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Sunday, December 13, 2009

smell and memory

Have you ever run across a long forgotten item or sense that reminded you of something from way way back yonder? For me, it’s smell. I would like to make an incense blend of Swisher Sweets cigars, Old Spice, line-dried flannel, the metal, oil, and weathered upholstery of an old pickup truck, cows, milk, sweet feed, and wet cement, with a high note of manure. And every time I burned it, my grandpa would aromatize out of the smoke and stay with me for the rest of the day. I would keep fishing gear in the utility room so that when he wafted in, we would head up Highway 276 to the creeks in that part of Greenville that points the accusatory finger at something over in Pickens County. Or perhaps we would take off up Old Highway 25, through the watershed area, and he would ask me to keep a lookout for that shed in the woods (it’s out there, you know), to keep my mind off the nausea that always crept up on me on our trips to see his cousins around Tuxedo and Flat Rock. But this time, since I’d be driving, I wouldn’t get car sick.

Monday, July 20, 2009

1940 Cotton Mill Pay Voucher

I went to the last Tucapau/Startex Reunion back in the spring and I promised that I would show you some of the pictures I took there. Finally downloaded them off the camera. I think this picture merits its own blog post. Below is a picture of a 1940 pay stub from Spartan Mills Startex Division. Knowing who it belonged to, I’d venture to guess that this may be a first pay check. I’ll not comment and let the numbers do the talking.

Hours worked – 32
Gross pay – $10.72

OAB – $0.11
Thrift Club – $3.00
Rent, lights, water – $5.73
Store – $0.35

Net pay – $1.53

This year I plan to have a display about the early years of Tucapau in my classroom. This photo will be prominent in the display.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Tornado that Wasn't and the Wall-O-Maters

Tomato cages, like atoms, are mostly empty space. I've had my hog wire tomato cages for as long as I’ve lived here, sixteen years. I made them by cutting one-yard sections of the fencing and rolling them to make a tube by connecting and twisting the cut horizontal wires around the vertical wires. They are set in place with green metal fence posts stobbed into the ground. I hadn’t needed the cages for the last three years while they stayed stacked in a pyramid of air behind the garage. I thought I could grow some really fine tomato plants in large five to ten gallon containers around the sides of the driveway where it would be easier to tend rather than tromp out to the big garden at the back of the property. But I was only kidding myself. Even when I did what all the container gardening experts said to do, I couldn’t get a Park’s Whopper much bigger than a lemon. I’m used to growing a tomato big enough to make a sandwich with one single slice. And that Topsy Turvy tomato planter thing is a joke. Don’t waste your money.

Well, sir, I decided back around Thanksgiving that I was through with container gardening. Heck, I have the land and ought to be using it like the good Lord intended, growing something to stuff in my face. But my hog wire cages had succumbed to the elements back there behind the garage, being no more substantial now than so much brown cobwebs. It was the tornado last year that drew my attention to that fact.

The 2008 Brookdale Acres/Gap Creek Tornado that formed over Tab’s Flea Market on Wade Hampton Boulevard, Highway 29, with no warning and undetected by the National Weather Service, shucked off all my shingles, uprooted many trees and bushes (including my thirty-foot pink dogwood), twisted others like licorice whips, turned my eight-foot wooden fence into splinters, sucked the water from the hot tub, smashed cars, spun shingles through the neighborhood like circular saw blades into anything in their way, and sent the metal walls of an above-ground pool whipping and writhing in the air like a streamer of toilet paper to land crumpled on a neighbor’s front steps 100 yards away. The tornado, which the NWS called straight-line winds instead (because they didn’t send out a warning), but the neighbor said on TV he “seen” a tornado coming up the road, lifted the house across the street off its foundation and smashed it right back down, causing the roof to split along the ridge, warp the whole frame, shifting the bricks and foundation. It took the insurance people a couple of days to decide to condemn the structure and rebuild the house.

As Ken and the State Farm man assessed the damage, starting in the front of the house and working their way to the back of the property, while local new teams swarmed the neighborhood, I started in the rear where I discovered the tomato cages, mostly rust dust, smashed to smithereens by a small pecan limb. Oh, well. I wasn’t using them anymore, I thought. I had my containers, right? many of which were shoved over and emptied on the ground by the winds. We found one of the planters cradled in the top branches of a giant white oak in the woods across the street. It’s still there along with a Christmas wreath from who-knows-where. Spring break was just around the corner and I thought I could make some new cages then, but I never did. My rheumatiz-stricken hands couldn’t squeeze the wire cutters as easily as they could fifteen years before. I tried the container garden one more time, but decided to go back to a real garden after that third season of puny produce.

In late January, Ken began tilling the old garden spot we had been using for a burn pile. He tilled it about three different times. I expressed my doubts that we would be able to grow anything there this year, thinking it would be too alkaline because of the ashes. And sure enough, as the days warmed, when there should have been weeds sprouting, not even a sprig of chickweed grew. The spot was nothing but a scald. However, I didn’t want to break new ground just yet. So we transformed the old flower beds around the patio inside the new wooden fence (complements of State Farm) into a cool crop garden with lettuces, cabbage, and broccoli. During spring break I planted six Park’s Whoppers I had started from seed back in February in the patio garden. A couple of weeks later we noticed the tilled spot had some little weeds growing in it. I figured all the rain we had in early spring diluted the natural lye from the ashes and decided to take a chance with some more crops out there.

I bought a real cheap nine-pack of Rutgers tomatoes at Walmart, marked down because they were yellow and scrawny as pencil leads. If they died in the ground, it didn’t matter. I had to do this experiment. But how was I going to stake them up if they did thrive? I’d used most of the old metal posts in the patio garden. This is when I realized the tornado had given me an answer. We still had the old drive-through, chain-linked gate leaning against the fence in the back yard, all ten feet of it, the one that was warped when the kids’ trampoline was flung into it. I never did like that gate, it was too heavy, and I had to use two hands to open it. We replaced it with an easy-open double gate.

With the old warped gate and the last three metal fence posts, I created a 5:1 incline for the tomatoes to creep up if they grew at all. And they did grow like crazy after being stunted for about a month. As the vines grew, I lashed them to the fence with some ties I made form an old pair of pantyhose cut calamari style. What I have now is a wall-o-‘maters. They are loaded with green tomatoes, and I’ve been harvesting ripe tomatoes since July 4th weekend. I like this new arrangement very much. And it’s way easier than empty space that takes up so much space.

Here is a slide show of the damage.

The Wall-o-maters.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I saw the signs.

I saw the telltale signs,
stripped stems and dark green dookie pellets.
So I've been on a tomato hornworm
search and destroy mission.

I miss my little red hens.
They loved to follow me
on a worm-hunting adventure.
I'd pry the fat boys off the plants
and flick them at my girls' feet.

Did I ever tell you about
my first encounter with guacamole?
Thought it was prueed tomato hornworm.
That was back in 1973.

This picture is from Clemson's web site.

A Big Girl Now

This week my baby turned into a big girl, passing her drivers test with smooth, flawless parallel parking, which you only need in Greer, got her first little part-time job making outside money (not from my pocketbook), and filled the gas tank with said money. I am getting old.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I’ve been lurking in the 975.729 region of the Dewey Decimals lately. The 975 means
Southeastern US, the .7 means South Carolina, and the 29 means Spartanburg County. I like to see what the historians say about my antecedents. One of the most concentrated of the Spartan District tomes I’ve run across is a little self-published jewel called Indians, Bloodshed, Tears, Churches, and Schools – It All Started at Fort Gowen by James V. Gregory and James Walton Lawrence, Sr. 2003.
The idea for this book began with the authors’ and the National Park Service’s search for the original site of Fort Gowan, one in a string of several forts, all within a one-day’s walk (or run) of each other, built during the times of Tory, Indian, and outlaw gang attacks on the settlers in the South Carolina backcountry. Often mentioned are the dastardly deeds of the outlaw William “Bloody Bill” Bates along the Indian Line (Spartanburg Co. and Greenville Co. boundary). We also had another Bloody Bill in the region, William Cunningham, most noted for his attack at Walnut Grove Plantation near Roebuck. Bates reminds me of the pirate character, Stephen Bonnet, in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series. I imagine his maraudering band to be a lot like the gang of bandits who kidnapped Claire in A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Very nasty fellow.
Much of the information for Fort Gowen was gathered from aerial maps, the SC Archives, Greenville and Spartanburg County records, old newspaper articles, and the writings of local historians Dr. Lyman Draper, Dr J.B.O. Landrum, and Mann Batson. This little book reminded me that some of the greatest suffering and bloodshed before and during the American Revolution was borne by the original settlers of the backwoods Spartan District of South Carolina.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I wonder about that Guy guy.

s Today we went to Harold's of Gaffney, featured on The Food Network's show with spiky-haired Guy Fieri, for their famous chili burger. No wonder they don't tell you how they make the chili on the show. I need Imodium and Nexium. If Dewy's Duck Inn in Startex were still open, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives would have ignored Harold's - best chili ever in this world at the Duck Inn. I'd kill for that mill hill recipe. We went to the Duck Inn for our dogs and to Walt's Mr. Hot Dog for our chili-cheese burgers. That was twenty-five years ago, so it may just be my old lady innards and not Harold's food. But the amazing thing about Harold's is that it's been in business for 75 years and making the food the same way. Now I'd like to give them a second chance on one of the pinto bean Wednesdays. Pinto beans, fatback, corn muffins, chow chow, and onions sound real good to me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Our Kuykendall Family Album

Folks, this album will continue to grow as I scan and upload the pictures to it. If you click the little blue picture icon in the lower right, you can see the complete album with captions for each picture. So, help me out, cousins, if you see something that needs correction, let me know.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Blue Ridge Book Festival

It was Mother's Day weekend and my girls went with me to the book festival in Hendersonville held at the Blue Ridge Community College. I actually got to have a few impromptu reunions there in the halls of the college. Here is honorary chairman, Robert Morgan, one of the kudzu cousins, introducing keynote Sharyn McCrumb, who spoke on finding truth in fiction. She's a consummate researcher. I was using a new camera that I wasn't used to and my picture of McCrumb didn't turn out.

Louise Bailey spoke on the cultural and historical dimensions of Henderson County. I came in a little late for that one, but was delighted to hear the story about Carl Sandburg having supper at her father's home where he enjoyed the fresh pole beans cooked with salt pork so much, not only did he have three helpings, he turned the serving bowl up and drank the pot liquor. His way of saying Henderson County pole beans are the best in the world, I reckon.

Mountain balladeer and stroyteller, Sheila Kay Adams, entertained us with her story, Whatever Happened to John Parrish's Boy, one of my favorites in her collection, Come Go Home with Me. I was very sorry to hear about the recent passing of her husband and performance partner, Jim.

Gary Carden, spoke on Western North Carolina stroytelling and folklore. He told stories about growing up with his grandparents in the mountains and how he came to study drama at Western Carolina. This session was the girls' favorite. I was going to ask him to tell the story about the trout who learned to walk on land, but we ran out of time. His play,The Prince of Dark Corners, about the Carolina bootlegger outlaw, Lewis Redmond is on DVD. I have a copy which I used in Tech Prep Chemistry when we study distillation.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Getting Back to the Garden

When Wal-Mart and fire ants came to Greer in the same year, I gave up having a big garden – and I mean BIG. For the past few years I’ve had only a few ‘mater plants because of the travel softball season being all over us. But, you know what? It makes me nervous not to have a garden, depending on so many outlanders to provide what I eat. So we are going back to the garden, starting little and building up to a putting-up garden. And with two acres, it’d be a sin not to. I’ll just keep an EpiPen in my britches pocket.

I planted some broccoli and onions and Romaine lettuce and beets way back before Spring break, and they are up a right nice size now. I started tomatoes from seed, Rutgers and Park’s Whoppers, which are just about ready to put out. The nine-pack of vegetables were a good price at Lowes a couple of weeks ago. I got one pack of Roma tomatoes. I have seeds for cucumbers, birdhouse gourds, crooked-neck squash, and eggplant. They will go out in May. I’ll have to go buy some Jalapenos and bell peppers. As much as I like okra, I’ll pass on it this time. It comes in after school starts when I have no time. But retirement is not too far off.

No corn this time, but I can flat out grow corn. I’ll never forget the year, ’81 to be exact, Uncle Marion and I tended that humongous garden down at the farm right next to the lake. SIX acres of Merritt sweet corn. It was also the summer I first found I was pregnant with Elizabeth. Oh, Lord! I hoed and puked and hoed and puked. Then I pulled ears and puked and shucked and puked and blanched and puked and cut off and puked and bagged it for freezing and puked. Then I ate nary a kernel of it until Thanksgiving when the nausea went away. My uncle said, “You’re just like Momma. Always got to be growing something.” I never told him what a complement that was. He was the same way. What a wonderful trait to pass down. Ah, good times, good memories.

I suspect more and more people will venture out to plant some vegetables with the recession and all, and some may do it because it’s just plain “greener” to eat locally grown foods – a victory garden sort of. But whatever your reasons, I’m just curious to know what you are growing this summer. Tell me.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Startex/Tucapau Mill Village Reunion

A good many of you run across this blog while searching terms with the words Startex or Tucapau in them. The official mill village site is Next month, April 18, 2009, the historical society will hold a reunion. So visit the site and read about all the plans for the village. The organizers would welcome any memorabilia you have to share at the gathering. You can contact them from the information on the site.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Thunder in January

Sara heard thunder last night while I was sawing logs. She was just dozing when she detected a flash behind closed lids. Thinking Mary was taking pictures of her slobbering, with her mouth hanging open (they do that kind of thing to one another), she jumped up to swat at her, but nobody was there. That’s when she heard the thunder. “Oh, that’s a sign,” I said when she reported it this morning. It means that there will be snow in 10 days – the day before final exams for first semester, how lovely. Thunder in January is supposed to wake up the snakes, too. I ain’t about to go out in the woods to check.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! We watched the Bowl games today and all our teams lost. :-(
We ate the traditional southern NY's Day fare, black-eyed peas and collard greens (you do know why we eat them, don't you?). I've learned how to gussy up the greens from my fancy chef son-in-law, though I still favor just a little bacon grease and chow chow on the side. On Tuesday, we smoked several pork loins with hickory, apple, and pecan woods. I let the loins soak up their juices for two days in giant zip-lock bags. OMG! they were delicious with the greens, sliced paper thin and piled on rolls and a little daub of Dukes on the bread. My youngest said it was the best meal I had made all year. Ha Ha Ha.