for pretzels and chips, and hot dogs for my son who at that time in his life ate nothing but hot dogs? How did Granny do it? Granddad had lovingly gotten out all of Granny’s recipes and placed them in a (towering) stack for me to look over.

Armed with my list, Granddad picked up his crutches (he’d been injured in an industrial accident several years back and had nearly lost his legs) and we went out to his big salmon colored Cadillac. Talk about a beautiful car. Leather seats as soft as butter. He handed me the keys and we floated our way into town. That car just about drove itself. I was doing 90 before I knew it. Granddad’s hand on the armrest never even tightened its grip, not even when we sort of sailed over a huge bump and I’m sure all four white walled tires left the ground.

Our first stop was the liquor store. I was a little puzzled when Granddad grabbed a shopping cart on the way in. I soon understood as he went down the aisles. “Now, Sweet Thing, get you a bottle of that Scotch you like, and get your Aunt Deb some of that stuff there, I forget what it’s called but that’s the bottle, and your cousin Tim drinks Jack Daniels and Kathy drinks Old Granddad and your dad likes a Seagram’s Seven and seven -up…” and the list went on and on. He knew what everyone from family members to family friends liked to drink and bought it. The bill was more than I took home in a week! I was thinking that all that liquor never took into consideration that most of the men hung out in Granddad’s shed before dinner and drank his homemade plum brandy anyway and smoked their cigarettes and cigars while he sharpened their pocket knives!

I pulled the now loaded Caddy into Granddad’s driveway, just missing the snow-ball bush to the right and the big walnut tree to the left (at least missing the big walnut tree THIS time) and pulled in beside Uncle Mike’s car. We got the groceries unloaded and it was time to cook. I forgot to mention that Granddad had gotten some of the groceries a day or so before I got there. To my consternation I saw that he had gotten real potatoes to make the mashed potatoes. Not the instant I had planned to make, then hide the box, and hope no one noticed. He had also gotten “real” bread cubes, four big bags of them, for the stuffing. No Stove Top, I sighed. Fortunately, Uncle Mike turned out to be a pretty good cook and took everything in stride. We got the turkey washed and the giblets cooked. (Granddad was horrified when I prepared to throw out the neck. No neck? “Why there’s some commin’ that’d soon have the neck as the whole dang turkey,” he said. By this time it was late, and things were moving along very slowly. Uncle Mike got the pumpkin pies in while I was peeling the hard boiled eggs to put in with the pickled beets. New eggs. New eggs that didn’t want to peel. Lots of new eggs that didn’t want to peel. Uncle Mike lent a hand and we made the most pitted and cratered plate of deviled eggs you ever saw. The pickled eggs floated in the dark beet juice looking like I had beat them with a stick. Uncle Mike said, “Tastes good, all that counts.”

Finally, just about everything was prepared. Granddad had long since nodded off at the kitchen table and was finally persuaded to go to bed. I was yawning and Uncle Mike kept saying, one more thing, and then I’ll go home for awhile and see you in the morning. The last thing on the agenda was the making of the stuffing balls. Now our family likes their stuffing done outside the turkey. We use an ice cream scoop to make balls of stuffing that are cooked in pans in the oven. The stuffing comes out crispy on the outside and the inside is moist enough to stick together but no more. Many a heated discussion has revolved around the stuffing balls and whether or not they were the desirable “bone dry” balls. Granny always got it just right. As we started to shake out the bags of bread cubes into the big mixing bowl I noticed what I thought was a piece of blue bread wrapper in the bowl. I picked it out, and then immediately spied another piece. “Uncle Mike,” I cried aghast, “these bread cubes are MOLDY.” Granddad had gotten the stuffing cubes a day or so ago and had put them on top of the refrigerator. The top of the fridge gets warm, the moisture left in the cubes provides a nice growth medium, and there you have it. We just looked at each other, knowing there was no place open (especially in those days) to buy more. Granddad only had a few slices of bread left in his loaf. So, we started picking mold off the cubes. Uncle Mike said, “penicillin won’t hurt you, right?” Now I’m thinking that that’s not the only kind of mold that can grow on bread, and some people are allergic to penicillin anyway. But, Thanksgiving dinner and no stuffing balls? There would be mutiny. So, until two A.M. I picked and pored over the bread cubes. Finally we made the stuffing balls, ready to pop in the oven come morning. We stored them in the fridge to retard further growth. Uncle Mike left for home and a few hours sleep and I poured myself a hefty Scotch, shed a few tears in the dishwater as I cleaned up, and started getting out the “good” dishes, serving spoons, extra silverware, and coffee cups.

Thanksgiving day dawned. I know it dawned because I saw it. I had gotten as far as putting on my pajamas after Uncle Mike left, but that was as close to beddy-bye as I got. As I watched the sun come up into a clear sky that promised a crisp perfect day I gave thanks that I was blessed with such a large loving family. I also prayed that no one would get sick from the meal, that I would manage to be awake for over 24 hours without becoming a demented shrew, and that Granny would forgive me my many trespasses in the preparation of the family meal.

My mom, dad, husband and son were the first to arrive, followed quickly by pretty much the world. Aunts, Uncles, cousins, second cousins, neighbors, friends, all were welcomed. Everywhere I looked I saw mouths filled with food. The kids were running around the table snatching an olive or pickle here, a cookie or some chips there. And then, it was the moment of truth. The turkey came out of the oven at the right moment and was done to perfection. The mashed potatoes I had delegated to mom with a certain amount of desperation. I had peeled them, I had cooked cooked them, and then she did all sorts of mysterious things with warm milk and butter and came up with smooth mounds of creamy goodness. I made Uncle Mike take the stuffing balls from the oven and pass them around to the ohhs and ahhs of anticipated satisfaction. The balls were lightly browned, pleasing to the eye. They smelled heavenly and I saw that most people took at least two. My dad took the first bite as I bit my tongue and he pronounced, “Bone dry.” The highest compliment. I felt my face turn as red as the pickled beets and I choked back the laughter that was holding hands with the urge to tell on myself. Mom patted my shoulder, “She’s shy.” I felt my face grow redder and added to myself, “and possibly a murderer.” I coughed and mom said, “I hope you’re not coming down with something.” Uncle Mike passed me a stuffing ball. “Here, fix you right up.” (Brother John here… ah yes… and I’m sure he said it with a twinkle in his eye… So much humor and irony expressed with so few words!)

I watched closely for the remainder of the day but no one’s throat swelled up forcing me to do an emergency tracheotomy with the pen Uncle Dave had given me that said, “From the desk of Dave Reed.” One of my second cousins DID throw up but I think that was due more to the entire box of chocolate covered cherries she had eated when no one was watching. By mid afternoon Granddad had run out of chairs and sofa’s for uncle’s to sleep on. Uncle Mike was stretched out on the lining room floor in front of the football game on TV. The snores were so loud and varied that we women giggled from the kitchen as we gossiped and washed dishes. There were no left over stuffing balls. My mom hugged me and said , “Granny would be proud of you.”

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Ghost Story II (Phantom Dog)

October 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm (Ghost, Hiking, Jasper, Stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Ghost Dog

I woke up early this morning and thought I’d sit down and word ramble a little while the level in my coffee diminished. A departure from my usual mornings (or whatever passes for morning in our night shifter world!) Usually I rather arthritically moan and groan my way out of bed and move slowly to the coffee pot. I save the leftover coffee from the day before so a first cup can speedily warm in the microwave. As it warms I get the coffee pot going with fresh coffee. I’d like to say that I then stand at the kitchen window and watch the birds busy at the feeders, assess the approach of fall in the first leaves dropped from the three maples that stand by the swing, and generally absorb the nature of the day.

I’d like to say that (and, in fact, I DID just say that), but it would be a winky tinky lie. The truth is that invariably I take my first cup of coffee back into the bedroom where I make the bed. My Granny ingrained this in me so strongly that I will make beds in hotel rooms even when I know housekeeping is two doors down waiting for me to depart, even when we get up through the night for an hour or so during our usually insomniac nights off, even when I am washing our favorite linens that I intend to put right back on. Some of my early memories are of staying with Granny overnight. I’d sleep up in the finished attic. There was a double bed up there that Brother John got, and I had the single bed. It was one that had an old iron headboard. When we would go downstairs in the morning, Granny would ask sweetly (she NEVER raised her voice), “Did you make your bed honey?” She would never ask that if I had. She had this Granny ESP. I would turn around and head back upstairs and the habit has followed me all of my days. This habit (and dare I say others) didn’t stick with Brother John. He used to pay me to clean his room and I think if I lived closer he would STILL pay me to clean his room. (Brother John here… Yep! I’d pay. And pay gladly! And pay often!). Thinking about it, I’m not sure what would have happened if I had ever defied Granny. No one ever did. She never yelled, she never punished, she never argued. The most we ever heard was, “Now you don’t want to make Granny cross do you?” For us, that was like hearing, “Now you don’t want to have single-handedly stuck a knife in my heart or set fire to a house of poor, sick orphans, do you?” There would be no need for water boarding or any other torture methods if Granny was doing the interrogating. That one little statement and the worst terrorist would be on his knees sobbing.

Anyway, digression completed, after the bed is made I usually start right in to the daily house chores and whatever other tasks the day holds. By the time I’ve finished my hips, knees, and ankles are all loosened up and mostly ache free and I have satisfied my little obsessive compulsive soul with ACCOMPLISHMENT. (Uh, yeah. I do have a check off list…)

Oh, another thing. I wake up EVERY morning without fail with a song in my head. And believe me, that song is not choosy. It could be a song I’ve been learning on the fiddle or mandolin, it could just as easily be a commercial jingle, disco refrain, gospel chorus, Scottish reel, classical aria, or hillbilly ballad, my head doesn’t care. (Brother John here… a mild interruption. I too ALWAYS wake up with a song in my head. Must be a family thing). Many times I don’t even LIKE the song and go around begging Sammy to give me another tune, or turn music or the TV on. And, not only do I often not like the song, I never seem to know any more than a line or two of the words, so I get the same tiny piece that I do know repeating over and over. This morning, for example, as I sit here, it’s “Low Rider” by War. “Take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip with me.” Oh yeah. I used to play a mental game. Whatever the first complete song was that I heard on the radio after I got into my car to drive to work, would be the predictor of my shift. “Dream a Little Dream”, good. “Welcome to the Jungle”, bad. I finally stopped doing that when I realized that there were not nearly as many songs about nature and flowers and love as there were about cheatin’ slime bags or environmental decay.

Anyway, another digression completed. What I started to say was that October is here. Another season is making its self heard and seen and smelled. And remembered. About four or five years ago I had gotten into jogging. It started when my friend Anita and I started walking and yakking about husbands, work, kids, life, etc. Then we started jogging on the down hills, then jogging on the flats, then the little uphills. Before I knew it we were jogging four days a week, four to seven miles at a shot, and looking pretty fit as a result. (These days I walk, and not as often, and my figure reflects it.) On the days that we couldn’t get together, I would go by myself. This is a little October ghost story about something that happened while I was jogging.

My favorite time to jog was in the evening when the sun was low in the sky. I would try to time it so that I could catch the sunset on the top of Asper Hill first, then again as I rounded back to Knisely Hill. That meant that by the time I finished my usual four and a half mile loop and came down through the hollows, it would be just light enough to see my shoes hit the pavement. I liked the feeling that I was pushing the night back a little with each footfall. Most times I would take Jasper. At the time of this story we had only had him about a year. He was well behaved enough to never stray far, come right away when I called, and not fight with other dogs we might come across. But on this jog I didn’t take him. Archery season had come in. There would be both neighbors and strangers in the surrounding woods, at that time of day just heading out to walk or drive home. Around these parts, dogs who run deer are shot on site by some, and even though Jasper doesn’t have that habit, a loose dog could be conceived as possibly running deer, and shot by some. I’m not coordinated enough to have him leashed and jog at the same time, so I put his very reluctant (bribing with lunch meat was required) butt into the Dog Run. Our other dog at the time was our sweet Jack. Jack had recently developed a bulging vertebrae that was causing him to have tremors in his back legs and some instability, and so couldn’t have gone either. (Jack’s condition was caused by a congenital defect that worsened with maturity, and eventually caused complete paralysis of his back legs. We only had him a year and had to have him put to sleep when he was only three, but he was a good, sweet, wonderful member of our family.) So, I set off alone, to the tune of mournful howling dogs, wearing an orange vest, reflector tape, and carrying mace. My husband (second husband) didn’t like it when I jogged during hunting season because there WERE strangers who would come in to hunt. I argued that they were strangers, yes, but to be hunting on our neighbor’s property I would think the neighbors would know who they were…

The first long leg of my jog was up Asper Hill. Back then I could jog the whole thing. It may not have been pretty and involved panting and sweating, but once I made it to the top I always turned around and jogged backwards for a few paces to enjoy the view. From the top of Asper Hill I could see The Big Buffalo mountain in Newport, seven miles away. I could see Middle Ridge, the next big ridge south of me, and see several lesser ridges with the sun just angling to catch the first leaf changes in an amber glow. As I headed over the top and started down to the plateau on the other side, I smelled woodsmoke as someone burned a pile of brush. The plateau is always one of my favorite places. Secluded, the corn, wheat, and soy fields often have feeding deer, wild turkeys coming up to the high land to roost, a fat groundhog that fed by the roadside, and a fox I had seen four or five times. I headed down into the first small hollow, where a few weeks ago I had seen a magnificent eight point buck standing on the edge of the woods, and took a left onto Buckwheat Rd. This part of my jogging loop has the most traffic and is bordered by houses and corn fields. As I was jogging along I heard a truck that needed some muffler work coming up the road behind me. I got way over to the side of the road. People on Buckwheat tend to drive way too fast. The truck slowed behind me and then came up beside me. I was used to people asking directions, neighbors stopping to rib me a little and tell me to jog faster, so I looked over at the occupants of the truck anticipating a pleasant little break.

Talk about Perry County scary. I live in a county that is still very much rural Pennsylvania and gets a lot of redneck and hillbilly jokes, and some of them are deserved. It’s also a county that has more than its share of artists, musicians, poets, artisans, and intelligent, literate, creative people who still have all their teeth, but the two men I found myself looking at were not examples of the latter. The first thing I noticed through the open window was the smell. A combination of very old sweat and beer fumes was radiating out of the truck. A lot of hunters will hang their hunting clothes outside to get rid of “human” smells. These guys had may have been hanging their clothes outside but if so, had neglected to ever wash them, ever. It was a mossy oak patterned fugue. Archery season was in , but these guys had rifles sitting on the floor and resting on the bench seat in between them. The driver had a few weeks worth of beard that was stained with tobacco juice. He spat out the window, just missing my shoes, and gave me a glimpse of a few yellow teeth, a few brown teeth, and lots of spaces where there SHOULD have been teeth. He backhanded off the tobacco juice that dripped into his scruff, missing most of it, and said, “What you runnin’ from there, missy?” The other guy, younger, long really greasy hair, muscular arms (he had the top of his camouflaged hunting coverall around his waist to show a ripped and stained t-shirt with the sleeves and neck cut out) and a big beer belly. I could see tufts of belly hair straining out of the rips in the shirt. This guy giggled (a nasty little sound) took a swig of beer from the can he had between his legs, backhanded the dribbled beer from his two or three day shadowed face, and repeated, “runnin’ from, he he he.” I would have, had I been a man, been hearing the theme from “Deliverance”. As it was, I felt the sweat trickling down my back become cold, and my mind start to whirl furiously with thoughts. Like, that they didn’t have a scrap of required hunter orange anywhere about them. Poachers. I don’t have much of a problem with food hunters out of season, although the government differs from me on that point, but I just didn’t have that feeling about these guys. The back of the old sea green, primer, and rust colored pickup was full of beer cans. I also thought that I don’t know them, I don’t have my dog, it’s nearly dark, and the next stretch of my loop is very isolated. I’m also calculating the best place to jump off the road and run if I need to, figuring that I am in good shape, they obviously aren’t, I know this area and the people who live here, and it’s nearly dark. I could get rid of the orange reflective vest as I ran and disappear in the woods in seconds. I’m also thinking, that might just be something that only works in movies.

Well, just them a car came along that DID have a couple of neighbors in it. They stopped to chat and my buddies in the truck moved on. The neighbors moved on too and I started jogging again. As I headed down a little hill before I made the next turn on to Knisely Hill road, I saw, around the next bend, pulled off into a field access road, the sea green truck. “Crap!”, I thought. To turn back or bypass Knisely Hill would mean several miles of jogging in the full dark. I also had to work that night and would be late. I said a little prayer and turned on Knisely. About that time I heard paw pads behind me. They were just there all at once, but I did have other things on my mind at the moment and figured I just didn’t notice. Lots of the neighbor’s dogs would come up and greet me as I jogged, but usually with a lot of barking and fuss about it. This dog was silent. I had had my hand on the mace ever since my conversation with the cretins and I turned. Trotting behind me was one of the biggest dogs I’d ever seen, and not one I recognized. He had red fur like an Irish setter, but a big woolly head and deep barreled chest like a Newfoundland. He wagged his tail, mouth open and panting, and I relaxed a little. “Hey boy”, I said. I put out my hand, palm up, in case he wanted to sniff me and be petted but he kept just out of reach. So, I started jogging again and he passed me and started loping in front of me. I talked to him, and he would turn his head and perk his ears up to listen. I was so distracted by this big, beautiful, shaggy stranger that I forgot momentarily my other not so beautiful shaggy strangers until I realized we were going by their truck. The doors opened and the younger guy got out. The driver had one foot on the ground and stood, leaning against the door. Both had beers. “Hey Missy, why doncha come talk a bit?” “He he he, yeah, come talk?” “Aw come on, we’ll give you a beer.” “Yeah, beer.” The younger guy took a few steps away form the truck and I got the impression he was either going to urinate or expose himself right there in front of me. Just then the big red dog crossed over to their side of the road. “Holy crap, lady, where’d you get the DOG!” Young guy backed slowly back to the truck and stood behind the open door. I jogged desperately on, hearing the dog’s paws behind me. Then I heard the truck start up, pull out, and turn (thank you Lord) in the opposite direction. As the sound of the un-muffled exhaust faded away I turned back to my protector, thinking that if he followed me home he was going to get the biggest, juiciest hamburger I could make before I tried to find his owners. There was NOTHING there! Now, it had only been seconds since the creeps had driven away and I had been hearing footpads behind me. I was jogging along a field of soybeans. Even though they hadn’t been harvested the dog was way bigger than they were. Even though it was now dusk, I could see clearly for some distance in all directions as I circled around looking for him. I called, “Hey, dog, red boy.” He was just gone as quickly as he had appeared.

Did I have an angel? Was he a ghost? I asked around over the next several days, thinking maybe someone had guests up to hunt who had brought their dog. I also asked about the sea green truck. And, I changed my jogging times and course for awhile. Sometimes when you need a little miracle, you get one. There have been two or three other times since, when I have been out walking, that I have THOUGHT I heard footpads behind me. Once I was so sure of it I put out my hand in back of me expecting a friendly lick. Nothing. I almost expect to hear a story one day about a big red dog that some old farmer owned generations ago…

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Ghost Story

September 16, 2008 at 6:39 am (Ghost, Hobbies, Stories, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Today was a gem of a day. We went to bed expecting rain and wind, and got up to blue skies decorated with clouds in amusing shapes (Sammy has seen a kneeling cherub, Abraham Lincoln, and the bearded face of God, I’ve seen a humpbacked whale with its baby, a plucked chicken, and a fat deep sea diver.) Kind of gives you a perspective on our personalities. It’s been a day of reflection and deep laziness as tomorrow is my birthday! The last year of my forties decade, don’t you know. That’s okay, I’m ready for 50 next year. I like who I am, where I am, what I do, and for the most part, what the future seems to hold. Not bad for half my life. I joke that I know I’m going to live to be 103. I based a poem, “When Lydia Was Ten” on this proposed long, long life. We’ll see…

(Brother John here… Speaking of poems… The Beekeeper’s Promise is now in Eydie and Sammy’s poetry section!).

At the moment Sammy is mowing and I am checking out his fine self on the mower. Sky blue bandanna wrapped around his head and all. Our property starts at an elevation of about 200 feet above sea level and rears up to 800 feet at the top. The roughly two acres that we mow include some fairly steep inclines. Mowing on the riding mower requires a knowledge of physics and a lot of guts. I watch Sammy throw his weight from one side of the mower to the other to counter balance the tilt. At a few points he has to literally stand on one side of the mower so it doesn’t tip over. I don’t mow with the riding mower. I am sore afraid. During the years that I was a widow lady living here alone I push mowed the whole damn yard. Not often, understand, and not well. I had waist high yard in places that could have been cut for animal fodder. (Good for bees though…)

Yesterday was another good day of this vacation. We got a load of wood cut and stacked in the woodshed even though the day was again hot and sticky. I worked on my poetry book (my friend Tony had been over to give me computer advice to get things into publishable form) and started looking through the hundreds of photo CD’s that Sammy has taken. The book will also feature his photo art.

I’ve been thinking my September thoughts of arts and crafts. There are quite a few things that I enjoy doing but put aside for the busy summer months. I often make grapevine wreaths using seed pods, ornamental grasses, pine cones, and wild grapevine I collect. I knit quite well, our Granny saw to that, and I make scarves, purses, baby afghans, hats, and the like. I got interested in making jewelry since I rarely leave the house without earrings. At this point I can’t call it a “talent”, I have to settle for “craft” because all I do is buy beads I like, or buy jewelry at flea markets and garage sales and take it apart to make into something else, and just assemble the lot. But it’s fun and I get as many new earrings as I want! This year I made some Christmas ornaments from bead and sequin kits I bought. I have the beads to make my own designs, but I found that finding the satin balls is difficult out of season. And, I indulged myself in a rather “tacky” latch-hook rug for Christmas. Such a soothing craft.

(Brother John here… Eydie and Sammy have added an Arts and Crafts section to their site. It’s very rough right now but will evolve as I have time to format and shape it).

One last thought before I turn my mind toward supper and going through pictures and yet another poem that occupies my brain cells. Brother John will appreciate this. I know it isn’t the Halloween and ghost season yet, and I have several other ghost stories to tell as THAT season approaches, but I’m sure Brother John remembers Betsy. When we were kids we lived with mom and dad in an old brick house in Fawn Grove, PA. Brother John always said the house was haunted, and perhaps he’ll want to add his own stories which are probably far better than mine, but… One night, when I was about six or seven, I had gone to bed. I slept in part of a duo of rooms that would have once been the children’s room and the nanny’s room. Just an archway in between, no door. My room had a doorway to the attic hall, and a doorway to the old nanny’s room. There was a grate in the floor to allow what little heat there was to come up to my room in the winter, and also to allow me to hear the voices of the grownups downstairs after I had gone to bed. It was a warm night. Back in those days I had long, thick, heavy, curly hair that hung down way past my shoulders. Don’t think because I had nice hair that I was a beauty or anything. I was fat and geekish and about as unattractive a child as you can imagine. Well, my hair was heavy, and in the summer it would get hot so I would fling it over the side of the bed and sleep that way. I had heard my brother tell stories of Betsy (and he should tell the stories HERE), but I had never seen or heard anything I could attribute to her. (Like I said, other stories for other times) But on this night, I could hear mom and dad and some of the uncles playing cards downstairs and hear Brother John’s music from down the hall and his room. (Not pertinent to this story, but Black Oak Arkansas as I remember.) I think I was awake. I suddenly felt a small tug on my hair. I was immediately frozen motionless, my head still, my hair still over the side of the bed, and I began to feel hands finger combing my hair, including a few sharp tugs. (I never combed my hair after that first hurried brushing in the morning.) Then, hands, and they felt like small hands, began braiding my hair. I heard someone humming a tune, one I didn’t know but was able to pick out on my fiddle the next day. I can’t describe it better than to say that the hands felt real, but the humming felt like it was coming from someplace else. The attic, my brother’s room, my parents room, the summer kitchen down below. I don’t know. I kept my neck in that panic stricken position until I really did fall asleep. In the morning, of course, my hair was still in the wild disarray it had been when I went to bed. I discounted the whole thing as a dream. Until, of course, a day or so later, when my brother John said, matter of factly, “Betsy says she likes your hair.”

(Brother John here… Our next door neighbor, back in those days, told me of a woman who had lived in our house long ago. It was a sad tale because the woman had been found hanged in what would later be our upstairs attic). After some reflection, my elderly next door neighbor recalled the poor womans name. When she said: “It was Betsy as I recall”, I literally felt chills going up and down my spine).

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Beekeeper Dan Comes For A Visit (Part 1)

September 6, 2008 at 10:03 am (Bees, Carboy, honey, New friends, Recipes, Visit, Yeast) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

A visit from Beekeeper Dan

We had been anticipating a visit from Beekeeper Dan for a couple of weeks and just couldn’t seem to get schedules to mesh, so when he let us know that yesterday would work out, we were tickled pink. The day before we had racked our wines from carboy to carboy to get rid of the first lot of “settlement” (dead yeasties and fruit pulp and such) and had been delighted to find that our mead was not in “stuck fermentation” as we had feared and agonized over for better than a week, but was still working, just working at it’s own slow pace. Sammy had worried so much that he had driven after work (night shift) to our local wine making supplier and slept in the car (again) until they opened. He was advised to go home, have a home brew and relax and let the mead ferment at its own pace. That was okay with us, even though our yeasties ride the little yellow school bus, we still love them!

I had been having a shamefully laid back day off. I had slept the long sleep of one who was avoiding watching the the republican convention (or any other convention) and woke up early. It was promising to be a scorcher of a day, hot and humid, but the morning offered a coolish breeze as I fed the shed cats and house kittens, cleaned litter boxes, rinsed and refilled water bowls, rescued Guido’s tank mates from his cannibalistic hunger, and fed the dogs. Sammy has decided that we should try to limit our power usage to off grid hours so he had done a load of laundry near midnight. As I hung the clothes out on the line the hummingbirds seemed to be fascinated either by my pajamas or Sammy’s socks and underwear because they hovered for seconds at a time in front of me in a rather quizzical fashion.. Best not to speculate the ADHD mind of the hummingbird. House chores done, I poured my second cup of coffee and wandered out back to check out my fine bed of Stonecrop sedum that was in full bloom. It was covered with honeybees and I couldn’t wait to show Beekeeper Dan. They were beauties, amber abdomens with black stripes against the pink sedum flowers. I watched to see where they went as they flew off. Somewhere into the sun…

Next thing I knew it was time to take a nap. Night shifters as we are, day time functioning requires a mid afternoon nappy. I melted into the bed even before Sammy had finished checking his E-mail. 45 minutes later I sat bolt upright, gasped, and said, “Granny!” Sammy said, “Wzzzt wzzmm?” I said, ” I don’t have any food made to offer Dan!” My grandmother (Granny to us, God rest her soul) would have been appalled that I had company and didn’t offer to feed them something. It’s the code of the country that as soon as someone crosses your doorway you start trying to stuff food into them. I can remember coming home from college to visit my Granny and Granddad and no sooner had I hugged and kissed hello than Granny was pulling out platters of sliced ham or turkey and Granddad was taking a pan of cornbread out of the oven and soon the table was groaning under the weight of “a little snack to tide you until supper”. Sammy was, by this time snoring again so I laid there and quietly tossed and turned and fidgeted and wracked my brains for an idea. We had been putting off going to the grocery store for several days to maybe over a week or so and Old Mother Hubbard ruled the pantry. I had racks of canned stuff I was going to share, but few people other than me can really sit down an enjoy an entire meal of pickled beets.

Blueberry Cobbler

So I lay there, mentally going over every offering of cupboards, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Freezer! I had it! The frozen blueberries from neighbor Dot! The day was saved and Granny’s spirit could rest easy. I got up and in short time had made a blueberry cobbler. Easy, and soooo tasty. Dot had frozen her blueberries in one cup baggies so I took four of these and ran cool water over them in a colander until they had thawed. In a medium saucepan I mixed a half cup of sugar and two tablespoons of cornstarch. To this I added the blueberries and heated the mixture, stirring constantly, until it boiled. This was allowed to boil for one minute (stirring) and then poured into an ungreased 2 qt. casserole. The oven had been preheated to 325 and the blueberries were placed into the oven while the topping was prepared. The topping consisted of a half cup of exceedingly lumpy brown sugar, a half cup of flour, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a half cup of some multi grain high fiber cereal with oats and bran flakes, honey “clusters”, and rocks and twigs. A third cup of margarine was “cut” into this and this topping was crumbled on top of the blueberries. This was heated through until the topping was browned and crunchy. Since the topping was already crunchy this was a little hard to assess. I winged it and hoped for the best. If you don’t have any “twigs and rocks” cereal a half cup of oatmeal will do. And it really is better if the brown sugar isn’t lumpy. I had to beat mine with the side of the meat tenderizer until it submitted to my demand. (A recipe for Eydie’s Blueberry Cobbler)

Then I put together a care package for Dan of some of my recent canned goods, some flower seeds I’d been collecting (lunaria, hollyhock, poppy, zinnia, and marigold), and his empty honey jars and wine bottle. Next I did a quick poop scoop of the area around the house. Nothing kills the mood of a nice visit more than a shoe full of dog poop. The evening was shaping up nicely so I sat out on the deck with the mandolin and worked on the waltz “After the ball was over…”

Dan arrived on his Italian motorcycle. The purpose of his visit (other than a visit) was to asses our property for “bee worthiness” and discuss the best site for a hive. We also wanted to “talk chicken.” Sammy and I had been meeting such happy, friendly free range chickens over the past week that we wondered if a few might like to join our household. (And not be terrorized by the other animals. I, for one, have heard Guido express a fondness for chicken, should one ever pass near his tank.) More about our visit later.

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