The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Mail Box - May, 1991

Issue: May, 1991

Dear Susan,
Along with your other readers I say "Please continue printing this wonderful paper." I bought your 3rd issue from a news stand and immediately subscribed. I look forward to each issue and have saved them all. Regardless of how long it takes for you to print 12 issues, I'm sure your other readers as myself, would rather wait than to do without.

Your loyal reader,

J. Overcash
Troutman, North Carolina

Dear Ms. Thigpen:
A long time ago my wife, Carolyn, and I "connected" with your publication, probably in a library, and then we "lost it." We again were reintroduced through a mutual friend, Mr. John Stoneberger, of Front Royal, who has written for you. What a wonderful and happy coincidence!

Mr. Stoneberger, through a mutual friend, asked me if the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (of which I am a member) would be interested in publishing some of his work. Chances are, they would, and I am going to try to compile his work into a book format. I've been encouraging him to send me stuff and write new, so I think he is "inspired" now. A book is a long way away from now but it will be "percolating" very soon.

What we (Reeders) try to do is similar to what you do, only to Shenandoah National Park, put in a slicker package and condensed to a book format, so that it will sell in Shenandoah National Park. It is a lifetime obsession for me. Not only are there our own three books, there are the ones by Tom Floyd and Gloria Dean, which we edited. And in you I see a kindred spirit. We are collectors of the "old ways" and we each publish what we find. We are "preservationists" of culture.

In addition to this, I am scouting information now on potential writing of a similar book on the Blue Ridge Parkway, probably focusing on the Virginia end first, and then North Carolina after I retire and can travel there easier. Your publication is very much a help in that regard, also.

The point of this rather longwinded letter is not to tell you what we are doing but to say that you are a valuable resource, not just to us, but to the world. We admire what you are doing and I'm sure it is at great personal expense to yourself. You are collecting history in ways that academic historians disdain but in the most realistic way possible, in the words of the people who lived it.

Please continue your great work with The Mountain Laurel, and count us as not only among your new subscribers but as old admirers!

J. Reeder
Washington, Virginia

Susan Thigpen, Editor:
The Mountain Laurel takes me back to my childhood when I was growing up in Henry and Pittsylvania Counties. My mother died in '32 when I was seven, [I was] the oldest of 4. My father remarried in '35 when I was ten. That was a terrible winter. We were renting a house (more like a barn) from a Mrs. Hairfield. The snow was very deep that winter. One of her boys came by the house after a deep snow and took me rabbit hunting. He had a gunny sack and a long stick. He would poke the stick under banks of ditches, etc., and a rabbit would run out. But he couldn't go anywhere in the deep snow and we would pick him up, dispatch him, then put him in the sack. Mighty fine eating in those depression years too - rabbit, gravy and hot biscuits.

My father and step mother eventually had six girls (my stepmother was a Nance from Leatherwood in Henry County). As you know, times were hard in the '30s. My father was a sawmill man most of his entire life. For a short while ('26-'30) he was a state police officer out of Martinsville. He lost his left leg in '27 [from a] motorcycle accident. This was the first year they used motorcycles on the State Police Force.

As a sawmill man, he was a sawyer and there was none better. He sawed for his father, Robert E. Saunder. After he died, then Daddy teamed up with one of his brothers with a portable saw mill. When I was 12 years old, he took me to the saw mill as a water boy making 25 cents a day carrying water to the timber cutting crews, ten hours a day. I couldn't throw my earnings away, they bought me shoes, bib overalls, flannel shirts and long underwear. The next summer I got a raise to 50 cents a day. The same thing applied, I couldn't spend it foolishly.

My Daddy used to take saws to Wytheville to be hammered. This was a trying [possibly truing] process.

I went in the Navy in 1942 in a group that was called the "Lee Volunteers" from Southside Virginia. I retired from the Navy in 1972 after 30 years. I saw and participated in three wars - WWII, Korea and Viet Nam.

Someday I would like to write a full story about my growing up years, with a little encouragement, maybe I will.

P. Saunders, Jr.
Casselberry, Florida

Dear Susan,
Welcome back! The Mountain Laurel has been missed. For the past week I have been thinking of ways and means to assist in the recovery of the Laurel. What a surprise when I collected my mail yesterday. There was not one but two editions of the Laurel. I had planned a busy afternoon but all activity ceased until I read both editions.

J.A. Woods
Hyde Park, New York

The Mountain Laurel:
Thank you for the information on my subscription. I am sending you a check for another year as I look forward to The Laurel each month. My wife and I come down to the mountains each spring to see the rhododendron and wild azaleas and other beautiful flowers and sights. We also enjoy coming down in the fall to apple butter and sorghum making at Mayberry Trading Post and Mabry Mill. Also the Flea Market and their mountain music and dancing.

Again, thanks and I hope your paper prospers and you can keep it coming for a long time. We like all you nice people down that way.

P. Braithwaite
Winchester, Virginia

Dear Editor:
Enclosed is my subscription for another year. Being born and raised on a farm in the hills of West Virginia, I can fully relate to the stories in The Mountain Laurel.

I have a favor to ask. When I was a young lad, we received a paper (magazine) I think the name was "The Pennsylvania Stockman Farmer" or maybe just "The Pennsylvania Stockman." At one time they ran a serialized story for a long time about two boys being captured by Indians. The boys names were "Lally and Oscar." I think the title of the story was Big Smoke Mountain. The story setting was in the Smokies of N.C. I think the magazine was published in Harrisburg, PA. That's now been about 65 years ago. I wonder if any of your readers of The Mountain Laurel could help me find the book or a copy of the story.

Thanks for any help.

Burl Gillum
6637 Pendleton Drive, NW
Roanoke, Virginia 24019