Friday, January 08, 2010

A Kid in Winter

These memories of winter by the Rev. Dr. Homer Heater, Jr. are from Homer grew up in the 1940s on Riffle Run, on Orlando's Rural Route #2. Riffle Run flowed south into the Little Kanawha at about the same place that McCauley Run flows north into Oil Creek. The area that was Riffle Run is now part of Burnsville Lake recreational area.

About winter in the 1930s and '40s, David Parmer says, "Snow had usually blanketed the ground in Orlando by Thanksgiving, if not before. The Arctic chill swept out of the north and settled throughout West Virginia creating a crust of ice on the old snow, and on each new layer of snow which fell. Winters were much more severe then than they are today,"

by Homer Heater, Jr.

Ice Skating
Skating was not a very sophisticated process. We simply ran and slid on our boots. Coming home from school was made much more exciting by slipping and sliding down the creek. Usually nothing happened more serious than wet seats of pants, but once my sister Mary Jean took a serious fall and cut her temple open. It took several stitches, and she wore the scar to her death.

Many efforts were made to make wooden skates with metal run­ners, but as with so many of our makeshift products, they never worked well.

Above Left: Homer Heater Jr. from a school picture at the Riffle Run school.

Above Right: map of the Riffle Run's former location and the locations where the winter photos were taken.
1 former location of Riffle Run,
2 location of the Kilmarnock Farm,
3 where the Three Lick photos were taken,
4 Downtown Orlando.

Right: Homer and his wife Pat in a more recent photo.

Sleigh Riding
Winter sports always included riding down hills on home made wooden sleds. The person who had a manufactured sleigh with steel runners was considered fortunate indeed.

Above the school was a rather steep hill, though not a very long one. The entire recess would be spent dragging the sleds to the top of the hill, then sliding down to the bottom. Again there were seldom any problems, but once Wesley McCauley, on a very long and dangerous hill, slid right through a barb wire fence and broke his leg. That tended to take some of the steam out of the fun!

Left: Sheep on the Kilmarnock farm on Clover Fork in recent years.
Right: Three Lick, as it looks right now, January 2010. This color photo is from Marilyn Posey.

I had seen pictures of toboggans so I decided to make one out of a sheet of metal roofing. I simply cut it to the right length, rolled up the front, and bolted it to the body with a board in between. I tried it on the steepest hill we had, and it would really fly. The only problem was that there was no way to control it. My Dad came home from work for the week, found it, and cut off the front with the axe. I was always puzzled as to why he would do things like that when there was no advantage to be gained by doing it. Anyway my toboggan experiment was over.
Winter Evenings
Mom knew a lot of poetry. She always talked about the Peer­less Speaker, a book she had cherished as a child. During the long winter evenings when Dad worked away and she had all the responsi­bility alone, she used to quote us long poems called “Annie and Willie’s Prayer,” “I’s a Letter Mr. Postman,” and many more I no longer remember. Her stories of growing up in “Wildcat” entertained us by the hour. I later searched out a used copy of the Peerless Speaker and bought it.

Left: Forrest Allman, whose family lived in downtown Orlando, posing with the snow of 1940.
Some of the kids farther up the hollow trapped for fur in the wintertime. We dabbled at it, but were never very successful. The Conrad boys caught fox, possum, and an occasional skunk. They got anything from five to twenty-five cents a pelt. The animal had to be skinned, the skin scraped, and stretched over a board. At the end of the season, they would take all their seasoned pelts and sell them to a dealer.

Periodically, someone would catch a skunk in their trap. The awful stench would cling to them like a coat. When they came to school and the warmth of the room began to bring out the skunk smell, the teacher would say, “All right, who has the skunk?” Someone would sheepishly admit to the guilt and would be immediately sent home. It often took two or three days to get rid of the smell. If a skunk sprayed you directly, the only thing you could do was burn the clothes.

Right: another color photo of Three Lick right now (January, 2010), from Marilyn (Cole) Posey.

Here is a poem Homer Heater mentioned above.

Papa's Letter
(I’s a Letter Mr. Postman)
author unknown
I was sitting in my study writing letters when I heard
"Please, dear Mama, Mary told me Mama mustn't be disturbed.
But I's tired of the kitty, want some ozzer fing to do,
Writing letters, is 'ou, Mama? Tan't I wite a letter, too?"
"Not now, darling, Mama's busy, run and play with kitty, now."
"No, no, Mama, me wite letter! Tan, if 'ou will show me how."
I would paint my darling's portrait as his sweet eyes searched my face.
Hair of gold and eyes of azure, form of childish, witching grace.
But the eager face was clouded, as I slowly shook my head,
Till I said, "I'll make a letter of you, darling boy, instead."
So I parted back the tresses from his forehead high and white,
And a stamp in sport I pasted 'mid its waves of golden light.
Then I said, "Now, little letter, go away and bear good news!"
And I smiled as down the staircase clattered loud the little shoes.
Down the street my baby hastened, till he reached the office door.
"I's a letter, Mr. Postman, is there room for any more?
'cause dis letter's goin' to Papa, Papa lives with God, 'ou know,
Mama sent me for a letter, do 'ou fink 'at I tan go?"
But the clerk in wonder answered, "Not today, my little man."
"Den I'll find anozzer office, 'cause I must go if I tan."
Suddenly the crowd was parted, people fled to left, to right,
As a pair of maddened horses at the moment dashed in sight.
No one saw the baby figure -- no one saw the golden hair --
Till a voice of frightened sweetness rang out on the autumn air.
'Twas too late -- a moment only stood the beauteous vision there
Then the little face lay lifeless, covered o'er with golden hair.
Reverently they raised my darling, brushed away the curls of gold,
Saw the stamp upon the forehead, growing now so icy cold.
Not a mark the face disfigured, showing where the hoof had trod --
But the little life was ended; Papa's Letter was with God.

1 comment:

  1. When my mother taught me Papa's Letter there was a couple of other verses to it.

    And I smiled as down the staircase
    clattered loud his little shoes

    Leaving me the baby hastened
    down to Mary in his glee
    Mama's witing lots of letters
    I's a letter Mary see

    No one saw the little prattler
    as once more he climbed the stairs
    Reached his little coat and tippet
    standing on the entry chair

    No one heard the front door open
    No one saw the golden hair
    As it floated o'er his shoulder
    in the crisp October air

    Down the street the baby hastened