The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

And Dad Said - Lets Buy Our Groceries When We Get There

By W. Bruce Wright © 1986

Issue: September, 1986

Although I did not grow up in the mountains of North Carolina or Virginia, I very much enjoy reading each issue of the Mountain Laurel, in many instances, it reminds me of when I was a boy. It appears to me that there was not a great deal of difference in livin' and growin' up, in the hill country of Western Pennsylvania than here in the South. I have chuckled many times over an incidence which happened on one of our fishing trips and I hope that you might get a chuckle from it also.

As a teenager, my father, brother and I would go a considerable distance to find what we hoped would be better fishing than what we had at home. One such trip was to the Brokenstraw Creek, located about 80 miles northeast of our home, in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. On more than one occasion we could have caught more fish at home and as I recall, this was one of those occasions.

A friend of my father's had told him of the fine fishing in the above creek but not any of the particulars as to where to find the good 'ole fishin' holes. Dad's theory was to get this information from one of the natives by accommodating them and thus to a degree, obligate them to help us. He figured that we could do this by buying our groceries from a local merchant. He stated that although the things we would need might not be quite as fresh and might cost a little more, that it would be well worth it.

We compiled our grocery list for the weekend of camping. Dad figured that it was a large enough order to loosen the tongue of a country merchant in a small out-of-the-way place. With the grocery list in hand, camping equipment and fishing tackle loaded, we jumped into the Willis Overland (probably an early '20 or late teen model) and took off for the Brokenstraw.

It was shortly after lunch when we "took off" so it was late afternoon when we drove down into the valley of the Brokenstraw. Where the road crossed the creek, at an old iron bridge, was located a General Store. This place had all of the ear marks of being the exact out-of-the-way place for which Dad was looking. We first hand pumped a few gallons of gasoline up into the glass container, then took the hose off the hook and let gravity run the gas into the tank. We then, with the help of the merchant, not self service as in the super-markets of today, ordered our groceries. Dad paid the bill. The staples were in a bag and the meat and cheese were then wrapped in meat paper and tied with a string. While this was in progress, Dad had complimented the merchant for his clean store and now informed the Merchant that we would be fishing the Brokenstraw for the next two days and would he tell us where to find some of the good fishing spots? With this, all of Dad's careful planning, his "buying information", his visions of native knowhow, his entire theory collapsed. I have no recollection of what groceries we bought or how many fish we caught but I will never forget the Grocer's one statement. As the string, running through a screw eye from a large cone overhead, was wrapped around the meat the Grocer tied it and then as he broke the string with a snap stated: "Some go up and some go down and some catch'em and some don't!" Then he turned to another customer and said," Next!"