The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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

The Country Store

By Wm. Axley Allen © 1985

Issue: June, 1985

None of life's experiences can quite compare to that of sitting on a stool or straight back chair in a country store and swapping stories or personal recollections with friends and neighbors. It is a part of Americana which has been my pleasure to engage in on a regular basis for most of my life.

In years gone by, the warmth of a pot bellied stove added to the warmth of friends gathered on rainy days to perch on everything from nail kegs to counter tops and share the stories of their lives, sometimes told so touchingly that rough hewn farm hands were brought to tears, but more often, so hilariously funny that the tears were derived from uncontrollable laughter.

The following two stories are from such encounters around the country store stove and as my friend Jonah Martin would say, "They're as handy as backup lights on a wheelbarrow", but do serve to chase away rainy day doldrums.

Hanging Up The Fiddle

"I didn't know your pa played the fiddle," said one of the loafers to Raymond Shelor.

"Yea, he was a good fiddle player, but I guess he'd already give it up by the time he moved back up on the mountain from Eden. He never played in public, but of an evening after supper, he'd sit in front of the fireplace and play till bedtime. Was good too! 'Bout as good as you'd ever hear. But he had a walker hound pup and one evening while he was playing the fiddle, the pup had a running fit and run right into the fireplace, around behind the back log, and burnt himself up. Pa quit playing the fiddle right then. Said if his fiddle playing would drive a dog crazy, he'd not play it any more. Hung it up on the wall and never played it again long as I can remember...."

Clyde And Grover

Clyde was in his forties and Grover was well into his sixties when the following conversation occurred. "At one time, Grover," said Clyde, "There was volcanoes and upheavals in the earth's crust that pushed up these mountains. Weren't no trees or nothing growing on 'em, just great rock mountains four or five times bigger than what they are now. Then the wind and the rain and freezing and thawing broke-up the rocks and wore the mountains down and sediment settled into the cracks and hollows and seeds started sprouting till trees and grass covered these entire mountains."

Grover stood back and eyed Clyde kinda suspiciously for awhile, then said in a slow drawl, "Shucks Clyde, I've lived here all my life and I ain't never seen nothing like that."

The mountains are made up of folks like Raymond's Pa, Charlie Shelor, who would give up fiddling rather than take a chance on hurting an innocent creature and characters like Grover and Clyde. Their love and highland skepticism are as much a part of these hills as the breathtaking views, cascading streams and country stores where neighbors still gather to socialize and swap memories.

The tapestry of the Blue Ridge is woven not only from rich earth and natural beauty, but from the souls of people like them; each and all are among the Blue Ridge's treasures.