John Allen Crawford was raised on Tygart Creek. At a young age, he was forced to quit school to work to help his family. He was a coal miner, logger and farmer. He married the love of his life, Gertrude Elizabeth Horton, and settled on Johns Run in Carter County, where he raised his children. One child happened to be my father.
At age 79, my grandfather sat down and taught himself how to write cursive. While he could sign his name in cursive writing, he never really learned the actual technique. After months of practice, my grandfather wrote me the first letter in his newly-learned handwriting on Irish linen writing paper. I still have that letter in my jewelry box.
When Papaw gave me money, there was always a “strings-attached” clause. I could not spend all the money on frivolous things. In fact, I had to buy a book, and there was always a book report of sorts to deliver. I distinctly remember wanting a Dr. Kildare novel to read. Papaw was pretty dead set against it but finally agreed—if I wrote him a summary of the book. I am sure that it wasn’t what he deemed as true literature or the educational canon he wanted me to follow, but I did agree to his request.
His creed was simple. It was the Golden Rule. He always said there were two things in life I should have: land and education. Those were two things people could not take from me. I remember asking him why. With those steel-blue eyes he answered, “Because if you have an education, you will be smart enough never to let anyone take your land or lose it.”
Obviously, I always hoped my grandfather could look down from heaven to see that I was a teacher and a librarian. Although I have never owned any land, except for the lot my home sits on, I always dreamed of having five acres somewhere. No house — just land. A place where I could drive out to and sit and listen to nature. Plant a couple of rows of corn, cut the hay and drink a cold Ale-8. Smell the clean air of the country and know that it was all mine and no one could take it from me.
My grandfather passed away Sept. 1, 1967. He left this world the day I started the fourth grade. Many years prior to his death, he sold the home place to spend winters in Tampa with his sister and enjoy the sunshine. “It’s good for my bones,” he said.
Although I have no silver spoon or land, I have a legacy of a man who passed on to his granddaughter the love of the land, the written word and the treasure of his letter tucked away worth more than any old spoon.
Shannon Cox’s Peanut butter fudge
Melt 1½ sticks of margarine in microwave.
Add 3 cups sugar and 5 oz. can of evaporated milk.
Microwave 12 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes.
Stir in 1 bag peanut butter chips, 1 small jar marshmallow cream, and 1 tablespoon vanilla.
Pour into 13x9x2 baking dish.
Optional: Add ½ cup peanut butter for more flavor.
Optional: Substitute chocolate chips to make chocolate fudge.