Wingzofsteel Adventures and Reviews

Epic Motorcycle Camping Adventures

Recollections from Cousin Sandra

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The Magnolia Tree

When I think of Granny and Granddaddy Riggins house, which I do surprisingly often, I always think of the big magnolia tree out by the side of the house. If those old limbs could talk it would certainly have so many exciting experiences to share. We didn’t have fancy toys but we did have a safe haven and the imagination to create the most wonderful scenarios. We could be anything our minds would let us create. I could be Tarzan, fighting the natives and wild animals in the jungle even if I was acting more like that pesky little monkey that was always by his side. I had some of Uncle Befay’s army caps which I would put on and would suddenly be crawling around the base of the tree fighting the Japanese. With the change of the hat I would be a cowgirl shooting bad guys with my cap pistol or scaring off Indians. Sometimes I would find an old dirty feather in the yard and I would put it in my hair and become a fearful Indian complete with war paint compliments of some mud found close by. Believe it or not we even made houses out there. Sue and I would get sticks and tobacco twine and carefully block off the rooms. The side of our beautiful creation would be the fence. We got dog fennel and wove it into the fence as far up as we could reach. Next it was time to make birthday cakes! I remember finding an old lid and cutting out pieces of green moss that would make such a pretty cake. Next we would walk down by the pond and find wild violets to use to decorate this masterpiece. We could “cook” it in the old stove that was abandoned out close to the tangerine trees. There were no limits to the adventures that we all experienced in the shade of that wonderful old magnolia tree.


Watermelon Time

I can remember how excited all us cousins would be when Granddaddy would announce, after a cooling rain on a hot summer afternoon, that he was going to the field to get watermelon. The old truck would take off down the road and we would wait impatiently for it’s return. Soon we would hear Granddaddy returning from the field with those wonderful treats. We would all sit down at the end of the porch with our feet dangling off the side. Granddaddy would slice the melons in long pieces, saving half of the biggest one for himself, and then the fun would begin. As we ate we would spit the seeds between our dangling feet where the chickens would be waiting for their share. One time Sue spit one out and it landed on her big toe. A chicken pecked it off. Since that time Sue has not liked watermelon. That traumatic experience must have scarred the poor thing for life.



Cane Grinding

Does anyone remember the cane grindings? Cane would be cut and brought to the house. It would be fed into the press with a mule going round and round to keep the presses turning. This green sticky liquid would soon be running into the tray below. The syrup boilers would be filled with wood and the large metal bowl filled with the cane juice. As the juice began to heat up a wonderful bubbly substance would pool along the edge of the bowl. Now came the good part. Some of the uncles would take part of the cane stalk and skim this part off and give it to us, still on the stalk. This tasty delight was called “dog candy.” The wonderful smells permeated everything! After a certain amount of cooking this was poured into some old liquor bottles (Where these came from was not discussed!) and sealed with a cork or stopper as some called it. Once, while attending one of these fun events when I was about 4 or 5 years old, I fell on a Maxwell House coffee can that had the safety ring removed. This resulted in a nasty cut to the right side of my chin where I still have a scar to show for it.


Granny Biscuits

What a special treat it was to go into Granny’s kitchen when you just needed a “little boost” to get you to the next meal!! She kept lots of her left over food in the pie safe. This was before all the cholesterol and germs that we have today were invented!! First we would get a big biscuit. These were thick, fluffy and had little bits of meat from the lard that she used. Granny’s hand prints were on the top of these from when she patted them out and got them ready for the oven. Granny would use her finger to poke a hole at the end of the biscuits. Next she would pour some of the wonderful cane syrup into the hole and it would soak in. Nothing from Paula Deen’s kitchen could come close to this delicacy!!




Tis The Season at the Riggins House

Christmas Eve was always the longest day of the year but also the most fun!! It was the day of the annual Riggins Barbecue. Granny and Granddaddy would have gone to the woods and dug up a holly tree and put it in the hallway. There were very few decorations and we learned quick not to brush up against the limbs. Those holly leaves were sharp and we all had a few learning experiences. The barbecue was always so-o-o-o-o good. Everyone would bring their favorite side dishes until we had several groaning tables full of every imaginable food. Uncle Alvin got up from the table, rubbed his tummy and said, “Folks, if I had to go to the emergency room tonight and have my stomach pumped out and they asked me what I had just eaten, they would tell me that I just deserved to die.” Ah…Uncle Alvin!! Remember when he dressed up like Santa Claus much his dislike but was persuaded by Aunt Mary and all the other women? It was wonderful!! Everything was great until his son, Larry, looked down and saw his shoes. He started saying that it wasn’t Santa, that it was his daddy because he had on his work boots. Larry was quickly hushed and pushed out of the room.

I remember a cold, clear night and the ride back home after the barbecue. You could see a gazillion stars and we were anxiously scanning for signs of Santa. I saw what I was told was a shooting star. In my heart, even to this day, I KNOW it was Santa!! I still BELIEVE!!



The Cat

Granny Riggins was full of wisdom and sometimes had a unique way of expressing it. She told us about how someone was complaining about their crazy cat. The crazy cat torn up this. The crazy cat got into the house plants and made a mess. The crazy cat climbed all over the furniture. Quietly she said, “It doesn’t say much for the person putting up with the crazy cat.”



Chinese Checkers

There was a Chinese Checker game being played on the back porch with Mother, Waunelle, Betty, Mary, Dottie, Ferrell and someone else. Homemade ice cream was being churned, I think it was peach. Everyone was having such a great time laughing and telling stories about growing up. It was such a “Hallmark” moment!! Maybe that is why I remember it so many, many years later.



Fernandina Beach

It was such a fun time to get together with so many of the aunts, uncles and cousins at Fernandina Beach. We had two or three ocean front apartments that were packed to capacity with all the Riggins clan. I think we all had baloney sandwiches for supper and maybe chips or French fries. The ocean was rough and it was cloudy. I was playing close to the edge next to Aunt Betty. I stumbled and my head went under the water. I came up sputtering complaining about the taste of the salt water. Betty laughed and said it should taste salty since she just peed in it!! Now I always think about that when I get salt water in my mouth.



Fourth of July Celebration

I was in my teens and all my friends were going to the beach. I felt so sorry for myself since Mother had announced that we would be in the corn field by daylight o’clock. We got up with the chickens and I think went to Alvin and Mary’s house. I believe Granny Riggins had moved up the road by then. EVERYONE was there. It was the Tuten’s, Harper’s, Bryant’s and all the Riggins. I think Milton drove a tractor to the field pulling a tobacco sled. We all started breaking the corn and throwing in the back of the sled. When it was full we headed to the back yard. It was like an assembly line. The men cut of the bottom and top of the cob. The next group shucked the corn while the kids silked. The big syrup boiler under the wash shed had been fired up and filled with water. The corn was blanched in the boiling water. I remember the women took off their wedding rings and put them in the kitchen window. This next part would be messy. The corn was cut off the cob and placed by big handfuls into freezer bags. The women talked about how horrible it would be to lose their wedding rings in one of bags. The cobs were loaded up and taken to the pigs or it could have been a local moonshine still that was set up for “medicinal purposes.” When we put up corn at home we would have to take a trunk load of stinky, wet, souring corn cobs back out to the farm for disposal. Mother was always afraid that the police would stop her for supporting a moonshine still.



With all my memories of growing up I wonder what kind of memories my children and grandchildren will have. I hope they will be as happy as mine are. Sometimes I have asked Amy and Jason which Christmas do they remember as being extra special. They both agreed it was the time when we got together with some friends and got toys, clothes and food together for a family that had absolutely nothing. They can’t remember a single gift that they got that year but they do remember giving. They also talk about the wooden bowl that would be placed in the kitchen at Thanksgiving. The purpose was to remember that we had so much and there were those that were hungry and sick in our country and all over the world. The rules were that when anyone wanted to put money in the bowl they could but no one was suppose to see them. They were not to tell anyone what they had done or how much they had put in . If anyone visited and inquired about the money in the bowl we explained it to them. Some of them secretly added to the bowl. The reason for the anonymous giving was so everyone could know in their heart they had done something special and not for the “atta- boy” someone would give them if they knew. As it got closer to Christmas the contents of the wooden bowl mysteriously got fuller. On Christmas Eve we took the money to the Salvation Army red kettle and the kids proudly place our gift into the container. The wooden bowl was carefully removed and saved to another year.

Sandra Tuten Pearce


Written by wingzofsteel

December 11, 2009 at 3:29 pm

One Response

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  1. Thanks Sandra…I remember most of those events …what we had was a special time that most kids would not believe. Great job!!
    Thanks Perry for sharing that!

    Michael Riggins

    December 11, 2009 at 5:26 pm

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