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by Gail Livesay

    I grew up in the mountains of Kentucky, the middle child in a family of nine. We were poor, but we children were not aware of it.

    We didn't have electricity until I was around seven years old. We didn't have books to read, but Mom would tell us stories before we went to sleep. All seven of us children slept in the same room. I can remember Mom blowing out the kerosene lamp and telling us all good night.

    The first things Mom and Dad bought when we got electricity was a refrigerator and a television. Some of our neighbors who did not yet have electricity would stop by to watch Bonanza and the wrestling matches. I think wrestling was real back then, and there were no females wearing outfits like shoppers now get from Victoria's Secret. Little Joe was my first love, and Hulk Hogan was the boys' hero.

    We did not have indoor plumbing. We had an outhouse and took our baths once weekly in a big galvanized tub. We kept ourselves clean with a sponge bath the rest of the time.

    We had two old work horses, which we would ride to the creek for water. We just held on to their manes. A few times one of us would get a dunking, as we slid right over their heads as they bent to drink.

    We had pigs, a cow and a few stray dogs. We fed the pigs and dogs table scraps, and the cow ate grass from the field. I probably spend more now on vet bills and dog food for my dog than Mom and Dad had to spend on each of us.

    As I look back I think of life then as the good old days -- running barefoot through the fields, smoking rabbit tobacco and swinging from grapevines into the ice cold creek.

    Winters were beautiful. Snow covered mountains and smoke billowing from chimneys miles away. We used dish pans, hub caps or anything that would slide for sleighs.

    Our old house was cold. We heated it with a wood burning stove, which sat in the living room. School was in session no matter what the weather was like. If it snowed, they put chains on the buses and we went to school. It was a mighty cold walk up the mile long lane to catch the bus. We had no caps, boots or gloves. I enjoyed going to school -- it was warm and we had the good warm lunches.

    Christmas was best of all. We would find the prettiest pine tree in the woods and drag it home. We decorated it with popcorn strings and those big glitter rope things, along with a few shiny balls Mom bought. We placed a star made from aluminum foil on top. Each of us kids got one gift and underclothes from our grandmother. We were thankful for what we got. Christmas was magic to us. We had plenty to eat, and the house smelled of pine and spices.

    I wish I could take my children back to one of those Christmases on the mountain. It might be too much of a culture shock to them. They would not have computers, cell phones and all the things our children today think is so necessary. But to me those were the good old days.


Gail is fifty-seven years old and lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband Wayne. They have two children, Lisa and Michael, and have been blessed with two granddaughters, Marina and Hannah. Gail writes poetry and plays and is currently revising her book about growing up with Bipolar Disorder which was not recognized and/or diagnosed. She attends a weekly writing group taught by Pulitzer Prize nominated poet and author Sidney Saylor Farr.

Read more of Gail's stories and poems at USADEEPSOUTH!
Our New Frein / Worn and Gray (two poems)
Laundry Day
A Southern Tale
A Kid Again

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