The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Growing Up In The Mountains

By Nancy B. Collins © 1986

Issue: June, 1986

When I was a child, my family lived at a historical old place called the Hubbard Place near Meadows of Dan, Virginia. The old house had 3 or 4 rooms. The reason I said maybe four, one room leaked when it rained so bad we could not use it for anything. We lived there for a good while, and it was a very good place to live. The house had a tin roof. When it rained, it sounded almost like some weird music. When I think about it, it sounded better than some so called music I hear today.

The man we rented from was a curious old man. He had long hair and beard and was very stingy. He had a big apple orchard and fussed about any one that trespassed on his property or bothered his apples. He had two fine sons named Bethleham and Abraham. They tried to be nice to everyone to make up for the way their dad acted.

One Halloween night, some young people tied a rope around the old man's calf's neck and tied it to the door knob on his front porch and knocked at his door. When he opened it, the calf just went on in the house and was bawling its head off. The old man was so mad that he would not speak to anyone around for a long time.

Our house was not far from the old Concord Primitive Baptist Church. That old church has a lot of history behind it. Our family attended there while we lived at the Hubbard place. At that time, they had services every third Sunday of the month. That was a big day with a lot of the older people.

A neighbor had a covered wagon and he would come by our house on Sunday and take us to the Concord church. I was a very young child, but I can remember the old wagon had some split bottom chairs in it. There was some straw for us to sit on also.

Mama would make us all bathe and clean up good and she would plait our hair and tie a little ribbon on each plait. There were seven of us kids, we looked like a bunch of kittens we were so close together.

Sometimes we would wear a little dress made from flour sacks. Mama would bleach the letters out with lye soap and the cloth would be so pretty and white. She could sew real well. Sometimes she would put some lace or ruffles on them and they were pretty. I have always like flour sack dresses even til today.

People took care of their horses and mules then like people take care of their cars today. On Saturday they would curry and clean up the horses that were to take them to church. Some went in covered wagons and some in buggies and hacks. Some rode horseback.

When we got to the church, we had to do as the grown-up people did. There was no place for children but to sit with their parents and behave. Sometimes there would be as many as three preachers and they would speak about an hour. We children would get so tired we would almost go to sleep, but we did not dare do that.

Mama had always taught us never to talk about the organs of the body to anyone. She said it was ugly. When one of the preachers got up to speak he talked about Jonah being in the whale's belly for three days and he went on talking about the belly. Mama never would allow us to say belly. We were supposed to say stomach. When we got home, I asked Mama why was this was preacher talking so ugly and she said she guessed he was not raised right. She said he should have said stomach. I guess she thought we would understand later and I do understand. She was trying to do the best she could for us.

They did not have a piano to sing by at Concord church. They just gave out a verse of an old hymn and everyone sang along with that. The one they sang so much was, "Amazing Grace." I shall always remember the way they sang it.

My parents did not have much education, but they had almost complete control of us children. When we went places, we behaved. This was not easy. Sometimes we got hungry and tired, but we got spanked when we got home if we did not behave. The church services were so long. It was hard to stay that long and behave.

There was an old man and his wife who lived near the church. They cleaned and took care of the church. Their names were Vipperman. He was a shoe cobbler. He did not like children and did not want us around. Sometimes we would go over to their house and help his wife clean the church, but he did not want his wife to let us bother him. He kept his shoe pegs in his mouth and did not want to speak. He made some very nice shoes. Some he made were brogans like we wore to school. They were made of just three pieces of leather, a sole and sides laced up with strings made from tanned squirrel hide.

There was a spring near the church that I have been told is the head of the Dan River. They said that streams kept adding in this spring branch until it became a river. Near that spring was where the water divides, some running off to the east, some to the west. When the Pinnacles Dam was built, people said this would ruin everything, that water would quit flowing beyond this great dam. Water is still flowing down and the Dan River is doing well today.

After many years, the old Concord church became run down. The floors were giving out and they had a very poor heating arrangement. The church was cold and damp. Not many people were coming there to worship any more.

Some very fine people that had long been moved away from that part of the country, but still had roots there (my uncle and aunt who lived in Roanoke), heard about the way the church had been neglected, so they had a floor and new heating system installed. I am sure some of the present church members remember them. They have since passed on to their rewards.

I shall always have fond memories of all the things we did while we lived at the old Hubbard place. I mentioned that I still love flour sack dresses. I saved up flour sacks and made me a dress in 1976 to wear to a thing that was going on in our town to celebrate the Bicentennial year. I used over 40 flour sacks. I did not wash out any of the letters. Those were sacks made by the Dan Valley Mills, which have gone out of business a long time ago. My husband passed away in that same year, and I have not worn the dress much since. We had been married since 1919, just after World War I.

I don't think anyone really gets over being a child. I go back in my memories and know I sure haven't.