Saturday, August 02, 2008

Domestic Life in the Ozarks

Why Arkansas is a farming state...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Not every email from my Ozark home relates details of my Uncle Cranford's wild tales about critters all blazing with fierce eyes and waiting in the voracious darkness just beyond the campfire's flickering light.

Some emails bespeak of peaceful domestic life near the homestead.

In this latter vein came a message titled "Arkansas News" from my paternal Aunt Pauline and Uncle Woodrow, now in their late seventies, to my eleven-year-old daughter, Sa-Rah. My aunt does the writing:
Hello Sa...rah . . . . . How are everyone? We are slow but very busy . . . . I have been canning food from our garden . . . Uncle Woodrow does the gathering of most things from our garden. I have canned beans, beets, greens, pickles, then I have frozen black berries and dried several bags of peaches and apples . . . . . sure will be handy when it getts winter.
Especially if winter comes cold and long, as sometimes happens. When I was young, Aunt Pauline taught me that the wild persimmon's seeds could predict the winter weather. Crack one open, and you'd see its 'embryo' in the approximate form of a knife, a spoon, or a fork. If I recall, the knife-shaped sort mean a cold, hard winter, the spoon-shaped kind mean lots of snow, and the fork-shaped variety mean a normal winter.

That sounded rather unscientific to me, and I recall that when the first seed revealed a knife, foreboding a keen-edged, bitter cold winter, I badgered my aunt, demanding that she crack open more than one. Aunt Pauline obliged, and we discovered a fork, promising a normal, fairly mild winter. Triumphant, I asked her to reconcile this contradiction.

She just gave a quick laugh and said, "Well, I reckon we'd have to count and see which has the most -- knives, spoons, or forks."

That sounded more empirical than I'd expected, and also a lot of work, so I didn't push the point any further . . . though I remained guarded in my skepticism.

But let's return from my childhood to the present news, which concerns nieces and nephews -- actually, I think that they're my first cousins, twice removed, but let's not be too picky -- and their trip taken with my cousins Martha and Velna to Branson, Missouri, located by Lake Taneycomo, between Table Rock Lake on the southwest and Bull Shoals Lake on the southeast:
Shiney and Rifle, Amanda and Drue have had a grand summer . . . Martha and Velna took them to Branson on vaccation . . . went to zoos, swam a lot, and the works . . . Velna plans to take Tayhlor, Nathan and Logan somewhere next . . couldn't take all at once . . Shiney found a new friend named Stormy . . . they thought it was fun to be Stormy and Shiney.
That sounds like an unlikely pair. Did they become friends just for the sake of uniqueness? Shiney's real name is Cheyenne, but the doctor who delivered her looked at the spelling and couldn't figure out its pronunciation, so he pronounced her "Shiney." I don't know the story to Stormy. As for "Rifle," whom you're probably also wondering about, I've told his story, so let's get back to this recent letter:
I hatched about one hundred and fifty quaille for Velna . . . they sure are growing and she loves them . . . . these are birds . . . . . my little bantam hen hatched five baby chickens. They are so cute. One is yellow and the rest are black and white spotted.
Quaille, as Aunt Pauline explains -- in case Sa-Rah doesn't know -- are birds. When my aunt says that she 'hatched' the quaille, she means that she used a brooder, a box-like structure often heated by lights. That word "quaille"' must be an Ozark variant for "quail," possibly a holdover from "quaille" in Middle English. But there are yet other animals:
Shiney's goat had four babies, one died and two stay with the mother goat and Uncle Woodrow has the tiny girl goat on a bottle . . . She is a big pet . . . . Shiney's goat stayes with ours. Her name is Nellie Dawn . . . . . . like that name? She wears a bell . . . . the goat dogs comes in and checks on the baby goat that's on the bottle to see if she is doing all right and goes back to the others.
That sounds like a gentle dog that takes its job seriously. It's interesting how 'friendships' can develop across species -- in this case among humans, dogs, and goats. That's not so surprising, I suppose, because we're used to domestic animals like cats and dogs becoming friends. But sometimes, a wild animal will 'play' with an animal of a different species. Why only this morning, I read of a 'friendship' between an Canadian Eskimo Dog and a polar bear. Yes, a polar bear! And not a tame one, either. The polar bear simply approached the dog, which was chained up and helpless, but instead of having the canine for dinner, the bear began to play! The games continued for several days as the bear visited again and again. This happened in the very northern Canadian town of Churchill, Manitoba, and you can see photos and read about it here.

The report reminded me of an anecdote that I read about 30 years ago. A pioneer family in the Rocky Mountains of the western United States had a little three-year-old girl, and one day when the father was out working elsewhere, the mother, who was working in her kitchen, glanced out the door and froze. A huge grizzly bear in the yard was standing on all fours and staring directly into the face of her little girl. The tiny girl reached up and slapped its nose, and that bear simply rolled over and let the girl clamber all over its belly for several minutes before it got back up on all fours and ambled off.

Odd, even mysterious things do sometimes happen in this world, as if through the universe were occasionally being sent a message to say, 'You see, there's also love.'

But some animals are too friendly when they see Aunt Pauline's goats, and approach out of ulterior motives:
We have lots of fun with the little animals, but have to watch the deer A mama deer brought her two babies in the yard yesterday and Uncle Woodrow clapped his hands at them as he worries they will eat my peas in the garden.
Undoubtedly, they were more interested in peas than in goats . . . unless these deer were as carnivorous as those carnivorous sheep that I reported on over a year ago. Probably not, or Uncle Woodrow's clapping wouldn't have driven them off . . . and Sa-Rah wouldn't have received the pleasant email upon which I'm now commenting. But that unhappy ending didn't happen, so Aunt Pauline ends her own message with love to all:
I will run along for this time, tell all hello and we love you all . . . . . . . Aunt Pauline
My daughter, of course, has answered in an email with a message meant as much for me as for my aunt and uncle:
Dear Aunt Pauline and Uncle Woodrow, I would love to go to America and see you and Shiney and the boys. I wish I had a pet goat, too. I feel sorry for your goat that died. I wonder why it died. Anyway, I first found out from your email that children can have names like "Stormy." I wonder if that's her real name because it would be strange for an adult to be called "Stormy." I'd better visit you in wintertime so I can try your beans and other canned foods.

It is vacation time for me and En-Uk, but we haven't gone anywhere special with our parents yet. I think Mama and Daddy, especially Daddy, are very busy. I hope he has time to play with us and take us on vacation someplace special. I'll write sometime again. Love, Sa-Rah
As you see, Sa-Rah says the right things, asks the right questions, and even pushes the right buttons . . . but I still don't know about that vacation.

Anyway, there it is, domestic life in the Ozarks.

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At 9:46 AM, Blogger Bill said...

A little geography lesson here, my learned cousin.
I hope to beat our Uncle Cranford to the draw by being the first to correct your placement (or misplacement) of Branson.
If tourists, nationwide, had read this blog, and headed to the north shores of Bull Shoals Lake, thousands would have found themselves approximately 20 miles away from Branson's Presley Country Jubilee, Bald Knobbers, Tanger Mall, The Landing, '57 Heaven, Scenic Railway, and even further away from Silver Dollar City. And they'd be out of luck trying to find their reserved motel rooms.
Branson is located on Lake Taneycomo, situated between Table Rock Lake Dam on the southwest and Bull Shoals Lake on the southeast. Bull Shoals Lake begins at the tail waters of the "Power Site" Dam, constructed in 1913, and the nearest city is Forsyth.
Uncle Cran-it's your turn, so sic 'em, Cran, sic 'em.
Cuz Bill

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'll correct that immediately, Cousin Bill.

I was one of those unfortunate 'poor relations' who never had the privilege of visiting Branson or those other places that you mention.

I actually checked a map but couldn't locate it precisely, so I guessed . . . and got caught.

Thanks for catching it quickly.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to say that my brother Woodrow (Woody) and sister in law Pauline are two of the nicest people in the world, and nephew Jeffery must be careful not to "dis" them in the same mean-spirited and cynical way as he does "baby brother" Cran.
That is something up with which our clan would not put.
Pauline has a unique way of spelling, and in the spirit of "Andy Jackson," this is perfectly acceptable. Quail are becoming rare in the Ozarks, as well as other parts of the U.S.
Woody & Pauline loaned me their car in the short weeks I spent with them following my returning from the navy. That is how I dated Linda Gay, until I went to KC, KS, got a job, cashed my savings bonds, and bought a used car.
Woody started me in construction work after we moved back to Arkansas. We worked together for six years, and that is where I learned the home building trade.
All of us have great memories of Woody, Pauline, their daughters Velna and Martha, and grandkins & greats.
So for a short interlude, I will
cease and desist from our joint "dissing" sessions and join in words for our mutual relative and friend.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I wasn't entirely joking about the spelling of "quaille," Uncle Cran. This is the Middle English spelling, and sometimes -- as we've seen -- old terms have remained in Ozark 'dialect.'

No need to worry, anyway. I never 'dis' Uncle Woodrow and Aunt Pauline . . . and I only pretend to 'dis' you (but you knew that already).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:29 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, I've now made an etymological note on "quaille" in the blog entry.

Maybe you could ask Aunt Pauline about the spelling.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bill?

I never found that tourists ever got lost when Branson was the destination. I lived there for ten years and only once was someone "lost." Turned out they had driven through it and wound up in my driveway (which was only 2.2 miles from the city limits).

But that was in '89, they'd seen a thing on 60 Minutes and were expecting something well, different. All they needed to do was wait two years. But then again it was cold and at that time Branson shut down in the winter.

Funny thing too about Branson in '89, 3603 residents, 35,000 motel rooms. I moved in '01 though, my former neighbors tell me that every one of those original motel rooms could house the blossomed population and the number of motel rooms presently are like "ticks on a hound dog's back."

Funny you mention Tanger, I was the Electrical Project Superintendent on that job. During site prep, we used several truckloads of explosives to remove the top of the hill where the mall now sits.

When I bought my five acres in '88 I paid $250.00 an acre. Turned out to be a pretty good investment. But I am glad I left.

Good to see Cran in a very rare non self-aggrandizing moment. Kinda refreshing.


At 12:51 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sounds like some of that 'polite sarcasm', JK.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed the mutual
"dis-cuss-ions" we have been engaging in { which we have been engaging...} and am now returning to my normal, sweet, engaging self. The strain of searching for the right zinger to offset the deluge of "disses" from my blog 'friends' is taxing my fading intellect.
JK, I have tried to "aggrandize"
my material and monetary holdings for years to no avail. Now I am promoting my image as one with an interesting youth.
My story, like that of the history of the earth, is similar to the life of a soldier, long moments of boredom, punctuated by brief moments of sheer terror (to rephrase {I believe} Julius Huxley.
Maybe some of you have some stories to relive and relieve your humdrum lives. And give me a break.

At 7:35 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I may have to dis-continue my usual banter with Uncle Cran . . . just so everybody understands.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 10:33 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Agree, anyone with one eye open could find Branson, esp. with the abundant billboards littering Hwy 65.
And they're still blasting away-now an additional mega something-or-rather is being hatched near the Tanger location.
Several years ago, heading to Branson for the "Hot August Nights" car show, and without foresight in reserving room in advance, we found ourselves "motel-less", having to journey south to Lampe, MO. There, a shabby motel room, a pool (complete with algea and two or more frogs), a broken Coke machine and a flickering black and white TV became our home three nights.
Now, with motels everywhere, visitors find no lack of lodging (reservations or not).
The "lost" folks appear to be the husbands/boyfriends (me included)of the gals going in and out of hundreds of shops. We're easy to spot, as we sit, lounge, lean and clog store doorways, always with an eye on the watch, awaiting our time to fish the lakes and tour the Ozarks.
Ah, vacations in Bransonland.

At 5:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hmmm . . . Branson sounds like no place to take a woman. Not if a man wants to have some fun, anyway.

At least, I now understand why Velna and Martha took those kids on 'vacation' there.

Vacation. Right.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well since Cran got away with it, I'll paraphrase General Sheridan [I think].

"If I owned Hell and Branson, I'd rent out Branson and live in Hell."

Agreed Bill, even in the Sixties (the decade-not me) if one set out for Branson, even if one stayed in Lampe or worse, Golden (I always wondered about that town's name) one always arrived in Branson.

It's kinda strange. I've lived in many places, a few countries, while I would think a visit to the Phillippines to visit old friends would be nice. I prefer my Branson friends visit me in Arkansas.



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