The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Clever and Convincing

By John Hassell Yeatts © 1987

Issue: November, 1987

They filled my life with laughter
Then when I was growing old
I'd remember long thereafter
Funny stories that they told

They filled my ears with music
With flutes they made from chestnut sprouts
And I found I could not lose it
As I faced life's later doubts

They shared with me the many pleasures
Of their winning, carefree ways
Our young lives were filled with leisure
Never counting off the days.

They heard my call when I was lonely
Bare of feet, in tattered pants
And they came running, shouting only,
"Come enjoy this Springtime dance."

Occasionally on warm days in mid May when Kettle Hollow is dotted with white dogwood blossoms and the Northwest wind, laden with the fragrance of locust bloom sweeps across Hurricane Hill from Carroll and Floyd Counties I become a child again. It is then that I pretend to be walking the winding path that leads to the higher valley below the crest of Hurricane Hill that was once known as the Damon Barnard Place and later occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Lane D. Scott and their prodigious family of eight. There were Russell, Woodrow, Ruby, Bill, Lucille, Henry, Samuel and Meade. And there was seldom a dull moment when even one of them was around. Get them all together and you were likely to be treated to a kind of human circus that proclaimed that life was meant to be celebrated, not merely endured.

The Scott kids were taught not to fight and they rarely did. But once an altercation evolved between Russell and Woodrow and their mother, Delma, interrupted and demanded to borrow Russell's pocket knife, whereupon she proceeded to trim a strong apple limb. Russell yelled, "Quick Woodrow, say something clever and convincing." Woodrow was the philosophical and the poetic one who would go on to become an effective Seventh Day Adventist minister of the Gospel in California. It is said that Mrs. Scott was so amused by the comment that only a wave of the switch and a lecture followed. But the fight was ended.

The Scott kids looked enough alike and like their parents that they were never confused with other children in Bankstown and Mayberry, Virginia. A central strand of optimism, wit and enthusiasm for life made them delightful companions. And when they saw a person - any person - coming down the Damon Road the call was passed and they all came running to meet the visitor at the big entrance gate across the road from their father's blacksmith shop. There was never any doubting the sincerity of their welcome.

The house was a rather large clapboard two-story structure with a knobby stone chimney at each end. A lean-to kitchen and dining room was attached to the back side. A front porch extended the length of the house. It was well furnished with swings and rocking chairs. Since the house was constructed from the finest Blue Ridge Mountain pine there was no need for paint. And the 80 or so years of its exposure to the elements had weathered it to a handsome tone of grey. During the summer months it was surrounded on all sides by colorful beds of annual and perennial plants. In the hillside, near the front porch, was an underground cellar covered with glass during the freezing months, thus assuring Mrs. Scott of having the finest and earliest blossoms in Mayberry. The house and large lawn were flanked by a hardy orchard and during the spring bloom it was a sight worth climbing Hurricane Hill just to see.

Mr. & Mrs. Scott were toilers in the vineyards of the Seven-Day Adventist Church and Saturdays usually found them away at services and visiting in Bankstown. It was the summer Saturdays that were the best for long visits. The Haunted Branch ("Haint Branch") ran through their bottom land. The boys usually had a swimming pond available by early June. The water was simply icy. When the goose-bumps stretched our skin until it was blue and numb we would "dry off" by rolling in the grass like dogs. Then we'd take off for the black smith shop where we'd fire up the forge and commence hammering and shaping iron. The older boys taught me how to make a horse shoe, mend a hoe, and weld a strap hinge. They taught me how to track the wily fox and to trap his prey, the cottontail. And they showed me how to skin a bobcat; all things that might make a mountain boy useful.

But then they started going away. Woodrow to Washington to college, Ruby and Bill to Maryland; then Russell to the pits of West Virginia. He told me one day, "Hassell, I'm just never going to make any money in timbering and lumber. If you'll borrow your father's Model A Ford and take me to Chilhowie, I think I'll be off for the mines in West Virginia." And when he extended his farewell hand he said, "Don't forget. If I don't get back plant the old garden in buckwheat." A saying that only he and I could interpret. And he never came back. None of them ever came back. The old house burned and the stone chimneys collapsed into heaps of rubble. And now the ruins are covered with vines.

So today the dance is over
Just the wailing of the winds
Stirs the blossoms of the clover
And sighs with me for our lost friends.