The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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

Meet The Mountain Laurel Writers

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984-2012

Issue: January, 1984

We thought it was about time we introduced you to some of the people who write articles in The Mountain Laurel. Some of them are neighbors, living just a few miles away and others are connected by their mountain upbringing and love of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They all have their “hearts in the Blue Ridge.”

Ivalien Hylton Belcher

Ivalien has one son, Ronald. He and his wife made a grandmother out of her this year. This makes five living generations in Ivalien’s family. She works at Bassett Walker in Stuart, Virginia, and does volunteer work in the community such as belonging to the Vesta Volunteer Rescue Squad. She is interested in genealogy, square dancing, collecting arrowheads, and trying old time ways like making soap, just to see what it was like. Most of all, Ivalien enjoys meeting people, simple living and nature. Ivalien is an energetic person, always busy and I have never heard one person have a single bad word to say about her.

ivalien hylton belcherIvalien Hylton Belcher 

Tootsie Cassell Pilson

Tootsie (whose real name is Goldie but everyone has always called her Tootsie), works as a frequency checker in the industrial engineering department at J.P. Stevens. She has one daughter and two grandchildren. Tootsie is a unique person. She is as creative as a person can be and sets no limits on herself as to what she can achieve in any area. She is an accomplished painter and well known for her paintings in this part of the country. She is an outgoing person and just talking to her, you can tell she is a person who is seeking to learn continually through every experience.

Both Ivalien and Tootsie have generations of roots within a few miles from their homes. They were both brought up here on the mountain on the old time stories and values they both share with us in their articles.

tootsie cassell pilsonTootsie Cassell Pilson

John Hassell Yeatts

John is a professional writer who is the author of the books, “A LANTERN TO LIGHT ME HOME” and “REMEMBERING OLD MAYBERRY”. He has also worked in journalism for several major newspapers and currently lives in Prattsville, Alabama. His childhood was spent in Mayberry, near Meadows of Dan, Virginia. He and his wife, Virginia, spend every summer here. They own and operate The Craft House at Meadows of Dan throughout the summer and fall seasons.

john hassell yeattsJohn Hassell Yeatts

Parks Lanier, Jr.

Parks is a professor in the English Department at Radford University. He contributes a column about writers who specialize in writing about the Appalachian Mountains. It offers our readers a chance to find out about additional reading about this area in fiction, poetry, biographies, and so on. He and his wife, Lois, have a daughter, Wren. He was originally from Athens, Georgia but attended college at Pfeiffer, in North Carolina and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he met his wife. He says, “I crossed the mountains and there she was.” Parks has recently published a book of poetry titled, “APPALACHIAN GEORGICS.”

parks lanier jrParks Lanier, Jr.

Hazel P. Hedrick

Hazel grew up in a mountain hollow near Brushy Mountain, North Carolina, some sixty years ago. Although Brushy Mountain is miles away from Meadows of Dan, her experiences were the same as the people growing up here in the same time period. The small details she remembers and writes about are priceless. She and her husband now live in Ridgeway, Virginia. She and her family are close today even though the miles separate them and she attributes this to their strong mountain upbringing.

Photo Coming. 

John Beard

There is going to be a new column starting in The Mountain Laurel. It will be called “Folkways”. The man who writes it is called John Beard. He is the Athletic Director at Goochland High School and teaches Chemistry and Biology there. He is a bachelor at present but is engaged to Karen Salmon, a junior at William and Mary. He lives at Gum Springs, Virginia and has had articles published in The Goochland Gazette newspaper. He is also responsible for developing and building Goochland’s “Pioneering Festival” and a special class at Goochland High School called, “Pioneering, Preserving, Preparing and Putting Away.” I consider one thing he did a major accomplishment. He bicycled the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway!

john beardJohn Beard

Wm. Axley Allen

Wm. Axley Allen is also a fictitious name for one of our writers. His works blend fact and fiction to provide stories bigger than life but true to human nature. His Caleb and Henry are not actual people but a composite of a lot of elderly men he has known throughout his life, both relatives and friends.


YKW wishes to remain anonymous. I will tell you that he is a wonderful person to know. His years of age haven’t dulled his quick wit and personality. He grew up here at Meadows of Dan and although he hasn’t lived here for many years, he still retains close ties with family and childhood friends. His choice of the initials “YKW”, were because of his childhood school days when people would sign notes, “You Know Who.”

Most of these people are not professional writers but people like us, who see a beauty and a value in a way of life that should not be forgotten.