The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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

Special People

By Nancy B. Collins © 1988

Issue: April, 1988

When a person becomes a senior citizen, they should be thankful that they can get up in the morning. The next thing they should be thankful for is that there are things that have to be done to keep life going and hope to have strength to be able to do them.

Senior citizens have many memories of what has gone on in their lives when they were young. There are many things they would like to forget. Some they will cherish all of their lives.

I have some memories about people and places way back in my life that I will remember all of my life with love and admiration.

When my family of eight arrived at the old Hatcher Place near Woolwine, Virginia there was a man named Montague Via who lived nearby. He was a Methodist minister. He was also our miller that ground our wheat and corn for bread. He was a big, stout man with a big goiter on his neck that stuck out and was very noticeable. He did not seem to pay to much attention to that. He was always clean shaven and wore clean clothes. Being very strong and with a good mind, many people called on him when they needed help and advice.

One day my sister, Ella, and I had to take some corn to the mill to be ground. We had waited a good while. I heard it thunder and the clouds were getting black back in the west and looked scary. I crept up close to Mr. Via and said, "There is a storm coming and I am afraid of storms. Will you please grind our turn next." He put his big arm around me and said, "No, I can't do that as there are some ahead of you. Don't worry, the Lord will take care of you and the storm will go away." I did not hear it thunder anymore. The storm seemed to lay back and go in another direction.

I remember thinking this man must live very close to the Lord and I even loved him then. I was so young and knew so little about God and his love.

While we were waiting for him to grind our turn we would go up to the big mill pond and watch the water come down a long race that was built up high to come down on the big wheel in the trough onto the wheel to turn it. Mr. Via would pull a lever and turn the water into the race and it would come down with a thrush and it was very exciting to watch back then. I would sure like to see it again. Mr. Via would put the grain in a big hopper and take out his toll and put it in a big box with a lid on it. He would grind it later and all he did not use he would sell to people that needed to buy meal.

When there was a long dry spell, people would have to wait until it rained up the creek and filled the pond. Some people had to buy meal and flour while waiting for the pond to fill up enough to start grinding. When the mill would be grinding, Mr. Via would stand and watch the grain go down in the big stones to be crushed into meal and flour. The big stones were built around them so people could not see them. Mr. Via would let us look inside the big hopper sometimes and watch the grain feed down into the stones. In a short while the meal would come out of a little spout and pour in a big box that was built up close to the side of the stones.

Some times we would go over to Mr. Via's house when it was cold and wait until our grain was ground.

Mrs. Via was a sweet old lady but she did not want us to touch or bother anything in the house. I did not understand then, but I do now. Some children would steal. We were taught not to steal or bother other people's things, but she did not know this. We would just sit by a big fireplace and be real quiet. Sometimes if it was near lunch time she would give us some brown ginger bread and say, "This will do until you get home."

Sometimes she would sit in a rocking chair and go to sleep. One day while she was asleep some little mice came out on the hearth and played around. They even got into the ashes. We got to laughing and awakened her. She scolded us and asked us what we were laughing at. I told her we saw some little mice playing on the hearth. She said, "I don't think so, if we have any around I don't know it." We just kept laughing and she said, "You better go see if your turn is ready."

We went on over to the mill and our turn was ready. Mr. Via gave us his blessing and said for us to be good and mind our parents. As we went on down the old wagon road toward home, I kept remembering what he had said, "The Lord will take care of you don't be afraid." I try to remember that today. I forget sometimes and try to handle things myself. This makes life harder.

Mr. Via had to leave his mill many times to look after minor problems that people asked him to help them with.

Down the road a little ways from the mill a woman sent for him to come down and tell her what to do. A big dog had got its head hung in her big milk jar and could not get it out. She said the jar was left outside of her spring house and the dog was looking for some food and got his head in the jar and couldn't get it out as the jar was smaller at the top than the bottom. She said, "I don't want to have to break the jar as it was given to me by my grandmother." Mr. Via said, "You will have to break the jar and get the dog's head out." She cried and said it would break her heart but she would do whatever he said to do about it. Mr. Via found a rake and broke the top of the jar and the dog got his head out and went leaping down the road barking his head off. Mr. Via went on his way ready for the next problem that came up.

We would see Mr. Via and his wife going to his church every Sunday morning. They would be in a buggy with a pretty black spirited horse hitched to it. She always dressed in black with a white collar on her dress and wore a black bonnet. She was afraid the horse would run away and spill them out and it did one time, but they were not hurt much. He finally got rid of the spirited horse and got a gray one that was more gentle. I shall always remember them as being fine people.

Another person I will always remember is May Brammer, my school teacher. She would always celebrate all of the holidays such as George Washington's birthday and Lincoln's birthday. We all decorated a lot for Christmas. We even decorated for Valentine's Day. We made hearts and strung them all over the room. She helped the children to get books when they had no money to buy them. She had some children of her own, but she did not favor them in any way in school. She was my dad's cousin. My dad did not like her very much because she was a Democrat. He was a Republican and wanted everyone to know it.

Mrs. May Brammer never, at any time, lost sight of why she was there. She tried to make better people out of her students. She helped them with their personal problems. Many times she would help get clothes and shoes for those that were so poor. She did it in such a way that no one knew where they came from. She never flaunted anything good she ever did. She never let any student come into her class dirty and crying and disrupt the class. She said the least they could do would be to try to stay clean. She knew that was hard to do in some families in the winter time. Her husband was a farmer and they lived very well. She never seemed to think about the little money she got out of teaching.

Since I have grown up I look back and realize what a good person and teacher she was. She is one person I will always remember and respect.

These are some people that should not be forgotten that lived back in the mountains of Woolwine, Virginia.

There are many more that I remember. Maybe I will write what I remember about them sometime.