The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

November 12, 2012

Missing family is like living with no electricity

Home to the Hills

By Ricky Pack

— Where in heaven’s sake did this freezing snowy weather come from? Then I wake up this morning and the doggone power was out. That wouldn’t have been so bad it’s just that I had 100 pounds of dogs, which is three of them, fighting me for the covers. I should have stayed married.  At least I would have had a fighting chance.

Not to worry, I have about 39 burning candles and two propane torches. It’s starting to warm up nice and cozy. Those of you that are worried about me succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning, fear not. I got a canary; yep his name is Baby, he weighs 5 pounds of pure Pomeranian. I figure if he starts acting all goofy it would be a great time to open the windows.

I have been around the world with the Navy Seabees. I slept in some of the coldest places on earth.

There were plenty of days we spent on Pop and Grandma’s farm when the nights were cold. Grandma would make quilts that were so soft and warm. They never got so hot that you had to kick them off. The smell of them being washed by a ringer washer and the fresh, windblown, dried-on-a-clothesline aroma still lingers in my mind.

You see they didn’t have the fancy matching washer and dryer we have today. Pop would have my brothers and I haul water from the creek in galvanized buckets. We had to fill the washing machine and two huge rinse tubs. Boy, oh boy, Pop would watch us getting water out of the creek, threatening us with each step we took to take a switch to us if we didn’t carry more water in those buckets. Ray had to be 12 years old, Ronnie 8 and me 10 years old. Just how much water could three scrawny boys carry? I think it was his way of toughening us up.

Grandma would tell us it was time for bed and off we’d go. It wouldn’t be long before she would come to tuck us in. Oh how nice it felt cuddling up under the sheets and one of her quilts. Sleep came quickly and the nights passed the same.

We didn’t wake up because we had to. Oh no, that was the furthest thing from our minds. What woke us was Pop rustling the ashes in the coal stove in the kitchen. He would put big bricks of coal into the stove. Then he would shake the dickens out of the ash grate on the bottom. That would start our day. All that noise wasn’t the reason we got out of bed.

Years later I figured out why he was always up so early doing his. It was because of Grandma. He always made sure the kitchen was warm for her to cook breakfast.

Now her cooking was what got us out of bed.

They had chickens, a milk cow, hawgs and a cellar where they would keep vegetables through the winter, so we always had potatoes. The smell of her cooking would entice the palates of 10,000 angels. The crackling of bacon cooking was loud enough to silence the whisper of the wind. The bacon was thick because Pop slaughtered his own hawgs. Her biscuits were made for kings. The home-churned butter added to the already incredible breakfast. Add some of her gravy and our tongues would hit the roofs of our mouths so hard and so fast it would give us brain damage. I haven’t had any brain damaging biscuits and gravy since.

The red hog bit Pop right on the butt while he was cleaning out the trough. You just don’t bite my grandfather without some consequence. Yum, fresh pork!

Grandma would holler through the big country house, “Breakfast ready, you boys get up and get to the table.” That was never a problem. The whole house was toasty warm. Grandma’s smile filled the house with love. I could feel her arms wrap around me from 10 feet away. Pop would greet us with his usual growl. That was his way of letting us know he loved us too.  

I am sitting in the dark right now because the power is out. Many times I sit in the darkness because I miss them both.