BOOK REVIEW: RIDGE WRITERS ON BOOKS “Old-Time Country Wisdom & Lore”

(review by) Donna McCrohan Rosenthal

BOOK REVIEW: RIDGE WRITERS ON BOOKS   “Old-Time Country Wisdom & Lore” Ridgecrest’s approaching 50th anniversary celebration focuses us on past as well as future. We bury our time capsule at the Historic USO Building on Friday, Nov. 1. Whoever opens that big metal box in 2063 will look at today’s teenagers as old timers.

If that sounds depressing, get over it. Old timers rock. If you doubt it, spend an hour or two with Jerry Mack Johnson’s “Old-Time Country Wisdom & Lore: 1000s of Traditional Skills for Simple Living” (illus, index, 352 pages, Voyageur Press, large-format paperback, 2011, $19.99). An immense homespun encyclopedia packed with instruction and vintage line drawings, it covers nature, weather forecasting, moon lore and moon sign medicine, creatures, hunting, fishing (including with spear and bow), hearth and homestead (paint, paper, fabric, woodworking, cooking, cleaning, beauty, pest control, gravestone rubbing, preserving and mounting snake skins), country fun (horseshoes, mumblety-peg, bean bag, cloth ball, sock puppet), recipes (maple sugar pie, catfish soup, potato mayonnaise, granola, hardtack, carrot wine, bologna) and, not surprisingly, vastly more.

Discussions precede each section, and charts (such as cloud types, birds’ summer and winter habits) and lists (state trees, when to fish, swimming speeds of fish) appear throughout.

The ample advice more than rises to the occasion, some of it reasonable and possibly priceless, and other guidance less persuasive: “Sam Oden of New York State suggests that you start to grow a beard before hunting season. He claims that a beard cuts down the glare from your skin and you’ll bag more game”; “Trout swimming in circles in the stream signifies a mild winter”; “Two full moons in one calendar month brings good luck”; “Old timers say that excellent boot laces can be made from the inner tube of an automobile tire…. Being flexible, they’ll give with the movement of your feet”; “Medicines and tonics are more effective when given at the full moon”; “To treat lockjaw, place moistened tobacco on the patient’s stomach.”

The book begins with a warning to read the contents as history rather than for pharmaceutical insight, which you knew, right? You can still thoroughly enjoy every word. Besides, now you can whip up a tasty batch of hardtack, and did you even realize you could make your own bologna?

We hope that a half-century from now, the time capsule will reveal Ridgecrest 2013 and its old-timers-to-be to have been as clued-in and engaging.

This weekly column is written by members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Wednesday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year. Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions from a World Apart” is available at Carriage Inn, Jawbone Station, the Historic USO Building, Maturango Museum, Red Rock Books and online from the official website

Story First Published: 2013-10-23