The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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

The Runaway

By John C. Ewing © 1992

Issue: July-August-September, 1992

When I was five years old we lived in Berwind, West Virginia. Our house was one in a long row of nice houses, and behind all of these ran a dirt road that was little more than an alley. Down at the end of this road there was a sharp curve where the road turned to cross the creek over a narrow bridge.

In the early 1920s, the company store kept a horse and wagon which was used to deliver orders of groceries to the home of those who had put in their orders earlier in the day. The driver of this horse and wagon was a pleasant fellow who would sometimes put me up on the wagon seat and let me ride with him as he made his deliveries.

Near noon one sunny morning, the delivery man brought an order to our house and invited me to ride along with him as he drove the wagon back to the store, which was over on the other side of the creek. Mother nodded, so he lifted me high up on the driver's seat, and we were off. About that time, the driver decided we needed some shade against the sun's heat, so he raised the large, white canvas umbrella mounted at the front of the wagon. The umbrella caught the wind and opened with a snap, startling the horse. It bolted in fright and took off as fast as it could run, down the road towards the bridge.

The driver tugged hard at the reins while I held on for dear life.

"Whoa! Whoa!" he kept yelling as he yanked the reins, and managed to slow the runaway horse before he reached the curve at the bridge.

Meanwhile, Mother, who saw the umbrella go up and the horse start his charge, could not see as far as the bridge. But she knew if the horse reached the curve at the bridge at full speed, the wagon would surely be wrecked, to say the least.

When I got home only a little while later. Mother was white-faced and teary eyed, and waiting at the door to receive the man who would be carrying my corpse. She had already gone to the bedroom, had straightened things up and smoothed the bed, for she was sure my little dead body would soon be laid upon it.