When we were children, we visited our father’s family in West Virginia each year. My two brothers and I looked forward to the vacation and have many memories of the fun we had riding in a red wagon as it rolled down little hills that looked gigantic to us as youngsters, playing on a home made swing in the huge tree in the front yard, turning over rocks to find copperhead and rattle snakes, and hiking the mountains behind our grandparents’ home. In the evenings we joined Grandma and aunts and uncles on a yard swing and talked for hours. All great fun for young children.
Grandma cooked on a coal stove. I have one particular memory of sitting at the dinner table with relatives and my family as Grandma served scrumptious chicken and dumplings. I wanted more and more. She also made banana pudding with vanilla cookies.
When I was grown, my family relocated to West Virginia- to a farm very close to my grandparents’ farm. The scenery seemed different. The hills in grandma’s yard looked smaller and smaller each year and the swing ropes looked shorter and shorter. My parents became farmers as they planted a large garden and had horses, pigs, and chickens. Often my mother had injured animals in the house. One visit she had a chicken with an injured leg in the house which most of the time she kept in a cage. She let the hen roam the house occasionally.
One day, my brother and I were sitting on the couch in the living room talking. We hardly noticed the chicken strutting casually around the house. He proudly shook the rattle of a dead rattlesnake he found a few days earlier and, as we listened to the ‘rattle, suddenly, the chicken (who was supposed to be injured) jumped up, grabbed the rattle from my brother’ s hand, and ran away with it. Running as fast as she could, darting back and forth, into the kitchen with her little eyes wide with excitement.
Immediately, my brother jumped off the couch and ran after that chicken. I laughed as I watched him chasing that little chicken until he caught her and recovered his rattle. After he had time to settle down, we laughed and have been telling the story for years.
I have many precious memories of visits to family in West Virginia- we called it Almost Heaven.
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