Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Where I live in West Texas, we don’t get a lot of snow. Sometimes we get ice or an occasional dusting of snow, but it’s only every so often that enjoy a true snow fall.

We were blessed with just such a snowfall, not once, but twice. The first time was on New Years Day and the second was this past weekend. It started snowing early Sunday morning and didn’t stop until late that night. The official measurement was 5.3 inches which just missed the record by a nose. The top mark remains 5.5 inches from 1973. Even my daughter down south in College Station got snow!

Now, I know that those of you you live in most northern climes measure your snowfall in feet, not inches, but we were delighted by the big fluffy flakes and couldn’t resist the lure. OK – my son and his fiance couldn’t resist the lure. I simply jumped out for a few minutes then back in while they had the true adventure.

Having just gotten engaged on Christmas Eve, the intrepid couple set out to create his and her snowmen in our backyard. I chronicled the event.

It began with the rolling of the snow. McKenna had to instruct Wyatt on the proper roll technique since Wyatt’s mama had failed in teaching him the proper way to roll snow during his childhood. Shame on me. (But then, I did grow up in Central California, a place that gets even less snow than West Texas.)

Next came the construction phase . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the decorating. My hubby and I volunteered for the warm job of digging through closets and the fridge for appropriate items.

If you look really closely, you’ll see that the male snowman is giving the classic Wyatt “thumbs up” with one hand while chivalrously wrapping his other arm around the lovely snow lady.

Unfortunately, chivalry must have died, for the snowman began to lean and eventually did a full face-plant, taking his lady love down with him.

Oh, well. At least the real-life couple suffered no ill effects.

Do you get much snow where you live?
    If so, what is your favorite snow activity?
    If not, what kind of of snow activity would you most like to try?

REMEMBRANCE: STORIES OF THE PAST by Cheryl Pierson

 

Many years ago, my aunt entered an essay contest at Austin College in Texas. Aunt Jo Anne was my dad’s younger sister. Her essay was about hog-killing time on their small farm in southeastern Oklahoma, but in her rich way of telling a story, she said so much more.

 

Aunt Jo Anne was my dad’s only sister, and she was a strong “influencer” in our family. She had a very dynamic personality, and was full of surprises. Born in 1929, she was seven years younger than my dad and they loved each other dearly. Though she accomplished many things, her family was the most important—the dearest thing—in her life.

 

 

This is her recollection of the yearly ritual of hog-killing. She remembers this particular time when she was nine years old. When she wrote this essay, she was in her late seventies or early eighties, and she passed away 2 years ago at the age of 88. Here she is below, writing a letter to her husband, my Uncle Earl, during the Korean War when he was overseas.

This essay is a treasure to me because it lets me have a glimpse of her as a child, of my grandparents as younger people, and of other family members like my Aunt Grace, who was my grandmother’s sister. Remembering Aunt Jo Anne and the wonderful stories she told about our family (she knew and remembered so many things—I tried to write some of them down!) as I read this essay makes me wish she had written more things like this.

My dad, Fred, with little sis, Jo Anne in front. Behind them are two of their first cousins. This was taken around 1933-1934 or so. Dad would have been about 11 or 12, and Jo Anne would have been 4 or 5.

 

I hope you enjoy this glimpse back in time.

 

REMEMBRANCE
By: Jo Anne Jackson

This was, for sure, hog killing weather—the deep, frigid
cold of late November, 1941. The blue “norther” had
subsided to a deep and bitter cold. Yes, fine weather for the
yearly ritual at our small row-crop farm.

Everything was ready. Only yesterday, Dad filled the
old black wash pot with well-bucket after well-bucket of
water and then staked wood from the ample woodpile to
surround what would become a scalding cauldron. My
mother had stitched long, white tubing that would encase the
pork sausage. Every crock, dish pan, and kettle was
thoroughly scrubbed.

By lamplight, Dad had carefully sharpened every utility
knife, giving close attention to the butcher knives. I watched
closely the rhythm-like back and forth motion of metal on
whet stone.

Aunt Jo Anne (RIGHT) and a cousin–both were 5 years old in this picture, and a few days after this was taken, her little cousin died of a ruptured appendix.

One of the largest shoats had been penned and fed rich
rations of grain and ‘shorts’, a thick, smelly mixture we
called slop. Discards from the kitchen were thrown in, also.

Next morning, Dad was up before sunrise, starting fires
in the wood heater and kitchen stove. He then went to coax
the kindling and larger sticks to a kind of red-hot furnace
around the wash pot.

At light of day, Aunt Grace and Uncle Bill drove up,
sitting high on the spring board seat of their farm wagon.
The horses were led into the barn lot, where they would
spend a day’s rest with plenty of grain and hay spread on the
wagon bed. No occasion—certainly not hog killing—could be
undertaken without the counsel and experience of this wise
old couple. They had seen much of life’s sweetness and
sadness.

My dad, Fred, and my Aunt Jo Anne clowning around by “striking a pose” many years later.

Mom poured the last of the morning coffee; steaming
cups were held close, everyone appreciating the soothing
warmth—and I was not to be left out; my small cup was
filled with cream and milk, a teaspoon of sugar and 2 or 3
teaspoons full of the hot beverage. Oh, the rich goodness of
that caramel concoction!

Talk turned to news of weather, family and community.
I was puzzled when, briefly, there was mention of England,
Germany and France—I surely didn’t comprehend the names
Hitler and Mussolini.

Then the long day’s work began. When Dad reached
for the .22 rifle, I ran back to my bed, lying face down with
eyes squeezed tight, holding my hands over my ears. But
even so, the crack of the rifle and high shrill squeal of that
animal I can recall vividly these decades later.

I watched from the kitchen window as the work
progressed. Boiling water was poured into a metal barrel
and then tilted downward ever so slightly. This became a
seething cauldron; ugly, but necessary, I knew. A make-shift
pulley and hoist would lift the dead animal into that scalding
baptism.

Dad and my uncle worked in close harmony, scraping
clean the hot clinging bristles, exposing the pink-white
coloring of snout, belly and back. Then followed the more
tedious work of quartering, slicing and discarding.
All day they labored, and that labor would provide meat
for our table. Long winter months lay ahead, but our
provisions were more than ample: spare ribs, loin,
backbone, jowls, bacon, sausage, and ham. Come
Christmas, a ham would be served, for our house would
overflow with cousins, second cousins, uncles and aunts,
toddlers and babes in arms (sweet, sweet fellowship, hours
of play and whispered secrets).

The sun was low when my mother called supper. The
coal-oil lamp in the center of the kitchen table provided a
mellow light.


Both men washed up, using wet hands to pat down
their hair, rumpled and tangled from a day that allowed no
time for combing.

Our places were set, four high backed chairs and the
kitchen stool for me, a child of nine years… Oh, that feast:
fried tenderloin, red eye gravy, small red potatoes boiled
with the jackets on… Everyone became seated and quiet as
our heads bowed to repeat The Lord’s Prayer.

 

Mom then brought the first pan of her wonderful buttermilk biscuits to
the table, hot from the oven, Everyone ate heartily, the men
enjoying a “roll your own” cigarette of Prince Albert tobacco
as they relaxed in the warmth of that small, cramped kitchen.
But hog killing was not over just because the hog was
killed. Much remained to be done.


Meat for sausage was ground, seasoned with just the
right amount of salt, pepper, and sage. One must be extra
careful with the sage, for even a little too much would ruin the
whole crock. (Words spoken by that lovable Aunt Grace, an
authority on sausage making. And indeed, she was.) The
white tubing was packed tightly with the sausage, then hung
by long baling wire from rafters in the smokehouse.
Then came the day for rendering fat to make our lard;
and the delicious crunch of the “cracklings” was the by-product.
A cup of crushed cracklings made a skillet of hot
cornbread really, really good.

Pork cracklings–a favorite dish “then and now”–you can buy them in bags to snack on these days!

The old black wash pot was put into service that one
last time for soap making. Mother’s lye soap was a product
she was most proud of. She knew by memory the exact
amount of grease, lye, and whatever else went into this
product. She wielded a long-handled wooden paddle to stir,
being careful to stay clear of the hot coals. When this
mixture reached a consistency that was absolutely, 100
percent right, and ashes covered the coals, she kept stirring,
only more slowly. lt took two or three days for the soap to
set up. LYE SOAP! In those long-ago years it was used to
wash dishes, to scrub our bare wood floors, and to bathe our
bodies when times were especially lean. When our city kin
visited in the summer, my aunt always asked, “Mary, do you
have an extra bar of your soap? The girls so love it for
shampoo.”

The week’s hum of activity gradually wound down.
Uncle Bill added a bit more preservative to the hams, sides
of bacon were wrapped and hung, buckets of pure white lard
were put in the storm cellar—placed on shelves next to
Mom’s prized lye soap.

These were my people: resourceful, honest,
hardworking, humble, and always true to their convictions of
right and wrong.

Only days later, December 7, 1941, our close-knit,
secure world was rocked asunder. WWII was upon us and
our way of life forever changed.

Now, in quiet times, I see them still, seated in lamp light
at our kitchen table, heads bowed in prayers of praise and
thanksgiving. The Lord had provided for another year.

Do you have a memory like this of a special time in your childhood that stands out in your mind? Please share!

Welcome Guest – Jolene Navarro!!!

Hola! Jolene Navarro checking in from my front porch in the Texas Hill Country. I’m so happy to be here today.

My family has been in Texas for seven generations, so when it comes to telling stories, I can’t help but draw from my own experiences. My family loves getting together for the holidays, and you can see this in all my stories.

Lone Star Christmas is my third Christmas story and the third book for my Bergmann sisters of Clear Water, Texas. The sisters have been so much fun to get to know. Family is everything to them, even when they drive each other crazy.

I have two sisters and a load of aunts. Even though we lost our mother eleven years ago we still get together with her family, including our grandmother (her mother).

A few years ago, my sisters and I along with a cousin or two, thought it would be easier and much more fun to rent a cabin in our family hometown of Leakey. What a perfect place to give thanks by the river and among the hills that we came from. It was one of the best decisions we had made. As a family we love the outdoors, the trees, river, sky the more we can explore the happier we are. And of course, we have the dishes that have been served even before I was born. One of my favorites is the cranberry sauce served in my great-grandmother’s bowl.

Now to be fair there are family fights…sauce from fresh cranberries or the stuff from the can?  Some people will only eat that stuff from the can, but I’m not here to judge. We welcome everyone…no matter how they take their cranberries.

So, hosting Thanksgiving in a cabin on the river became a new tradition. A few of us stay for three or four days to set up, clean up and just hang out. The rest of the family comes in for Thursday. How can I not incorporate this kind of family fun (and maybe a little drama) into my books? In Lone Star Hero, the big family gathering is new to my hero Max and his three younger brothers. They have never spent the holidays together let alone in such a huge setting. 

Click cover to order.

Thanksgiving is just a kickoff of the holidays. My all-time favorite time, Christmas. Therefore, I love writing Christmas stories. It can be a time of such joy and hope. On the other side a person could be swamped in darkness, grief, loss, or loneliness. I work with this theme a great deal just like Max and his brothers. The idea that as the author, I can right wrongs, give people new chances and hand out happy endings to the most broken.

Every Christmas Eve we drive over the hills, through the Frio River and down a long bumpy dirt road to my cousin’s ranch on the Frio River.

Surrounded by God’s creations has a way of healing the bumps and bruises the world leaves behind. How could I not bring this into my stories and share with the world? I love being a country girl.

Like I said, I love writing holidays and I use what I know, but there are so many traditions. I want to hear about some of yours.

Finish this sentence for me: I get that holiday feeling when……

If you leave a comment, you will be entered to win a gift bundle of all three Bergmann sister’s books: Texas Daddy, The Texan’s Twins, and Lone Star Christmas.

Graduating to Adulthood

letterhead-header 2

May is always a crazy month in the Witemeyer house. Three of the five of us have birthdays, and on top of that, this year, my daughter (my oldest) is graduating from high school. On my 45th birthday. So in addition to the usual day job and writing and church schedules to keep up with, I’ve also been tackling graduation invitations and juggling numerous award ceremonies, scholarship recipient dinners, band concerts, baccalaureate events, etc. Whew! I’m exhausted already and I’m not even halfway through the month yet.

Tomorrow is Bethany’s 18th birthday. 18. Wow. Where did those years go?

Bethany 9 months old
Bethany 9 months old
First day of pre-school
First day of preschool
Princess Leia for Halloween
Princess Leia for Halloween

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now she’s all grown up . . .

In the bluebonnets
In the bluebonnets
With her flute
With her flute
Her favorite pasttime
Her favorite past time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bethany in Library 4 smallNext year she’ll be at Abilene Christian University studying Mathematics with possible minors in Computer Science and/or Physics. (Yes, she’s that smart. Graduating valedictorian at her 4A high school. No, I’m not proud or anything.)

FullSteamAhead Cover FinalSo in honor of my daughter’s big day, I’m giving away 2 copies of the book I dedicated to her – Full Steam Ahead. The heroine, Nicole Renard, is a math whiz in the book (just like my daughter) and the hero, Darius Thornton, is a self-taught engineer. A fitting story for a girl who loves numbers.

To enter, leave a comment about a favorite high school graduation memory.

And thank you for putting up with a very non-western post from a proud mama who’s got a tired brain. Ha! Although, Bethany is a Texan and I threw in some Texas bluebonnets, so maybe that helps it qualify. 🙂