The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Old George House

By Nancy B. Collins © 1988

Issue: May, 1988

When I was very young my life was enriched by knowing my Great-Aunt, Texas Cockram. I really did not know how much until I got older.

She lived near Meadows of Dan, Virginia in the year of 1911. She was a big fat, jolly person and laughed a lot. Sometimes I think she did this to hide her real feelings.

When I was a child, I would talk to her. She seemed to always know what I was going to say before I got through talking. One day I was asking her some questions and she began to answer them before I got through asking them. I was young, but it bothered me for anyone to know so much about my mind. She would always look into my eyes when I talked to her. One day she was talking to me and I looked off and she said, "Honey, look at me when you talk to me and I can understand you better."

She was around 80 years old and had lived through many hard times. Her family was just about all gone. In her long life she had gathered a lot of wisdom and wit. I was glad she could share it with others.

Some of Aunt Texas' family had lived in Texas before she was born. They thought it was the greatest place in the world. She had an Uncle that insisted that they name her Texas after the great state.

There is a saying that older people like to dwell on the past and that is one thing she could do best. Aunt Texas loved to tell about things that had happened in her family a long time ago.

She told my family a story about a nephew that she loved very much.

It seems that this nephew went out to seek a fortune very young. He read an ad in the little paper that was printed near Stuart, Virginia. He was looking for a job that would take him out of the mountains. He saw an ad that said, "Land for sale in Texas," all you had to do was send a small payment down until you could get out there to see it and they would stake your claim on it. He found out that he could get there by train, but it would take him a long time. He thought he might as well go as he was not getting any place where he was. His mother packed his things for him and he was on his way before anyone could talk him out of it.

It took him almost two weeks to get there. He finally found the place where the land was for sale. It was in a remote place were very few people lived. While he was talking to a man that owned land near the land he was supposed to buy, the man said, "We better git inside. I think we are going to have a storm." Now the nephew thought it looked dark, but did not think much about a storm and said "No thanks, I'll just wait here." About that time the man grabbed him and pulled him inside of a storm cellar and closed the door. The nephew said he never had heard such a roar like thunder and hard rain in all his life. They did not get out until the next morning.

When they went out, there was sand all over everything. What he had experienced was a sand storm. When they came out, he had already made up his mind that he was in the wrong place. The nephew asked the man if storms like that came often and he said, "Yes, but you just have to know what to do." He did not buy the land, but lost what he had paid down on it.

As soon as he could get away from there, he got on back home and made up his mind that Texas was not as great as he had been led to believe.

This nephew was a surveyor and liked to do this sort of work. He learned this work from his father and they were the only people in that county that did this kind of work.

He began to make plans to settle down right in those hills for at least a little while.

He began to go over the mountain to see a young woman that was teaching school in a one room school. This was her first year being away from home. She did not know much about taking care of herself. Her folks said don't have anything to do with strangers. It took the nephew a good while to get to know her. She was very pretty and shy. She did not know much about living away from home.

They had been going together about a year when they began to talk about getting married. They would have to find a house to live in or buy some land to build a house on. They finally found an old house that was about to fall down. It needed a lot of work before anyone could stay in it. They planed to marry when they got the house fixed.

The pretty young teacher began to crochet on a wedding dress and hoped she could finish it by the time the house was finished.

Things were working out pretty well for them. They set a date to be married in the late spring. A lot had to be done in a short while.

They got married and invited all the people they knew. She was a pretty bride. She had pretty brown hair. She had also crocheted a piece to go over her hair. She carried a bouquet of roses and lilies of the valley. Everyone said she was so pretty.

They moved into their home. They had some gifts such as people were able to give them. They got a few dishes and some pots and pans. They managed to get together enough furniture to keep house on.

Things went well for a good long while. After they had been married about five years, they had three fine children, two boys and a girl.

The nephew's work took him away from home a lot. Sometimes for two weeks at a time. His bride had told him that she was afraid while he was gone.

One day he came home and found a man hugging and kissing his wife. He reached up over the door and got the gun out of the rack and shot at the man as he ran out through the yard down into some woods. The nephew blew up and ran her off. She went to Ohio to live with her family. She took two of her children with her, the oldest boy and the girl. He took the other boy to his mother's.

Things went from bad to worse. The nephew began to drink and did not seem to care what happened. He would not eat or sleep and did not take care of himself.

About a month had passed and someone told him that a man had been found down in the woods; he had also found who the man was. Seems that this man had been known in the community as a trouble maker; he would find out when a man would be away from home and he would go there asking for food and water then take advantage of his wife.

The nephew was upset somewhat that he had killed a man, but deep down inside he did not care. The law never did find out who shot him, nor did they seem to care.

One day the nephew had been out wondering around. When he came back home his wife was sitting over back of the kitchen stove. She had built a little fire to keep warm just waiting for him to come home. He came in and saw her sitting there and said, "What are you doing here." She said, "I am sick and have come home to die."

She told him that she had been sick since she left. He did not fuss at her much, as she looked so pale and run down.

She told him that she had never loved anyone but him; that she was trying to get away from the man when he came in on them.

She told him she was not going to leave her home until she had to be carried out and she told him where she wanted to be buried.

She said she wanted to be buried out next to the woods in the cleared land where the night birds could be heard all night and the Nightingales could be heard all day long. He got a doctor to come and see her, but she grew worse and died in about a month. He carried out her wishes and planted wild roses on her grave.

The nephew was really low by this time and went to stay with his mother for a while. She did everything she could to make him better.

In about two months he got pneumonia and died. His mother buried him beside of his wife. After a while, briers came up and grew on his grave.

The roses and the briers grew together and wrapped themselves around each other in a mat that no one bothered. Who knows what the briers know?

The old house was near the main road and everyone passed by it. It stood for many years until it fell down never to be lived in anymore.