The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Most Memorable Lunch

By W. Bruce Wright © 1987

Issue: September, 1987

It was early in the morning, extremely early for a lad about ten summers who was not raised on a farm. I can't remember the hour when my Mother's cousin Carl (one of Uncle Sam's boys) woke me and said; "If you want to go to town with me, you better get movin'." After a hurried ham biscuit and a glass of milk (not homogenized), I found Carl had the team hitched to the spring wagon and was ready to go. No, this is not a convertible vehicle where one puts the top down for the comfort or to view the beauty of the stars, it is a light weight wagon that has a seat mounted on springs. The springs do contribute to the comfort of a ride in a vehicle which has iron rims for tires. I did not see Carl load it, but he had a crate on the wagon which contained a large sheep. It was quite possible that Carl had other grain or produce on the wagon, but the sheep is all that I recall. We waved a cheery farewell as we took off for the City.

The City was the village of Clarington, located about 25 miles down the Ohio River from Wheeling, West Virginia. At the time it was small and I doubt that it has grown much, in fact, it may be smaller because the riverboat traffic has so much reduced. The railroad was on the other side of the river so the riverboats hauled almost all of the freight in and out of Clarington.

Carl's farm was adjacent to Uncle Sam's and they were about 9 miles from Clarington. The first portion of the way to Clarington was by following the ridge and then down a long, long hill to the river bottom. It was a pleasant ride and due to the light load, the team stepped it off at a lively pace.

The place where Carl sold his sheep and made his purchases from the general store were within sight of the wharf. Carl permitted me to sit on one of the pilings to watch the loading and unloading of a riverboat. I became so interested that it seemed only a few minutes until Carl came by and said; "Let's go home!" I was in the mood to continue to supervise the operation until the riverboat was ready to shove off.

In this area, the valley of the Ohio River is quite narrow so it was not long before we were off the river bottom and were starting up the hill. We had not gone very far before the team settled into the measured, methodic, rhythmic beat of a fine team. Many years later when I watched the film of Nelson Eddy and Janette McDonald sing the Donkey Serenade to the rhythm of the donkey pulling them in a cart, I thought of my ride in the Hills of Ohio.

Just a short time after the team settled into their rhythmic pace, Carl leaned forward and looped the reins over the brake handle. This was Carl's answer to my question about guiding or steering the horses; "They know the way home and they are anxious to get there because they each want to get a nose into a bag of oats. I won't need to touch the reins until we get home."

With the team stepping along at a steady pace, as constant as the ripple of the water in the stream we were following, Carl reached behind the seat and brought forth a grocery bag. In the bag was a big hunk of cheese, two large cans of sardines and some soda crackers. (How many remember when soda crackers were sold from a cardboard box with a glass door, long before the stack–pak?)

With his pocket knife, Carl cut a branch from a low hanging tree limb. With it, he cut two pointed forks to dig the sardines out of the cans and with the same knife he cut big chunks of cheese. The sardines were better than caviar, the crackers were every bit as good as cake and each bite of cheese caused me to want some more. This, my friends, eating to the hoof beats of the horses was my most memorable lunch.