|Miriam Havard Tatum
Always good to hear more about the Havards. I knew Miriam, She was a student at SFA in
Nacogdoches during the time I atttended (1957-1959) . My father, John Blanchard Havard
had told me of her when I enrolled. They were cousins.
I was young and trying to be cool and impress the girls one day on campus when I heard my name
called in a loud voice. I looked up to see this large grandmotherly looking lady running as fast as she
could to reach the group I was in. Ill never forget the bright flowered dress she was wearing.
She finally caught up with us and proceeded to tell everyone who would listen how we were related
and how much she liked my Dad. I would see Miriam from time to time, but I never appreciated
how much she loved the family and how articulate she would be in writing stories of the family.
|Click the photo to read
more of the book.
After all, we who walk this way today; who dream these dreams;
who love and are loved;
who laugh with the freedom of youth,
and sigh in the decadence of years;
who climb the hill swiftly today in youth's young
morning of life,
and cling faintly to each step as the last;
we too shall at long last take up our abode in the silent church yards
of our fathers.
"We shall not pass again this way.
HOG KILLING TIME ALONG THE NECHES RIVER
By Miriam Havard Tatum
There is something about the curl of smoke from a farmhouse, as seen on a late fall or early winter evening, that gives one
a feeling of security; a warmth of heart; an at-last-I'm-at-home-feeling.
It always used to make me long to stop and go in and sit with folks awhile and learn of their joys and sorrows, and in turn
speak of them of mine.
The year my mother died I went to school in the nearby sawmill town of Manning. And every Friday afternoon Papa would
come for me on his old blue mare. As we hurried to the house from the barn I can still vividly recall my mother silhouetted
against the firelight as she waited so eagerly for me. Perhaps my love of fire-light and smoke drifting lazily heavenward
springs from that lovely memory of her. How I love them. And my oldest grandchild shares that love, for he is always wanting
'Joe to build a fire-place,' which simply means a fire.
There are so few smokes on the horizon in this butane gas age that coming upon one brings a sudden pleasure. Perhaps
a rent house here and there, or an old couple who prefer their faithful range with the build in flavor that only wood cook
stoves can give.
Mr. and Mrs. Nick Crain of the River Road have their wood stove yet and thought she is my mother's first cousin and the
orphan of the teacake lady, I have never been privileged to eat that famous food she cooks on it.
We can lift the eye from a modern gas range; place the splinters just so for a fire and light them; set the black pot with water
and hog jowl over the eye; add the collards after awhile, generously spooning in more fried meat grease; and bring forth in
due season a dish that has become a symbol of the 'pore whites' in the South for generations?
Add to this 'dog-bread' pones, made by scalding salted or unsalted meal, shaping it into long pones and baking very fast. If
one thinks there is no art in this, a simple trial will prove them wrong.
Of course this form of cooking is fast dying out, since the young do not eat food so rich. But for decades after the Civil War
collards and rooter hogs, with cone pone and potatoes, kept many families from starvation.
Hog-killing time is also becoming a thing of the past. Time was on the Neches when smoke mounted to the sky in blazing
fury from a rich- littered fire when the day came to kill hogs. Three or four neighbors might be in to help with ridding the guts,
cleaning them, and stuffing sausage. The men would have gone to the bottom before daylight to kill eight or ten hogs in their
beds and haul them out. The acorns and mast was usually good and these big three and four year old hogs would be 'mud
Hot wash pots of water were readied by the women for their arrival, and the scalding, scraping and cutting-up began. The
best cook would be dispatched to the kitchen with the first set of ribs and tenderloins to be fried for dinner. Wash pots were
filled with the cut-up surplus fat in the afternoon to cooked out for grease. If an old hound didn't get in it, this became the lard
supply for a year. If times were too hard I don't suppose the little interference of the hound would matter too much.
The last smoke of the day roared from the huge chimneys that night as they gathered around the fireplace. For who would
think, after a tiring day together, of going home until the morrow or even the next day?
At long last after all the grubby, greasy fingers had been washed after supper, the dishes done, water drawn for breakfast,
stove wood in, the milking done and the milk strained, the women would join the men folk around that roaring, welcome fire.
They might stand in their long cotton-stripe dresses and high top shoes before the fire and warm their hands and feet, for hog
killing time must always be in the coldest time of the year.
And then! Oh joyful remembrance for a child. As we sat and watched the firelight play on the walls the oldsters carried us
to the dying Texans at Goliad and the Alamo; to Stonewall Jackson as he lay on the battlefield killed by his own soldiers; to
the victory at Bull Run and the crushing defeat at Gettysburg to Grandpa Weaver, Crain, Havard, Ricks, and the thousands
more who limped home in despair and defeat from Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Ballads were sung of daring deeds and
Rhoda Caroline Page was often the singer.
Children who have not set at the feet of these tale-recounting forefathers, before a pine-knot fire, strengthened with back
logs of oak, have missed a wonderful experience; an experience that may be cherished and brought out again and relived as
one sits before other fires.
The fire has died down now, the women folk have made down the beds, the kids have washed their feet in the wash pan on
the hearth stones, a 'Sears cloth' put on the croupy ones, and, the women in the one room and the men in another, have all
begun to prepare for bed.
A child cries out and a mother stoops to pat his cheek, the firelight flickers and the last tiny flame glows in the dark. A dog
howls across the field, and is answered by 'ole Tige. Texas history is being made.
|Miriam & Joe Tatum home on FM 1270.
Photos taken May 2011