The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Remembering Grandpa Herman Hall

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1987

Issue: January, 1987

Herman Hall, son of Hardin and Mary Hall. Photo taken in 1947.Herman Hall, son of Hardin and Mary Hall. Photo taken in 1947.Even though my Grandpa Herman Hall passed away over ten years ago, I do not feel that he is gone. There's never a passing day that I don't feel his presence or see something around his farm that reminds me of him. This story will relate some of my fondest memories of Grandpa Herman.

Grandpa didn't get to go to school very much because of an incident that happened to him as a young child. A mean man put him in a sack and it frightened Grandpa so badly that he had seizures, and that kept him from school. He still learned a lot and could count figures in his head. No one could pull anything over Grandpa when it came to figures. Sometimes I would have a string of figures on paper and Grandpa would have the answer before me.

When any new things came out in the stores, Grandpa always wanted to try them. He heard about the polyester material and off to the store he went to buy a pair of pants and was he ever proud of them.

Weekdays you would find Grandpa wearing his bib overalls and blue denim work shirt, but come Sunday he dressed up and stayed that way until time to do the evening chores. It was so cute when Grandpa ate Sunday dinner in his church clothes because he wore a bib apron to keep from getting anything on them. Finally my Great Aunt Kitty Hall made Grandpa an apron of his own.

Farming was the one thing Grandpa Herman was outstanding at. I have never seen anyone who could grow October beans like he could. He sold a lot of produce in Patrick County, Virginia as well as North Carolina. I've been with him lots of times rattling around in the old green Dodge truck peddling cabbage. It was fun. For several years Grandpa sold and hauled pigs in Virginia and North Carolina.

Grandpa always had a vehicle of some kind, mostly trucks. The one I remember best was the old green Dodge. He let me drive it sometimes in the hay field. Boy! I'll never forget that clutch. Grandpa drove lots of miles in his lifetime. The last vehicle he had was my little white car. I could never get used to Grandpa driving a car. That car still sets back of the farmhouse.

There was one thing Grandpa and I didn't agree on, snakes. Once in the bean field a black snake was in a hollow post with its head sticking out. Grandpa wouldn't kill it and the hollow post became that snake's home for a summer. When I went in that field, I took the long way around since snakes are my least favorite thing. When I see one I have a hysterical fit. Grandpa just went on about his work and said, "That snake ain't bothering me!"

I bought the acre of land my cabin stands on from Grandpa. When I was a young girl he had a bean patch where my yard is. Later, he sowed the spot in grass. One day as Grandpa was mowing the grass with a blade he stopped the blade in mid air and exclaimed, "Lookee!, here's a little maple sprout. I'll leave it, someone may have a house here someday and that will be a nice shade tree." He went on mowing around it. Today the maple tree is very large and makes a nice shady area in summer. My picnic table sets beneath this shady nook. This tree has certainly brought me a lot of joy. In autumn the red and gold leaves are a sight to behold. My maple is another reminder of Grandpa.

Grandpa Herman enjoyed Halloween as much as the children. Off to the store he went buying lots of candy bars and packs of chewing gum. He didn't buy any little pieces of candy, only big bars. When Christmas came Grandpa went shopping just as long as he was able to, and bought gifts for the whole family. He loved pretty decorations and really appreciated them. His last gift to me was a silver dollar with my birth date on it.

Grandpa had a special nick name for me. I never could figure out why he nick named me "Diddle Button" but that stuck with me all of Grandpa's life time.

One special love that Grandpa had was the 4th of July Celebration and the Old Time Ballard Band. When the celebration was held in 1976, he was ill, in the hospital. I dressed in my old fashion dress and went by to see him. Grandpa said, "Lookee, here at Diddle Button in that pretty red dress." Then he closed his eyes and remained quiet for a long time. Later I heard him whisper, "Hear the drums?" Not long after this, Grandpa passed away.

I got to know Grandpa real well. My love of nature and the outdoors was probably passed on to me from Grandpa. My acre of land joins Grandpa's farm. As I stand on my deck, I see memories of Grandpa. A wire fence he built and a beautiful maple tree he didn't cut. Then a sturdy figure in bib overalls strides along pushing a small hand plow through the bean field. Grandpa Herman is near and I feel his presence. Tears fill my eyes, tears of sadness and joy. Sadness, that Grandpa is gone, but joy that I got to keep Grandpa Herman for awhile. Memories live on.