(Unless otherwise noted, the Kathryn Tucker Windham blog is written by her children, Ben Windham and Dilcy Windham Hilley.)
Mother didn’t have time for a lot of hobbies. She thought garden clubs, bridge clubs and the like were a great waste of time. If you kept the lawn mowed, that was enough.
But Mother did love photographing places that were fast disappearing and the people who interested her. It was her primary hobby, and her pictures would later be unearthed and become a traveling exhibition in museums around the state.
Her other hobby was winemaking. Mother would collect the wine and whiskey bottles emptied by friends and associates. Most everyone knew of her hobby, so when scuppernong season rolled around, her friends with arbors would collect the grapes and bring them in bags, tubs and buckets to our house. Mother had three large churns that she used to mash up the scuppernongs. I never watched the recipe very carefully, but I believe she’d strain the husks and seeds and add sugar to the remaining liquid.
Then the churns went into the cool dark den where the fermentation process did its thing. The den was separated from the living room by French doors. After a few weeks, if you opened those doors, the smell of fermenting grapes was powerful enough to make you gasp for air.
Mother’s wine was not very good. As a matter of fact, it was terrible, but she never surrendered to her winemaking failures, and just about anyone who came to visit was dutiful enough to leave with a bottle of bad homemade wine---really potent bad homemade wine. One Christmas, Mother gave a bottle to a young school teacher who was a friend of the family. He made the mistake of drinking most of the bottle and later fell into our Christmas tree, dropping the “F” bomb right there in front of my lovely mother.
In her later years, Mother found the churns too heavy to haul about, and her interest in winemaking waned. After she died, my brother and I were sorting through closets that rarely saw the light of day. There, in the bottom of a living room closet, was a large cardboard box filled with bottles of homemade wine. We knew better than to think it had improved with age. We laughed that Mother had held onto it so long, but there was also something heartbreaking about watching that bad potent wine flow down the drain as we emptied the bottles.
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"Some people are important to intellectuals, journalists, or politicians, but Kathryn Tucker Windham is probably the only person I know in Alabama who is important to everybody."
–Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University.
Dilcy Windham Hilley
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