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dfp-ronsmith-cold.JPG Ron Smith
Cold weather was a good time to sit around the fire and listen to granddaddy tell stories.

Cold weather and spinning yarns

Cold weather, time for tall tales

I remembered last week, while shivering and shooting photos of a Tennessee farm, that I have neglected to write my annual complaint about cold weather.

I have mentioned often that I don't like being cold. Our Christmas trip to Wisconsin might indicate otherwise, but I honestly prefer being warm to shivering in freezing temperatures.

However, I have a few fond memories of wintry weather. We always rejoiced when snow, a rare occurrence in Upstate South Carolina, kept us out of school for several days. It didn't take much; an inch or two was enough to convince county officials that school buses should not run on the country roads (some unpaved) leading to the school.

I recall several times when temperatures dropped low enough to turn our swimming hole into a solid sheet of ice, thick enough to cross to the other side of the creek, if the cracking and popping didn't scare us too much.

I recall icicles, 10- or 15-feet long, hanging from the chute that carried water to the grist mill nestled into a depression a few hundred yards from our house.

Those were rare occurrences, but impressive near-zero temperatures stick in my memory. We bundled up and ventured out into the frozen landscape, but only long enough to appreciate the arrogance of near-zero temperatures.

I remember, too, winter Sunday afternoons at my grandparents' farm. They lived in the old two-story wood frame farmhouse where my mother grew up. Minimal renovations provided scant improvement from when mom was a child.

Heat came from a woodstove in the kitchen and fireplaces in rooms where folks congregated after Sunday dinner.

We all clustered as close to the fireplace as we could, alternately warming back and front and listening to Granddaddy Griffith spin yarns. He was born in 1893, give or take a year. He had lived through two world wars and the Great Depression and had eked out a meager living farming and doing a bit of blacksmith work.

He talked about hunting, fishing, and farming. He recalled some hard times on the farm — short crops, low cotton prices and boll weevils. He captivated us with stories about his best birddogs and foxhunts that lasted several days. My grandmother had different versions of his all-nighters following a pack of hounds.

Granddaddy was a fiddler, couldn't read music but could play a tune if he heard it a time or two. Some winter days he took down his fiddle and played, Old Joe Clark, Turkey in the Straw

and our favorite, Drunkard's Hiccups. Granddaddy could tweak the fiddle strings to sound like a bad case of hiccups, a highpoint for us.

The winter winds howled around that old house; it whistled through cracks and moved us closer to the fire where we sat spellbound and warm, inside and out.

TAGS: Farm Life
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