The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

John Hayes Hollow - Locust Sprouts

By Hazel P. Hedrick © 1986

Issue: March, 1986

Love is a word we never heard much in our family. It was something we felt, and sharing was not talked about. It was something we did. Looking back, it seems love and sharing just came naturally in our family. I suppose that is because we never heard our parents fight or even argue about anything. Oh yes, they would disagree quite often, but' they always sat down and talked it out, whatever the problem.

We were very safe and secure in our little log cabin in the hollow, surrounded by tall mountains. There were no other children to play with except at school or Sunday School, and most families were about like ours. We didn't appreciate it at the time, but I'm sure the feeling of security we had as children was unsurpassed.

Spring in the John Hayes Hollow was an exciting time. Lots of wonderful things began to happen and for most kids, topping that list was "school out." Not me. I loved school and I cried all the way home every last day of school that I can remember. Oh, I never let my brothers and sisters or even my parents know that. I cried silent tears, and if anyone noticed, I was "coming down with a cold." No one, not even my parents ever believed how much I loved school and learning. It was like a hunger, a craving, food for my mind.

Everyone thought it was because I didn't like to work in the fields. To some extent, that was true, but most jobs that we kids had to do in the fields in the spring weren't too bad.

We cut corn stalks and hunted creasy greens and branch lettuce. But my brother Johnny and I had to pile locust sprouts also, after Daddy cut them. If you have never tried that, you haven't lived.

As most of you know, locust trees are covered with thorns and they never die. If the tree is cut down, the stump and roots never die. Every spring before planting time, the fields had to be cleared of all stalks and sprouts. (We had two fields covered with locust stumps and roots.)

What a job! We had no gloves to protect our hands and those thorns must have been poisonous, for everywhere they scratched, we would get a sore.

One spring we were piling sprouts for Daddy at the foot of the Vern Mountain when a thorn hit Daddy in the eye. It took a lot to make my daddy cry, and when I saw him sit down on a stump and start to cry, it just about scared me to death.

I yelled for my brother and he came running. Daddy told us a thorn had hit him in the eye and he couldn't see. We would have to help him get to the house.

Mama saw us coming, one on each side of Daddy, leading him along and she came running to meet us to see what was wrong.

Daddy told her. You might think our mom went into hysterics. No way. She was as calm as any nurse I have ever seen. She got Daddy home, sit him down, washed his eye and looked at it to see how bad it was hurt. She said she didn't believe his sight was damaged, the thorn had stuck in the white part and just barely. A piece of it was still in the eye.

Mama put a cool wet cloth over Daddy's eye and told him not to touch it.

Then Mama took time to calm down Johnny and me, and sent us to get help. She knew Daddy would have to go to a doctor, and that was not an easy accomplishment. No car could get into where we lived. It was over a mile to the main road. Our uncle came, hitched the mule to the buggy and got Daddy to the main road so someone could take him to the doctor.

Daddy had to wear a patch over his eye for a few days, but was soon right back to his job of sprouting, a little more careful I guess. I know I had more respect for a locust sprout after that.