Overheard, out and about, Mrs. Grundy sees all, tells all

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2011

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I noticed the beautiful Indian summer out of doors. I think an Indian summer – a warm spell in autumn after the first cold – is my favorite time of year. If I had my choice about dying, it would be in an Indian summer. I would wander off into the woods and sit down on some fallen, moss-covered tree trunk, the colorful leaves, like a throw, all about me, and nod off into a peaceful sleep.

Colonel Covington and his sisters, Miss Cora, Miss Dora and Miss Flora, had several of us as guests at Covington Hall this past Thursday for Thanksgiving. Among their guests were my particular friends, Mrs. Gotrocks of Greenville, Miss Birdie Purdie, Miss Priscilla Primme and her beau, Mr. Topper Propper.

Colonel Covington spoke before dinner of the history of Thanksgiving, read scripture from the Bible, and led us in prayer.

After an abundant meal we sang Thanksgiving songs such as “We Gather Together,” “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,” “Let All Things Now Living” and “Thanksgiving Day” (“Over the River and Through the Woods”). Miss Dora accompanied all at her piano. She also accompanied herself as she sang “Bless This House.” I think of the House as being God’s House of Worship and all in it.

Our menu included turkey and dressing with giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, English peas, chicken and dumplings, sweet-potato casserole, ham, corn-on-the-cob, fruit salad, stuffed eggs, stuffed celery, potato salad, field peas, beets, butter beans, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, Sister Schubert rolls, fried bread, turnip greens, pineapple casserole, carrot salad, broccoli salad, green-bean casserole, parsnips, roast with potatoes, carrots and gravy, and collards.

Desserts included pumpkin pie, sweet-potato pie, apple pie, pecan pie, red-velvet cake, butternut cake, pound cake, lemon pie, chocolate cake, egg custard, cocoanut cake and banana pudding.

I am somewhat disappointed that the Golden Square of the “Dimple of Dixie” so soon lost its fallish look. I had expected the Square to look more “Thanksgivingish” until Thanksgiving was over. November was barely half over when Christmas decorations went up. That’s efficient and economic, and the decorations look neat and attractive; but I wish we wouldn’t rush the holidays. Life goes by too fast as it is.

Seen at Tabby D.’s for the lunch buffet were Esker and Ann Thomasson, Judy Holmes, Maggie Shelley, Dorothy (Mency) Miller, James and Janelle Jones, Mickie Riley, Larry and Vicki Popwell, Marvin and Janette Britt, Elmer and Myrtice Davis, Randy Wahl and his mother, Betty, Greg and LaMargaret Cotter and John and Rosilyn Croft.

The Crofts, who grew up in Evergreen, and I had an extended conversation about their recent trip to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to see their son, who is enrolled there. We spoke also of a common acquaintance, Sara Pate (Mrs. Sigurd Bryan), who was John’s next-door neighbor when they grew up in Evergreen. We talked, too, of John’s older brother, who has just retired.

Have you tried the turkey pot roast at Tabby D.’s? It’s good!

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, why not read or memorize from this most popular edition before 2011 ends. We have only about a month left, gentle reader.

Again, I ask that each citizen of Andalusia join the Covington Historical Society and pay its annual dues of $25 so as to help preserve the history of our county, whether you attend meetings or not. Mail to CHS, P.O. Box l582, Andalusia, Alabama 36420.

To commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, let us return to this week l50 years ago.

The Confederacy gained a new secretary of war, Judah Benjamin. Captured Confederate commissioners to England and France, Slidell and Mason, were shipped from the Atlantic to Boston while the federal leaders debated what to do with them. Their capture had created bad feelings from England and France, something the federal government had wanted to avoid. The North gained a foothold on Tybee Island, Georgia, which gave it seaward control over access to Fort Pulaski and its defensive position near Savannah. In west Virginia a constitutional convention met to form a new state, West Virginia, from that part of Virginia that had seceded from the “Old Dominion.” (Put the two states together in your eye, using a modern map, and see just how big a state Virginia used to be.) A Confederate ship, the CSS Sumter, seized federal ships in the Atlantic. Elsewhere there were military conflicts between the North and South.

Remember to buy Sesquicentennial and Mark Twain stamps.

This week’s mysterian walks with a staff.

Birthdays this past week included George Eliot and John Harvard.

George Eliot is the pseudonym (pen name) for Mary Ann Evans, an English novelist, who wrote Silas Marner, a book “everyone” used to read in school. That book used to be something the generations held in common. “Everyone” used to know why “Eppie in the coal hole” was so funny. I merely mentioned Silas Marner to my one-time landlady, Mrs. W. M. Thweatt, five decades my senior; and she immediately responded, “Eppie in the coal hole.” We both broke out, laughing.

John Harvard is the man for whom the oldest university in America is named.

Some time back I was quoting from a biography of one of our locally known and beloved farmers, John D. Stokes, written by his daughter, Gail Segrest of Huntsville. I have space now to pick up with more from that delightful account. Mr. Stokes speaks.

“Very few people had cars before the l930s, because they couldn’t afford the 10-to-15 cents per gallon of gas. Some of the early cars came by mail order in a ‘kit’ and had to be put together by the owner.

“We used a one-mule wagon. A good, two-mule wagon would go about four-and-a-half miles per hour. A surrey with two horses or mules would carry six-to-eight people.

“My first trip to Montgomery was in a Model-T Ford truck, carrying a load of cows. We left at about nine in the morning and got there after dark. Luckily, I got to ride home in a fairly new Model-T Ford car; and the trip was much easier. No nearby roads were paved, so car travel was rough and slow. I was nine (in l925) when I first saw one of them ‘flying machines’ I had heard so much about!

“Medicines that were used at home included aspirin, whisky, castor oil, camphor (for fever blisters), Watkin’s liniment, and asafetida gum with whisky poured over it to dissolve it.

“One day when I was a little fella and was sick, Mama sat me on a stool and gave me a dose of asafetida (with whisky). In a moment or two I fell off the stool!

“The doctor would come to people’s homes. If the family couldn’t pay, he would give them credit.

“In the early 1930s Mama was sick and had to have surgery. Uncle Frank, her brother, had a ’28 Chevrolet and drove her to Montgomery – dirt roads all the way. She stayed in the hospital 12 days. The bill was $25.

“One of the most tragic things that happened in our family was in 1937 when my brother Hamp became very ill with a kidney infection. The doctor did everything he could, but Hamp passed away at the age of 23, leaving a wife, Pauline, and two small children, Randall and Betty. This was a short time before the drug penicillin was available, which would have cured him. Hamp was two years older than me; so, we were very close.

“Many women died during childbirth because of a lack of medication and a shortage of doctors.

“There was no money for the services of a funeral home. The body was washed and saturated with camphor with no embalming. Funerals were held quickly because of this.

“Coins were placed on the eyelids to keep the eyes closed – so the saying, ‘He was so crooked he would steal money off a dead man’s eyes.’

“The men of the community would dig a grave and build a wooden casket. The wood was soaked in hot water so it would bend into the proper shape. The women would line it with a velvet cloth. A pine box was built to place the casket into. The casket was lowered into the box with a rope.

“One death I vividly remember from when I was 8 or 9 was caused by a horrible accident that happened the day after Christmas. Dad took Hamp and me to move some cows from one field to another. We had gotten near Mama’s Uncle Jim Fuqua’s house and suddenly heard guns popping and loud screaming.

“Dad left us and went to their house. We waited and waited for a long time and had no idea what had happened. Finally, it got to be dinnertime, and we went to Mr. Oscar Andrews’s house. Uncle Harvey Jacobs had told several neighbors that Albert and Walter Fuqua (teenage brothers) were hunting when Albert started to shoot a bird. His finger slipped off the trigger, and the shot had taken off the top of Walter’s head.

“Dad had stayed with the family and helped prepare the body for burial. Later other men in the community built a casket and dug a grave. Dad kept the grave-digging tools under our house.

“Cedar Grove Church of Christ began in my granddaddy’s (Burrell Jackson Stokes’s) home the year I was born. Brother ‘Tip’ Grider helped establish it. Later the small group began meeting at the Adellum Schoolhouse for regular services and in l9l9 built the first church building in the same location as the present building.

“The men wore overalls to church (they didn’t have suits). A preacher would come twice a month and was paid $2.50 each time. The first communion set was wooden and had glass cups that had to be washed. The loaf was baked by Mama, and a white tablecloth was spread over the communion table. Mama washed, starched, and ironed the cloth every week.

“Later on my wife Mildred took care of the loaf, communion set, and tablecloth. The visiting preachers would stay at our house, and we always enjoyed them. This continued for many, many years.

“I began serving as treasurer when I was eighteen. The collection was usually about two dollars (to be continued, Lord willing).”

Sometimes, gentle reader, it’s hard for me to type the words of Mr. Stokes. I knew him and loved him, and his humble way of talking “gets to me” and tears fill my eyes. God bless Gail for the hours she spent in recording her daddy’s life and God bless Mr. Stokes for the good life he lived. He’s a Thanksgiving blessing day after day.

Now, gentle reader, allow me to encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing. Count your blessings, gentle reader, and fare thee well.