I Pledge My Head to Clearer Thinking

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For those of you who didn’t grow up showing cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and, yes, even horses at the county fair – or didn’t spend hours on the family’s garden plot, getting your veggies ready to compete at the fair – or didn’t labor behind a sewing machine learning how to make an apron or “petal-pushers” (lordy, how I hated sewing – but my mother made me do it) – to compete with other young seamstresses at that same fair, and therefore maybe never participated in a 4-H club, here’s what those 4 H’s are all about.

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Note: this is the pledge as I knew it.  After 1973, the pledge ends in “my club, my community, my country, and my world.”  Not a bad addition.

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Getting my 4-H project, a Hampshire lamb, ready for the Larimer County (CO) Fair – maybe 1954?

A few weeks ago someone asked me what the “H’s” in 4-H stood for, and I had no trouble reciting the 4-H pledge verbatim, even though it’s been about 60 years since I attended a 4-H meeting.  That got me thinking about what it is about a bunch of words that gets so stuck in our memories that decades can pass and we can still recite the lines as if we’d been saying them daily.

My brother isn’t much of a church-goer, but he does a great job reciting the 23rd Psalm (and I can still do the Apostle’s Creed, early 1960’s Presbyterian version).  Andy can quickly tell you the military alphabet, just as precisely as he could during his days in Phu Tai, Vietnam (check out today’s Andy’s Corner).

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Have you ever thought about what words and lines you remember years after the fact?  We’d love to hear from you…just leave your memories in the Comments section.

Meanwhile, there are some recipes that we can do from memory – with no recipe card at hand (mind you, we’re no David from Albuquerque – see his first blog and we’re no Samin Nosrat either).  We have enough recipes copied around our house to write about 20 cookbooks!  And we generally rely on them totally, not varying the called-for ingredients one bit and fretting if we put in 1/4 tsp instead of 1/2 tsp!

Admittedly, Andy is a recipe-less master of his breakfast repertoire: Swedish Pancakes, even given his Belgian/English heritage, Egg (Mc)Muffins, and Breakfast Burritos.  I can whip up my mom’s spaghetti sauce without thinking twice.  But go beyond those staples and we’re hard pressed to go recipe-less.  Maybe we should call recipes our “cheat-sheets.” 🙂

Now if my head, which I’ve pledged – a countless number of times – to clearer thinking, could just remember how to make this old-fashioned 1-2-3-4 cake.

The 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 beaten eggs should be a piece of cake (so to speak) to remember….but the recipe-makers neglect to tell you that there are other ingredients that have to be remembered too.  What gimmick can I use to remember the 3/4 c of milk, 2 tsp of baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp vanilla?

So much for my clear thinking.  But here’s this oldie but goodie anyway.  Thanks to Katie, our dear friend in Baton Rouge, who remembered the recipe.  Here’s to memory!

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1 2 3 4 Cake

1 2 3 4 Cake

Andy and I munched on this cake for days, enjoying every little bite.

  • 1 c (2 sticks)  butter
  • 2 c sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 c cake flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c milk

Preheat oven to 325º.  Butter and lightly flour a 10 inch tube pan or bundt pan.  Alternately, bake it in 3 8″ or 9″ cake pans, if you want to be fancy and have a 3-layer cake.

Cream butter and gradually add sugar, creaming until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time to creamed mixture blending after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla.

Scoop out and level 3 cups of cake flour; in a large bowl whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt until all are mixed together well.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, alternating with the milk. Mix until just combined.  (Do not over mix as this will yield a dry cake)

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325º for approx. 1 hour and 25 minutes or until tester inserted into cake comes out clean.  If you’re using cake pans, bake for 25-30 minutes.

Cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan and finish cooling on rack.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.


  1. Frankie Ewing says:

    My seventh grade teacher had us memorize the 23 helping verbs (among other helpful aids), and I can still recite them: is,am,are,was,were,be,being been,has,have,had,do,does did,shall,will,should,would, may,might,must,can,could. I know nursery rhymes and Shakespeare soliloquies and the lyrics to many songs. But, then I walk into a room and forget what I came for.


    • theRaggedys says:

      Ah, Frankie, you’re too funny. And I’m right there with you on forgetting what I go to get.

      Those helping verbs are impressive; I don’t think I ever learned them. What soliloquy can you most easily recite? Weren’t we taking Shakespeare together?


  2. tricia53 says:

    I can still recite the books of the Bible in order, after a 4th grade Sunday School competition. Of course, my brain still retains odd things like my home phone number when I was eight and all the lyrics of The Beverly Hillbillies theme song. I really could be using those brain cells for weightier things!


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