The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Hard Times

By Yvonne M. Cole © 1987

Issue: August, 1987

The young mountain couple slipped through the woods to meet the preacher that had been talked into performing this ceremony.

The jack–in–the–pulpits were in full splendor, as they met in the cleared section of the mountain, Bev was only sixteen and Hattie was fifteen, but inside they knew this was a lasting love.

This being 1922 they knew there would be hard times ahead, but both being from big families, hard times were all they had ever known.

They started life together with very little, Bev of course had his gun with which to kill their food, and Hattie had the knowledge of canning and preserving food.

Soon they were expecting the first of their ten children, Bev was working at the sawmill, and supplementing their food supply with the squirrels he could scare up in the mountains, that together with the food canned from Hattie's vegetable garden and the fruits from any trees they could find, even using the peelings, nothing was wasted that could be made edible.

When the night came for the birth of their first child, they had no oil for the lamp and only one nickel to their name, Bev began the long walk down the mountain to find the doctor, and some oil for the lamp, at the same time wondering how to pay for both with the nickel. Returning home without the doctor, having decided on the lamp oil instead, Bev stopped for Hattie's sister to help with the birth of the baby. This first born was a small girl with bright red hair.

Hattie had not been home since her wedding having been forbidden to marry Bev, but they thought this small bundle would soften the hearts of her parents, so when she was able to travel through the mountains, they set out to visit her parents.

As the years passed, and being before the age of birth control, there was usually a child every two years. Work was hard to find and life indeed was hard, the first six children being girls meant less help in the fields for Bev, although they all did their share in planting corn, hoeing and raising gardens.

With all of these hardships we never remember a time in which we ever did not have enough food to eat, our clothes were mostly made from sacks in which the cows feed came in, but by the time Hattie took these and bleached them, and found a pretty pattern these clothes were just as pretty as the ones from the catalogs, because Hattie could look at these pictures and make them, sometimes incorporating two or three ideas in one pattern.

Bev passed away in 1972 and not knowing how Hattie would accept this loss, I was pleased with the strength she showed. After his death she continued with her life, showing the strength she had shown during all the dark years.

In 1979 she also lost her youngest son at an early age. I think this affected her worse then the death of Bev, this being flesh of her flesh.

She continues today being 79 years old with the same strength she has always shown, living alone always wanting to be independent.

But if the time should come when she can not, I pray that she will be able to accept the help from those who love her dearly, and let them give back a portion of the love and time she has given them over the years.