Archive for June, 2013


COUNTRY LIFESTYLE INFLUENCES ON MY MIND
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1970 Photo of me in Liberty High School varsity football cheerleader uniform was taken in our front yard in the country,. . . .located close to Rt-122S Sign Rock, just off Dickerson Mill Road.
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I like the white wagon wheels in background,… Used by Mom to support a red rambling rose. Our 0.1-mile drive way off Dickerson Mill Road is behind me …That driveway had a circular drive loop before continuing to the back of our house (where we parked), and to the house next door (where Aunt Nancy & Uncle Joe lived w/cousins Ginger & Joey), & on to end at the barn gate & yard. Guests parked in that circular drive behind me. Back behind the barn, as the crow flies about 0.5-miles just off Fiddler’s Creek Road is Mrs. Royalty’s home place,…where I once saw a telegraph for water (as described in my sksskh story “H2O x Change” on Sound Cloud).

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The front yard entrance was flanked by dual red maple trees and twin lamp posts covered in ivy. Mother said the lanterns were from a carriage of horse & buggy days. The walkway, consisting of large, flat river rocks embedded flush with the ground, started at the twin lamp posts and lead to our front door, I’m sitting on, or very nearly on, on our country sidewalk in this photo. Speaking of horse & buggy rides, Dad his mother packed biscuits in her purse for long rides… Which reminded me of my self packing pockets/backpacks with nabs (packs of peanut butter crackers) for trips into NYC. She must’ve had low blood sugar aka fast metabolism issues too. Mine were borderline hypoglycemic (tested negative for hypoglycemia though). My NJ & NY friends teased me saying “don’t yous guys know we’ve got food in the city”… & I’d say “yeah, but not always where you need it, & when you need it…if I pack it, it’s guaranteed.” 🙂
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Visitors were greeted at the screened front porch entrance of a >200-yo 2-story tin roofed farmhouse , complete with a floppy screen door. The kind secured with a small metal hook & eye closure. Inside the front door was the coolest living room with hardwood floor covered with a green oval braided rug, hardwood open beam ceiling, & a gorgeous rock fireplace & chunky dark wood mantel. Those ceiling beams looked like walnut and were/are at least 15-feet long & 3-inches wide. A huge tree(s) supplied those beams. The unique rock fireplace was constructed of field stone by Walker Leftwich (the grandfather of Jennings Leftwich LHS ’72 Class.).
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Our approx. 40-acre “hobby” farm was/is referred to as the “Walker Leftwich home place” since it belonged to that family for many years. It had a spring, creek, pond, barn, dog kennel, grey wood shed garage, small 4-room house used for storage, garden, pastures, hayfield, garden & honey bee stands. Our “Smith home place” for many years… approx. 1966 to 1983.
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Dad raised black angus & put one in the freezer every year…. Ugh, involved the dreaded task of wrapping the cuts of meat in freezer paper & labeling for storage. Dad also kept a milk cow many years. So, we never bought milk at the store when I was a kid. Instead we drank unprocessed, filtered whole-milk, homemade buttermilk & churned our butter too (made those 3″tall x 4″diameter butter rounds with a metal mold)…. The home made, hand cranked peach custard-style ice cream was the best ice cream anywhere…better than any store bought stuff. Dad kept an old industrial milk chiller in the coal shed. the fresh milk from that chiller was the very best tasting milk ever. Dad worked at the Sealtest Dairy processing plant until it closed. His brother Benuce worked there as well as a man named Buster and their boss Fred. Dad, Buster & Benuce did everything from butter fat testing to mowing the lawn. They wore white uniforms. I used to love hanging out at this plant watching the farmers load their milk cans on a conveyor belt that took them through swinging doors into the plant. I’d go inside to watch Dad et al dump the milk into a large tank, run tests & process it… Tracing lines of process flow and quizzing them all as to what each step /tank was for… I now realize that this was my first encounter with an industrial process & traced pipe & understood that process as if I was already a chemical engineer. Dad went to work at Rubatex when the Sealtest plant closed. I heard much about Rubatex operations from Dad, but never toured that plant.My ‘job’ at home was to make ‘scratch’ buttermilk biscuits daily for supper (dinner = lunch in the country). As a teenager I sewed most of my own clothes since most suited me better than off-the rack commercial pieces… Plus it was a bargain… More clothes for the money, yeah! Nowadays it’s the opposite cost-wise.

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We had hogs & chickens (fryers & laying)..even a mule used to plough the garden… Before Dad got a tiller & tractor. We canned vegetables & beef, made 14-day pickles, etc too. Hence, we didn’t buy much from the grocery store. He also kept a kennel full of beagles & foxhounds… Probably 30-40 max. I believe his kennel license limit was 60. I was his “surgeon” for ” doctoring on the dogs while he held them steady. . . During minor removal procedures to address splinters, thorns, & fishhooks.
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At which time the farmhouse & out-buildings & ~15-acres were sold & my parents built a brick ranch style home on the remaining 25-acres with pond, vegetable & rose garden, spring, creek, pasture, woods & honeybee strands…also with new barn & new metal sky-lighted garage, designed & constructed by Dad. Garaged his tractor, workbench, & tools since his truck & car were parked on the carport.
BTW, I often helped with those smokin’ beekeeping tasks off-bee-veil… I got the rag smoking in the smoker… While Dad wore the coveralls & bee hat with veil netting… He brought the wood hive section to the back porch or picnic table… Where I’d put the new strip of honeycomb in each rack.. Filing each rack a third of the way with new “starter” honeycomb. Not sure if he wanted it that way to save money on honeycomb or if it’s a best for the bees technique … He only said “it’s all the bees need to get started”. Personally, I would have preferred to fill each rack with and entire sheet of honeycomb starter cause it was a pain to cut the stuff in those smaller strips & secure in the wooden rack.
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Thus, our present day Smith hobby farm (approx. 30-yo) still sports angus cattle grazing the pasture… Courtesy of cousin Nathan, & Ronnie/Pete too… I forget which.
So when I say… I grew up in a different era… I truly did. At least it seems that way to me. As did my Dad. He used to think longingly back to the days of his youth. . . & described it as a time when a guy could walk for many miles though woods & fields and not have to cross a fence… Let alone see a house. There were no cars or emissions from vehicles.. . . Only horses & buggies. So whenever I feel like we had a country frontier ‘ Mother Earth News’ lifestyle, I think about how it must have been for him, ..,back in the day of “open land” unbounded by many fences or developments…feeling truly free. No wonder Dad, & I loathe crowds, traffic & manmade plastic fake garbage…
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I feel re my hand made clothes, paintings, baskets, pillows, art, etc just as Dad did…. as he once said about a gate he’d made:
“It ain’t pretty, but it serves the purpose. Its better built than store-bought, & will last longer too. I’m happy with it & that’s all that matters.” Much like me, he didn’t care about appearances, only functionality.
It’s no wonder people nowadays are ” out of touch ” with the earth, self-sufficiency, environmental sustainability & themselves. Seems to me the so called “civilized man” has much to learn. . . .as he has failed to understand the wisdom of Native American words in regard to respecting & taking proper care of our earth.
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Alcohol Was My Friend

Alcoholism — FB posting by friend….

“This is one of my favorite books. I need to read some more classics this book is a must read in my opinion a great literary work of art.”
~~~~ looked up the book…..
en.wikipedia.org
John Barleycorn is an autobiographical novel by Jack London dealing with his enjoyment of and struggles with alcoholism. It was published in 1913. The title is taken from the British folksong “John Barleycorn”.
My personal notes on alcohol….
Sounds like a good read.  My grandfather was a painter & alcoholic… Lifelong.  Oddly/sadly he did everything ‘wrong’…smoked at least a pack a day, always drank, never without a bottle… Cursed constantly at the tv newscasters…Yet he had 11children & lived to 83 yo…. When they amputated a leg due to diabetes, in his 70s, they took a very long time to get him his prosthetic leg…. So he said “If I knew it was going to take this long, I would have whittled me a damn leg!” ….I played Chinese Checkers with him as often as I could.
Admired his strength, cause in the end he had lung & throat  cancer, but when the hospital wanted to give him painkillers to get him thru the end…he said “no way, I don’t want to miss a single minute…so get me my discharge papers”… While he waited for the papers ( prepared against doctor’s orders), he & his youngest daughter chain smoked cigarettes ..,,she had smuggled into his hospital room ….she was close to my age, we used to climb green apple trees together …we’d take a salt shaker to season the apples we ate…..
After being in an alcoholic stupor much of his life…he went home to die…. without any painkillers.  He did not survive long, maybe a month….I suspect he used some alcohol for the pain, but not that much…. It had to be the most sober month of his entire life. I will be forever amazed at his strength that final month.
I suspect I inherited his alcohol gene… Luckily my parents did forbid any alcohol.  At age 18, I got their permission to sample wine on a high school trip to France…ha, before sampling the wine…on the day we arrived …me and a couple other girls met some boys (pix in my France album) who showed us around the town of Tours, then offered us some Cognac…. My first taste of alcohol…thought it was yuck….later in the week sampled wine at a winery, not as yuck…so I bought 2 bottles to take home to VA for an upcoming high school graduation party hosted by my friend Glenn Johnson….But my parents freaked…they allowed only a taste…”a teaspoonful” they said, so when I told the what the 2 bottles of wine were for…they said in horror “what will the Johnson’s think???….I said “I dunno… Doubt they’ll say much, cause Glenn said they bought a case of cold duck.” 🙂
In college the next year I dated a marine who said I was drinking the wrong stuff… I did not like wine, beer, rum or cognac…. So he said I’d like sweeter drinks like piña coladas, etc… And those were much better… But not my drink of choice… Didn’t like the taste of rum at all…
Next I dated a fraternity guy, they had grain alcohol fruit punch at their parties…so far that seemed the best, until I found out my boyfriend kept his own private stash of a mix he thought I would not like… It was simply oj & vodka…. by the end of freshman year, that became my drink in college ….
A few years later I found out about the alcohol chemistry that was best tolerated was the one that made you less hung over cause  its chemical impurity profile ‘matched’ your body chemistry ….so the Smirnoff vodka was my match better than rum, wine, beer or anything….but not perfect… So I tried various brands of vodka… And found Absolut was it …Kettle1 is ok too, but found it many years after Absolut ….My fave drink for years was Absolut &cranberry …then I found roses lime juice w/olive &onion& Absolut was divine….
Then by 1990:  tasted tequila, Cuervo and thought yuck…but noticed it gave no headache or hangover… So margaritas became drink #2….also could handle Bailey’s gin&tonic….by 1996, started scuba diving with a bunch of drinkers that did Cuervo shots & slammers…..  after dives we’d sit by pool each afternoon & drink… a friend & I  both drank Absolut &lime juice…. Sometimes I would have a few shots of Cuervo on the side ….my friend Robin was more hardcore…her drink was mostly Absolut on the rocks……
Experimented lots with alcohol brands/types cause I sorta lived with the fear that I could be like grandpa… as much as social butterfly me seemed to like it… Found I could drink 3-4 Absolut drinks without having a hang over, even with 1-2 Cuervo shots in addition….. Only once did I get sick with Cuervo… But it was my fault, I had 5-6 shots along with some wine….that combo did not work for me…. I knew better, was just stupid.  This may be a dumb thing to tell a person trying to stop, but my thinking is to wean off the alcohol ….you need to drink something that does not make you sick or hungover…. Then eventually,  cut  the amount of that back as well… once you feel better ….I finally liked beer & wine with meals so I could get away from the vodka & tequila ….of course then I discovered martinis ….thought those were great ….as is Baileys  & White Russians….
However, after I had serious, surgery in 2009,…which took my hearing & balance nerves in one ear…I’ve been super dizzy, off balance in having my brain recalibrate balance signals with only one nerve instead of two. Nearly fall on my face sober at times,… daily struggles now…. So alcohol, I cannot do anymore…think of it fondly though, but it’s outta my life now.
My chemistry is wired so a few hard liquor impurity profiles do not give me hangovers, most of my dive buddies were like that too… Thus, I take it to mean I did get grandpa’s alcohol gene, but feared it like crazy…. Especially when co workers or others would say… ‘wow, you drink hardcore stuff’….well, other stuff made me sick….  & for me very little… Just  1-2 glasses of  beer, wine, or rum drink gave me a huge headache …. But never the vodka, gin, or Cuervo …alone or together, in any amount. Fave mixed are Long Island ice tea & marguerites & pirates pain killer.
Next to rum, my least fave drink is beer. . . However, once a Romanian friend in the Bahamas got me to stay up all night drinking beer with shots of Cuervo on the side… But he was interesting, so the beer was tolerable… LOL …those island boys had to be as much fun as my dive buddies & co-workers ….did stuff like…. ski club, softball league, bowling league, Jersey shore…. All with alcohol… One guy even had a battery operated blender for the beach…. Met an island guy in St. Lucia named ‘Innocent’ …. Yeah, right!!!! ….me 2  🙂
At any rate, that’s my long winded reason that book sounds interesting.  I cannot begin to know anything about how to stop it other than to find a substitute .  My substitute now is Doles Piña Colada juice & Mandarin orange or lemon water with a tiny bit of cranberry ginger ale.  In my entire alcohol escapade, I cannot recall a time where I had a drink at home alone.  It was very much a social activity for me to relax with friends.
Basically,… I could easily have been a drunk, …cause at my heaviest drinking I recall was after my divorce in the early 90s in NJ-NYC area……deep blues, but a fun area to live, great place to social drink…. NYC bar body shots included :)….of course my Italian colleague Lauretta (from Staten Island)  & I were in Halloween costume having just been in the Greenwich Village  parade…. Funniest outfit in the bar had to be the guy dressed as a tree…. Cool costume… Furniture costumes were neat too. I had on a hot pink feather wig with biker shorts & fishnet stockings… Luckily Laurette had the wig idea, cause otherwise I’d have died my hair pink… Always wanted pink hair for a day /week…. No idea why 🙂
In some weird way I think my experiments to control a buzz without getting drunk, sick or hungover were probably dangerous, but knowing my limits from those experiments also helped very much.  I dunno, maybe I was a miniature closet alcoholic and did not know it…. But now as much as I used to like it …my priorities have changed….thanks for the book info.
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Footnote: Please do not share this information with my mother. It could possibly upset her to think I put myself in ‘harm’s way ‘  by having a drink of alcohol of any kind.  The short story above may sound a bit carefree & flip, but I certainly had  / have a healthy respect for the toll that alcoholism can take on an individual / family.