Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sisters and Snowball

Can't believe I haven't used this photo yet. It's just one of my all time favorites…ever! It shows me and my little sister Donna with our pony Snowball on my Grandma's farm. And there's the snowball bush behind! What a blessed, happy childhood I had in the West Virginia mountains.

Mostly I rode Snowball because my sisters were too young to ride alone. We got him because he went lame in one of his back feet and the owner didn't want to have to care or feed him (expensive). But my grandparents had 50 acres of grass and hay and it wasn't a problem, apparently. Or else they made the sacrifice for us.

I used to roam the hills on him bareback and featured him in my first book Mountain Girl. What a sweetheart he was. I'm sad for kids that only get to see farm animals in museums now and ride a burned-out pony in a circle at a fair.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mountain Music

This is my cousin Gary Smith playing the banjo at a recent family reunion in West Virginia. I try to make it back every year from my home in Chicago and it's always a thrill to drive through the hills again and see my family. And this year, listen to authentic mountain music!

Gary reminds me a lot of my dad. He looks like him, for one thing, and also plays the banjo like my dad. He even knows one of my dad's favorite pieces and played it for me at the reunion. There's a lot of music bouncing off the mountain in West Virginia and I appreciate it more each year.

The banjo is a time-honored instrument there (along with the fiddle). My dad's all-time favorite banjo playing came from Flatt and Scruggs. I think he and his brothers never had any formal music training but just picked it up from whoever else was around playing.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Yummmm! Country cornbread cooked in a cast-iron skillet. This was a staple of my childhood. My grandma made it regularly, cut it into big squares and we ate it with all three meals. My grandpa used to say he wouldn't know how to eat without bread at the table because he used it to sop up extra gravy and push peas onto his fork.

I've puzzled over how she made it because I've had trouble duplicating the taste in my kitchen in Chicago. I finally hit on the cast iron skillet for baking and the use of bacon grease, both to grease the pan and to drizzle on the top. Good cornmeal flour helps, too, and no sugar. I'm still working on it.

Some ways I saw it eaten: sliced horizontally and filled with country bacon or  peanut butter and jelly, or butter and green onions. My uncle Roy used to crumble it in milk and add dollops of sweet applesauce to make a dessert. All time fave, of course, is with beans and ham soup on a cold winter night. Nothing has ever tasted as good as the food of our childhood nostalgia does in our memory.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What's in a name? A lot!

This is my 3-year-old granddaughter, whose middle name is Rose.  This means a lot to me, as you can imagine, not only because it's my name but because it was my grandma's name. These things add a sense of continuity to a family and give a child a sense of belonging.

My dad always said that my grandma Rose loved the rain. "She would use any excuse to get out in it," he'd say with a chuckle. Well, I love the rain also and like walking in it and love sleeping while a storm rages outside. Perhaps my granddaughter will! And then someone will say someday, "You know your grandma Rose loved the rain too!"

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Split-rail Fence 

This is a split rail fence like they used to have on my grandparents' farm. I remember them a bit more weathered than this. They were great for keeping cows and horses in and sometime for keeping them out of a garden, for instance.

I understand they were especially used in areas where there was a lot of timber (like West Virginia) and could be easily assembled. Another plus was that you didn't need any hardware to put them together. 

I remember climbing over these and playing on them as a girl and am very nostalgic about them. They have a poetic beauty as they run alongside a field of green. Don't you agree?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Aunt Lorena Again

Click on photo to enlarge.

I'm thinking about my Aunt Lorena lately because I'm going to the Creasy family reunion in West Virginia at the end of this month and she'll be there along with my cousins. She's in her nineties now and the last of my dad's 10 brothers and sisters. This is a great picture of her looking out over the hills of WV. What was she thinking about?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I'm 16 in this picture and am half cut off over to the left. I notice I'm pretending to drink coffee - the mark of an adult as far as I was concerned. My grandpa had passed on at this point and my grandma is old and crippled by arthritis. That's her there in the front with her walker. I notice, though, that she still has a cheery smile on her face. I think she's amused by my bratty little sister goofing around across the table. Also in attendance (clockwise from left) my cousin  Janet Jo and sister Shirley, my Uncle John Roy, Uncle Charles and Rhoda (an older woman hired to care for my grandma). I think Aunt Lorena is taking the picture. Where are my mom and dad?

So what are we having to eat? Yum. I see fried chicken and mashed potatoes, bread and green onions. I can't quite identify anything else but am especially curious about the dark stuff in small bowls by eveyone's place. I notice there's ketchup and cow's milk, as we used to call it. 

This is a sad picture of my Uncle Roy for me. He's older now and his face is closed off, his eyes sort of vacant and staring. So different from some of his younger pictures when there was still hope for him to have a normal life. I want to speak to him across the table and the years. What would I say?