Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Knapsack 12-15

Notes From My Knapsack 12-15-11

Jeff Gill


Just south of Granville



There is something about this time of year that makes you think about times gone by, the "auld lang syne" of pioneers and predecessors. The nutmeg and allspice and cloves we use so infrequently the rest of the year mingle with cinnamon and maple to create a memory-rich atmosphere with but a single whiff of seasonal scent.


Some of these memories are ones we can only know second-hand, but are often no less vivid for their distance. I think it right and meet for us to reflect at Christmastide on how the holiday preparations once felt, and looked, and smelled.


In 1881, N.N. Hill wrote a history of Licking County, Ohio, and he included as part of the book a lengthy reminiscence where "Samuel Park, esq., of Marshall, Illinois, a former resident of Union township in this county, writes:


"I was born in Union township, November 21, 1810, and at four weeks old, in midwinter, was taken into a green beech cabin, without floor, door, or chimney, which, however, was soon made comfortable by the industry of my, then, young parents. Nor did I enjoy the luxury of a nice baby-crib set on rockers. I was cradled in a sugar-trough, and often lulled to sleep by the notes of the owl and the howl of the wolf. But, even then, the sweeter songsters of the forest, such as the mocking bird, the nightingale and the whip-poor-will, sang just as sweetly from our wild forest surroundings, as they do now from the fancy groves of our finest villas. The attempt to resurrect and place upon record the history of our pioneer fathers and mothers, has caused me to live much of my life over again. The scenes and associations of my youth have many of them been brought vividly before my mind, as in other years.


The old fashioned log cabin with puncheon floor, clapboard door,

wooden chimney, warmed by a massive log fire at one end,

and lighted by oiled paper windows;

the chimney corners hung full of jerk;

the rich, juicy, fresh venison, broiled on the end of a sharp stick;

the noble wild turkey, roasted for Thanksgiving and Christmas;

the occasional feast upon a fat coon or opossum;

the johnnycake, baked on a board;

the rich and healthy coffee and tea;

the product of the garden, the field and the forest,

and made doubly palatable by rich cream and maple sugar.


The pleasant social gathering of our fathers and mothers around the cheerful log fire,

relating the incidents and anecdotes of their lives;

the hilarity sometimes produced by the exhilarating effects of egg-nog or warm toddy;

the happy associations of the young folks;

the trippings to the charming notes of the violin;

the cabin-raisings, the log-rollings, the corn-huskings, the wood-choppings, flax-pullings;

the sentimental songs;

the jumping, hopping, wrestling and foot-racing exercises of the young men;

the quilting parties of the ladies; the buzz of the spinning-wheel in the cabin;

the whack, whack of the flaxbreak at the barn;

the guns, the dogs and the chase;

all, all of these have been brought freshly to our mind,

and we are in a great degree permitted to live over again

the happy days of our innocence and youth;

and that, too, with the most happy reminiscences of those youthful associations.

But amidst these pleasant reflections there are some sad thoughts.

These revered fathers and mothers have all passed away;

more than half of our youthful associates are numbered among the dead,

and those that are left have lost the vigor and elasticity of youth

and are blossoming for the grave.

The school children of to-day greet us as grandparents,

and we, too, must soon be numbered with the dead."


And Hill concludes this section by simply adding: "It is pleasant to record the fact that Mr. Park is yet living in Marshall, Illinois."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; it is pleasant to record the fact that Mr. Gill is yet living in Granville, Ohio. Tell him your favorite seasonal scent at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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