And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…Luke, 2:1 KJV
One of the original purposes of this blog was to capture events and memories of my family and events of times past. Some were comical, some were tragic, all were examples of life in another time. This is one. I’ve published it before but it bears seeing the light of day…and of the season…again.
When my Grandmother lived with us on the farm, Thanksgiving and Christmas was always a big deal. Many of our relatives lived at both ends of the state.
My Aunt Anna May (note: My Aunt Anna May, at age 99, still with us. [Update: Aunt Anna May passed two months after I originally wrote this a few months shy of her 100th birthday,]) and a bunch of cousins lived near Cairo (rhymes with Aero. Kay-ro is a syrup. K-Eye-ro, another incorrect pronunciation, is a city in Egypt,) Illinois. Mom’s other two siblings, Aunt Clara and Uncle Bill, lived near Chicago along with their batch of kids and cousins. We lived betwixt them with a local batch of cousins and therefore often hosted the gathering of the Clan at the holidays.
In the late 1950s, most of the cakes and pies were hand-made including pie crust. Betty Crocker was expensive and not to be trusted according to Mom and Grandma. A week or so before the guests arrived, Mom and Grandma started making pie dough. They would make it in small batches, enough for a couple of pies and then store it on the porch. The porch was unheated and was used as a large refrigerator during the colder months.
Mom and Grandma collected pie fillings most of the year. When cherries were in season, they canned cherries. When blackberries and raspberries were in season, they canned the berries—along with making a large batch of berry jelly and jam. When apples were in season, they canned, dried apples, and made applesauce and pie filling. When the holidays arrived, they were ready.
About the only things they didn’t can was pumpkins. Mom and Grandma purposely planted late to harvest late. I don’t remember a year that we didn’t have pumpkins or sweet-potatoes for pie filling.
The count-down started with the pie dough. When the dough was ready, Mom began baking pies. When a pie was finished, it’d go out to the porch covered with a cloth. The division of labor was that Mom would make pies, Grandma would make cakes.
Grandma liked sheet cakes. I rarely saw a round, frosted cake unless it was someone’s birthday. Grandma’s cakes were 18″ by 24″. Icing was usually Cream Cheese or Chocolate. Sometimes, when Grandma make a German Chocolate cake, she’d make a brown-sugar/coconut/hickory nut icing. The baking was done right up until it was time stick the turkeys, hams or geese in the oven.
The last item Grandma would make was a apple-cinnamon coffee-cake that was an inherited recipe from her mother. It was common-place that when everyone arrived, we’d have a dozen pies and another dozen cakes ready. That was our contribution. The guests brought stuff as well.
The holiday gathering wasn’t just a single day, it was several. Thanksgiving, for instance, lasted through Sunday. A Christmas gathering lasted through New Years. We weren’t the only relatives in the central part of the state, but we were the gathering place. Come bedtime, the visitors left with some of the local cousins and would gather again the next day at another home and the visiting continued.
It was not unusual for us to have twenty or thirty folks at the house at one time. Our barn was heated for the livestock, so the men and boys—and some girls, gathered there. Dad would turn a blind eye to the cigarettes, cigars and bottles—as long as no one started a fire. Grandma’s jugs of Applejack appeared as well.
The women would gather in one of our side bedrooms where Grandma’s quilt frame was set up. They would sit, talk, quilt and plan future family affairs. A number of weddings were planned in those sessions. Sometimes before the bridegroom was aware of his upcoming fate.
Come Christmas Eve, the women, along with a number of kids, put up the tree and decorations. At 11PM, went went to midnight church services. Our local church was only a quarter-mile up the road from the farm. There were a number of preachers in the Clan and those who didn’t want to drive to a service and were still awake attended a Clan service in the barn. That was the only building able to house everyone at the same time.
On Christmas, the Clan dispersed to their more immediate relatives. Mom, Dad, Grandma, my Aunts and Uncles, my sister Mary Ellen, her husband Dick and their two kids arrived. Sometimes my Aunt Emily and Cousins Richard and Dorothy (Dad’s niece and nephew) would come down from Mt. Vernon, IL for Christmas.
More often than not, Dad, Dick, my Uncles and I would go goose or duck hunting early on Christmas morning. The Big Muddy River was only a few miles away and if we arrived right at dawn, we were likely to find some Canadian Geese or Mallards sitting out of the wind on the river. We rarely spent more than three hours hunting before we’d return home, wet, cold and tired ready for breakfast.
We would have a large breakfast around 9AM and afterwards while Mom and Grandma started on dinner, we’d open presents next to the tree. I remember once that Mom hide a pair of snow tires for Dad’s pickup behind the couch. I really had a hard time believing Dad wasn’t aware of them.
Over the years, the Clan has dispersed. Most moving to locations where jobs were available. The elders have passed on and with them the traditions. Cousins have lost touch and few live on the old homesteads.
It was a different time, another era. Some families still maintain the old traditions. They are the fortunate ones.
After the Islamic terrorist attack in San Bernardino, CA, yesterday, the dems called for more gun control—more gun control in the most gun, 2nd Amendment repressive state in the union. The GOP Presidential candidates, almost to a man, asked for prayers for the victims and their families.
The MSM, in particular the New York Daily News, mocked them for calling on God for intersession. I can’t say I’m surprised at the vileness coming from the liberals and their propaganda organs. However, as in everything, there are consequences to actions. Ones the dems reject.
WITHOUT CHRISTIAN VOTERS, DEMS DON’T HAVE A PRAYER
Back when Barack Obama could really deliver from the podium, one of his very best lines was about how “we worship an awesome God in the blue states.” The language was no accident. “Awesome God” is the name of one of the most popular evangelical worship songs of the last generation.
In 2004, when Obama gave that speech, it would have been impossible to imagine a sitting U.S. Senator chastising believers for their prayers in the wake of a mass murder. But one did on Tuesday.
Many on the left embraced the idea not that, as Obama has said before, “thoughts and prayers are not enough,” but that prayers were pointless or even damaging because they distracted from what most Democrats believe should be a move to advance extensive gun control.
Those on the right tend to put about as much faith in federal gun laws as atheists put in prayer. So why wouldn’t they pray? Or why wouldn’t believers in both God and gun control do both? Certainly at the scene of the slaughter, survivors didn’t seem to have qualms about prayer.
So what could possess members of a political party, including prominent elected officials, to denounce prayer – and to do so before the means and motives of the killers were still unknown? How does political stupidity of that magnitude come to seem like a good idea?
It turns out that in his famous 2004 speech about “awesome God,” Obama was talking about a dying breed when he spoke of Christian Democrats, especially evangelicals.
As the most recent Pew study on religion in public life tells us, Democrats went from 74 percent Christian in 2007 to 63 percent in 2014. The share of Christian Republicans dropped by 5 points to 82 percent, about the same as the population overall.
But the headline was that for the first time, the single largest group of Democrats on the spectrum of beliefs was “none.” Those professing no faith jumped 9 points in seven years – now 28 percent of Democrats.
As the sorting out of the electorate continues, it is easy to image those trends intensifying. Mitt Romney won 57 percent of the Protestant vote in 2012 (69 percent among white Protestants).
Those numbers will surely intensify in years to come if Democrats remain this hapless and condescending when talking to Christian voters. — FOX Newsletter, December 3rd, 2015
All the while, the MSM ignores the battleground of black-on-black crime in the warzone of Chicago. More people have been killed in Chicago last week, than in San Bernadino. Even as this piece is written, the MSM is calling the shooting in San Bernadino a “work-place” incident.
For you non-Hams, QSL means, “I confirm your communication with me.” Today, this occurs most often when we upload our logs to one of several databases, such as the ARRL’s Logbook of the World.
Hams used to confirm contacts with paper, post-card sized, QSL cards. I still send them out. I recently worked a Hawaiian station. We both said we’d exchange real QSL cards. The Hawaiian station sent me an email today saying he had received mine and his was on its way to me. In the mean time, he sent me this electronic version.
Times change…and then sometimes they don’t. I grew up in the Fifties in rural Southern Illinois. Like most of the country, we had our traditions of the Holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years were THE big events of the years for families. Easter was another one but it was more oriented towards faith and many families observed Easter at church and at home.
The big three holidays usually involved traveling for many. My sister and brother-in-law visited us at the Farm most of the time. My brother-in-law was an outdoorsman, a term not often heard anymore.
In the summer, he liked to fish. He and my sister built a home on the shore of a twenty-acre lake. In the winter, he liked to hunt. Ducks and geese had their season. Squirrels and rabbits had theirs. In the fifties, there was no deer season. They were rare after being almost hunted out during the Twenties before hunting became regulated.
I’ve written about our Thanksgiving hunting tradition in another post. However, there were other hunting traditions, too, during the Fall. The most common was rabbit hunting.
While November and December were Duck and Goose seasons; August and September was Squirrel season, October was reserved for Rabbit Season and was my favorite. When I was growing up I hunted, and trapped, rabbits in a variety of ways. A neighbor kid and I once hunted them with baseball bats in an overgrown gully after a fresh snow. We had also hunted with bows and arrows. But we hunted most often with firearms.
I killed more rabbits with a .22 rifle, catching them sitting along a fence line. But hunting with dogs was the best.
Dad raised a variety of hunting dogs. His favorites were Beagles. In October, my brother-in-law Dick Harriss would arrive early on Saturday and Dad and I would load up a half dozen dogs into his pick-up and we’d head off to the fields.
On this occasion, we went to an area called Beaver Dam, a section of the Big Muddy River that ran through Franklin County, IL. It was a small river than ran through the farm of one of my mother’s cousins, Roy Miller. Roy wasn’t much of a hunter but he did like to eat rabbits. We could use his land for hunting as long as we gave Roy a ‘tithe’ of any rabbits we killed.
Unlike hunting for Quail or Pheasant with dogs, hunting for rabbits with dogs was different. In the former case, dogs were used to find and flush birds. You could only kill game birds while in flight. Rabbits, on the other hand, didn’t fly. Dogs would range ahead of us searching for sitting rabbits. When one was found, it ran with the dogs not far behind.
That day, we had been walking along a fence line towards the river. Dad was on one side of the fence. Dick and I was on the other side. We were silent. The only sound was the crunch of ice ribbons forced out of the ground by the sub-freezing overnight temperatures as we walked with a whisper of wind through the saplings growing along the fence.
Roy Miller hadn’t cleared his fence line in some time. It was overgrown with saplings and briar patches. We were half-way to the river when the dogs flushed a rabbit that took off down the fence line with the dogs running right behind it. The race was on.
Rabbits don’t have much endurance. They are sprinters. They will run a bit and then hunker down hoping whatever is chasing them will pass them by. Beagles hunt by scent and by sight. When beagles lose sight of their prey, they start sniffing. Hunting rabbits with dogs is a series of sprints and pauses.
If the rabbit runs away, how can a hunter shoot one you may ask. It’s simple. Rabbits don’t run in straight lines or directly away. They run in circles. All a hunter needs to do is to listen to the dogs. When the rabbit circles, the sound of the dogs will let you know to keep and eye for a streak of brown running through the brush or a field. The trick is to shoot the rabbit, not the dog who is following close behind. Some hunters never learn that little skill.
On some occasions, the rabbit will circle, return and never be seen. In fact that is what happens in most of the cases. On that morning, I was on the outside, away from the fence line. Dick was on the inside close to the fence, Dad was on the other side of the fence.
We heard the dogs turn on the circle. I was carrying a Stevens, break-open, single shot, 12ga shotgun. I usually carried it open, empty until I heard the dogs approach. Dad carried his Remington Model 11 and Dick carried his 16ga bolt-action shotgun. When the dogs began to circle, I slipped a #4 shotshell into the chamber and closed the action.
At first it seemed the rabbit would come on Dad’s side of the fence. But when the dogs got closer, they switched to our side. Because I was on the outside from the fence, my shooting section was to my right. Dick, closer to the fence, could only shoot if the rabbit appeared to our front. Most often a rabbit would follow cover, in this case the fence. I expected Dick would get the shot.
We continued walking down the fence line with a slightly slower pace. The dogs came closer and I cocked my shotgun. We took a couple more steps and I spotted a streak of brown through the high grass to my right. I brought my shotgun to my shoulder, swung on the target, gave it a bit of lead and fired.
I thought I had missed. The dogs stopped and began to mill about as if they had lost the scent.
I walked over to where I had last seen the rabbit. The field was a pasture with dead, brown grass rising about eighteen inches over the ground. It was threaded with small game trails and tunnels under the cover of fallen grass stems throughout the field. I walked about fifty yards through the grass when I found the rabbit. There were a couple of blood specks on its fur but it appeared to be otherwise undamaged. I raised my hand indicating that I’d found the rabbit and then slipped it into the pouch on the rear of my hunting jacket.
It felt good swinging in the pouch as I walked back towards the fence. In a few moments the dogs found another rabbit and another hunt was on.
We finished the day with a half dozen rabbits. I got another one late in the day. Dad and Dick split the rest. We gave one rabbit to Roy for his ‘tithe.’ We were all pleased with the results of the hunt.
I remember this day for another reason. It was the day I broke the stock of my shotgun. We were loading up to go home. Dad and Dick slipped their guns into gun cases. I didn’t have one. We were loading the dogs into Dad’s pickup when my shotgun fell to the concrete of Roy Miller’s driveway. It landed vertically on the butt of the stock and the stock cracked at the grip behind the trigger. Its weakest point.
It was an old shotgun, older than me or Dick. It was probably made around the time of WW1 and the woodwork had a bit of hidden rot. It was a cumbersome gun to use. I had to cock it to fire and the hammer spring was so strong that I had to brace the stock on my thigh and use both thumbs to cock the hammer. One time my thumbs slipped and it went off, braced on my thigh and for a moment I thought I’d broken my leg. I hadn’t but I did get a bruise that took a couple of weeks to heal.
Rather than take my shotgun to a gunsmith for repairs, Dad traded it for a 12ga, single-shot Winchester. The Winchester was of a different design and it had a safety and cocked when the action was closed. It didn’t have an exposed hammer like the Steven had.
It was the last shotgun I owned until a few years ago when I found a Remington Model 11 shotgun just like Dad’s at a gun show. It had been re-blued and the stock and forearm had only a few dings and scratches. All of Dad’s (and my Winchester shotgun) firearms were stolen while I was away at college. I always envied Dad’s Remington. Now I have one just like his.
We continued to hunt rabbits every weekend in October for several years until I left for college. I’ve not hunted rabbits since. Today, people in Kansas and Missouri prefer to hunt deer and turkeys. My hunting choice was and still is rabbits.