The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The High and the Low: as foot logs go

By Wayne Easter © 2014

Online: November, 2014

Wayne Easter of Surry County, North Carolina.Wayne Easter of Surry County, North Carolina.(Editor’s Note: Wayne Easter lives in Mt Airy, North Carolina with his wife of 57 years, Helen. He has written three books about his early years growing up, “way out in the weeds at the foot of the Blue Ridge.” His talent for taking one along on memory trips to his early days on Stewart's Creek, makes reading his stories a genuine pleasure. He has written three books, “Stewart's Creek: (The End of an Era) ,” “In the Foothills of Home: Memories of growing up in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” and, “Roads Once Traveled: In the Foothills of the Blue Ridge.” All are available on

Time was when foot logs were a way of life in our hill country, and one of the finest was the High Foot Log that hung high in the air over Stewart's Creek in Northwest Surry County; about a mile below the North Carolina/Virginia state line. It was chained to poplar trees at both ends, and was the only foot log that never washed away when the creek flooded.

With a heavy handrail to hang on to and thick planks nailed on it to walk on, it was first class, as foot logs go; a great place to sit on hot summer days, and watch the fish swim by. When we sharecropped Dave Carson's two bottoms downstream, we hauled unending loads of corn back across a ford beside the foot log, using my grandfather's wagon.

An August 1940 hurricane brought the biggest flood ever seen in our country, "even bigger'n that 'un in 1916," so the old folks said. Stewart's Creek backed up a half mile to my grandfather's house up the valley, and the foot log that never washed away did that year, along with the poplar trees it was tied to. It was a major disaster in my world, and I think the creek quit running until it was replaced.

Its poor cousin, the "Low Foot Log" was a half-mile upstream, between Oscar Marshall's two bottoms. It was a simple round log that hung just above the water. It had no handrail, no planks to walk on and it did not like people. When you got out in the middle, it bounced like a rubber ball. With a good sense of balance, it was just possible to get to the other side without falling in. In almost no time, I learned to zig when the foot log zagged. Some grownups had some navigation problems trying to get across, especially if they'd been "nippin' the squeezins." "If you see you ain't gonna' make it across, Zeke, throw your jug in them honeysuckle vines; 'cause they ain't no use in wastin' good likker'."

Some unwanted baths were taken when people fell off the Low Foot Log, sometimes in the dead of winter. For a chosen few, it was a much-needed bath, maybe their only bath of the year. When one of our neighbors fell in, he lost five pounds when all the dirt washed off. Word was that the creek ran red muddy for two miles downstream, and all the catfish jumped out on the bank.

As time went by, foot logs fell out of favor, and disappeared from Stewart's Creek. Fact of the matter; the whole area disappeared under Watershed Lake when a dam was built in 1972.