The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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


By Josephine K. Boehm © 1988

Issue: April, 1988

Mom made a little blue calico bonnet for me. The fabric matched my eyes and shaded my fair skin and blond hair from the sun.

One warm spring day Mom tied the bonnet on my head and we walked hand in hand down the narrow Blue Ridge Mountain road. When we arrived at the door of Ma's (Grandma's) neat cozy kitchen she was busy but not too busy to visit with us. She gave me graham crackers and milk and poured a cup of coffee for Mom from her big blue tinware coffee pot that had been brewing on the wood burning cook stove. After I drank my milk I ran out to play under two big oak trees in Ma's backyard.

A few days later Pop took me to visit Ma. I played in the yard all day while Ma did her laundry under the trees. She used her kitchen as a laundry room every Monday during the winter months but it was a warm spring day and Pa (Grandpa) had carried the large wooden wash tubs out in the yard the day before and filled them with water. The water soaked into the wood and kept them from leaking when Ma washed the clothes on Monday morning. Pa awoke very early on wash day and carried water from the cistern and heated it on the kitchen stove. When the water boiled he carried it to the tubs where Ma rubbed the clothes on a washboard until they were clean. She rinsed them, wrung them with a hand wringer and hung them on a wash line to dry.

That same evening Pop came to take me home. We went directly to Pop's and Mom's bedroom where Mom was sitting up in bed looking very lovely with her long dark brown hair flowing over the snow white pillows and her blue eyes shining. She smiled at me and then looked down at the bundle in her arms. I ran to her bedside and got my first glimpse of my little baby brother.

A few weeks later tragedy struck our family. Pop's sister Dorothy died just two weeks after her baby was born. She left her baby and seven other children. Two friends of the family wanted the baby and would have loved her as their own but Ma said, "This is my baby."

She dressed the baby and took her home. Pa and Ma were good parents and Babe loved them very much. Beth, the oldest girl in the family at age fourteen, kept house, cooked the meals and helped Uncle Peter take care of the younger children. Once Uncle Peter went to visit Babe. Ma gave him the baby and said, "This is your baby, hold her." He took her in his arms for a minute then gave her back to Ma and left. He ignored Babe from that day on and always blamed her for his wife's death while Babe grew to be a delightful little girl with blue eyes and long light brown hair.

When I grew older and was permitted to cross the road by myself, I went to visit Ma and play with Babe every day.

Although there were no modern conveniences in those days, Ma kept her house spotless clean and her garden free from weeds. She also baked and sewed for Uncle Peter's children and had a different chore every day of the week.

Every Thursday morning Ma churned butter. The wooden butter churn was about four and one half feet high with a stick about the thickness of a broom stick that went through a hole in the middle of the lid. The stick had a wooden paddle attached to the end that went inside the churn. Ma pushed the paddle up and down through the rich, thick cream and when the cream became large curds she patted them together and made pounds of butter. In the springtime when the cows ate fresh green grass the butter was a pretty golden color and the pounds looked like bricks of gold. Ma weighed each pound and created a design on it with a knife. Then she put it in an oak bucket and hung the bucket down in the well to keep the butter cold.

One day Pop left the house and wouldn't tell anyone where he was going. He had a secret. He returned with a goat that he had bought to pull a little wagon he had made for Arthur and me. When he harnessed the goat it wouldn't pull the wagon because it wasn't very tame or trained to pull the wagon and Pop took it to the pasture where it ate grass with the cows every day. One day a neighbor boy knocked on our door and said, "Your goat escaped from your pasture and it's in our flower bed with a tin can on its horns."

Pop replied, "Tell your Papa to go out in his yard and the goat will follow him." Soon Pop's friend came running up the road in part of his coat, the rest flew in the breeze on the long horns of the goat. The goat chased him to our front porch and Bob ran to the door panting and screaming, "Open the door and let me in."

Pop opened the door and Bob fell in on our living room floor while the goat on the porch bucked on our big oak door.

Arthur and I always put our Easter nests on our wide wooden porch rail. We found two old cooking pots the day before Easter and made nests by carefully filling them with dry grass. We placed them side by side on the porch rail and waited impatiently for the Easter Bunny to fill the nest with a little candy and yellow and brown eggs on Easter morning.

On Easter morning we jumped out of bed when the sun began to peep over the mountains. As we ran out onto the porch we thought we saw the bunny jump off our nests and run through the yard. Pop and Mom were amazed when they saw the bunny in the yard. We didn't know that a rabbit made its home under the porch. When it heard the patter of our feet on the wooden floor it ran out through a hole in the ground directly under our Easter nests. It hopped around in the yard and then ran through the field. After we gathered all of the eggs in the yard we found more in Ma's daffodil plants and the bunny left some near the pot of onion peel soup that Ma cooked and put in the yard for the bunny. We believed it colored the eggs when it drank the soup.

Mom and Ma both added brown onion peels to the water when they boiled the eggs. The eggs that were boiled with a few onion peels in the water were a light yellow and others boiled with more peels became a darker shade of yellow or brown.

Every spring Babe and I would wander through the mountain slopes to a spot where yellow violets bloomed. One day as we walked toward home with our arms full of violets we saw a big black bear with two cubs. We stopped and from a distance watched the mother chase her cubs up a big tree. After the cubs climbed to the highest limb, the mother took a long stroll in the forest. The cubs stayed on the branch until their mother returned. The mother ran directly to the tree and stood on its hind legs with its two front paws high up on the tree trunk. Then it called the cubs with a loud roaring sound and they came tumbling down to the ground and followed the mother single file into the deep forest.

After the bears were out of sight, Babe took her violets home for Ma and I walked slowly toward my home. When I came to a bluff I stood and gazed at the lovely view before me. I could see Pop plowing in the field. His plow glistened in the sunlight as it turned the soil. Mom stood in the doorway of our home with Arthur beside her waiting for me. There was an abundance of color on the mountain slopes surrounding our farm. Many trees with new light green leaves and rhododendron in bloom with clusters of white, pink and purple flowers made a picturesque sight. The beautiful scene on the mountain side looked like a portrait painted by an artist in the springtime.