The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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

Growing Up Memories

By Mary Hylton Carney © 1988

Issue: January–February, 1988

(Enos and Mattie Wood Hylton were born in Floyd and Patrick Counties, Virginia. Mattie was the daughter of Alex and Mirah Jane Wood and Enos the son of Levi and Luanna Pratt Hylton. They have numerous nieces and nephews living in the Patrick and Floyd county area; among them, Miss Addie Wood of Mayberry Trading Post.)

Recently my husband and I visited the graves of my grandparents Enos and Mattie Wood Hylton in the Baptist Church Cemetery at Meadows of Dan. As we stood looking at their earthly resting place and I thought of the goodness in the souls of these two people and the memories carried me back over the years.

Times were hard in the year of 1938. On November 13th, 1938 my Mother died, leaving 4 small children, the oldest 9 and I was 18 months old. Daddy took us to our grandparents to live but six months later on April 19, 1939 Daddy also died. Our grandparents were both 60 years of age and the thought of raising 4 small children must have seemed an impossible task. But they were not quitters and determined to keep us together.

Grandpa had a small farm in Monroe County, West Virginia. (He, Grandma, my Uncle Kyle and Daddy came to West Virginia in a covered wagon when Daddy was 3 years old; they were living near where Mabry Mill stands when they left for West Virginia.) They cleared land on a piece of property and built a house but later moved to Hillsdale and built the home they had when we went there to live.

Grandpa had all the assortment of farm animals and raised crops aimed at keeping "body and soul together." But he didn't have any modern machinery, fields were plowed and planted by horses and sweat of the brow, they were harvested in the same way. In later years my Uncle had a tractor, hay bailer and other modern machinery that were used to help in the running of the farm.

My two brothers, Claude and Alvin helped with the planting, harvesting, milking, feeding and other chores of farm life. My sister, Dorothy, and I helped in the house, (most of the burden fell on her shoulders), took care of the chickens, helped with the garden and as we grew older we too learned to milk and then help in the fields. We hoed corn and skidded hay shocks. We rode the horses and pulled the hay shocks into the stack for grandpa to stack until it was needed for feeding (Only a few people had hay bailers back then). I can see us now, especially myself, sitting up on that big fat draft horse, like a gnat, in the hot summer sun, trying to get that animal to go the right way.

My brothers said we always ran over the shock or almost run over them or got so far away they might have been better off to carry the shock to the stack themselves. I remember once trying to get in to place to have the shock hooked up, probably had to try 3 or 4 times and already ran over the shock at least twice. After my brother Alvin had finally hooked up the shock he hit the horse over the rump with the pitchfork handle saying, "get up there," that horse took off running with me bouncing up and down on his back like a rubber ball, all of us yelling "Whoa" at the top of our lungs, he kept on running. Grandpa had gone to the house for some reason, he was on his way back and saw me and he yelled "Whoa" and the horse stopped immediately. He knew whose voice to listen to.

The animals all loved Grandpa and he loved them. The cattle would follow him around like a puppy, trying to nudge their noses under his arm, hoping he would go to the corn crib. They knew he would give them a "nubbin." He always rubbed their heads and talked to them and the horses knew he would always stop and let them rest before he would think of resting himself.

Grandma made pets of all the chickens and had names for them. The same was true for the sheep and especially the baby lambs. We grew up having to work hard, there was no other way; it was for survival.

We worked all summer helping to can the garden produce, beans, tomatoes, corn, pickles, preserves and such, then beef and pork in the fall after the weather turned cold.

There wasn't much money for anything. Eggs were sold but coffee and sugar was about all we ever bought. We had our own flour and cornmeal. Grandma made my sister and me our clothes. She was an excellent seamstress, there hasn't been a buttonhole machine made that could make prettier buttonholes than hers.

At Christmas time we were thrilled to death with fruit, one little toy and clothes that we needed. I still remember a little duck filled with candy that had a string around its neck, you could pull and it would waddle along behind you. They did the very best they could for us despite their advancing years and medical problems.

Grandma spent the last 14 years of her life in a wheelchair and Grandpa managed to put behind him the effects of 3 strokes. He worked so hard, long hours in the hot sun, never complaining when I'm sure he felt so bad. I never heard him say one unkind word about anyone, his motto was, "If you can't say something good about someone, don't say anything." He was the kindest, most gentle man I ever knew.

Their deep abiding faith was, I'm sure, what sustained them through those long hard years. I don't ever remember a meal without grace being said over the food and thanks for the blessings of the day. They never forgot the Blue Ridge Mountains and as they grew older they wanted to be buried in their native soil and we followed their wishes. A few months before Grandpa passed away he and I walked up the hill overlooking the farm, he said he had wanted to live long enough to see us all grown and able to take care of ourselves and he felt we were able to do that now. After he died Grandma and I stayed on the farm where she died 2 1/2 years later.

The memories are so strong, days of good and bad, hard work and survival. I can only hope that somehow they know how very much we appreciate the tremendous sacrifice they gave for us.