The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Market's Child

By Sue Collins © 1987

Issue: September, 1987

Crossing her fingers, Anna dodged under the ladder that was leaning over the door and entered the City Market shop. She wandered through the displays and into a separate room filled with supplies for the gourmet cook. There was something familiar here and the realization that it was the scent came to her as she left to go back into the main store. She remembered it from her grandfather's store in another Virginia city market. In those long ago days there was always the aroma of tea and rich coffee, fruit, the kind of tobacco without a chemical smell, and spices. When the friendly woman behind the cash register suggested that it might be the spiced tea that they had just put on the shelf, she knew that she was right. In her childhood days, the two places that she had known the best had farmer's markets and it surprised her when she found that there were people who thought that they were unusual.

With her parents she would walk down Kirk 'Alley.' It was the short way that led to the crowded sidewalks of First Street where many colors dominated the scene and the choice of good things to eat could confuse the shopper who had never been there. However, the 'ole timers' would go directly to their favorite stalls and always knew the first name of their seller. She noticed this day – so many years later – that the faces of the people behind the stalls had not changed. They must be the sons and daughters of the earlier vendors but it seemed as if each time she was revisiting old friends. When she first came here there had been wagons and trucks backed up to the curbs but now the trucks were newer and most of them had closed panels, not the open slats of the older ones.

Many venders came from north and south of Roanoke, Virginia and there were many families that had turned to the occupation of farming when the jobs in the 'Silk Mill' went to another place and to other workers. On Sunday rides through the Southeastern part of the city and Vinton she remembered seeing the vegetable plots that had once been lawns and fields. They were next to many of the white clapboard houses and fed others as well as the home owners. This substitute for the jobs that they had lost meant that they could continue to hold up their heads as respected citizens. Although it was true that they were people, like her family, who came and stayed and helped the city to grow, when Roanokers are mentioned they would always be the first one of which she thought.

As she left the first shop, another customer had joked about how cautious they were about walking under the ladder for neither one wanted to court bad luck. Later in another shop, they met again and talked as if they were old acquaintances. When her new friend asked directions to a shop in another part of town and Anna's route became entangled in a one way street, the shop owner graciously helped with, "Turn left at that corner and right at this one." Thank goodness for people who know the wisdom of sharing.

As she walked along she thought about the spirit of friendly conversation that went along with the cold business deal and how the native would always come back as long as it prevails at 'The Market.' As she passed she nodded to each familiar face behind the stalls of salad greens, red geraniums, cabbages, and peppers on a string, in front of a truck with a scale slung on the back and surrounded by thin wooden................

Baskets On The Sidewalk.