This week, we continue to follow William Miller Boling’s column from 1946 in the Messenger offering a unique view of Meade County history from 75 years ago.
WILLIAM MILLER BOLING
Was Pottery ever made commercially in Meade County? Oh, Yes! “Old Man” Miller (we boys called him “Pottery” Miller) operated a pottery for profit on the Ohio, some four miles above Brandenburg.
In his plant various kinds of earthenware were produced—jugs, pots, vases, crocks etc.
It was very interesting to watch the making of these utensils, especially the jugs and the placing of their handles. To “our gang” Mr. Miller was very taciturn and hermitical and we had an innate fear of him, consequently we visited his place of business seldom and always in tiptoeing trepidation.
J.W. Richardson and A. Ditto used to sell “Miller’s Pottery” in considerable quantity.
I have a still serviceable crock which was made by Miller more than sixty years ago.
My mother bought it at Henry Washington’s Store.
Time has filched a thrill out of the lives of “country boys.”
Did a country boy ever get a greater thrill then to skip along a winding path through the frost-covered “broomsage” with the sun just peeping into the winter sky and see a rabbit hanging in a snare?
I doubt if any present day boyhood experiences produces the tingling joy and inner “kick” that bunny did as he hung from a sassafras pole with his white belly catching the first rays of the morning’s red sun.
Those were great days. Tularemia or rabbit fever had not come to mar the goodness of rabbit meat. I’ve always thought that “rabbit and dumplin’s” ran a close second to fricasseed chicken and that a rabbit’s hind leg fried slowly in brown gravy ran a dead heat with a fried “drumstick.”
“Country boys” of the 90’s practiced what is now a lost art. Yes, it was an art—one so engaging that we often took time out during “books” to pursue it. “Bows, pegs, triggers, buttons and strings” had to be made, for Snaring was a boy’s chief business. One winter morning when I “run” my snares, I took the noose from around the necks of 32 cottontails. I took thirty of them to McIntire and Bryant’s (where the Post Office is now) and “Chuch” Bryant gave $1.50 for them and I was jubilantly wealthy.
A product no longer harvested
Winter’s sub-zero temperature planted and grew it and man did the reaping in the biting cold.
It was King Boreas’ contribution to an ensuing, sultry summer. The gratuity was placed in the refrigerating care of mother earth, until after “Old Sol” began his northern march from the Tropic of Capricorn.
Go back fifty years to a bright but frigid morning—one that caused the setae of your nostrils to “stick” with each inhalation—and look at Denton Pond, “Lake” George or Fontaine Pond as they scintillate a greeting to the rising sun.
Out upon their cold, glassy surfaces men dressed and equipped for a specific work are gathered.
Their ears are heavily muffled; thick, yarn mittens are upon their hands and their feet and legs are wrapped in old, grass sacks. They are armed with axes and spike poles and the attack upon the thick, icy, armor of the ponds is ready to begin. The axes begin falling upon the translucent surface, sending frosty spray and crystal fragments out upon the ice.
After the surface is cut into strips three or four feet wide, the axes chop the strips into blocks and the spike poles begin pushing the blocks to the shore.
There, other men clothed against the piercing, arctic wind load the ice into wagons which move creakingly up the hill toward the ice house.
The ice house was a creation of necessity in Meade County and served ably and well before science forced the summer heat to retreat before the cooling and triumphant advance of synthetic ice. There were many of these old-time refrigerators in Meade County and quite a few in Brandenburg.
I recall the following: Sabastian’s, Lewis’, Bland’s, Saunder’, Coleman’s, Reid’s, Malin’s, and Dr. Pusey’s.
The icehouse was usually constructed on high ground where drainage was good. A hole some fifteen or twenty feet deep and about the same in width was dug in the earth. This excavation was shored with logs from bottom to top and a “squat” roof usually of clapboards, placed over it.
The door was usually hung in one of the squat gables. Through this door, the wagon men put the ice.
Sawdust was an indispensable for preservation of the ice after it was placed in storage.
All cavities or air pockets among the stored “cakes” were packed with sawdust and after the icehouse was filled a thick coat of this air=excluding material was given the mass of ice and the door was closed. The stored “coolness” was left in the preserving care of the earth and sawdust until summer’s heat caused someone to come down the ladder and dig into the woody jacket of preservation.
The mention of ice suggests ice cream.
Now, I’ve regaled myself with all kinds of “boughten” ice cream but none in the class of the following: It is late in May and the sun is fast swinging into its summer stride. Climb down the Indian ladder into the ice house, dig in the sawdust for a chunk of ice, get a sackful, take it to the cistern and wash it, break it into small pieces and pack it in the freezer around the can. Put about three gallons of boiled, unskimmed, sweetened milk from “Old Jerse” in the freezer can and begin turning the freezer crank, stopping now and then, to put salt upon the ice. When thin, icy, spears begin to grow from the sides of the can pour in a gallon of crushed, wild strawberries and continue rotating the can until its content is firm and grainy.
(Note that I say wild strawberries because they have an abiding, distinctive flavor not possessed by the “civilized” varieties. Sixty years ago, we had a wonderful patch of wild strawberries on our little farm near Frakes’ garden. Some seasons we picked twenty gallons of them and many were as large as the “educated” Dorset and Dunlap of today.)
But back to the ice cream!
Get a bean bowl (not a saucer) provide yourself with a dessert spoon (not a teaspoon); have a big ho’ made, coconut, layer cake in easy reach and begin “feeding your face” with a proper proportion of ice cream and cake—two spoonfuls of ice cream to one robust bit of cake is the correct ratio according to “Hoyle.” As you shovel the delectable goodness into the buccal cavity of your face you will cast sly and apprehensive glances at the ice cream can to see how fast the other ice cream “wolves” around the table are depleting its contents; but be not ashamed, for that kind of ice cream makes everyone guilty of ill-mannered behaviorisms