The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Mountain Love Story

By Kelly D. Webb © 1987

Issue: November, 1987

Stand still my love and speak sweet things to me. My heart raced, my mouth was dry, and my breath was gone as I dropped to one knee to caress the flowers and retrieve a pink ladyslipper from the forest floor. The object of my affection was not aware of my emotions as we gaily chattered and called back and forth to friends. We were on a Sunday afternoon hike, as practiced by the young people in the days of yore. One or two would start walking along a dusty road without a destination, until joined by friends at almost every house. When quite a crowd was formed a favorite high point was selected as the goal; of our trek. The fall season was most remembered with brightly colored leaves and a crispness in the air.

A touch of the hand, a fleeting meeting of the eyes was more than my fourteen year old heart could stand. I turned to shove at a nearby boy and engaged in friendly play to release the emotions of love that held me in it's spell. As I furiously raced about in play, tossing hickory nuts at others and showering them with leaves, I would stop to speak to my true love to see if she really cared for me.

Such was the days of childhood, when life's pace was much slower. An afternoon spent gathering chinquapins with friends. This is a small nut not unlike a chestnut, contained in a bur with sharp spines. Boys work; to prick the finger of my love could not be tolerated. This was accompanied by a trip to the nearest elder bush to obtain a limb off the bush for a "pop gun." We would select a limb about one inch and a half in diameter and cut out a section about six inches long. Then we would use a wire or iron rod and push the pith or soft center out of the limb, forming the barrel. A dry hickory limb whittled round in shape to fit the hole in the elder limb, and reach end to end, was the plunger. As a rule the jackknife slipped and split my finger. Come to me my true love for I am hurt as you can see. We selected a couple of chinquapins to fit the barrel, pushed one through the barrel where it sealed the other end, then pushed the next nut into the barrel and out flew the first nut. Chewed up paper worked as well. The projectile traveled at a good rate of speed and at a short distance could carry quite a surprise to the victim.

Earlier in the year the cry was for chestnut whistles. A trip to the forest for small limbs of the chestnut tree was in order. Be still my heart, she lives near by. With several pieces of chestnut wood we would start for home. Where the road passed her house my steps would slow with nervous anticipation that she would appear. Unable to stand the strain I would shout, "Come on, the wood will lose it's sap." We would locate an object round and smooth to rub the bark on the chestnut limb and "raise" the sap. This would cause the bark to come loose from the wood part of the limb. One end of the limb had already been cut to fit the lips, with a slanting cut toward the top. A notch had been cut in the top part of the bark to cause the whistle sound. The other end of the whistle was plugged with part of the wood removed from the bark. She blew into the whistle once and it stayed in the bureau drawer, never to be heard again. I could not bring myself to place my lips where her sweet ones had been.

The fox grapes grew on the vine high in the tree along the river. We climbed and swung on the vines in an attempt to reach some of the fruit. High in the trees with a hand full of grapes I held the vine and swung to the ground. Oh! if she could see me now. The sweet musky taste of the few grapes obtained would surpass the taste of the first stolen watermelon of the season.

The snipe hunt was a favorite sport for the new comer. He was taken deep into the woods and left holding the bag while the others went out to drive the snipe into the bag. They usually went home. One new arrival in the community was so obnoxious that he became a natural for the snipe hunt. He was so agreeable to hold the sack as to be suspect. We had a small hut we had constructed to "camp out" at night when allowed. We escorted the young man to the site he was to hold the bag and proceeded to beat the brush to bring the snipe. Gradually we all worked our way back to the hut leaving the new comer to hold the bag. We held a business meeting in the hut with giggles, snorts, and tale telling as boys are prone to do. Suddenly, the door flew open and in came the sack. A shout from outside, "here is your snipe". The sack moved and in a few seconds the snipe came out. He looked something like a kitten except he had a pointed nose, and was black with a white stripe down his back. The aroma in the hut would stop the breath and blind the eye. Oh! if my love could smell me now.

The years were to pass and my childhood die. Friends were to separate along the paths that leads to distant lands, where some would never return to touch base again. Others would get together in reunion and tell of triumphs and failures, introduce their children and reminisce; to relive those days that were embellished with time. Alas! My love, what might have been.