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Downhomer
Birthday celebrations and snow storms

As a few people might know, Friday, January 30, was my 86th birthday. However, being of much more importance, everyone in this area knew that we were in a snow storm of epic proportions. Almost I thought I was back in Michigan, or maybe farther north, like the title song in a movie called “North to Alaska”.
Regardless, when our winter on a rampage hit, it made me wonder what it was like in 1930 when I was born. Could it possibly have been as snow filled as this week has been? I wonder. Actually, though, through the passing of the years I have picked up little bits and pieces about that time, mainly because my mother remembered it vividly, and often told me stories about it. Like how before I came along, she got this insatiable yearning for the taste of wild greens. Nothing else would satisfy her taste buds, so two of her brothers, my uncles John R. and Frank Branham climbed the hill to the big rock wall that made a boundary to their home place. In a somewhat sheltered area at the base of those massive rocks, they scraped snow away to gather up what early spring greens were pushing up through the earth. I don’t know if it was enough to satisfy Mom’s craving. I do know that about this same time every year I suddenly crave a mess of wild greens. Not store bought bags of spinach, collards, kale, mustard or such, but wild greens; dandelions and plantain and speckled britches. So just like many of the old folks who believed it possible, I am convinced that my mother marked me. Even so, and except for this unique but quite non-scientific conviction, I say I am usually a rational, see-it-like-it is person. This past week then, as I thought on these things, I decided to see what I could find out about that time when I was born. After all, what else is there to do on a snow filled day when, “Praises to God,” no power outages happened. Thus, and because I could, I went to my computer and typed 1930 into the search bar. I found out some things I didn’t know, and reinforcement for some things I did. For instance, I knew that the 30’s was a part of the Great Depression, for those people who lived through it passed on to their families what a truly dreadful a time it was.
Just prior to that, in 1929 and onward, there was a massive exodus of agricultural people from the bread basket parts of the country. This was because so little rainfall fell during those times that it caused the very soil of the land to blow away. The result of these storms in what has ever since been called the dust bowl, made those farms to be unmanageable. Thus many people migrated to California, or to any place where farming was still possible. On the world stage, when Wall Street crashed, so did the banks. This caused a ripple effect in those places where money, including our own, was anchored on what was called the Gold Standard. When the value of gold fell, so did the world’s economy. Being no economist, I know little about such things, but I do know that the depression that began in 1929-1930, was a time of very great hardship. I say this because many of my family lived through that time, and I myself have always had some vague memories of it.
Things gradually improved. FDR was elected to the presidency, and as a man of some financial insight, he did many things to improve the living conditions of people who were still reeling from this Great Depression.
Mr. Roosevelt was still president when a man by the name of Mahatma Gandhi began his Civil Disobedience movement in India. His famous Salt March of those years was begun as an effort to improve the lives of common ordinary people. Of course we all know how that turned out, that doing all he could, he died, still fighting the good fight, Even today we remember many of the quotes he left to us. Like this one where he said: “They can’t take away our self respect if we do not give it to them.”
Oh, that the world followed this pattern of standing up for the right in 1929/1930. It was during this time that Adolph Hitler was declared Chancellor of Germany. Almost at once he began his program to purify bloodlines of the Aryan people, weeding out and killing all who were not full stock Germans. Consequently millions of Jews were hunted down and killed during that reign of terror. Now we say it wasn’t the German people who were responsible, but just Hitler. I always say “but the people let him do it!” Today, we see the same things happening here. Times are hard. Evil and violence is rampant. People are out of work, and never before has there been such turmoil. The worst is that none of us believe that among our current crop of wannabe politician, none are capable of solving the ills of the nation. So we support for President a man who is a bully and a braggart, a woman who is a manipulator and a liar. Shame us if we allow it to happen.
Yet, and in spite of however it turns out, this one thing we know. In his own time, our God will take control. We who serve Him are waiting and watching for that day. Amen, Lord.


Education and Common Sense
The Iowa Presidential Caucus is over; 49 more to go

I stayed up until way past midnight last evening to hear the winning and losing candidates’ speeches in the just-completed Iowa Presidential caucus.  I had spent most of my television –watching time listening to the combatants, as I think it is my duty to know where each candidate stands on issues that will be of utmost importance to my nation and me.
I like billionaire Donald Trump’s willingness to “tell it like it is,” but I am afraid that he has changed his mind so much in the past that I can’t trust him to still believe what he says he now believes should he get into the Oval Office.
I like Ted Cruz’s assertion that he believes in doing the right thing, not burdening our progeny with insurmountable debt, living within our means, and the fact that he has MEMORIZED the Constitution. I liked his speech thanking the Iowa caucus goers for giving him the most votes.
Marco Rubio almost tied Donald Trump. He is a very well spoken young man with a lovely wife and two small daughters. He is the son of Cuban immigrants. He says his father was a bartender and his mother was a maid to make a living after they came to the United States, and he borrowed the money to go to college.  He speaks well and is a Catholic.
Those of us who have watched and listened to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee for the past several years were sorry that he didn’t do better. I was relieved that he has ceased campaigning.
I think Kentucky senator Rand Paul is a good senator, but I think he should keep the job he has.
I love Ben Carson. He is a good, brilliant, godly man, I believe. I am afraid that he would not be able to stand up to Russia’s Putin, and some of the other foreign leaders.
I like what Jeb Bush says; I have liked both Bush presidents. Somehow Jeb has spent a lot of money and not seen many votes.
Kasich sounds like a nice man and a capable governor, but he does not seem to have many followers.
But who would have thought that a 74-year-old Socialist would have tied Hillary Clinton in the race to be the Democrat’s nominee?
Will billionaire Bloomberg from New York enter the race as an Independent?
I predict an interesting political television year.
The outcome will determine our nation’s future.


Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

So what did the groundhog see, and does it really matter?

Well, Punxatawney Phil has spoken. When he kicked off the kivvers and crawled out of his comfortable little hole yesterday morning, he may -- then again, he may not -- have seen his shadow. Either way, a great number of people were paying attention and depending upon where you happened to have been standing geographically, you may be tickled pink or you may be dreading the upcoming weather over the next month and a half. If he saw his shadow, that means we’ll have six more weeks of winter. If he didn’t see it, we’ll only have winter until about the middle of March … which, if you check your calendar, is about six weeks. 
Although we tend to poke fun at Mr. Groundhog as a bonafied meteorologist, maybe we shouldn’t be too critical of all this folklore stuff. Years before we had the Weather Channel (or any channel, for that matter), the only way our ancestors – many of whom were farmers, or otherwise needed to know what was going on weather wise – had any notion of what to expect the weather to do, depended 100 percent on nature. They observed      everything from hogs to dogs to even the Thanksgiving turkey.
 When I was growing up, Dad always raised a hog or two. He’d always say that if you saw hogs gathering leaves and straw, a big storm was on the way. I’m not sure he really believed that, nor did he put much credence in the old saying that a dog eating grass, birds all lined up on a telephone wire and flies gathering heavily on the screen door indicated a storm was imminent.
One of the most familiar weather indicators as far as nature is concerned, at least in this part of the country, is noticing the stripes on the wooly worm. One you don’t hear very often is that folks would use the Thanksgiving turkey for that purpose, too?  A cold winter lay ahead if the turkey’s breastbone was purple. And, lest we forget, many years ago weather watchers were aware that if a squirrel’s tail was long and bushy, a cold winter was ahead. And the higher the hornets built their nests, the higher the coming winter snows would be. Based on what was dumped on us recently, the hornets must have constructed their homes in the very tops of the trees.
 Then there was this familiar little ditty: “If spiders build their webs by noon, beautiful weather is coming soon.” Another little saying that helped in long-range planning was, “Warm Christmas, cold Easter.” If there’s any merit to that, based on what a warm Christmas we’ve just had, we’d all better plan on wearing heavy coats to the sunrise services on March 27th. Other sayings old timers depended on included, the number of foggy mornings in August predicted the number of snows for the coming winter, and every day it thundered in February, it would frost in May.
Anyway, regardless of what the groundhog might have indicated yesterday, try to enjoy whatever weather we’ve got coming over the next few weeks. And remember, no matter what he said, spring is next so just hang in there.


Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

Netflix

Most everyone I know has had or currently has a “guilty pleasure” as my husband refers to it.  For example, Ronnie’s guilty pleasure is watching bad horror movies.  Actually I don’t think watching old horror flicks qualifies as a “guilty pleasure.” because most of my life-long guilty pleasures have had to do with food – mostly.
Ever since I can remember, I have been addicted to potato chips.  Although addicted to them I no longer purchase them.  If a bag of potato chips finds its way inside our house, I eat them until they are all gone. If I discover them at other people’s homes, I eat theirs too.  That isn’t very polite, but addictions are like that.
Through the years I have been addicted to Tab (a cola drink), cigarettes (Marlboro light 200’s) and biting my fingernails.  I quit Tab because they discontinued using saccharin as the sweetener and it changed the taste of the cola completely.  I expressed my displeasure by writing the Coca Cola Company in Atlanta, Georgia, and they replied by sending me a $1.00 off coupon for the new improved Tab.
My incessant, nail biting obsession stopped in 1973 when my employer chastised me for biting them saying “it was a nasty habit”.  I quit immediately after years of my Mother’s badgering me about it for the same reason.  (I guess it took an outsider to make me feel real guilty).
Finally, on February 6, 1992, I quit smoking.  There were a lot of reasons for that decision, the major one being that our son had asthma and I was contributing to it.  I was also contributing to my poor health and to everyone else’s who came in contact with me.  I was a walking health hazard.
Nail-biting, drinking Tab, and smoking cigarettes were my main “guilty pleasures” when I was younger, but as I’ve grown older I have come to realize that “guilty pleasures” has taken on a new meaning for me.  I am now addicted to Netflix.
For several years now I have been hearing people talk about two new TV series called “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black”, but you could only watch them on Netflix.  Since we didn’t have Netflix on our TV, I thought we couldn’t get it.  However, several years ago I signed up for Netflix before I realized what it was so I had been paying on it via a credit card for several years and I wasn’t even using the service!  (Talk about sticking your money up a rat hole!).
Because I came onto the scene several episodes ago, I am playing catch up on both of them and I barely have time to go to the bathroom.  “House of Cards” is a political hotbed of scandal and corruption, while “Orange Is the New Black” is a Murphy’s Law of “what could go wrong while being imprisoned” does go wrong.
The worst part is ---- I eat potato chips while watching them!
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile! 


Downhomer
Wonderful neighbors

All around this down home country, we know how blessed we have been. Sure we have had a humongous snowfall that has made us shelter in place as we waited it out. In this neck of the woods family members, friends and neighbors called often to check on each other, and the replies were probably the same as was mine: “We have plenty of food, and the water hasn’t frozen (except for in a few places here and there), and praise be to God, so far we’ve had no power outages.” This power outage thing was a biggie to those of us who heat with electricity. All of us worried that with a snow of such magnitude, it would surely happen. So in my family, we made a plan. Walter and I at 85 and 86 would be marooned in a cold house if the power went off, with neither of us able to walk out of our hollow to seek shelter else where. So our children called us from time to time, just to ‘check on things‘. They had it planned that anytime they couldn’t get an answer from us, they would call the rescue squad to “go get Mom and Papaw and take them to a motel!” They, having the same electric heat as we, made their own arrangements, one of these that going to their houses would not be expedient if our power went off, for it was just as likely their power would do likewise. So we two, Walter and I readily agreed with this going to a motel if it became necessary. We knew that one aspect of this was that with us taken care of; our family could stop worrying about the old folks and could deal with their own agendas. I do know though, how very fervently they all prayed that God would keep the two of us out of harm’s way. I reminded them every time I knew they were praying thusly, that we were no more worthy of any such kind of special dispensation from God than any other elderly couple in this down home area. “You do know,” I told them, “that the rain, and in this case the snow, falls on the just the same as the unjust alike. Whatever happens, God knows all about it, and we are in His hands!” Nevertheless, those power outages that we dreaded did not happen, and we acknowledge how very blessed we have been. We also know that surely, all our blessings come from the God who sees every sparrow that falls, and we say: “Thank you, Lord! Abba, Father!
I will speak now of those sparrows. Some of these, along with all those different kind of birds that routinely come to feed from the bird seed we put out for them, did not head to the deep words as most wild things do at the onset of a storm. Instead, our spoiled birds hung about, taking shelter in nearby trees and bushes, sending us a telepathic message easy enough to read that if we put out food, they would come. This has been for us the most difficult part of our recent storm. That first morning, Walter waded through knee deep snow to fill up our bird feeders. All day then, through sleet and snow the birds came to eat. By evening the feeders were all empty. Once again Walter waded through the snow to refill them. At dawn the next morning the birds were up as early as we, and watching from our windows we saw several of the red-headed woodpeckers, lots of brilliant cardinals beyond the counting, several pairs of doves, all out and finding those tiny seeds that were life to them. Many sparrows and swallows were among them, also chickadees and snow birds, and now and then some of those raucous blue jays that crowd out all the other birds until they have their fill.
We buy bird seed in 40 lb. bags, and in spite of the storm, Walter went twice a day every day to put out seed. After that first snowy morning when he had to shovel himself a pathway to where the feeders all hang, it was a relatively routine kind of activity, cold but necessary. Actually I think he was glad for this, and was also glad when he had to venture out into the wintry outdoors to feed his dogs. At one point he remarked that other than these things, all we did every day was to eat and watch the television! Not me! In order to do so someone had to prepare that food we ate as we watched the boob tube, and this would be me! Of course we had plenty of lunch meat on hand, and that first day I had made home- made bread which included the hamburger buns that I love to make. So along with the loaves of store bought bread we had put into our freezer we were in good shape. Walter always enjoys a bologna sandwich, but I am sure I would starve to death on such fare. Thus while we often had a sandwich at lunch time, for breakfast and at dinner we had a hot meal which I of course had to prepare. Then afterward the dishes had to be washed. However, in case I bemoan that I might have watched less TV than he, I remind myself it evened out. He fed the animals and the birds, I cooked, washed dishes, made the bed, swept the kitchen, cleaned the bathroom, etc. Bottom line is that we two did watch a lot of TV. Other than that, I had a book, and Walter had a local newspaper which he devours word by word, having to go slowly because of his visual acuity problems. This makes that favorite pastime last a long time. Best of all, we had our Bibles. So storm or no storm, what more did we need.



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