The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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

Hammie and Arlie Cockram

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1987

Issue: April, 1987

Hammie and Arlie Cockram.Hammie and Arlie Cockram.You hear of sweet and loving people. Well, we sure have them here in the Blue Ridge. Today I'm going to take you on a visit with two very special people, Hammie and Arlie Cockram. They live in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, in the community known as Mountain View.

Arlie Cockram is a quiet, soft spoken woman with a lovely smile. As she talked with me from time to time that smile caused her face to light up.

"I was born and raised in Floyd County, Virginia in the section that is known as Black Ridge. My parents were Romanus and Lurinda Salmons Pratt. I had one brother and four sisters."

"All of us girls were older than brother and we had to help in the fields. We hoed the corn and got up hay. Back then the hay was cut with a mowing blade and then raked up with a pitchfork. We picked up Chestnuts to buy our things for school. But we had to get out early to beat the turkeys to the Chestnuts."

"I attended the Toncray School, walking two miles through the snow and all kinds of weather. For my school lunch I carried pancakes with apple butter, and sometimes a meat of some kind. It always tasted good."

My first teacher was Mr. Elmer Turman and the best one I ever had. He made a big impression on my life."

Hammie Cockram (on banjo) jammin’ with a friend.Hammie Cockram (on banjo) jammin’ with a friend."As a young girl I loved to play all kinds of games. My favorites were 'Stealing Sticks' and 'Base.' If the weather was bad and we had to play inside, the game was 'Blindfold'."

"I never had a store bought doll, but my mother made me a special rag doll once. On the last day of school I was going to be in a play and had to have a doll. My mother made me a beautiful rag doll. Just before the play my doll was missing. I was broken hearted. Then all of a sudden, my doll turned up. I think some of the boys were picking at me and hid her. The last day of school was always a big day at my school. The parents came and brought lunch, and we had programs. I loved poetry and reciting. My favorite poem was, 'My Little Bantam', and I still know every word today."

"Christmas was celebrated at school with a Christmas program and play. At my home we didn't fix a tree, but decorated the house with the things we could find in the woods. We gathered spruce pine and running cedar and decorated the windows. Although we didn't have a lot of fancy things, it was fun at Christmas time."

"Arlie, tell me about your courting days. Everyone enjoys hearing these stories."

"Well, I guess I started looking at the age of fifteen. We had parties in the neighborhood. My parents didn't let us stay up to late, but they were right good about not calling bedtime too early. I first met Hammie at my home. He came to our house when I was a very young girl. Hammie was older than me, but I would sorta shy around and look at him. Several years later he came to my home on Sunday night, and we started going together."

"At the age of sixteen, I was working at the Band Sawmill Boardinghouse in Floyd, Virginia, cooking for the workhands. Hammie worked there and I reckon he liked my cooking. We did just plain old cooking there. I baked all the cornbread. Mostly we cooked beans, cabbage, cornbread, biscuits, with eggs and some kind of meat for breakfast."

"Hammie and I went together for three years before we were married. We got married September 3, 1930 in Floyd at Preacher R. Gamble See's home. Our first home was with Hammie's mother in the Jeff Cockram house. We have lived in several different houses as we have moved eight times. I've never worked on a public job in my life, but have been busy.

"Hammie and I have two living children, a son and a daughter. Our other little boy died with diphtheria. We have five grandchildren and five great grandchildren. The Lord has blessed us with a lovely family."

"These days I stay busy with my hobbies. My favorite is making Yo Yo bedspreads. I sell a few of these. In summer I love working in the garden and my flowers."

"I think this is enough about me. Let Hammie do a little talking now."

"I was born at the Jeff Cockram place in 1906. Yep! I'm 81 years old now. I'm the thirteenth child of fourteen children. There were seven boys and seven girls in the family. My parents were Jeff and Elizabeth (Ludie) Helms Cockram. Dad was a man of many trades, farmer, carpenter, miller, blacksmith and a millwright."

"My first school was the Gum Swamp School. It was a wooden frame building with one room. There was a big stove with a horse on the side. You may have seen a stove like that. Us kids had to carry the wood and go to the spring for the water. One day me and one of the boys went to the spring for a bucket of water. The other boy caught a frog and brought it back to the schoolroom. That didn't set to well with the teacher, and he gave us both a little switching. I got switched even though I had nothing to do with the frog. Later I went to the Mountain View School."

"All my toys at home were homemade. I made truckle wheels to ride down the hills. We had homemade sleds for the snow, but a board was good for riding down the hill. Once I was on a board and hit a stump. The board stopped, but I just went on."

"At Christmas, I got a stick of peppermint candy in my stocking, sometimes an orange. One year my brother gave me a ten cent knife with a chain for Christmas. That was the best thing I ever owned as a child."

"As a young man I worked on the farm. We raised just about every crop you can think of except wheat. I've plowed with both oxen and horses. My first paying job was hoeing corn for Mr. Will Handy. I got $1.00 a day."

"In my young days we had dances in people's homes. At Christmas, there was a dance every night for a week. I played a lot of music in those days, mostly banjo. Sometimes I played the fiddle. I played a lot with Kelly Clifton and Allen Edwards. Both of them were very good and I enjoyed playing with these fellows."

"My mother bought a 1925 Model T with her turkey money. It cost $448.00. I learned to drive it. One time I was coming back from seeing Arlie and was driving the Model T. I killed the motor on a hill. When I got out to crank it up by hand, that car rolled back down the hill and turned over in a ditch. Sometimes we were lucky if we didn't get hurt with the Model T's."

"I've done quite a bit of sawmilling in my time. I helped Dad saw all the lumber to build the house and part of Mountain View Methodist Church. My Dad, Uncles, and other of my relatives helped build that church in 1885. Then I worked at Band Sawmill in Floyd and got to eat Arlie's good cooking. I packed lumber and sometimes fired the boiler while there."

"Serenades were a big thing in my day. One time a bunch of us really got into a funny incident. This old gentleman about 75 years old got married and we went over to have some fun with him and have a big serenade. Well, the tables turned and he had us took by the warrant. Each of us got fined $2.50 each and there were eight of us."

"That was fun? Seems to me you all were out a lot of money."

"Well, it was fun for a while."

"Tell me about some of the different places you have worked and your work at Mabry's Mill".

"Let's see, I worked at the Radford Powder Plant, worked some in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Norfolk. I worked at Mabry's Mill for fourteen years as a miller, and retired from there. It was an interesting job grinding cornmeal, buckwheat flour and grits. I got to meet people from everywhere including foreign countries. One time while I was working at Mabry's Mill, thirty five thousand people came through in one day. That's a lot of people. I enjoyed my years there and the people."

"What do you do these days, Hammie?"

"Eat and sleep."

"I find that hard to believe."

"Well, I still drive and go places. In summer I work in the garden. Until two years ago, I cut our own wood with a power saw. Last two years I decided it would be better for me to buy our wood. Sometimes I get out my banjo and play a little tune with someone. But I still like to eat and sleep for a past time."

Hammie and Arlie Cockram are warm and loving people. You feel right at home when visiting them. They attend Mountain View Methodist Church regularly these days as they have for many years. I never have to go very far to find subjects for my stories. They are near and a lot of my subjects are neighbors just like Hammie and Arlie. This couple is another example of our fine folks here in the Blue Ridge.