The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Bandanna In A Peach Tree

By Beulah S. Fox © 1986

Issue: July, 1986

Today I wandered back in thought to the scents and sounds of the year 1939. I was a young teacher in a one room school, Stowersville, Bland County, Virginia. The road that led to the country school was a small dirt road and long. Pupils walked along the dusty road, wading snow in the winter, carrying their book bags and swinging their dinner bucket, usually a lard bucket. They had done their chores early so as not to be late. In pleasant weather they enjoyed the pleasant gentle breezes and the sunbeams played on their faces.

About a hop and jump away, above the schoolhouse, lived an old lady, a farmer's wife, She had remarried and had come to live in this little community. No doubt she was lonely at times. I can see her now as she stood in front of her little cottage, arthritic hands behind her, a starched cotton dress covered by an apron that went over her shoulder, a smile on her round pleasant face and soft, fluffy white hair wound in a bun pinned high on the back of her head. Her husband, a cozy farmer, was as thin as she was plump. He always wore suspenders. The thing I remember most about him was that he was a good handy man and very kind and supportive to his second wife. He had a small garden out back of the house which he tended. Once I made their picture with the garden as a background.

They lived in a small white country house with windows of four panes, a porch with two steps across the front of the house where neighbors shared their day, slatted bench with back and room enough for two, plus some cane bottomed chairs. In the summertime, a ladder like trellis at the edge of the porch supported blue Morning Glories. A peach tree grew by the walk. Clumps of hollyhocks showing off their ruffled dresses grew on each side of the front steps, surrounded by a wire fence with white washed posts. A cellar or dairy was built in the foot of the hill behind the little house. This was used as a refrigerator to keep food cool. I have drunk many glasses of buttermilk that came from the dairy. The little house had simple furnishings with a kind of lived in look, rag rugs on the floor, cushions on the chairs, a lacy scarf on the bureau and crisp white curtains at the windows. Grandma King swept, dusted, washed and loved each humble room, of which there were four   living room, two bedrooms, and kitchen with front and back side porch.

She was my third grandmother, who was not my grandmother, but my friend. I called her grandmother and she treated me as a grandchild.

One day she sent me word by one of her grandchildren to come up after school was out in the afternoon. She wanted me to answer some mail. Her hands were arthritic and it was painful for her to write. I answered her mail and got it ready to be sent out the next day. Then she told me of a plan she had. "When you see a bandanna in the peach tree, come up and answer my mail and spend the night with me."

In the evenings I would stand on the schoolhouse steps and look up the road to her yard to see if the red bandanna was flying in the wind. It wasn't long until I realized that she was planning it so I could spend all the nights when the weather was bad with her. She could foretell the rain and soft fallen snow.

I had only a short way to go before I was at home with the door open wide. "Good evening," she would say cheerily. Then she would tell me to rest a spell while she went to the dairy for a glass of cold buttermilk.

After I rested a bit I would get to work answering her mail, mostly letters to her family. Then she'd fix us some supper.

She was always cooking something nice. Her pickles and jam were delicious. My heart and hands were calm as I felt the touch of her gentle hands; saw the red apples in a wooden bowl on the table and listened to the teakettle singing gaily on the old wood stove where the wood smoke smelled so fresh. There was a homemade rag rug in front of the old rocking chair I sat in. I learned to love the sunny rooms, the kitchen clean and bright and the shelter for the night.

Sun had dropped and I had a home and daily bread and love. Comforting thoughts prevailed as I lay against a sheet, snowy white. The golden light of the coming day awoke me to the sound of a fire being built, followed by the smell of sausage frying, homemade bread with butter and apple jelly. It was time to go back to the schoolhouse and to watch for the red bandanna in the peach tree.