Colorful country kinfolk

Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

I stopped and laughed because the spectacle reminded me of something my rural relatives would do in the days of yore. On a side street, a man was driving a van with the hood up while he looked out one side window and his little dog looked out the other. Not the safest thing to do.

Back in the day, the adults piled in the truck cab, and the cousins and I piled in the truck bed. And the kids giggled when the driver hit a country road pothole — and held on tight. Nowadays, kids must be inside vehicles and wear seatbelts.

We swung on grapevines in the woods, skipped rocks across a creek, caught tadpoles in a pond without adults around. Being the oldest of the maternal cousins on the adventures, I looked out for the raggedy bunch. We would make wildflower bouquets and proudly march back to where the women were chatting.

But, the most fun was summer berry-picking with Shirley, my mom, and Judy her sister (aptly nicknamed the Hurricane Sisters in the latter years). We would arrive early at Bihl’s Farm in Wheelersburg with lots of containers for strawberries. Let the picking and eating begin! The cousins gobbled unwashed berries until lips were stained reddish pink. But, we also picked. And we respected the plants by not stepping on them or pulling too forcefully on the berries. Eventually, the kids whined: “We’re hot. We’re thirsty. We’re tired.” The gnats whirled around our sticky lips and hands. But, nobody could leave the strawberry patch until every bucket was full.

On one occasion, my cousin and I went to the woods to pick wild raspberries. And brought back poison ivy. The Hurricane Sisters lavished us both in pink calamine lotion — we looked like Pepto-Bismol freaks.

Summer evenings, the cousins would catch lightning bugs (also called fireflies). The Hurricane Sisters punched holes in the lids, and off we went with quart jars and bare feet.

Spring and summer seasons were spent at the Minford Greenhouse with Grandma Lyde. We poked holes in tiny mounds of soil and planted flower seeds. The Hurricane Sisters would pack a lunch with bologna sandwiches and potato chips. Kool-Aid stained the skin above our lips; depending on the flavor and color. Then back to planting.

Visiting Grandma Lyde’s house was an exploration for the cousins. Every nook and niche contained her flea market finds: half-full Avon perfume bottles, glassware, trinkets, knick-knacks. Before we left, she put quarters in our hands. Sometimes she would say, “Pick you out a pretty.”

In March 2018, I met another delightful lady at a library book fair. Marilyn Thronton Schraff grew up in Lawrence County. We conversed about the moonshiners in our family genealogy and our country commonalities. Both Marilyn and I have embraced our colorful rural roots. We laughed about kinship shenanigans.

Schraff self-published the following four books:

“Appalachian Childhood: Memories of Growing Up in Rural Southern Ohio During the Mid 20th Century” (2010). The chapters humorously, yet seriously, describe various aspects of maturing in Appalachian culture during the mid-20th century.

“Moonshine: Illicit Spirits in the Appalachian Hills of Rural Southern Ohio” (2011). Schraff introduces the reader to moonshine, the people who made it and its significance within the rural Appalachian culture.

“Appalachian Journey: Profiles of the Heroines and Heroes Who Have Inspired Me Along the Road of Life” (2013). Readers travel with Schraff through Ohio and life.

“Kitts Hill: A Rural Appalachian Community in Southern Ohio” (2014). Schraff takes the reader down Memory Lane and country roads.

“I think the family is the place where the most ridiculous and least respectable things in the world go on,” says Ugo Betti.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio.