The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Horse and Buggy Courtship

By Hazel P. Hedrick © 1985

Issue: February, 1985

My husband Dennis and I didn't meet in the John Hayes Hollow, but every chance he gets he loves to tell that where I lived, you had to leave your car several miles before you got there, ride a mule as far as it could go, then swing the rest of the way in on a grapevine. He adds that he married me because he felt so sorry for me, begging him to take me out of that hollow with tears in my eyes, and he just couldn't walk away and leave me there crying.

The truth is, my family moved out of the John Hayes Hollow in the early spring of 1934 to grow a tobacco crop for a big farmer in the flat lands, about a hundred miles from the hollow. It was our first time to venture out of our mountains and a very exciting time for us children.

I met Dennis in the early spring of 1935. I remember the day as if it were yesterday. It was a nice Sunday afternoon. My two sisters and I were walking home from a neighbor's house when we met this horse and buggy and the best looking young man I had ever looked at. He had blond wavy hair, fair skin and the bluest eyes and prettiest smile I had ever seen. He had the horse's reins tied to the buggy whip holder and he was blowing a harp. He was playing, "She's The Lily of the Valley."

He saw us standing beside the road staring so he gave his horse the signal to stop, which it did. My sisters and I were amazed not only that a young good looking, well dressed man like that would be out riding the roads on a Sunday afternoon, but at the horse that knew to stay on its right side of the road all by itself.

We had had a mule and buggy, but someone had to keep the reins in their hands and say "Gee" and "Haw" all the time to keep the mule on the road.

I don't remember one word that good looking young man said to us, but I do remember I said to my sisters as he rode away, "There goes the man I'm going to marry."

I knew who he was, even though I had never seen him before. I had heard my best friend talking about him just a few hours earlier. She had a date with this "good looking guy who drove a horse and buggy" and for the same evening, she had a date with a not-so-good looking young man who drove a pretty nice car. She was hoping the man with the car would get there first so they could be gone before the "horse and buggy" man got there and she wouldn't have to tell him she was standing him up.

I didn't think much of the way she was going to treat the "horse and buggy" man. But, after I saw him, I hoped she did stand him up. If she did, maybe I would have a chance. Otherwise, I feared I didn't have a chance because she was so much prettier than me and she was not shy like me.

The next time I saw Dennis, I was at a neighbor's house when he and some other fellows rode up on bicycles. I don't remember how many or who the others were. I saw only one. We barely spoke two words before he rode away.

A few weeks later, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, we had just got home from church when a car pulled into our yard. It was a coupe with the top laid back and two smiling young fellows started talking to my Daddy. One of those fellows was Dennis. My sisters and I still had on our Sunday best clothes, so we went out to the well where we could be seen. I figured we wouldn't even get to say hello because Daddy was a talker and once he got going, it was hard to get away from him. And besides that, if Daddy thought I was interested in the young man, he would not give me a chance to talk to him alone. Mom and Dad thought I was too young to start dating. I was barely 16.

The driver started to turn around to leave when he saw us at the well. He pulled up and stopped. They spoke to us and Dennis got out, walked over and sat down on the well curb by me. He was so tall I had to look up to see his pretty blue eyes and wavy hair even when we were sitting down.

He introduced the other fellow as his cousin Edison Garner. They talked a few minutes, then his cousin drove off saying, "I'll see you all a little later." I was delighted to have the company of this tall handsome man for even a few minutes, but I didn't want him to know that. I tried hard to be cool and calm, but I was really so excited I could barely control my speech. Dennis started teasing my little - sister and we all got the giggles. It's a wonder I ever saw him again, but I did.

A week or so later there was a brush arbor revival going on about a mile from our house. One evening just before time to go, here came my horse and buggy man again. He was alone, so I hoped he was waiting around for me. My sisters and I started walking toward the meeting place. Dennis rode along side of us and ask if we wanted to ride. Of course we did, but we said no. He begged us to climb in and we finally did. Once we got to the brush arbor, we had to leave him and go sit in the choir where our parents could see us at all times. We did not dare sit down with the young man, but that was alright. I could see him from where I was sitting. I didn't have any idea what we were singing or what the preacher was saying. I caught my Daddy's eye and got the idea I best pay attention to what was happening around me, so I took my eyes off Dennis for a few minutes. When I looked back at him, a pretty girl had come in and sat down beside him. They were talking and smiling as if they were long lost friends or something. My heart did a quick flip-flop. Oh no, now I had really lost out! This girl was a real beauty and she wore such pretty clothes too. They really looked like they were right for each other. But, I did not want to lose him, even though I didn't have him to lose.

When the service was dismissed some people stayed at the alter to be prayed for. As long as there were people at the alter, the choir had to stay and keep singing. Well, I saw Dennis and this pretty girl disappear into the darkness in the direction of where he had his horse tied and my heart sunk.

Just about that time, my baby brother came around back of the choir and climbed up beside me. I whispered to him to do me a favor. If he would, I would give him a piece of chewing gum. He said, "O.K. What?" I said, "Go tell that guy we rode over here with not to leave until I get out there. I have something to tell him."

Well, that was a mistake, a big mistake! Once my little brother got his chewing gum, he told Mom and Dad and my older brother and they really gave me a rough time. Dennis has never let me forget it. He still laughs about me getting jealous. She was just a neighbor he said.

That summer we had several buggy rides, but always with my sisters. Never alone. That fall my family moved back to the John Hayes Hollow. My parents were home sick and the tobacco crop was a failure. So we went home only to, find that we had lost the farm our parents had paid on all their life. They had to find a place and move again the next spring.

Dennis came to see me one time in the John Hayes Hollow. Then we moved to another place on top of the Brushy Mountains in North Carolina. Dennis came to see me there one time. He got my cousins to drive him up there. We did most of our courting by letters. We were sitting under the June apple tree down at my Grandad Parker's when Dennis said, "Let's get married." I said O.K. and we did, next month.

July 3, 1937, we eloped. Dennis still had the little horse and buggy, but now he also had an A Model Ford. Although the buggy was no longer of much use, we used the horse to plow gardens and haul wood.

We didn't have a honeymoon nor a shower of any kind. We had to work for everything we owned. If we had to do it all over again we would have waited a few years. Seventeen and nineteen is just too young to be married. We were just kids and we grew up with our children. Our children liked that but it was hard on us. When we were just learning what life was all about, we were tied to babies, problems and house payments.

It was a long road from July 3, 1937 to July 3, 1984 but we don't regret one mile of it.