By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
Sometimes a tradition isn’t obvious.
Sometimes it’s just something you’ve always done and never thought much about.
Helen Ruth Curry was stumped to say if her family ever had any fall or Thanksgiving traditions.
But when she started talking about growing up on a farm in Lost Creek, she realized that her family was truly rich in tradition.
The children of Floris and Lucy Davisson, she and her brother Floris Jr. helped out with chores. This helped build a strong work ethic in them and taught them to appreciate the togetherness of family.
She remembered when the weather got cold, usually around Thanksgiving, they’d butcher their hogs for the winter.
“Nobody would believe it if they hadn’t seen it, how we’d butcher the hogs and scrape all the hair off. I never had to do that, but I was always there to watch,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of hogs, usually two each year. Dad bought them when they were small, and we fed them all year long until they matured and were big enough to butcher.”
Which they did. And it started all over again the next year, she said.
They had a meat house, where all hams and bacon were cured and kept until the family was ready to eat.
“My mother would can the pork and make sausage in a crock. We’d keep it in the cellar because we had no refrigerator. You’d cut out what you wanted and it kept all right,” she said. “I’ve done that, too, bake it all day long in the oven. I can a lot of meat, too.”
And they always had a lot of chickens and cows, she added.
“It’s the same old thing. But I guess that makes it a tradition,” she said.
Now she has her own traditions. The 83-year-old volunteers at Fairmont General Hospital. She is an avid walker, putting in “a lot of miles” every day, and plays golf at a nearby course.
And by her side is Bella Obama, her collie-lab rescue dog.
“I got her the week Obama was elected. I was thinking, ‘You’re black and white, and your name is Bella Obama.’
“And she was all right with that,” she said with a laugh. “She’s my guard dog, my buddy.”
Curry likes to travel. She’s been to China, Kosovo on a mission trip, Russia, the British Isles, Denmark, Sweden — about 25 countries in all. Once in Wales, they saw a department called Curry’s and had someone take their pictures beneath the sign.
Now she still travels across the country but would love to go to India or South Africa.
“They were all good trips. I have nothing to complain about,” she said.
As she grew up, her family never had what you’d call a big Thanksgiving dinner, she said. But they did all right. Her mother would buy a live turkey from a local farmer and butcher it herself.
“We didn’t buy it from a store. Now, I haven’t done that,” Curry said with a laugh. “I can remember seeing it when they’d buy one. It would walk around the yard until we got ready to kill it.
“You don’t get attached to animals, growing up on a farm,” she said.
She and her husband raised “a lot of animals” for their kids’ 4-H projects, she said. From the cows, they made and sold cottage cheese.
“You let the skim milk set in the refrigerator until the cream raises,” she explained. “Then you put it where it’s warm, in the sunshine or the oven. From that you get clabber. You pour that into a strainer. It’s thick, so the milk and water should run off. The clabber is left.”
Chill, add some salt and pepper, “And that’s pretty good,” she said. Another tradition.
Both her parents worked, her mother for the welfare department and her father as a teacher.
“So I was home alone a lot because my older brother was gone. But I have nothing to complain about. I had a good upbringing,” she said. “I had a good mother and father. Even though they were older when I was born, I never missed that part. They were so active in my life.”
She remembers going as far as the Eastern Panhandle or down to Virginia for apples and peaches.
“And that’s as far as a vacation we ever went.”
She continued this tradition of serving the education of children by working as the first secretary in 1965 at White Hall Elementary and then for the BOE central office for 25 years.
Her most important tradition is her family.
Her children grew up here. And although they don’t live close by anymore, as many as possible will be right here at her dining room table on Nov. 28.
As many as possible of her children and grandchildren (and that brand new great-grandson) will be right here on Thanksgiving.
There will be about 15 sharing thanks with her on Nov. 28.
Another tradition will be her home-cooked meal.
“I’ve always enjoyed cooking for my family,” she said. “I miss that. When I worked, I came home every night and cooked for my family. We didn’t go out all the time. But I miss that.”
She’ll start getting ready for the Thanksgiving meal the week before, she said.
“I’ve already gathered my apples,” she said. “I always have Waldorf salad. We use apples from our own trees ... Red Delicious. I also like to make apple dumplings. I’ve made a lot over the years.”
She usually includes grapes but this year just might try adding maraschino cherries.
A new tradition?
This goes well with her traditional sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey and dressing, and green veggies. Dessert is traditional, too: pumpkin pie, pumpkin rolls or blackberry cobbler.
But none of this is work for her.
“Family means a lot to me. I have good kids, good grandkids,” she said.
There is no Thanksgiving buffet at her house. No eating wherever you can find a seat.
“We all eat at the table at one time,” she said. “We have a great big dining room table. This makes it more special. Yes, it does.”
Email Debra Minor Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.