Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Smells of Autumn

This is the time of year I get particularly homesick. The memories are strong, and pungent.

Getting off the school bus in September, with the smell of crayons in my clothes, I walked down the dirt road to Granny's house. Goldenrod towered over me, swaying as the bus pulled away. At the pear tree, honey bees and yellow jackets buzzed around the syrupy fruit rotting on the ground.

In the fields, men were priming tobacco; at the barn, the women tied up the "hands"of golden leaves, twining them to the sticks that hung in the barn. One barn was already curing, the sweet, dry heat drifting out the air holes into the afternoon sun. Staymen, winesap, Granny Smith, Red Delicious--apple trees dotted the farm, and the Red Delicious were so deeply red and delicious that you could have strained a cup of juice from one apple. It dripped down your hands and arms. At the house, Granny sliced apples, laying them on a screen that would be put in the tobacco barn to dry so that the flavor of tobacco was infused into the apples, making the best fried apple pies in October and November.

The tobacco would be dried and taken to auction in Mount Airy. In the eastern part of the county, I think the farmers took tobacco to Martinsville or even Danville. Up the mountain from us, the orchard men--the Harolds, the Hiatts, the MacMillians, the Bowmans, and over in Cana, the Ayers, the Leverings and the Leonards--were trucking apples up to Roanoke, many to White House Foods. White House made, and still does, vinegar, apple juice, and apple sauce. I thought all vinegar was the White House brand until I moved to Kansas. In fact, I was just on their website and their apple recipes just set my mouth to watering. Apples spice cake with cream cheese frosting . . . to die for!

I recall going across the mountain to Roaring River, North Carolina, for church. Audie Presnell was the preacher and also had a Christmas tree farm. His wife had the best applesauce stack cake I've ever tasted. I can still see it setting in her pantry, the steep hillside dotted with little spruce trees in the window behind it. Then there was homemade applebutter--cooked in a copper kettle, stirred and stirred and stirred. On hot biscuits, oh my!

Apples--the most versatile, healthy and tasty food! Tobacco--the plant that brought Europe to the new world! Let us have a cider and celebrate!

(For recipes, visit
What Tombstone Character Are You?

Yesterday I ran the link for the above named quiz which matches your personality against the characters from the movie Tombstone. I thought my answers were the wussiest possible but I still came up as Wyatt. So did our friend Kayla. Tom scored as Virgil, as did our bud Michelle. So far, no one has fessed up to Ike Clanton. Come on now. Surely someone out there identifies with Ike?

3:10 to Yuma

Another report on this fabled Western and still I have yet to see it. We'll see what the evening brings. From Brother Dave Chuber (pictured with his lovely wife Teresa). Dave is a big-wig historian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri:

Hey, have you seen 3:10 to Yuma! It is a gun nut's dream!
It is John Wayne and Clint Eastwood all rolled together!

Well, I guess it can't get better than that!

From another Southerner who reminisces about the golden era of tobacco. I told him that my dad used to pastor a couple of churches in Maysville and Verona, North Carolina :


Well, they're both on Highway 17, and my wife and I have been through Verona and Maysville on trips over the years, although always on the way to somewhere else. Once we stopped at an antique shop near Verona, and I bought this unopened pack of WWII linen postcards from Camp Davis:

The area around Maysville is still pretty rural as I remember, although Jacksonville is growing quite a lot and might eventually take Verona with it.

They are growing more cotton and less tobacco around there these days, which is true for all of North Carolina. If you remember the old tobacco warehouses, these are almost all gone now. Farmers consign their tobacco directly with cigarette companies these days, I understand, and the tobacco auctions are a thing of the past. I don't smoke, but greatly miss the fragrance of fresh-cured tobacco in barns, warehouses, and wafting from farm trucks on the way to markets in August.


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