Cold nights, warm memories

Published 11:00 pm Friday, January 4, 2013

Long before there was insulation, there was chink soup.

Mama called the concoction vegetable soup but, to “me and Daddy,” it was chink soup.

The house that we lived in when I was growing up had four rooms and a bathroom that was added on and hanging on for dear life.

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Back then, air conditioning was the courtesy of the wind that whipped through the cracks around the windows and the doors.

So, at the very first sign of cold weather, Mama got out the newspapers that she had been saving for us to chink up the windows and the doors.

We would fold up the sheets of newspaper, take a table knife and jam the newspaper in the cracks between the windows and doors and the frames. The art of chinking was to pack the newspaper so tight that the wind would blow back on itself when it tried to get through.

It took just about all afternoon for “me and Mama” to get all the windows and the front door chinked. We didn’t chink the back door because we had to have some way to get in and out of the house. The cracks around the back door were big enough for the cat to come though but we had to live with that. Mama would put a towel on the floor at the bottom of the back door to keep out some of the cold. She kept Daddy’s Palmer House Hotel towel in the kitchen for that purpose. Daddy stayed at that hotel one time and they gave him the towel.

Whenever we chinked the windows, Mama made “vegetable” soup. She would put it on to cook right after dinner. While the soup simmered, we chinked. When we got every crack chinked tight, we would sit down to a supper of chink soup and cornbread.

With our house chinked as tight as Dick’s hatband, the cold could come and the wind could blow but we were as warm as we could possibly be in a house heated by coal-burning fireplaces.

My granny said that our house was a castle compared to the one she grew up in. She said they had linoleum rugs on the floor to cover up the cracks in the old wood floor. The house stood on rocks and was way up off the ground. When the wind was blowing hard, it would blow under the house causing the old linoleum rug to rise up off the floor.

Mugi said many times the wind would blow the rug up so strong that she would fly out her sittin’ chair like she’d been thrown from a bucking bronco.

Cud’den Mallory said the cracks in the floor of their old house were so wide that one night his brother fell out of the bed and went through a crack. They had to go under the house and get him.

Daddy remembered the night it was so cold that the old hogs left their wallows and took shelter under the eaves of the old tin barn roof. During the night, icicles formed that were as sharp as daggers. One of sharp icicles fell and went right through the liver and lights of my granny’s prize hog. The ol’ hog didn’t win a blue ribbon but it made some mighty good sausage.

Those were the kind of stories that were told around the kitchen table and over a bowl of chink soup. And, when ol’ Jack Frost came around blowing his icy breath, it was the stories and the chink in the windows that kept me warm on those cold winter nights.