The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Grandpa's Farm

By Deborah S. Ayers © 1987

Issue: March, 1987

It was seventeen and one half acres of heaven, my grandpa's farm.

To get to the farm we bounced and slid over sharp mountain rocks. The road ran beside a curvy, winding creek that gave the area its unforgettable name; Snake Creek, Virginia.

The farmhouse sat in a deep green valley, facing a steep hill. Across the face of the hill twined a foot-path, like a dusty ribbon around its throat.

At the foot of the hill ran my beloved "Babbling Brook", dancing and singing. She splashed in the sunlight, flecks of gold and silver shimmering in her bed, busily polishing pebbles for a child to treasure. A log footbridge crossed her and lead to the long emerald grass of the farmyard. A gentler slope rose behind the house, guarding its back. Here I could explore the garden, a marvel of mountaineer determination! Oozing rocks, the land was still forced to yield up red cabbage, onions, "taters", corn, and beans.

Burrowing deep below the garden was the mysterious root-cellar. In this damp, cool room beneath the earth, rough planks held bright rows of jellies, preserves, and vegetables. On the dirt floor pungent crocks of kraut and pickles awaited winter.

Above the garden a tiny cow shed stood proudly, announcing that when times were good, this family owned a cow. Beyond an orchard of tart, fragrant apples, other buildings beckoned. Chickens, including diminutive pullets and stately guinea hens, roosted in a miniature coop that had never felt the touch of paint. A slatted corncrib dribbled golden treasure nearby, sending out warm, grainy odors to tickle my nose as I passed.

Time-worn stepping stones led me back through the deep grass to the old farmhouse. Four rooms, a rough, slanted river-rock chimney and open rafters testified to its age. It sank tiredly back on rock foundations, creaking and rattling, but still willing to shelter a family.

Along the front ran a high uneven porch, reached by broad oak steps. Brittle strings of red peppers, onions, and "leather-britches" beans hung gaily from the rafters, drying in the pure mountain air. Pink petunias in coffee cans and soft cane bottomed chairs invited me to linger.

From the porch I could hear the murmur of the spring. Gushing magically out of the stony ground, the sweet icy water ran through the springhouse and down to join my brook. Like a sentinel, a towering hemlock stood over the head of the spring, offering shade and protection. Venturing in for a cool drink I was fascinated by the tiny wonders there, salamanders darting under the banks, waxy hemlock cones, star-shaped wildflowers, and velvety, earth-scented moss. This was a place of fairytales; my special, secret playhouse.

I hated leaving. Running barefoot through the sparkling dew, savoring the smell of wood smoke, I would make my rounds. A final splash in my brook, one more taste of liquid ice from the spring, another sniff of apples and corn, all solemnly performed.

Looking back through the car window, the last thing I could see was the mighty hemlock, standing like a promise that the farm would still be there when I returned.

NOTE: The day came when the promise was broken. A tornado hit the farm. The funnel split in half and went around the house, leaving my grandparents, Noah and Rosie Semones, unharmed, but the rest of their farm was destroyed.