Message In A Bottle

Social Media is an interesting topic. I really appreciate when people use it to keep others informed of hospitalizations of a loved one, when prayers are needed its a very effective tool. Some folks use it to promote their businesses, orchestrate family gatherings , birthday parties, anniversaries, a baby’s birth, first day of school etc.. It can be a very effective tool in our day and age.

Now and then, because someone sees your name come across a post that they commented on you can get reacquainted with folks you haven’t seen or heard from in years. That is what happened to me.

A few months back, I received a message asking me if I was related to the people who lived on such and such road 35 years ago. I replied that I was in fact related and that my family stills dwells on that road , and on that farm.  The older gentlemen then began to communicate every couple days with me. Asking about extended family members that he once knew.  It was an enjoyable exchange as I attempted  to bring him up to date regarding relatives . Some were still here, others had passed on.

Not too long ago,  I received a package in the mail. It was an unexpected delight from my Mountain friend. I opened the box and there inside was an old long john shirt that had been worn almost through and  wrapped around a bottle. I pulled the bottle from the box…it was a vintage Milk bottle  as unique as He is. Also inside the bottle was a letter on lined notebook paper all rolled up and tucked in neatly inside.  I tried to pull the shirt out but one sleeve had been rolled up half way and duct taped .  I removed the tape and found a piece of Copper Ore .

The letter stated where the milk bottle had come from, where it was found, and the chunk of copper from his mountain near by.  The  “Message ” itself was absolutely priceless to me.

Upon the white paper the black   letters  were shaky and the pen strokes were heavy.  This wonderful man took the time to write me a HAND WRITTEN letter.  What a treat. Who does that now days?  He talked about his life, things he had done, the joys of living off the land. The hardships of life sometimes. The complications of just living and surviving the day to day when your body has stopped functioning as it used to.

For almost 28 years I had a treasured friend (37 years my senior) and he sent me a letter at least once a week and filled those letters with everything and anything under the sun. I would race to the mailbox, see  a letter from him and I would get all my work done just so I could sit down and absorb his letters. at one point we lived 3 miles apart and the last 15 years of his life we live 50 miles apart. Still when his letters  arrived it felt like someone had sent me a bouquet of flowers through the mail. I loved them. I craved them. I appreciated them. I always told  Burton that I knew one day one of us would out live the other and what a sad day that would be …especially if I was the one left behind. And I knew then that NO ONE would be sending me letters anymore. I have a suitcase full of his cards and letters and they are still just as touching and precious to me as the day they arrived in the mail. Burt has been gone 5 years now.

Social Media =  Old Acquaintance = New Friend

message in a bottle



In Laws and Black Skillets

Back about 34 years ago I married into a family that was southern born and southern bred as the old saying goes.  From the deep south. Where there is no “Sweet corn bread” made from a Jiffy mix but rather the old fashioned kind of cornbread that you make from scratch with real yellow cornmeal, buttermilk, flour etc and you pour it all into a hot cast iron skillet. And when you eat it you crunch the cornmeal.

Biscuits are the same way. They are made from scratch and flipped into a hot iron skillet. It has been this way for 5 generations and back. His Great Great Grandmother, Great Grandmother, His Granny…his mom and now me . I confess it took me about four years to learn how to make them and there are days I still feel that I don’t get the texture or height just right and I’ve been  making them regularly for twenty something years.

I remember one day when Granny ( in law) Marie decided to give me a cast iron skillet. It was like passing the baton at the Olympics. It was a right of passage, heritage in motion. She gave me a skillet and told me to be sure that I did not cook meat in my biscuit skillet. That you need one skillet for meats and one for breads to keep the conditioning factors right.

Well things went along for about four years or so and when Granny was 79 she called me up and said “Did I give you Pops #7 Skillet”?  I told her no. She talked a little further about not being able to find it and was sure that she had  given it to me quite awhile back.   Here comes the funny part.

When she and pop back in the 40’s were migrant fruit harvesters they moved from one state to another as the crops ripened and would stay in little white cabins, sometimes a barn they had to share with other families with only blankets between them. This one particular cabin was so small she said “You had to go outside to change your mind”. The oven in that cabin was so small that her skillet would not fit in the oven so Pop had taken the skillet outside and broke the handle off about half way down leaving barely enough of a stub to hold on to it, but it fit in the tiny oven….biscuits every morning on schedule. All was right with the world.

Now she couldn’t find her #7 broken handled skillet and she was sure she had given it to me. In  the mean time I  had started collecting skillets at sales and using them a lot more. Skillets that are a #7 and made by Griswald or Wagner are scarce and pretty valuable.   I started to worry …”did she really give me that skillet….did I misplace it…did I get rid of it in a fit of cleaning one day? I wouldn’t put it past me .  A couple days later she called again and ask about the skillet again and said she would be coming over that Sunday for breakfast.  Now I was in a panic.

When my husband got home at the end of his long 14 hour day .. I handed him my PRIZED #7 Wagner skillet and told him “GO BREAK THE HANDLE OFF THIS”.

He looked at me with disbelief and ask the obvious question. I explained the whole ordeal to him and apologized all over the place and told him if Granny had in fact given me the historical skillet from when her and pop first “set up housekeeping” as she put it I have lost it.  I also told him that she was coming for biscuits that Sunday and to please not tell her.

So he ceremoniously stepped off the back deck and using a hammer and a cement brick he broke the handle off my #7 skillet.  Granny came for breakfast that sunday….I made biscuits in the #7 skillet much to her delight and she was thrilled.  And I believe I heard a “I told you So” in there someplace.

NOW CUT to about 6 months later. Hubby and I and the children were all over at her house cutting her grass one summer afternoon and she was in her tiny mobile home kitchen cleaning. When we came inside and we all siting around the table eating a sandwich Granny said “Hey look what I found underneath the sink”. She showed me HER  broken handled # 7 skillet.  Well I guess you know my mouth dropped!!!!

“I guess you never had it after all hon”. She said to me and she was laughing. I laughed right along with her and said “Marie,…..I had your Grandson break the handle off  MY #7 skillet because you were so sure you gave it to me and I was afraid that I had lost it”.   It was a good laugh and I was able to share this story at her funeral in August of  2007.

And Yes…I now have the FIRST REAL BROKEN # 7 skillet that belonged to Annie Marie…..along with the broken #7 my husband broke for me.  Hers has  a C molded into the bottom of the skillet and mine does not.  I have not yet been able to get one of our children to make biscuits  but we do have two daughters and I suspect that when I am no longer in need of the skillets each of our girls will have one.

black Skillet (2)