Growing up in Kentucky meant a lot of things. You were firmly rooted to the south and surrounded by good ole folks that were referred to as hillbillies. I tell ya, I am proud to say I am a Kentucky Hillbilly. Hillbillies are good folks who have very little material goods but hearts as big as the sky. Most will give you the shirt off their back and will invite a complete stranger into their home for fried chicken, white beans, green beans, mashed potatoes, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers/onions in vinegar (all of the vegetables are homegrown), cornbread or biscuits and lots of sweet tea. Note that in Kentucky, meals are referred to as breakfast, dinner and supper. In the early days, houses were not the elaborate two- and three-story manors that one sees today. More often than not, they were little four-room bungalows with little or no running water, some even had dirt floors. The only paved streets were the main roads that ran through the state; the rest were one-lane gravel roads.
Marshall County hosted a fair every year. I think the county fair probably grew into Tater Day which I will tell you about another time. Dad’s older brothers would take him with them to the fair. One year Grandpa gave him a quarter to spend at the fair and Dad put it in his overall pocket so he wouldn’t lose it. Unbeknownst to him, his pocket had a hole in it and when he got to the fair, he didn’t have any money to spend. That night when he was getting ready for bed, he took off his overalls, unfolded the cuffs and there was his quarter. He had carried that quarter around with him all day.
As I said earlier, families had cooked meals every day and all of the vegetables were homegrown. Grandma and Grandpa grew a huge garden that had a patch of cherry tomatoes in one of the corners. When we went to their house, Cheryl and I would go straight to that part of the garden. After we ate our fill of the tomatoes, we would go into the house and eat saltine crackers. Grandma kept a good supply of crackers. They also raised cattle and Grandma made butter from the milk and pulled the cream off the top of the churn to be used for other dishes. Grandpa loved baked sweet potatoes and he would put so much butter on his potato that the potato would be swimming in it. I tend to do the same thing; guess I came by that honestly.
Grandma raised chickens; and within the chicken pen, there grew a plum tree. There were several hens in the pen and one of the meanest roosters you ever saw. It was a major challenge to get to the plum tree and not get chased by that rooster. There was also a huge willow tree in the backyard; my cousin Angelyn and I would play house underneath the branches.
I spent lots of weekends at Grandma and Grandpa Thomasson’s house. The windows were open during the summer because the big trees surrounding the house provided shade and there was usually a nice breeze blowing. At night, I would lie in my bed listening to the night birds and bugs singing.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to those times just for one day. Folks didn’t have much but they had each other and that was the most important thing.
See ya next Wednesday.