This is the first day of the rest of my life and I'm marking one item off my "bucket list." I love telling stories, yarns, etc. and for the past 25 years have written weekly articles for the DeKalb Newspapers and now I get to try blogging. It has been said of me that I write about old days and old ways, along with modern tales of our adventures here on The Windy Knoll, our home place. Drop in just any time to see what's going on. Now let me say up front I'm no Julia Childs or Paula Dean - not even a distant relative - but I will be writing about cooking now and then. As best I can remember the only thing considered fast food in this house is a cake mix. I cook from scratch like the old timers used to do. I'll be posting old and new articles and in most cases the published date will be to the right of the title. That way you can read along (with a few pictures) and see what the aging process has done.

A Quilting Friend 1989

NOTE: Now they are quilting again in heaven.

According to my dictionary,  “a friend is one who is personally well known by oneself and for whom one has warm regard and affection.”  Such a person came to the Windy Knoll last week for a visit, albeit brief.

A native of St. Louis, my friend moved to Georgia several years ago, and as you might guess, it was quilting that brought us together.  From the first day we met, this quilt lover and I have been friends.  Something magnetic took place at our meeting and it was as though a lodestone drew the two of us to a point — friendship.

Quilts, quilters and quilting filled the majority of our conversations during her visit, as we quilted and/or planned the next project.  One day was spent by visiting a quilt shop and part of another at a local fabric shop.  For the witer, a visit such as this is like getting a cold drink of water from a spring in hot weather.  Friends are among my most treasured possessions and I am often reminded of some lines from a poem written by Joseph Parry –

Make new friend, but keep the old
Those are silver, these are gold
New made friendships like new wine
Age will mellow and refine.

Cherish friendship in your breast
New is good, but old is best
Make new friends, but keep the old
Those are silver, these are gold.

My friend drinks a lot of hot tea and is always hopping up to prepare it herself and she eats whatever we happen to have, which is another reason John and I both enjoy her visits.  When it’s time to leave she changes her bed — isn’t that enough said?  What a pleasure to have such a friend and what pleasant memories remain after her departure.  A blessing indeed, that the road  between our homes is not too long!

A friend: for whom one has warm regard and affection.

2014 note:  This dear friend has gone to that great quilting bee on high and oh how I miss her.

2015 note from Russ: Now they are quilting together again in heaven.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Aunt Bill Rambles about Company

Well, this wadn’t what I wuz gonna tell you’uns about today, but I just haf  to tell you about the company we had yestiddy.  Our friend called and said she wuz comin’ to a funeral in Geraldine and wanted to come by here atter that.  Of course, I said, “Come on.”  Then another woman hear’d she wuz a-comin’ here and she wanted to come too.

John’s brother wuz here when they got here and the second woman come in the door a-tellin’ these men that her aunt married their great uncle.  He wuz the blind man what owned the telephone exchange and if’n he’d ever hear’d yore voice one time he know’d who you wuz the next time he hear’d ye.  Now as she wuz so excited about telling them all that she spied John’s high school diploma (1942) a hangin’ on the wall and she stopped cold about the marrying subject and started in on sompin’ else.   She couldn’t believe what she wuz a-seein’.  Her ma graduated the same year as John and both graduated from Crossville.  Atter they talked about that fer a few minutes John went and got his year book and handed it to her.  She’d never see’d one before.  I wish you coulda hear’d her talkin’ about this un and that un. She even see’d a ad in the there from her daddy’s cotton gin. She wuz so excited and then we found out her grandparents lived next door to my uncle what owned the blacksmith shop.  Y, we coulda talked to this woman for a week and not caught up.

This cold weather is a hurtin’ old folks and we try to stay at home and try to stay warm — then to have these visitors come in made our day.  Ain’t it fun to git together with other folks and talk about old times?  I’ve hear’d that old folks talk about the past because they have no future.  Oh my, guess you know what that means!!  Now this is enjoyable country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now, Ramblin's

CD Still Available.

This CD is still available.

See order information above.


Russ Austin

CD still on sale. Just send me your information to

CD still on sale. Just send me your information to

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Time Is Moving On (corrected ‘some’ spelling)

NOTE: Click on each photo to enlarge.


20141117_155919-001I have heard it said several times in the last two weeks, “it sure is bad getting old.” Getting old is not the only part that is getting bad. Mrs. Crumly always wrote about her fond memories of growing up and getting old. I remember her saying in a very loving way just before her surgery, “I don’t ever want to go to a nursing home to live with all those old folks”.  Even though Mr. John and Mrs Billie  did not have much growing up, they seemed to be very happy and enjoyed what they did have.

CD still on sale. Just send me your information to

CD still on sale. Just send me your information to

Oh how times how changed. Just think in all the years Mrs. Crumly wrote for the newspaper business and her many books, her CD recording (that is still on sale for $15.00 plus shipping) all about life growing up with her 85 years on earth. Now think of what all stories would be in another 85 years of a child born this year, 5 years ago, 10 years ago. WOW! What a different story that would be, right?

I grew up in Geraldine, Alabama, a nice little town of 1,000 or so growing up to now down to around 700, in the northeast corner of North Alabama. We are less than 10 minutes from the interstate that would take us anywhere we would need to go now and at any speed we would like to go, all on nice flat paved roads.


Flags over our City Hall in Geraldine, Alabama.

It is said of people living here on Sand Mountain that when we go to other parts of the State, they know we are from Sand Mountain. I have a little story to follow that I was reminded of this week. Sand Mountain has/had some of the hardest working farmers in the State.

Many books and many songs have been written about Sand Mountain and I am sure many others will be in the future. Geraldine is also the home of Mr. Pat Upton. You may not know his name but I am sure a lot of readers here will know his song, “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday”, real title is, More Today Than Yesterday. At top selling song in 1969 and continued to be played very often through the years and even today. Many others from Geraldine and Sand Mountain also have a name in the public world.

1391455_680556385296062_756295049_nI apologize if I have shared some of these photos before but I would like to share some of what I hope are new photos for you that I still enjoy making. The winter birds are just starting to get to our feeders so I hope to also be able to fill the pages with many new portraits of our birds this year. Life is so busy. Many different things happen to us that knock us down, unable to get out, unable to visit with others like we would like or just unable to have the energy to help our self like we use to. 20140810_192342But one thing that can and never will be taken away from us is, the joy in knowing that with whatever life we may live here on earth is nothing like the life we can live for eternity if we have God in our heart and life. I know Mrs. Crumly did not say much about her personal Christian life but I can tell you she was a Christian and I know that one day I will see her again and get to share in the joy of knowing that her little web blog that she so loved to do everyday is still going strong and getting well over 3,000 hits a day and has had has many as five, six and seven thousand hits in one day. And also hitting the one million mark in only 1 and a half years.

So now here is my little story I told you about above……  1--IMG_1025-002

I graduated from Geraldine High School in 1982 and then went to Snead State College in Boaz, Alabama, now known as Snead State Community College  right out of high school. Then after one year I moved to Tupelo, Mississippi for a job and continued my Jr. College at Ittawamba Junior College just outside of Tupelo and started hanging out in some really nice homes and great people and I started to “try” to take the Sand Mountain out of my language.

Bo Jackson was a friend and classmate at Auburn.

Bo Jackson was a friend and classmate at Auburn.

After a year in Tupelo I then move on to Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama  for 3 years and graduate in 1987 in public relations and journalism ( yes I have lost my spelling and how to write). I had a professor ask me one time, “are you from Sand Mountain?” Of course I ask why he thought so. He said from the words I would use. Then I move to Cincinnati, Ohio and stayed there for over two years. OH ME! I did not realize just how my Sand Mountain talk was going to be so different. I had a PR job working all over the city, with the Reds players, Bengal players and some of the richest people in the country.

Mr. Don Knotts. I had the honor of hanging out with him while at Auburn.

Mr. Don Knotts. I had the honor of hanging out with him while at Auburn.

I HAD to change and learn a whole new language and tone. Then to make matters even worse  I enrolled in a Radio and TV course at Connecticut School of Broadcasting-Cincinnati Ohio Campus. The very first day we had to record and 20 minute radio program (only using the open and close of a song). Then 3 months later we did the same recording at graduation and the professor played them both at the same time. Needless to say, I did get the BEST IMPROVEMENT award.

Guntersville State Park, Guntersville, Alabama.

Guntersville State Park, Guntersville, Alabama.

I was always the talk of the town where I went and for sure in my class. I would come home to Geraldine, Sand Mountain and be made fun of many times. I also thought when I came home I could just slip right back into “Sand Mountain talk” and be ok. DID NOT happen. Oh well, I made myself better. I was writing for MAJOR publications and had received A’s in my college writings on most things. I felt really good about myself. Moved home from Cincinnati, Ohio and traveled the South making pictures or pitchers here on the mountain, for a company in Enterprise, Alabama and loved it. So the “Cincinnati, Ohio talk” still worked for me. Especially in Miami, Florida. Then close to a year of that and that company was lost because of a divorce. Then back home to start my photography studio. Then I felt just as much pressure to change my tone, talk, EVERYTHING just as I did when I moved to Cincinnati. That was in 1990 when I moved back and still to this day when I hear myself say something wrong I just tighten up just a bit. Like,  “I’m fixen to go do….”  Or hear someone day, “I seen…”. I try my best to write correctly now but I know I don’t. I have forgotten how to use a lot of words and how to use a coma and so on.

Auburn University mascots.

Auburn University mascots.

DSCN1017-002Now one more funny story. My first few days in Cincinnati, Ohio I went to eat and ordered a cheeseburger. The lady ask me if I would like ketchup on that. I said “please”. She said, “would you like ketchup on that?” I said “please”. She said again, “would you like ketchup on that”? I finally said YES. Told that story at the office and the place went nuts laughing. Then I find out Cincinnati, Ohio is a German town and “please” means the same ‘thang’ we say on Sand Mountain that is, “do what”, “say again” do witch”…you get the point. Fun memories of course. Oh yes, Mr. Ken Griffey Jr. was one of my biggest fans at that time. Always asking me to talk so he could hear my “southern talk”.

So please whatever you do in life, job or home, please stop and take the time to tell someone you love them, appreciate them or just show them a big smile. Or, just go to the mirror and look at yourself and just smile as big as you can and say out loud, I AM SOMEBODY. I AM WORTH THIS SMILE.

RUSS 16X20

I like to think of this as saying, “stop and enjoy the beauty around you everyday. Life is worth living all you can.”

God Bless each and every one of you reading this today and every day.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

About Poll Tax

Poll Tax Receipt

Poll Tax Receipt

My daddy was beat committeeman in this beat (27) for over 40 years.  Now some of this may repetitive — you might rather read the phone book –  it seems I’ve told you some of this before.

Poll tax was a big thing in its day.  Prior to an election candidate after candidate would come here and, with daddy advising, they would go over the list of registered voters – seeing who had paid the poll tax and who hadn’t.  Of course, when the candidate paid the poll tax he was buying a vote.  It cost $1.50 per year to vote and that was sizable in that day.  As far back as I can remember Daddy never invited the candidates to come inside — rather they sat in the car to do such.  I wonder how they managed before they had cars.

I’ve heard Daddy tell stories about sitting near the polls in his buggy and people would come to him and ask him how he thought they should vote.  This was before radio and very few newspapers.  He said he could elect the candidate of his choice and never get out of the buggy.  Later I hauled voters who didn’t have transportation to the polls and I’ve even helped carry a ballot to the home bound.  My how times have changed.

My parents married in 1919 and it was 1920 when women could vote. That caused some heated discussion in this house.  Mother was from a Republican family and Daddy was a staunch Democrat.  Mother had lived in Chattanooga and Tucson and I wonder if she ever marched on behalf women suffrage.   She was a strong individual and just may have been a part of that.  Oh how I wish I had asked more questions!  I also wonder if she voted like Daddy wanted her to!  This is just a few memories of olden days and their country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

What a GREAT Day Today, Sunday Jan. 18, 2015

5x7 SOFT DSCN0137What a GREAT day today, Sunday Jan. 18, 2015. Mrs. Billie Crumly would just be in such shock today.

Thanks to you, the faithful readers of this blog, started on June 1, 2013, we have reached a count of 1,000,583.  OVER one million hits. So far since 8:00pm central time last night the blog has had  2,192 hits. And it is only 1:30pm now.

I think I can speak for Beth, Donna and Mr. John we are all so thankful for each and every person that comes to this blog on a daily basis.

I can remember Mrs. Crumly asking me, “how long do you think it will take for us to get to 100,000.” Well we passed that long ago.

Again, thank you all.

Life sort of has it’s way of getting between new post and older post here but be expecting to see many new post from Beth and Donna in the coming days.

This is one of the very first set of photos I made of Mrs. Crumly. She is checking the "fallout shelter" to see what may fall out. photo by Russ Austin

This is one of the very first set of photos I made of Mrs. Crumly. She is checking the “fallout shelter” to see what may fall out. photo by Russ Austin


Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Windy Knoll Visitors

What a time I’ve having with this blankety blank computer!!!!!!

We had the nicest surprise last evening.  Neighbors stopped by for a visit with two young children. Since we have no youngsters in our family we enjoy seeing others now and then.  You know, neighbors used to visit more — that is before television.  These two little ones were not still one minute — wish I had a little of that energy.

This is a couple of young farmers — big time.  They have several house of laying hens and it’s a busy job.  The eggs have to be gathered whether it’s Sunday or holidays.  On top of that they have cattle and were talking about bottle feeding a young calf.  Of course, that reminded me of a poem I learned years ago and I just had to repeat it for them (as I’m going to do for you).  I have no idea who the author is.

The hardest thing on a farm I think
Is teaching a little new calf how to drink
You pull and tug and get his head in a pail
And he’ll just stand there and twist and jjust wiggle his tail
And then, first thing you know
Kerplunk goes his nose and you’ve got milk all over your clothes
Hold onto your patience, your teeth you must grit
If you can’t hold your temper, you might as well quit
For Mother Nature whose methods don’t fail
Never meant for a calf to drink from a pail


Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

TheSorghum Cake

Sorghum Cake Being Mixed

Sorghum Cake Being Mixed

Note:  As I write this the snow is falling heavily and the farm looks a winter wonderland.

There was a time when farmers on Sand Mountain did not have the money to buy sugar, but many of them had sorghum and that was used in place of sugar.  John remembers working all day for a man and was paid with a gallon of sorghum.  In lots of homes the syrup was kept in a syrup pitcher and was left setting on the table all the time.

Syrup Pitcher

Syrup Pitcher

In the 1930′s and ’40′s sorghum came in a gallon bucket with a bail and cost fifty cents.  Today it comes in quart jars which sell for $12.  I opted to mix my cake in a four-cup measuring cup, using the hand mixer because I could fling it all in the dishwasher.  Clean up is harder for me than the cooking is.

I baked the cake in an iron skillet because that’s how it was done in olden days.  Mother would rake the hot coals out on the hearth rock, put the iron skillet (with legs) on the coals and lay the lid up on the burning logs to heat.  She’d put the sorghum cake (which she called a sponge cake) in the hot skillet, put the lid on and then heap red hot coals on the lid.  The cake would bake in no time and to cut a piece of that hot cake and fill it with butter was some more good eating.  Sorghum was a little different back then — I don’t know if it was a different variety of cane — I contend cooking it with wood made a different taste than cooking it with gas as it’s done today.  Anyway, Mother’s cakes were darker in color than mine is.  Try the sorghum for a little twist on country living.

Sorghum Cake

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Sand Mountain sorghum
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 tsp each of nutmeg, ginger, cloves, salt and soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup flour
Mix shortening, syrup, egg, milk and syrup. Sift dry ingredients together and add to the above mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until done.

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 tsp. Nutmet

Sorghum Cake ready for butter

Sorghum Cake ready for butter

Posted in In the Kitchen

Bitter Cold for Man and Beast 1989



Survival has been the name of the game for the past several days with the bitterly cold weather.  Our wood supply has dwindled, the quantity of gas in our tanks has decreased and our electric meter has run at a high rate of speed.   However, thankfully, we are warm, safe and well fed.

On one of those sub-zero nights, a cow named, Muss, delivered a fine heifer calf, and John found it frozen the next morning.

On another day, he had a big black cow, Easter, that kept him busy.  He and the cow paced back and forth prior to her birthing a large, black bull calf.

Then the action speeded up.  With a blustery and biting wind blowing and the temperature hovering near the single-digit reading, John had Kay (our granddaughter) driving the tractor while he an the quilt-wrapped baby calf rode to the barn on the trailer.  Even the calf was almost frozen – at this writing it still survives.

It has been difficult time for farmers, as we have heard of others who have lost calves, too.  We even heard of one farmer who brought his new calf to the warm kitchen to save its life.

Keeping the ice on the pond broken so the cattle could get drinking water and keeping enough hay out has been a real challenge.

With extra people in the house there has been much cooking and dishwashing going on, too.  But what a winter wonderland we found on Christmas morning with a  sprinkling of snow.  This is the first white Christmas I remember, but according to some local folks, there have been others.  Lots of reminiscing has taken place this cold Christmas Holiday Season, much talk of bad weather in previous years, and/or of Christmases past.

A tradition at our house is that of jigsaw puzzles.  During WWII, when we were stationed at Harvard Army Air Base, in Nebraska (1945), the puzzles were one of the means of entertainment and we continue to enjoy them even today.  Survival, chores, reminiscing, it’s all a part of winter time country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Baking Cookies

For the past several days I’ve tried to bake cookies and every day something comes up that interferes.  We were completely out of anything sweet in this house and John can’t stand it without sweets to nibble on.

With bad weather in the forecast, cookies may come in handy as a comfort food and we’ll need all the help we can muster to get through it.  We are both cold natured of late and I dread what’s ahead.



The sugar cookie recipe came from a friend and neighbor many years ago and she said you don’t have to sift — just fling it all in and go.  The picture of ingredients does not show them all.  I buy confectioner’s sugar in a large plastic bag and store it in a canister.  Then about the oil, I pour using oil in a milk carton because it has a handle which makes it easier to pick up.  I didn’t think those two things were worthy of photographing.  And another thing, I use parchment paper — it makes clean up easier.  Remember I told you my oven doesn’t get as hot as I think it should and when the recipe calls for 350 I use 400.  You know your oven better than anybody — you decide which to use.

On the cookie sheet

On the cookie sheet

Sugar Cookies

1 cup sugar                                   5 cups plain flour
1 cup confectioner’s sugar         1 cup oil
1 cup margarine (2 sticks)
2 eggs                                        1 tsp Cream of  Tartar
1 tsp soda                                       1 tsp. vanilla

I mix mine in the usual way and the dough will be really thick. Roll the dough out in balls and then mash with a fork.  Flour your  hands often as the balls are made – then dip the fork in flour often as ball are mashed.  This recipe makes about 12 dozen — depending on what size you make the balls.  (It seems as time goes on and one becomes tired, the balls get larger LOL).  Bake at 350 degrees until slightly brown at the edge.

They keep well, they share well and they make for some of the best of country living.

Ready to eat

Ready to eat


Posted in Country Life – Then and Now
Billie & John Crumly 1945 Part of what Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation"