Archive for the ‘Miss Hickory’ Category

“No one would know that this is a doll.” Polly Anne fondled the hickory nut, and pointed to its wrinkled shell and the hard knob on one end. “But is it a doll,” Polly Anne continued. “See its cheeks and its sweet little nose. All it needs is to have a face painted on and a body and some clothes. Every time that we make a hickory nut into a doll we’ll be rescuing it from a boy or a squirrel, Sarah.”

Excerpted from Rufus Adolphus’s Red Shoes by Carolyn S. Bailey, in the Continent


As often happens, Miss Hickory noted, the more one studies a particular subject, the more one is likely to find the whole world contained therein. So it had happened once again in the household. A simple query into Presidential history had led down a meandering pig-track from Jeff Davis’s Christmas through Maria Montesorri and eventually to Miss Hickory’s family tree.

Miss Hickory was tickled to find her heritage documented in a variety of publications authored by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey-happy to know that not only had she existed in the imagination of the author, but, very likely, had ancestors fashioned by the author’s hand. She conceded that her nut-head foremothers (and fathers) might be considered the “funniest dolls of all”. Her own sharp nose and naked scalp told her that was true. It was simply a pleasure to find that Hickory-kind had a long history of helping to grow children into wise, compassionate and imaginative people-perhaps the sort that play with dollies all their life.




You can read more about the heritage of Hickory-kind by following the links below:

Rufus Adolphus’s Red Shoes reprinted in The Christian Register

Girls Make-At-Home Things by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

The Puritan, Volume 7

Montesorri Children by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey


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The faceted glass in the door created a flickering mosaic. Twinkling sparks of deep red danced against the golden-green of late Winter.  Miss Hickory allowed the door to ease open, moving slowly and carefully, but as her nut-brown head peered around the jamb, the sparks surged upward and away, settling in the gardens of other, less curious, neighbors.

It was the annual Robin migration! The Wiregrass was a pleasant and necessary stopping point on the journey and one of the highlights of the season for Miss Hickory.

Hundreds of red-breasted robins traveled across the lawns of the neighborhood, cheering the gloomy February day.  The early morning rain had softened the ground, urging delicious insects to the surface and into hungry beaks.  It was a comic dance: black heads bobbing earthward followed by a hippity-hop. As the corps de ballet fluttered across the stage, Miss Hickory felt a chuckle rising from deep in her wooden body.  Her hand covered her painted smile, letting no sound escape that might disturb the robins feeding heavily to power their migration.

The robins were alert and cautious, despite their enthusiasm for dining.  One fellow stood for a moment as Crossing Guard, taking his place at the corner as if waiting for a torrent of school children to demand passage, his shiny black eyes watching vigilantly for oncoming traffic.

Miss Hickory and the Clockwork Robin

Miss H. invited the Clockwork Robin, whom, most days, perched on a high shelf in the sewing room, out in the garden to spend time in the company of his fellows.  He liked Miss Hickory, who was always glad to hear his tinny song, and the two sat in the crape myrtle together, quietly enjoying the antics of the flock, grateful for the annual performance.

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Miss Hickory snuggles among the warm jars of pumpkin butter, fresh from the water bath.

Miss Hickory snuggles among the warm jars of spicy pumpkin butter, fresh from the water bath.

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Guntersville Collage copy

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O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Psalm 30:12

Bright cranberry sauce bubbled on the stove, the berries exploding in a rhythm that made Miss Hickory’s sap sing and toes tap. The aroma of freshly-squeezed oranges and their zested rinds filled the kitchen. It was indeed a day for giving thanks! With a last look into the pan of liquid garnet, Miss Hickory danced along the crowded work-top, searching for her next project. The crystal relish dish lay washed and sparkling on the counter, waiting for Miss Hickory to dry and polish every facet. Her wee wooden hands were especially suited to the task. The pretty vessel was a gift from long ago and dear to the family.  Filled with glittering cranberry sauce, it made the Thanksgiving table ever so festive. She grabbed a soft rag and set to work, grateful to be a blessing and appreciative for this simple season of thanks.

Miss Hickory Cranberry Relish 2

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And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.

But the stranger that dwelleth with you

Shall be unto you as one born among you,

And you shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt:

I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 19: 33 & 34


Wood Hyacinths 2

Dainty Wood Hyacinths

Winter’s chill had slipped back into the garden.  It seemed to Miss Hickory that cold and warm played hide-and-go-seek throughout this month of March. The garden itself had tired of  Winter and had boldly proclaimed an end. Daffodils trumpeted the arrival of Spring. Azaleas dressed themselves in the brightest pinks, purples and shades between. Not to be outdone, dainty wood hyacinths made a brave showing around the garden shed. As well as buds and blossoms, birds were arriving in great numbers.

The local residents  celebrated Spring with renewed song and fresh nest-building.  Miss Hickory worked throughout the Winter providing seed and suet to the garden birds: the cardinals, sparrows, wrens and finches. The change of seasons also brought welcome visitors and singular passers-by.  A robin has spent some little time investigating the privet hedge and fruit trees this year, before deciding to continue northward with her fellows. Miss Hickory had hoped she would stay and produce a nest-full of bright blue eggs. Upon occasion, Red-headed Woodpeckers would poke around the upper reaches of  The Pecan. It was an inviting place, her garden, thought Miss Hickory. At least she strove to make it that way.

When the black birds with the sleek brown heads first arrived, Miss Hickory did not recognize the new-comers, but was anxious to be hospitable. She inquired of the locals about whom these strangers might be. “Cowbirds”, they chirped, warbled or shrieked. Dismayed, Miss Hickory knew that Cowbirds did not enjoy a good reputation among the bird-loving Big Folk. She understood that Big Folk thought their nesting habits questionable and their approach to family life suspect. Still, they were sojourners in her garden, and whether they chose to stay or continue the journey, she knew she must try to make them welcome.

After filling the bird-feeders, Miss Hickory scattered seed on the thick layer of leaves under the hedge.  She observed that Cowbirds preferred to forage on the ground. They seemed to be amiable dining companions, having  no objection to lunching with the Blackbirds and Grackles. That surely was something in their favor.

Azaleas dressed themselves in the brightest pink.

Azaleas dressed themselves in the brightest pinks.

The litter under her wooden toes muffled the small sound of her footsteps.  She crept through the hedge and looked across the expanse of the yard.  The garden continues under the fence, Miss Hickory thought, but beyond I do not call it “my garden”, but “another’s”.  Beyond the fence, I could be called a stranger. Yet the land did not stop for fences, for creeks or rivers, nor even for vast seas. It was all one land. We really are all one family, then, she pondered: the neighbor and the stranger; those we love and those we have not yet learned to love.  “We all share the one great garden”, Miss Hickory said, with understanding.  Shiny brown heads peered down at her through the privet. Miss Hickory turned her nut-head upwards and smiled.

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Early Autumn always finds The Doggery in a festive mood.  The heat of summer is slowly dissipating.  Leaves are falling, creating a crunchy playground in which to sniff and roll. Children are once again collecting at the bus-stop, singing and dancing to the rhythms of the early morning, giving The Doggery a multitude of targets for barking and for considering the wondrous lunches tucked inside burgeoning backpacks.

This morning was no different thought Miss Hickory.  She enjoyed the daily rituals of her home and blessed them. The sun had lifted beyond the pines and shone through the window.  Merry Pecksniff, the self-appointed Empress of the Household, was in a particularly jubilant frame of mind.  After sharing toast with the Master and breakfasting with her fellows, she raced up and down the staircase.  Tugging at the bedclothes and at the pants-leg of the Walker-in-Chief, she let her will be known. Merry dashed around the bedroom, fanning the dust motes into a sparkling whirlwind.  Miss Hickory laughed as the cloud engulfed her. She waved her hands to clear the air and went looking for her cleaning basket.  Evidently, dusting was a priority.

Starting in her favorite spot, her window sill, Miss Hickory began the work of the day.  Covered with a soft cloth, her wooden hand slipped easily into places unattended by larger folk.  She urged a tiny spider to re-locate to the upper corner of the window, where he might perform his useful business away from distressed eyes.

Miss Hickory froze when she heard the crunch.  Barking had ceased, replaced by the frightful sound of teeth meeting shell.  She heard a rumbling expression of dismay and watched as the Hand of The Carver scooped a runaway hickory nut from the floor, the outer shell fretted with punctures.  The Basset of Doom, that same Merry Pecksniff, had, in her scampering around the house, dislodged a nut from a its safe haven and caused grievous injuries to a future companion.  Miss Hickory did not collapse.  She is made of good wood, strong wood.  She sat, allowing The Carver to pour the remaining pieces into her lap.

Gently cradling the shell, Miss Hickory inspected the wounds.  She peeled away the damaged husk to reveal the nut inside.  A shy little sister, nose poking skyward, peered back at her, shaken, but not beyond the reach of help.   The small life had been spared; this day there would be no mourning.

A shy little sister, rescued from certain Doom, sits unscathed in her shell.

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