The Star Herald
I never knew my maternal grandmother. She died before I was born. My dad was 11 years old when he lost her. My “Bigdaddy” was truly a big man. He was probably 6’3”, and weighed about 230 pounds. He wore a straw hat most of the time and smoked rolled Prince Albert. He always had a can sticking out of his bibbed overall pockets with the red
packaged papers. I would watch with close interest as he would hold that paper with his left hand, fill it with the tobacco, and then lick down the side, to close the roll, and light up.
My aunt and her daughter, who was my age, and my entertaining playmate when I visited, lived with him in the neatest old house. It was an old plantation house and
was called “The Old Strain House”. I suppose it carried the name of the family who had built it, Mr. Homer Strain, his wife Loucinda, his 14 children, and his brother, Howard. It had seen its better days but it was just fascinating to me. We explored every nook and cranny, hiding place, and closet of the old house, that is except the second floor.
It was a two story with big round columns on the big front porch with a second floor portico in the middle of the second floor directly over the front porch. It had a long wide hall right down the middle and was open at the far
end which extended out to a falling down little house sitting close to a thick wooded area. There was no kitchen in the house when it was built. The kitchen and the cook’s quarters were in that small house in the back. Bigdaddy had added a kitchen in a room down the left side of the hallway.
Back when I was really young, Bigdaddy raised cotton on a few of the acres that the old house sat on. I can remember helping one fall as they picked, dragging my cotton sack along the rough middles and pricking my small fingers on the spiky cotton bolls. I did not pick enough cotton that day to make a potholder. As the cotton sacks would fill, they would be tossed into a wagon, pulled by Ned, his horse, and when completely full, my cousin and I would ride on top of the cotton piled up to the big old barn just, up the road. When all of the cotton was picked, my Bigdaddy and his family would pull it into town to the cotton gin with his old Ford pickup truck.
There was a small creek that ran under the old wooden bridge, planks rattling, banisters barely hanging on, that we had to cross to get back to the barn. It had such a strange name to me - “Scouba Chitta”. Is that not odd? My cousin and I would wade in the sand bottomed water in
the summer time, squishing our toes into the silt covered bottom, just to keep cool.
Now as I said the old house had two stories. It was told to me as a child that the top floor was haunted by Howard Strain, Mr. Homer’s brother who had died during the fire. It seems the Yankees had come through one night in late May, during the war, and set fire to the then beautiful old plantation home. The fire was put out before too much
damage was done but the family slept on the second floor and they all got out except for Howard. He died that night from the smoke. Now Howard walked and screamed on the second floor late at night, still trying to find his way out, This story just scared me to death!
One night my daddy and his brother were setting out fish hooks on that funny little creek below the house, and my mama and me stayed overnight. We were sleeping together in one of the four iron beds in one of the bigger bedrooms. I woke up to something screeching or screaming and as I became fully awake, I realized it was screams coming
from the second floor. I woke my mama and she heard it too. The sound finally stopped about midnight and we fell back asleep holding on to each other, The next morning my Bigdaddy asked if we had heard the wind whistling up the chimney upstairs in the old fireplace. I breathed in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The “screaming” was the
wind howling up the chimney. I never found out if the second floor of the old Strain house was haunted by Howard Strain, but to tell you the truth, I never wanted to find out.
Here are two of my Bigdaddy’s favorite things to cook when we would visit.
Home Made Pork Sausage
2 pounds of ground pork (from fresh butchered hog)
2 teaspoons sage
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Combine and shape into patties and fry 3 - 4 minutes per side.
Remove sausage from pan leaving behind 2 tablespoons of fat in skillet.
Add 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and stir until flour is browned. Add 2/3 cup of milk and stir until smooth. Serve over sausage with hot biscuits.
Peggy Sims is a guest columnist of The Star-Herald.