By: Irma Gall
This article originally appeared in the Barbourville Mountain Advocate.
Stinking Creek News
Do the mountains talk to us? Do they have the wisdom of the ages? King David in Psalms 121 says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made the heaven and earth.”
I have sat on Albert Mill’s front porch perched on the side of the hill. It was a struggle to walk up from the road which was the branch and then up the steps to the porch.
Right on the other side of the branch the bank rose abruptly to a level place just wide enough to perch a small building. Then it was a steady climb up the hillside. A piece of the mountain side was cleaned of trees and brush for a corn field. When I asked Albert about that corn field he had a ready chuckle, “I always plow sideways across the hill with a two-way plow; that way when I get to the end of the plot I just turn the plow blade over and plow back. The furrow made a good place for me to walk in while the mule had to pick his way along the hillside. The ground is too full of rocks and roots so I don’t try to smooth it off much just loosen the soil so the seed can sprout.”
Then Albert would have to stop his story with a chuckle and a twinkle in his eyes as he would tell of how he planted the corn. He would sit on the front porch, load the corn seed into his shotgun and shoot that corn into the field. I never thought to ask how he got the fertilizer on the corn, because he usually went right into the way he harvested that corn. He would park his sled (Albert made well-built sleds) at the bottom of the field, “pull his corn” and throw it down hill.
He also did say that the mountains told him when to plant and when to harvest. “See that ridge up there with tall oak trees. In the spring when the ridge begins to look fuzzy with new leaves it is time to plow. When you can’t see the ridge through the oak leaves, it is time to load the shotgun. And it doesn’t pay to get in a hurry to pull the corn until the oak trees shed their old brown leaves because the corn isn’t dry enough to store or take to have ground and it will mold. Now you might need to pull several ears to feed the mule or hogs for a couple of days.” Those were important things to know when dealing with open-pollinated corn.
So the mountains do have a wisdom to talk about—I put it to the test. I am sure there are lots of bits of wisdom in those hills; we just need to become more attentive if we want to learn their secrets.