The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Life On The Mountain

By E. M. Thomas © 1988

Issue: May, 1988

"Pap and Mam brought up eight of us right over yonder on that there rise. You kin still see part of the old foundation and Mam's yellow rose was still blooming last year, right there at the corner. Just where she planted it; yes sir.

T'was just a little farm, as you kin see, and we all had to help. I remember turning the grindstone for Pap so he could sharpen his scythe or axe. Oh, how I hated doing that job. I was young, of course, and my father would bear down to get a good edge on them. I had two sisters and three brothers and we all took our turns; hauling water, chopping wood, pulling weeds. It seemed there was no bottom to that there woodbox! But we used to play and have a good time, least ways until the neighboring boys came over, then they no longer wanted to play with me. I remember my brother rolling on the ground, laughing at me being mad until I thought his sides would split.

Sometimes Mam went fishing with us. I remember the old gent who lived just beyond us considered himself quite a fisherman. He was always bragging on himself and sometimes even fished by lantern light. He built a little bridge over the crick where he sat and fished for hours. One day, Mam and my brothers and I fished for a right long time and got nothing; however, there on the bank was a beautiful, big trout washed up on a rock, all swollen the leader still in it's mouth. Mam picked it up carefully; it was a fine fish even if it was a little ripe. When we passed the old man's house and he hollered "Any luck?" as usual, she just held the fish up. By the time we got home, the fish had fallen apart, piece by piece.

Times were hard and one winter, we had to live with my father's parents while Pap worked in a sawmill. I was very fortunate as I had two Grandpap's at that time and they both worked at the mill, too. One of them skidded the lumber out and the other drove a team of oxen transporting it from the mill to where it would be piled for sale. The oxen were beautiful, big, red and white creatures with large horns. When the wagon was empty, I'd ride back with Grandpap for another load.

My older sister was about eight years old and one day, Granny sent her to the store for some sugar. In those days, sugar, flour, and crackers, etc. came in large barrels. When my sister got to the store, she informed the lady storekeeper that Granny needed a bag of sugar. Well, the sugar was purty low that day and when the lady bent down to scrape the bottom, her transformation fell off. When she straightened up without any hair, it nearly frightened my sister to death. Granny didn't get her sugar, but she did get a good laugh at Pearlie.

About that same time, many of the men were making 'squeezings' and somebody was always being picked up on suspicion. One night there was a dance and the officers came. By the time they got to the top of the hill, most everyone had vanished and the rest were in the beds, supposedly sleeping. The officers came in anyway, and told them all to get up and come out into the light. Well, two of my brothers got up while the third quietly rolled out the backside and slid underneath. The two brothers never said a word because the hidden one was married and had two young 'uns, so they took the rap. All are dead now, sad to say. Too bad, too, because all turned out to be good citizens.

Ah, times are not the same. We didn't have much then, but we had each other and we had a lot of fun together. Everything's different now; it's each man for himself. It used to be that anybody took one of us on, had the whole family to contend with; not anymore. Folks scarcely know where their loved-ones is anymore. That's why I came back here."