Volume II, No. 3, Spring 1975
We have recently received a lot of letters from people telling how they can remember a lot of the subjects we write about in BITTERSWEET. I would like to share a few with you and hope maybe there may be memories for you.
Dear Mrs. Massey:
I'm an old timer by heart. Love knowing ways of doing things in the past. I have done and still
could do many things at home. Such as tan leather, make soap, brooms, and many other things of necessity.
Have split rails, made shingles, pickets, mud cats for fire places. Shod my own horse, repaired wagons, and made my own fiddles. We have an album of our music now.
Violet Hensley - The Whittling Fiddler
I was born and raised in the area near your school several years ago. We never had any electric or
even an automobile during my growing and school years. My mother made her own lye soap and
the butter and milk were kept in a spring or cistern. We had a wooden barrel out back under the
eave trough on one side to catch wash water. The laundry was done mostly outside and the water
was heated in a cast iron kettle over the open fire. The rest of the equipment washing required
was a galvanized tub and a porcelain wash-board. The lye soap made bleach unnecessary, or the
laundry was left hanging out in the sun an extra long time. Potatoes, apples and turnips were
stored in a hole dug in the ground and covered over with straw and dirt. By only making a small
opening into them when you removed a few, they lasted most of the winter. Home canned goods
were kept in the cellar if you were lucky enough to have one.
At one time I lived in a two room log house with a drive-in storage shed between the two rooms. It was open on one end and I slept in the loft over the bedroom and the only heat up there was a pipe running through it from the wood heater below. The stove-pipe came into the attic and then into the flue. To get breakfast of a morning I had to get up and dress and then make a mad dash across the open storage area to the kitchen door and the warmth of the wood-burning cook-stove. Then after breakfast it was necessary to walk about two miles to get to the one-room school for classes.
Charles A. Myers
St. Ann, Missouri
Dear BITTERSWEET Staff:
Just got your winter issue and am enjoying it. We just recently left Missouri and those wonderful Ozarks that we all tend to take for granted when we live in them. When one goes away those darn hills beckon one back, but meanwhile BITTERSWEET serves as a Bitter and Sweet reminder of the heritage called the Ozarks. Keep up the good work and keep alive the tradition of the hills-honesty, simplicity, beauty, and truth.
Dear Miss Reed:
My sister sent me a subscription to BITTERSWEET for Christmas and a copy of the winter issue.
Let me tell you, this is an excellent magazine. You can be very proud of it.
I was very interested in several of the articles. I have collected barbed wire, have eaten crackling cornbread after butchering time and caves have always fascinated me. However, I was most interested in your article on "Ketchin Babies". Although I may be prejudiced, Miss Reed, I have never read a better article. You see, my sister is Ann Wormsley and I am the little brother born in 1938.
Dr. J. T. Gillahan
BITTERSWEET Magazine Staff:
Your magazine is an old timey publication, so true to life how it was lived in our Ozarks hills not
too long ago. I am 56, but my grandfather and dad had a molasses mill which they operated in
Fulton County, Ark. in the late 1920's and in Howell County, Mo., in the late 20's and thirties. I've
topped the cane, cut off leaves, and skimmed off some of the impurities, but not for long. I
remember how yellow jackets were attracted to the sweet sticky juice which spilled on the
ground, and we barefoot children had to watch our step' I've taken molasses and butter to school
in a glass in a lard Pail or gallon syrup bucket for a lunch pail, with a couple of mother's soft
buttermilk biscuits and a knife to mix and spread it on. We made molasses candy, cookies and
cakes, too. We saved the seed heads for chicken feed, and many times I've climbed into a barn-loft
to get a bucketful to take to the chicken house, or to hunt eggs in nests in the hay.
I also helped Grandma McCarty pick geese by holding their heads while she plucked the feathers. When I carelessly released their heads, they would nip her on a plump side and how she would squeal' They sure have a powerful bill.
I've slept on straw ticks and feather beds; made and filled pillows; and picked pennyroyal plants which we scattered under the beds to chase away fleas which our dog brought in.
My great aunt had an ash hopper for lye to make soap. (On hers the boards were up and down, instead of across the sides and ends like in the sketch on page 37 of Spring 1974 issue).
My mother used lye from a can to make soap from meat scraps and rancid fat. Mom put ashes out for the hens to wallow in, too!
She and my husband's mother both made hominy from big white field corn, tasty with butter, salt and pepper.
My grandmother Sarah McCarty had a spinning wheel and she and my mother spun, carded and knit wool. They dyed the wool a tan color with walnut hulls.
I've seen mom card cotton and wool, for year and for "batts" to put in quilts and comforters. I've quilted several quilts and tacked comforts. (We grew the cotton when I was a child, and I've hoed it, topped it when rains caused it to grow too tall, and picked it when ripe).
I've milked cows, fed pigs, separated milk, churned cream for butter with a dash churn; one of tin in a metal frame with a crank to turn the paddles; fed calves by sticking my hand into a bucket of warm milk and letting a calf suck on my fingers until they learned how to drink from the bucket; plowed land with a turning plow and drove a team hitched to a rake to rake hay; I've chopped a little wood and carried in a lot; unharnessed mules; picked blackberries; hoed gardens; gathered wild greens, picked up walnuts; grown peanuts; and how your magazine brings back bittersweet memories of my childhood and life on a farm, for several years after I was married. I'm looking forward to reading more of your magazines.
Mrs. Olva R. Griffin
West Plains, Missouri
Our good friend, Charlie McMicken, pointed out two mistakes in the winter issue.
I hope that the writing "Buckthorn wire with visible wood block still in use" (p.13) was done with
"tongue in cheek." At one time this wire had been stapled to a living tree. The tree had grown out
completely over the wire and when the wire was later moved it was chopped out of the tree,
which of course left the block on the wire. It looks like the same thing had happened to the third
wire down from the top.
While I am making fun of you all, I wonder who decided to put an H in the spelling for a cord of wood?
In the article about Vance Randolph the line "sitting up with corpses" is used. You have lots of different kinds of things to write about and the ways of the old timers with their dead might not be a very pleasant story; but the old timers sure had to do a lot differently than the way things are done now. I have done everything that could be done by us "kind of people" except preach the funeral. I have even helped make a coffin for some poor folks.
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.