The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

  • Memories of a vanishing era

    Left to right: Coy Oliver Yeatts, mountain philosopher and nature lover; Ella Hughes Boyd, midwife and grit best describe this wonderful lady; Adam Clement, beekeeper extraordinaire. They are just a few among hundreds who have shared their stories and memories in The Mountain Laurel. Their stories are a national treasure.

  • The Stoneman Family

    A Heritage of Mountain Music

    It was more than a concert, it was a rare privilege to be attending the Stoneman Family Festival at Willis, Virginia in August. The reason it was more than a concert was that family members from Maryland and Tennessee traveled here for a reunion.

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  • Picturesque Blue Ridge Backroads

    Discover the Real Blue Ridge

    Scenes like this are just around the next bend or over the next hill along the hundreds of miles of backroads you'll discover with our easy to follow self-guided Backroad Tours.

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  • Making Old Fashion Mountain Molasses

    B. L. (Bunny) and Tella Mae Cockram

    B.L. (Bunny) and Tella Mae Cockram are each 73 years old. They’ve been married for 50 years and since 1935, home for them has been their 60 acre farm in the Mountain View section of Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Tella Mae has a hundred laying hens and she sells eggs to a lot of the folks here-'bouts. In addition to the 100 laying hens, she and Bunny have 50 head of cattle and 25 head of sheep.

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  • Woodrow (Woody) Dalton on the old Appalachian Trail

    Arrowhead Marker built by John Barnard

    The original route of the Appalachian Trail crossed the Pinnacles of Dan, traversed the Dan River Gorge and climbed Indian Ladder to the plateau known locally as the Rich Bent. This path carried hikers through some of the most breathtakingly beautiful terrain the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer. Earl Shaffer on his historic first ever through hike of the entire Appalachian Trail in one season, passed through this area and described it ...

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Sherman and Velma Sutphin - A Lifetime Together

By Bob Heafner © 1984-2012

Issue: February, 1984

sherman and velma sutphin 2George Moles and Velma Bolt Sutphin. (See article for information about this photograph.)Driving north from Meadows of Dan, Virginia, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, past the turn of the century water mill known as Mabry Mill, I turned left onto state road 758 and headed toward Buffalo Mountain. Old chestnut rail fences, naturally weathered buildings and rusty antique farm implements give you the feeling of driving through an outdoor museum. To the right, majestic Buffalo Mountain stands as a silent witness and monument to the spirit of those brave, determined souls who first ventured here in search of “home.”

The first of them have long been gone, but the legacy they left to their offspring survives the wrath of time and storms of change of the last two hundred years. Here in the shadow of the “Buffalo,” hard work and determination along with a spirit of self-reliance are still a part of everyday life. Like the majestic Buffalo, old fashioned values have withstood the test of time here without noticeable change.

Turning to the right, the Buffalo behind me, I travel over a small winding gravel road. At the crest of the first hill, I am treated to the rare sight of perhaps thirty wild turkeys in the road before me. They quickly scatter into the surrounding woods as I pass. Over several more hills, past an old homeplace and several sharp curves, I finally reach my destination, the home of Sherman McKinley Sutphin and his wife, Velma Bolt Sutphin.

Sherman was born on September 27, 1897 and Velma, on May 1, 1898. They were married on the 14th day of May, 1919 and their love, like the Buffalo, has endured the test of time. They were born within two miles of each other and were childhood sweethearts. Sherman first proposed to his future bride when they were 15 years old but didn’t tie the knot until they were in their early twenties. They were classmates at the old Brammer School, which was named for its first teacher, Bell Brammer, many years before.

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The Floyd Wagons

By Gladys Edwards Willis © 1984

Issue: April, 1984

Cross Roads is a little community in Franklin County, Virginia that got its name because it is located at the point where the road that is now known as Route 40 crosses 640. When I was growing up there in the early 1930's, the roads were unpaved and we called them the Ferrum road and the Henry road, because that is where they took us in one direction and the other direction of either road would take you to Shooting Creek. I always had the impression that Shooting Creek was as far as you could go. The world mysteriously ended there! If you could get that far on the rutty red clay mountain trails. Very few automobiles did make it in those days.

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Memories of Summer Corn

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1990

Issue: July, 1990

Practically all families in the Blue Ridge used to have gardens. A lot of childhood memories about hoeing corn and picking beans were not too pleasant, but when it comes to remembering what all those fresh vegetables tasted like, ah, that is a pure delight!

My own personal favorite fresh vegetable was sweet white corn. As soon as the ears were only half filled out with kernels, I would be pulling it to be boiled in a big pot of water with salt and a pat of butter added to keep it from boiling over. I really acquired a taste for the tender young ears of corn, so tender you would eat the kernels and then suck the sweetness out of the still semi-soft cob. You can never buy corn at that stage in a supermarket. They seem to only pick corn that is at its peak (or a little beyond and too hard) to sell commercially. I confess to eating whole meals of nothing but corn on the cob, six or eight ears at a sitting. My mother used to tease me with an old country saying, "Go give the horse another ear," as I reached for yet another one.

Most little girls growing up in the mountains were given a young ear of corn to play with as a doll when they had to be taken to the field and were still too young to work. The golden "silks" made pretty long blond hair for the doll and the shucks were arranged as a dress. I used to poke small sticks in the cob to make a face. I enjoyed learning, when I was old enough to go to school, that little Indian girls played with corn dolls a hundred year ago. It was fun to play in the cornfield, if you were careful not to harm the stalks. After a big summer storm, everyone went to the cornfield to stand the stalks back up that had been knocked over by the wind and rain. The whole family, even the small children got to help with that.

Our neighbors up the road used to cook corn on the cob outdoors on a grill or campfire, by pulling the ears of corn, peeling back the shucks and cleaning the corn, then buttering the ear and pulling the shucks back up over the ear. (At this point you can wrap the ear in foil if you wish, or not.) They swore that the shucks gave it extra flavor and even threw a few in the pot when they boiled corn.

When you are buying fresh sweet corn, keep in mind how long it has been since it was pulled. The sugar content in corn begins breaking down into a different type of carbohydrate within 24 hours after it is picked, and loses flavor fast.

Another favorite way to prepare corn is delicious but messy. Cut the kernels off the cob, only slicing the tops of the kernels off. Then hold each cob up and scrape down it with a knife to get the "good" out of what is left. This is called double-cut corn. It is delicious to make hushpuppies and use some double cut corn in the batter. When you cook double cut corn, do not add water. Place the corn in a thick pan on top of the stove on a medium heat (do not overheat or heat too fast because it will scorch). Place a lot of butter in it along with salt and pepper to taste. You can make this a soupier mixture by adding a little milk.

Corn cooked this way only takes a few minutes. If you really want to eat it country style, serve it with a big pot of pinto beans and mix the corn and beans together on your plate. Another way is to serve the corn like an open face sandwich on top of split open hunks of cornbread.

Everyone loves green beans at the beginning of the season, but if you get tired of them, try cooking corn cut off the cob with them.

As the last of the garden vegetables ripen, country kitchens make soup mixtures and can it. Somehow those last few ears of corn, tomatos, green (and other) beans, okra, onions and peppers that are canned together in summer still have a fresh taste when made into soup on a cold winter's day.

Ah, memories of the taste of fresh sweet white corn. I never have gotten tired of it and I doubt I ever will.

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Chow-Chow Recipe for Sweet Southern Style Relish

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1999

Online: January, 1999

In the south, and particularly in the mountains where they grow huge heads of crisp cabbage, chow-chow is a favorite relish to be eaten with a bowl of pinto beans. It's also great on hot dogs. There are many variations to the recipe, but the one below is tried and true. The recipe below is sweet, but there are also hot varieties.

There is a canning "mystique." People who have never canned have a picture in their heads of elderly grandmothers living on a large farm with a kitchen full of mysterious equipment and getting up hours before daylight and toiling at the task until bedtime. Not so. Anyone can make pickles, preserves and other canned goods in their own kitchen with a minimum of time, effort and equipment. Grandma might have had to "put up" 40 bushels of cucumbers, but you don't have to. You can buy the produce instead of growing it. You can just make a few pints or quarts at a time. And you can finish the entire project in one weekend afternoon. No big deal. But, oh the compliments you will get when you serve it and then, to the uninitiated - you will be a part of the canning mystique! Add a comment