The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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

The Preacher's Fried Chicken Dinner

By Thelma Wagg Smothers © 1986

Issue: May, 1986

In 1932, my husband took me, his young bride, to visit his father, a retired minister who lived in a big house in Rutherford College [North Carolina] with his six daughters.

Since I had married his only son, he wanted me to have a special welcome so he planned a trip just for the two of us to visit one of his former parishioners. Early one morning I found myself walking toward the Model T with this little man who looked just like Santa Claus. He was about five feet five, and he had a round face with thick white hair, and twinkling (really) blue eyes. We headed out for Jefferson, North Carolina, so he could show me the house where he once lived, and the church where his father (and later he) had preached for many years.

Before we started up the mountain to Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, he pulled over and stopped near the banks of the New River, and while he entertained me with the fact that he had at one time practiced dentistry along with his ministry, he rummaged in a pocket and pulled out a small plug of tobacco. At the same time he gave me the kind of smile which showed me he trusted me not to tell. I was glad that I was not sitting in the back seat as I had experienced the worst kind of tobacco spraying once from a man who drove a group back to school when our car abandoned with a flat tire.

The road was a twister. Not being used to mountain driving, I cringed as we went around each bend, knowing there was room for only one car. "We're about there, sister," he called through the whistling wind in the open car. The sun was shining and I wished I could relax and look at the farms we passed. All I could think of was how lucky we were not to meet a car.

My father-in-law was now telling me that I was soon to taste some of the best fried chicken I had ever put in my mouth. "Just you wait and see now," he said, "when Mrs. Lowder sees our car coming up she'll run out and grab a chicken, and then you'll know what I'm talking about." It had been a good while since breakfast, and my mouth was beginning to water at the thought of this special meal.

Mrs. Lowder did see us drive up the road to her place, and when we pulled to the front steps she rushed out, wiping her hands on her clean white apron. She made us know that she was happy to see her former minister and pleased that he had brought along his son's wife.

We sat on the porch and looked at the deep red cannas, gold dahlias and very tall snapdragons, mostly white, planted all around the yard. We rocked and grew hungrier as the smells emanated from the kitchen. Every once in a while Mrs. Lowder called out some tidbit of news to the minister about his former congregation, but she did not come out of the kitchen until she came to call us to dinner. The clock on the mantel pointed to 12 o'clock.

I'll never forget the little man's face when Mrs. Lowder passed the huge platter of country style steak. "Thought you'd like this steak I canned earlier this year," she told us. You know, you fry it, and place it in the crock and pour the gravy over it. That way it keeps for ages.

My father-in-law was silent as we drove down the mountain, but when he took the road toward Rutherford College he uttered a big sigh, and I heard him say:

"Anyway, I've never tasted better biscuits."