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Memorial Day

The dog days of summer came early this year.  It’s only May and temps have already soared into the mid to upper nineties.  We haven’t had any significant rainfall in a few weeks either so it’s not only hot, it’s hot AND dry.  I love it.  Anyhow, my wife and I were sitting in the porch swing one evening and we decided to hop into the jeep and ride up town to get a Wendy’s Frosty.  In the drive-thru, the lady in the car in front of us waved as she was pulling away with her food.  We waved back, but we did not recognize her and just assumed she thought we were someone else.  When we pulled up to the window to pay, the girl working there handed us our Frosties and told us they were paid for.  I asked her if it was the car in front of us that paid for it, and she smiled and nodded.  I think I’ve mentioned it before and if I have, it’s because that happens a lot in our sweet little hometown of Pickens.

I remember when the BLM rallies were being held in cities and towns across the country and a lot of them turned violent with rioters looting and destroying businesses and properties.  There was even a protest held here in our peaceful little town, right on the courthouse steps on Main Street.  There were no riots here and there never will be because we love our town, and we will defend it tooth and nail.  You see, our sweet little hometown of Pickens is the county seat and Pickens County has more congressional medal of honor recipients per capita than any other county in the nation.  We’re all about God, Family, and Country here, and we very strongly support and defend the first amendment because many of our sons and daughters have paid the ultimate sacrifice for that freedom.

What happened at the BLM protest in Pickens?  A handful of protesters showed up and an army of hometown folks showed up too.  Were there any confrontations?  Nope.  They peacefully protested (as protests should be) and all the hometown folks stood quietly by and let them protest.  There was no yelling, no name calling, and no confrontations what-so-ever.  When the protesters went home, so did all the hometown folks who showed up to protect the town should anything get out of hand. 

Isn’t it ironic how we spend a large portion of our lives raising our children, teaching them to behave (no yelling, no hitting, no name-calling, etc.) and then when someone doesn’t share our political values and beliefs, we resort to the very same tactics that we teach our children abstain from?  I’m a firm believer in spare the rod and spoil the child.  My parents spanked me, and I turned out fine.  My wife and I spanked our kids and they turned out fine.  Sometimes I think a trip to the woodshed is needed for these adults who act like spoiled brats when someone disagrees with them. 

Anyhow, this Memorial Day, shine a light into the darkness by practicing one random act of kindness.  You never know how much a simple deed that might seem insignificant to most, might lift one’s spirits.  There’s an old proverb called “For Want of a Nail” that reminds us that seemingly unimportant acts or omissions can have grave and unforeseen consequences that are bad.  The reverse of that is true too; seemingly unimportant acts of kindness can have great and unforeseen consequences that are good. 

Lastly, as next weekend is Memorial Day weekend, I want to recognize the four congressional medal of honor recipients from Pickens County.  The following is taken from an article written by Logan Nye and posted on http://www.wearethemighty.com.

PFC Charles Barker slowed an enemy advance with hand-to-hand fighting. 

Army Pfc. Charles Barker was part of a platoon in Korea that came upon enemy soldiers digging emplacements on a slope June 4, 1953. The patrol engaged the diggers but found itself facing heavy enemy resistance. As mortars began to fall on the platoon, the platoon leader ordered a withdrawal. Barker volunteered to cover the platoon move and was last seen engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

Pfc. William McWhorter absorbed an explosive blast to save his assistant gunner.

Army Pfc. William McWhorter was manning a heavy machine gunner in combat on Leyte Island in the Philippines on Dec. 5, 1944 when an enemy demolitions squad rushed his position. McWhorter and his assistant gunner successfully killed some of the attackers, but one managed to throw a fused demolition charge into the trench. McWhorter grabbed it and pulled it into his body just before it exploded. His actions saved the life of the assistant gunner who was able to continue fighting.

Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe jumped on a grenade to save another Marine.

Marine Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe was in a defensive position on a beach bordering bamboo thickets in Vietnam on May 6, 1970. A group of enemy sappers crept unnoticed to the position in the dark of early morning and launched a grenade attack. Howe and two others moved to a better position and began suppressing the enemy. When another grenade landed in the middle of the group, Howe jumped on it and saved the others.

Pvt. Furman Smith single-handedly held off an enemy counterattack.

During the Allied advance in Italy in World War II, Army Pvt. Furman Smith was part of an infantry company attack on a strong point. Smith was in the lead element when an attack by 80 Germans succeeded in wounding two men. While the rest of the lead element pulled back to the company’s position, Smith rushed forward. He recovered the wounded and placed them in shell craters that provided some cover. He then took a position nearby and held off the Germans with rifle fire until he was ultimately overrun.

Happy Memorial Day!

“If you can read this, thank a teacher.  If you’re reading it in English, thank a soldier.”  ~ bumper sticker

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Happy Mother’s Day

Another May has rolled around.  My favorite month.  My favorite flowers, irises, bloom in May and that’s so appropriate for me because Mother’s Day is in May and my love for growing flowers, and my love for irises in particular, came from a lifetime of seeing Mom lovingly attend to her garden.  I think irises were her favorite flower too as she had every color imaginable and had them planted everywhere.  You know how sometimes you will see or hear something that will trigger a fond childhood memory?  That’s what irises do for me.  Aside from enjoying the sheer beauty of their vibrant colors and delicate petals, every time I see them blooming in May I see my mom, young and beautiful, sitting there among them, a look of peace and contentment on her face, patiently pulling weeds and caring for the flowers.  My grandma had irises too, so maybe my mom was recollecting some fond childhood memory of her own while she worked her garden.  My wife has asked me why I plant so many irises as they are a spring flower and bloom for such a short time.  But oh, what a glorious time it is.  You see, youth and beauty are fleeting.  God even uses flowers in His Word to describe the frailty and transitory nature of human life…

“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.  The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.”  ~ 1 Peter 1:23-24 (KJV)

So, yes, I will continue to plant irises and I will enjoy them for the short time they are here, for they bring back so many sweet memories and remind me of God’s promise.  One day, when the wind passeth over and like the flowers of the field, like the irises in spring, I’ll be gone and remembered no more.  But I will be in God’s presence with my loved ones and I will be able to hug my sweet mother and tell her again how much I love her.  Happy Mother’s Day to all moms.  May God richly bless you all.

“A mother is she who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take.”  ~ Cardinal Mermillod 

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Treasures Lost, Treasures Found

My Mom passed away with Alzheimer’s in November of 2017.  In the final years of her life, my dad hired one of Mom’s childhood friends to sit with her, keep her company, and do some light house cleaning.  After Mom passed, Dad continued to pay her friend to come once a week to clean the house (sweeping, moping, dusting, washing clothes, changing the bed linen, etc.…).  Mom’s friend needed the money, and Dad was not keen on keeping the farm going and keeping the house clean too.  It worked out well until COVID came along, and then Dad let her go.  Fast forward a few years.  Dad, still not keen on housework, had let things get away from him.  Oh, he has been giving the house a lick and a promise, but it very badly needed a deep clean.  I realized this when I last visited with him and sat on the hearth.  When I got up to go, my butt prints were very clearly etched in a thin layer of dust that was covering the hearth.  So, one section at a time, I began the cleaning process.  I am talking about pulling the furniture out, sweeping, mopping, wiping down the walls, the base board, pictures hanging on the wall – anything with a surface to collect dust, I wiped it down with Clorox wet wipes.  Then before I put the furniture back, I wiped all of it down as well.  Top to bottom and even underneath, I scrubbed all the furniture and when I was finished, I polished it with Lemon Pledge furniture polish.  Where do “treasures” come into this story?  Well, you may have guessed it by now, but cleaning the furniture also included going through cabinets and drawers and throwing away any old papers no longer needed (like water bills from 1986).   While going through one cabinet I found three things, no, three treasures that I thought were lost. 

Cleaning Day

The first treasure was a metal toothpick holder that sat on the counter in my Grandma Porter’s kitchen for as long as I can remember.  The toothpicks were in a log and a red-headed woodpecker was perched on the end of the log.  To get a toothpick, you pushed the woodpecker’s head down into the toothpicks and the tip of its beak would spear a toothpick, bringing it up out of the log for you.  For years I had accused my wife, Melody, of putting it up somewhere and forgetting where she had placed it and she always maintained she had never laid eyes on it.  When I showed it to her and told her I found it over at Dad’s house, she came at me and went straight for the nipples (she fights dirty like that).  There is no fending off an attack like that either.  You need BOTH hands to protect your nips so all you can do is curl up into a fetal position and play dead until the attack is over.  You know, like you are supposed to do when a bear attacks you.  Anyhow, I will be hearing about this one for a long time, but I finally have my red-header woodpecker toothpick holder back and it is on my desk where I can see it.  Here is a picture of it.

Toothpick Holder

The next treasure was a recipe.  Every Christmas my mom would make Reece’s chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and Mound’s chocolate-covered coconut balls.  We have the recipe for the chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and we make them every year now ourselves, but we did not have the recipe for the chocolate-covered coconut balls until now.  You see, I found the recipe, hand-written by my mom on a notecard.  I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to come across this in a stack of old bills.  I will be putting this notecard in the box with the recipe for the chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and we will be making both candies every Christmas now, just like Mom used to make them.  I am going to share Mom’s recipes for both candies at the end of this post and just so you know, I’ve yet to find anyone with a better recipe for chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and chocolate-covered coconut balls.

Baking

The third treasure was also a recipe.  Mom’s childhood friend who sat with her and did the housecleaning for my dad is a sweet old lady named Estell Harper.  Every year (also at Christmas time) Estell would bake an orange slice cake and getting one of these cakes from Estell was like winning the lottery.  I finally asked her for the recipe one day, because I did not want that knowledge vanishing when Estell is called home to Glory.  So, she wrote it down for me and somewhere along the way, it too got placed into a stack of old bills and stuffed into a cabinet where it remained hidden until recently.  I will share that recipe too, because this is hands-down the BEST cake you will ever put in your mouth and not only is it delicious, but it is also a very festive cake to bake for the holidays as well.

Desserts

While I am sharing recipes, I will also share my Grandma Jones’s recipe for peanut butter cookies.  This is a quick and easy recipe that makes delicious peanut butter cookies.  We make them every now and then and when we make a batch, we end up eating the entire batch.  They are that good.  Also, my mom’s name is Ola Vessie Jones Porter, and everyone called her by her initials – OV.  She loved to cook and had recipes stashed everywhere.

OV’s Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup Peter Pan peanut butter
  • ¾ cup of butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A can Eagle Brand Milk
  • 2 lbs powder sugar
  • 1 pkg milk chocolate squares

Directions

  1. Mix and ingredients and refrigerate. 
  2. Roll into balls. 
  3. Dip and cover in melted chocolate.
  4. Place on wax paper and let set.

OV’s Chocolate-Covered Coconut Balls

Ingredients 

  • ¾ cup mashed potatoes
  • 4 cup powder sugar (1 box + 1/2c)
  • 4 cup coconut – not frozen
  • 1 12 ounce package of chocolate chips
  • 1 square of bitter chocolate
  • 1/2 block of parafin

Directions

  1. Mix mashed potatoes, sugar, and coconut
  2. Form balls, refrigerate
  3. Melt chocolate chips with bitter chocolate and paraffin
  4. Dip balls in chocolate and refrigerate – (I use dipping chocolate)

Estell Harper’s Orange Slice Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Brock orange slices
  • 1 lb dates
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 tsp soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • Optional: 1 small can coconut (Estell did not use coconut in her recipe, but noted that it was optional)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice

Directions

  1. Cut candy, dates, and nuts into small pieces. 
  2. Leave cup up overnight in pan. (I have no idea what this means)
  3. Sift 2 cups flour over mixture and then mix together.
  4. Cream butter and sugar with eggs.
  5. Add soda, remaining flour, and buttermilk to butter and sugar mixture.
  6. Pour over fruit mixture, mix well, and bake 2 ½ hours at 275.  (grease and flour pan real good)
  7. When cake comes out of over, while still hot, mix 1 cup of brown sugar with 1 cup of orange juice and pour over cake. 
  8. Leave in pan until cool.

Grandma Jones’s Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cup flour
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup Peter Pan peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
  2. Combine butter and peanut butter. 
  3. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. 
  4. Form small balls and roll balls in extra sugar. 
  5. Place balls on cookie sheet and press with fork to flatten a little and make a cross-hatch pattern. 
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. If you ever try one, shoot me an email an let me know how you liked it.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” ~ Luke 12:34

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The Wonder Years

I grew up in a time somewhere between wagons and rockets.  As children, my parents rode in wagons.  My grandpa remembered the first car he had even seen, scooting down the muddy main street of Pickens.  It got stuck in the mud too and some mules had to pull it out.  Speaking of mules, my parents also plowed the gardens and the cotton fields with mules.  Tractors were a rarity back then and they were very expensive.  Fast forward a few years to my generation.  We saw men walk on the moon and wireless smartphones that made almost all the equipment in Radio Shack obsolete.  What will the next generation (our kids) witness?  Men on Mars?  Unlimited clean power from fusion?  Cures for cancer?  It boggles the mind how fast things progress.  To put it in perspective, think about this.  Laura Ingles Wilder, the author of the Little House on the Prairie books, crossed this country in a covered wagon as a child and she crossed it in an airplane as an adult. 

Wagon Ride

I am very excited about all the possibilities the future holds, but I have one foot firmly rooted in the history and lifestyle of my parents generation and I will be forever grateful for that.  We may have self-driving electric cars now, but I remember a time when there was leaded gasoline and you had to spin a handle on the pump to clear the previous purchase.  I remember driving old trucks with dimmer switches on the floorboard and triangular shaped vent windows that you could open for airflow in the summer months.  There was no air conditioner in our vehicles, our house, or our schools.  I cannot imagine a summer without AC now, but back then we had an attic fan that would suck the sheets right off your bed.  We slept with all the windows open and that attic fan whirring away all night long.  It was good sleep too, wrapped up in fresh, sun-dried sheets with a hand-stitched patch-work quilt.  My grandma used to have quilting bees at her house.  She would set the frame up in the living room and her friends would come over and sit around the frame, stitching, sipping coffee, and sharing the latest gossip.  I have several of those quilts now and would not part with them for anything.

Plowing with Horses

I also grew up in a time when men smelled of sweat, plowed earth, wood shavings, fresh cut hay, oiled leather, Red Man chewing tobacco, and Old Spice.  Back then their faces and forearms were tanned and leathery from long days in the sun and their hands were calloused from hard work.  Suits were worn to church on Sundays and overalls, work boots, and trucker hats were worn the other six days of the week.  Back then, Sunday was a day of rest too.  My dad would not even take me fishing on Sunday because it was a day that God gave us to rest, and he believed that was exactly what we were supposed to do.

Quilting

I remember many nights when mom and dad sat in the living room, the attic fan whirring away, and a Billy Graham crusade playing on TV.  There, in the soft glow of the television set, mom and dad would listen to Billy Graham’s service while stringing and breaking beans.  I remember sitting in the shade beneath a plum tree in the back yard on a hot summer day with my mom.  In front of us lay a huge pile of corn dad had picked the previous evening.  We would shuck the corn, break the ends off, and take off as much silk as possible. It was hard, slow work, but oh such fond memories of sitting there, passing time with my mother.  I could go on and on about the work.  Kids these days gripe and complain about simple chores like cutting grass.  We did not have weed eaters when I was a child and every time my dad cut the grass, when he was finished, he gave me his pocketknife to do the trimming.  All round the house, around the porches, around the flower beds, around the shrubs and trees, I had to trim the grass the lawn mower could not reach with a pocketknife.  How many kids today have ever had to get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and pick corn?  We would be in the fields as soon as it was light enough to see and we would pick corn until lunch time.  Then, we would go eat lunch and come back with the tractor and a wagon to get the corn we had picked out of the field.  Our day did not end there either.  We would take the corn to the barn and load it into the bin, then dad would hook the tractor up to the grinder and we would spend the rest of the day grinding the corn into 50lb sacks of feed.  In the summertime, if there were no chores to be done, I would have to pick up rocks in the pastures.  In the wintertime, even though our woodshed was full of split and seasoned firewood, if there were no chores to be done, we would cut more firewood.  That was an all-day job too.  We would cut a full load and then I would have to split it and stack it in the woodshed when we got home.

Breaking Beans

Anyhow, you get the picture.  Unlike millennials, I do know how to use a phone book and a rotary dial phone, and even though that technology is forever gone and now useless, I am thankful for being a part of that era.  It was a time when men were men, women were women, and no one had a gender identity problem.  It was a time when chivalry, patriotism, good manners, kindness, respect for the law, and love of God was very much alive and well.  It was the best of times. 

“Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses. A yard like a lot of other yards. A street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back… with wonder.” ~The Wonder Years

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Dreams, Goals, Plans, Action

I have a ton of dreams for this farm, but I’ve never written them down with a date to make the dream become a goal.  No goal means no plan, no plan means no action, and no action means they remain dreams and nothing more.  What I consider a dream is something big.  Something that will cost money and something that will require hard work, but something that will in some form have a big return on the investment.  Here are some of the dreams on my list…

  • Small Barn for tools (shop), feed storage, and junk storage.
  • Large barn for family gatherings, possibly to rent to public.
  • Turn existing barn, beside the pond, into a picnic shed with restroom and grill.
  • Covered bridge over first place driveway crosses the creek.
  • Stone bridge over second place driveway crosses the creek.
  • Waterfall beside stone bridge.
  • Grist Mill (not a working grist mill) with overshot waterwheel, fed from pond.
  • Turn timber framed woodshed behind house into food processing building.
  • Finish log cabin in the woods above the pond.
  • Build an on-site old-fashioned general store on the farm.

As you can see, there are quite a few things I have dreamed about and as I approach retirement age, my time to accomplish some of these is running short, so I’ve decided to pick one for which we have the greatest need at the moment and that one is the small barn for tools with a feed room and a large area for storing junk. 

This barn will be located on a slab in the parking area at the end of our driveway, to the left of our house.  Since it will be so close to the house, we are going to call it a carriage house and build it to resemble one.  Below is a photo of what we envision. 

Carriage House

The structure will be 16’ wide, 24’ long, and 2 stories tall.  The first floor will have two rooms: a tool shop/garden shed and a feed room.  The tool shop/garden shed will be 16’ x 16’ and the feed room will be 8’ x 16’.  There will be stairs in the tool shop that lead to the second floor.  The second floor will have half walls (4’ high) on the sides with a roof peaking around 9’ or 10’ in the center. 

My goal is to have this finished before winter.  I’ve figured up the materials for the floor and I’ve divided the work required to complete the floor into 3 sessions (weekends).  I’ll tackle the first floor walls next, then the second story floor, followed by the second story walls, gables, and finally the roof.

As soon as I get my truck out of the shop I will start.  Stay tuned for updates.  This will be a long project.

A dream written down with a date becomes a goal.
A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan.
A plan backed by action makes your dreams reality.
~Unknown