1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


Balled Sausages, Home Made Soap and Light Fluffy Biscuits
A Safe Space Flight to Mars
A. A. Asbury 09


I am writing this under the pen name A. A. Asbury since I wish to keep my identity a secret. I want to walk the streets of Alderson, West Virginia in the future without fear and with impunity.

There are three mountains in the surrounds of Alderson that people often mention, Muddy Creek Mountain, Flat Top Mountain and Keeney's Knob. I was raised on one of these mountains, but I won't say which one since that might lead to information that would give away my identity. Even if you think you know who I am, you are probably wrong and I couldn't possibly comment.

The names of the characters in the story have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty. But on my best Scout's honor, I assure you that the following story is true. The facts of the story have not been altered nor have they been embellished.

Growing up on the Mountain

Growing up on the mountain was good for me. It was the isolation that I endured on the mountain that I think contributed to making me the person I am today. As I am older now, solitude has become a comfort for me and I don’t suffer from the lack of companionship of others. Of course, there were chores to be done that occupied a bit of my time. As Dad’s main interest was in tending the still, my job was to turn the cattle. You see, our hillside farm was quite steep and Dad’s theory was that if the cattle were allowed to face one way too long, their legs on the upper side of the hill would grow shorter than their legs on the downhill side. He felt that the meat on their body would also shift toward the downhill side and that cattle in this condition would bring less at sale. He was concerned that when the cattle were driven into the sale ring that cattle with two short legs and meat shifted to one side of their body would cause buyers to consider the cattle diseased. So each day after school, regardless of the weather, I would go to the pasture, lead the cattle to a small flat piece of ground and turn them to face the opposite direction. I would then drive them back to the hillside with an abiding hope that they would grow to maturity in a balanced way.

Going to school did present some difficulties. We lived about 8 miles from the school bus pick-up point. So I had some distance to travel. Every morning I would jump on our horse and ride him bareback two miles to a neighbor’s house, where I went with them by truck to catch the bus. I always rode in the back of the truck, suffering the cold in the winter. I was somewhat distressed by this until Dad informed me that in his day he had to walk 5 miles to school, uphill, both ways! Dad didn’t finish high school. It seems that a boy made an unflattering remark to Dad and he gave the boy a good “whippin”. The principal, who shall remain nameless, wanted to punish Dad with a few licks from his “holey paddle”, so Dad never went back.

I spent quite a bit of time on my school work since I knew that I didn’t want to remain on the mountain forever. Our home didn’t have electricity, so I did my school work by kerosene lantern. But I can report that, even under these conditions, I graduated from high school with high marks.

Taking a Wife on the Mountain

I met my wife while traveling to the “back forty” to repair the tin roof on our barn. A wind storm had blown through and tore the roof from one side of the barn. Each day, I would throw two burlap feed sacks filled with tools and nails onto the back of our mule and head for the barn. I traveled to the barn along a road on the edge of our property that was really just two paths where cars and trucks once traveled. The road was not often used as evidenced by the fact that it had small trees growing up along its center. About half way to the barn there was a small house that had recently been occupied. Each day, I would halt my walk to the barn to talk with John who had just moved in with his family. One day while talking with John, I noticed a very nice looking girl who seemed to be about my age sitting on a log. She had her hair done up in pig tails with a red ribbon tied on the end of each tail. She was sitting on the log with her feet in a puddle of mud, squishing the mud between her toes. She seemed quite happy and she smiled at me, all the while keeping the mud going squish, squish, squish between her toes as if maintaining some silent rhythm in her head. I kept eyeing the girl and I noticed that John was eyeing my mule. So to make a long story short, after some discussion with John over several days, I traded the mule and a bag of rusty nails for the girl. Do not be distressed by this! You see, that was the way it was done on the mountain. The understanding was that the girl, whose name was Christy May Higgenbottom, was to become my future wife. First however, she would have to take instruction from my mother on the “Asbury Way”. This included, among other things, how to make Balled Sausage, Lye Soap and Light Fluffy Biscuits.

The Instruction Begins

Christy moved into my home where she was to take instruction, all the while being kept under strict supervision by my mother. Mother was aware of hanky-panky that could take place, so at night she would sprinkle flour along the hall floor. She arose first in the morning to inspect the flour for any tell-tale signs of foot prints in the flour from my room to that of Christy May during the night. This took place every night until Christy May and I were married and I can truthfully tell you that foot prints in the flour were never found.

Christy had never worn shoes before. I got her a pair, but she wouldn’t keep them on her feet. At first I thought that they were too small, but later I learned that she preferred the feel of the bare ground. She particularly liked the feel of gravel on the bottoms of her feet. Dad cured this problem. He put a small layer of fine gravel in her shoes and she seemed quite content with this. One time each week, when she was in the yard barefoot, we would remove a small portion of gravel, and finally, there was no gravel in her shoes. Due to this bit of sneakery, I can now report that Christy has adapted quite well to shoes and that she, like most women, has several pairs. Furthermore, she is always on the lookout for another stylish pair.

Due to Mother’s control of Christy during her instruction, I didn’t have a lot of contact with Christy and I was somewhat concerned with how our future marriage would turn out. This concern was alleviated one summer when I spent a week at Camp Greenbrier in Alderson helping a friend paint a small house. When I returned home, Christy came busting through the screen door to greet me with a big hug around the neck and with her legs wrapped around my waist. But you see, the screen door was locked and Christy had actually run through the screen on the door. At that point I knew that Christy had feelings for me and that our marriage would be a solid one.

Christy’s instruction for the most part went well. Each year when we slaughtered hogs, Christy and mother would form balls of sausage and fry them. With this done, the sausages were placed in a canning jar and the frying grease was poured over the sausages until it reached the top of the jar. This and a lid was all that was needed to keep the sausages from spoiling. During the winter months, when sausages were a favorite at breakfast, a jar of sausages was placed in a pan of water on the stove to melt the grease, so that sausages could be easily removed.

The lye soap didn’t present a problem either. Dad kept a wooden barrel full of hardwood ashes from the cook stove. We would pour rain water into the barrel and collect the lye that dripped from a hole in the bottom. The recipe for making soap was one handed down by generations of the Asbury family. Christy mastered making lye soap quickly, but her soap was pretty caustic, particularly if it was used immediately after it had hardened. In fact, it would “take the skin right off” if used too soon after it had set up. It was better to let the soap sit for about 2 months before it was used.

It was the light fluffy biscuits that caused Christy problems. She just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. Her biscuits, no matter how hard she tried, turned out to be much heavier than what the Asbury family would call light. In fact, her biscuits were downright heavy. This failure was, at times in the future, to cause me great pain and at times great joy. But it was also this failure that eventually led Christy to join the research staff of NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and to train to be an astronaut.

Getting an Education and Pulsating Biscuits

After I finished high school and after Christy had finished her instruction satisfactorily, she and I were married on the mountain. Having received high marks in school, I was awarded a full scholarship to West Virginia University to study physics. So we were off to Morgantown. Even with this scholarship, financing my education was somewhat difficult. Each summer Dad and I would sell enough “shine” to tide Christy and me over for the academic year. So with these dollars in hand, we made out quite well and I stayed on at WVU until I received my Ph.D. in physics. My first teaching job was at a university in eastern Tennessee and that is where the Biscuit Chronicles began. What I am now about to relate is not the complete Biscuit Chronicles, but only two of the many events that have taken place over the years.

During the first 7 years at my university, I received tenure and was promoted to associate professor. At that point, I wanted to broaden my experience in physics, so I was able to obtain summer positions with the Savannah River Nuclear Power Plant located some 15 miles south of Savannah, Georgia. It was a light water reactor and this led to my first experience with Christy’s biscuits. Usually when Christy made a pan of her biscuits that were too heavy to eat we would set them on the back porch for me to dispose of the next day. At the end of one summer, when preparing to return to Tennessee from Savannah, I noticed a jug of water in the back of our SUV. I gave this no thought since Christy was always complaining about the taste of chlorinated water and she often bought what she considered to be better tasting water by the gallon. On returning home, Christy announced that she thought that she had solved her problem with making biscuits, so she prepared a pan of them for dinner. Well, as it turned out, she hadn’t solved the problem, so as usual we set the pan of biscuits on the back porch. Sometime during the night, I awoke to flashing red lights and a knock on my door. A fireman asked that I and anyone else in the house to please exit the premises. It seems that a neighbor had called the fire department thinking that our house was on fire. As it turned out the biscuits on the back porch were glowing red and pulsating. In fact, the biscuits were radioactive and the Environmental Protection Agency had to be called to remove them. It seems that Christy had somehow obtained a gallon of light water from cooling towers of the nuclear power plant in Georgia. She did not know that this water was radioactive. Her only thought was that light water would make light biscuits!

Ballast for My Truck

Christy continued with her efforts to make light fluffy biscuits and time after time we would set the biscuits on the back porch for me to dispose of. I had a small 2 wheel drive truck that I often drove to work. During the times when snow was on the ground, I would place several pans of Christy’s biscuits in the back of the truck for ballast. Of course, I didn’t tell Christy of what I was doing, fearing that her learning of this would set me in “bad stead” in my own house.

Over the years, we had saved enough money to purchase a few acres of land a couple miles from town and after each winter was over I would sprinkle the biscuits from the back of the truck over the land thinking that they would break down and fertilize the soil.

Geologists Discover New Rock Formation

One day while at school, I picked up the student newspaper and read the headline, Geologists Discover New Rock Formation. I didn’t give this much thought, but one day I visited the Geology Department where the geologists were holding a conference and giving talks on this new rock formation they had discovered. They had samples of the rocks spread out on a table for everyone to examine. It seems that these rocks presented quite a conundrum for the geologists. They hadn’t seen anything like this before in the world and they were quite puzzled about how they could have formed due to the geological history of the earth. In fact, they didn’t think these rocks were natural and said so. During a lull in the conference, a Tibetan monk who was visiting the Philosophy Department came by. He had a long white beard, a turban on his head and he wore a long white flowing gown. He immediately took one of the rocks in his hands, jumped onto the table, sat down and crossed his legs in the familiar meditating position. He went into a trace and began his mantra; Hmmmmmm, Hmmmmmm, Hmmmmmm. After about 5 minutes of Hmmmmmming he awoke and pronounced that the rocks were actually spent fuel pellets left on earth by space ships from outer space.
As it turned out, geologists all over the world were studying these rocks. They had tried to cut them with diamond tipped saws with no success, they had subjected them to intense heat with no effect on the rocks and they had even cooled them to almost absolute zero and it did nothing to the rocks. They had also subjected the rocks to 25 tons of pressure in a hydraulic press and they couldn’t crush them. What a rock formation!

NASA Comes to Town

The Geology Department was so thrilled with their discovery that they decided to hold an internal conference at our university, where geologists from all over the world could present their research findings on the rocks. A National Aeronautics and Space Administration official was present at the meeting. It seems NASA was interested in the rocks as a covering for future space flight vehicles. That is, if a method could be found to cut and shape them. As we know, the current tiles in use are subject to cracking, breaking and coming off. During the conference I decided to inspect one of the rocks. I picked one up and couldn’t believe my eyes. Great Balls of Fire, GREAT BALLS OF FIRE, these rocks were Christy May’s biscuits! A little darker perhaps, and a little weathered, but Christy’s biscuits nonetheless. After the conference was over, I spoke with the conference director and with the NASA official. Of course, they didn’t believe me until I showed them the biscuits that I was carrying in the back of my truck. The NASA official immediately wanted to meet Christy. This led to her being invited to Washington D.C. to speak with scientists working on the space flight vehicle that is to be used for a flight to Mars. President George W. Bush had recently announced plans for our astronauts to land on Mars and NASA scientists were interested in covering the vehicle with a material that would withstand the extreme heat and cold that it would encounter on the trip. Christy was invited to become a member of the NASA research team that was to prepare the space vehicle. The last I heard, the plan was to make enough biscuit dough to completely cover the vehicle except for the windows, bake it in a large oven and let it sit outside to weather for at least a year. Christy has told me that everything is coming along nicely and that the space vehicle will be ready soon. Christy is also in training to be an astronaut. The officials at NASA thought that if anything went wrong with the “skin” on the space ship on the way to Mars, who better than Christy May to repair it with her biscuit dough.

Due to these events, I stand in wonder of Christy May and I have great admiration for her accomplishments. How about that for a girl who grew up barefoot on a mountain in the surrounds of Alderson, West Virginia! Christy, the nation wishes you and all the astronauts a safe flight to Mars. Thanks Christy for your biscuit dough.


Christy and I plan to have children in the future. After some discussion with Christy I learned that her mother couldn’t make light fluffy biscuits either. So I wonder, is this genetic? If so, and we have a daughter, will this gene be passed on to her and will she also be unable to make light fluffy biscuits? But then what is to become of the Asbury Way?

One disturbing fact has resulted from this all of this. The Secret Service agents that accompany Christy whenever she leaves the house are somewhat intrusive. NASA was afraid that a foreign government might want Christy’s recipe for her biscuit dough and try to kidnap her. NASA has given her around-the-clock protection. Two agents guard the house 24 hours a day and two agents are with Christy wherever she goes.

Christy has decided not to seek a patent for her biscuit dough, even though it would mean riches for her and for me. She believes that due to global warming or to over population of our planet, there will come a time when humankind will have to leave mother earth for distant inhabitable planets in order to survive. Should this come to pass, we thank you again Christy May for helping to make these space flights safer.