Archive for November, 2009

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009




          My, don’t we have a lot to be thankful for?  The recent rains that have returned our land to green, head our list of things to be thankful for.  We are thankful for our neighbors, our families, and our husbands and wives, and our children, grand children, and great grandchild.  And I am thankful for the memories of past Thanksgiving Days.

          Our daughter, Jeannette, arrives early and decorates the kitchen.  She unfolds a bright red spread for the table, and places a candle display in the middle.  She insists on using the best china; that we have been saving for company, which is proper.  Her decorating sets the scene for a festive day.

          Alice always puts the turkey in the oven the day before and let it cook all night.  She goes peacefully to sleep, but I fret all night fearing it will get too done, or not done enough.  She is always right; it comes our perfectly every time.  Alice also has been kind enough to learn to make my Mother’s sweet potato pie.  It is similar to the traditional pumpkin pie except it has grated zest of lemon for the favoring.  That takes me home in memory.  She also bakes a special pineapple cake.  I don’t know how, but she has it fall in the center allowing most of the pineapple frosting to flow to the middle.  Just to show how thoughtful Alice is, she will let me eat the juicy center first.  Our daughter in law, Vicky has become famous in the family for her prize winning chocolate pie, made with a homemade crust.  She usually makes two, but hides one for Greg and me for later.  While she is in the pie-making mode, Vicky makes an apple pie with that fancy lattice top, and everything.

          Well, as you can see all the work has been completed the day before.  Thanksgiving morning all that has to be done is to cook the mashed potatoes, make the brown gravy, open a jar of sweet pickles, brew the iced tea, make a green bean casserole, chop up oranges, apples, pineapples, grate some coconut for the fruit salad, and not forgetting the jar of Maraschino cherries, which I will sample as the day goes by. Some like giblet gravy, and someone usually makes it, but I manage to sit at the other end of the table to avoid looking at it. Did I mention cranberry sauce?  No?  And yeast rolls to sop in the gravy?  And make the after dinner coffee?  As I said, all the work is done the day before.  Except the corn bread stuffing.

          Alice has developed a way to make the stuffing into an easy task.  The day before Thanksgiving, she makes a large pan of corn bread to which she adds plenty chopped onions and celery.  With a lot of pepper and sage in the pan of corn bread  sure makes the house smell great.  Thanksgiving morning, the turkey is done, Alice adds the drippings and juices of the turkey into the crumbled cornbread.  Now this is the best part, she calls me to sample to make sure there are enough pepper, sage, salt, onions, and celery in the mixture.  It takes me several tries, but I get it right; sooner or later.  She then bakes this mixture in a granite pan and serves it as a special dish.  It always earns the blue ribbon of the day.

          But, you know, even without all the turkey, stuffing, pies, cakes, casseroles, hot rolls, Thanksgiving Day, with the family would still be my favorite holiday.


Hollis Baker  22 November 2009


Doc Bailey’s Old Time Medicine Show

Monday, November 16th, 2009



          Seventy years ago most little towns were visited by traveling “Medicine Shows,” during the summer and fall months. They consisted of a flatbed truck with plenty of signs all over the fenders, doors and panels announcing “Doc Bailey’s Medicine Show, with free entertainment of magic, music, jugglers, and mysterious sights never seen before by human eyes.” What they didn’t say was that Doc Bailey had concocted a mess of sugar water, cake coloring, alcohol, and various spices, bottled and labeled with an impressive list of uses “Guaranteed to cure ingrown toe nails, rheumatism, head aches, sore mussels, sleeplessness, mumps, measles, and anything that ails mankind.”  The Doc and his crew would set up in a vacant lot as close to the town square as the Sheriff would allow, and about dark began their spiel. Loud music was the sirens call to us town folk, and we came in great numbers to see and hear the sights.

          We laughed at the clown, applauded the musicians, and marveled at the contortionist. The magician was a favorite, and how he put the pretty lady in a box, stuck numerous swords, through openings in the box and she came out unharmed, still puzzles me today.

          But the best thing on the bill of fair was the announcement that a local talent show would begin right after “Doc Bailey’s Elixir Medicine” pitch and sale.  And the “medicine” sold fast at only fifty cents a bottle.  Many folks swore it was the best cure-all they had ever used, and kept a bottle handy at all times.

          Us locals signed up for the talent show early.  Well I didn’t for they had no category for playing hooky from school.  But guys and gals signed up for hog calling, high jumping, singing, and playing the harmonica.  They all did their “Thing” and we enjoyed them all.  One Pretty Little Blonde girl, with cowboy hat and pink boots, picked the guitar, and sang “Red River Valley,” to uproarious applause.  Then my Grand Pa came on stage, with his baggy wool suit, run down shoes, and shaggy beard, to do his offering; an Irish Jig.  I think most of the family was a little embarrassed with his act, but he did a good job.  What the rest of the family did not know was he had enlisted all his grandsons and grand daughters to be at the show and applaud loud and long.  It came down to a run off; the Pretty Little Blonde Girl with her guitar, and Grandpa and his Irish Jig.  Doc Bailey had the Pretty Little Blonde girl do a verse of her song, and then Grandpa a few seconds of his Jig.  He then called for applause from the audience for each one in turn.  The Pretty Little Blonde Girl’s response was long and loud.  Doc then called for an audience response for Grandpa’s Irish Jig; the applause was longer and louder thanks to all the grandkids and other assorted family members.  Then Doc Bailey announced the Pretty Little Girl as the winner! 

        There was a little fuss but Grandpa took the loss with grace and good sportsman manner.  In fact, I think Grandpa liked her talent presentation better any way.