The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Benton and Claudine Wood

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1987

Issue: March, 1987

Benton and Claudine WoodBenton and Claudine WoodThe Mountain View Community of our Blue Ridge is filled with so many wonderful people. I only wish I had more time to talk with them. This month I'm introducing you to two of my neighbors, Benton and Claudine Wood.

"I think I'll start with you Benton. Tell me about your life from a child on up to now."

"I was born in Patrick County, Virginia at the Tabb Webb place the year of 1911. My parents were Rufus and Bertha Wood. I have three brothers and two sisters."

"The first thing I remember as a child was living in a log bodied house in the hollow below the Gaston Anderson place. I remember Dad getting hold of an old buggy someplace. Me and my brothers made us a wagon from it. We would get in it and down the hill we would go just a flying."

"Our house was two storied. My brothers, George, Ed and I slept upstairs. We could lay in bed at night and see the stars through the cracks. One time it was cold and snowing and we pulled the covers over our heads and nestled close together. We didn't hear Mother call us the next morning because we were so deep under the cover. She got worried about us and came upstairs. She pulled the cover off us. Boy! We woke up then! The snow blowed through the cracks and there was about four inches on top of the cover. We were real warm and cozy, but when that snow came piling in on us, man that stuff was cold, cold."

"I remember when I was thirteen years old going to the mill with Dad when there was ice. Sometimes we had been without meal for a week. Mother made tater cakes for our bread. Finally Dad would decide that we would just have to go to the mill. We went to the Wooster Cockram Mill Place, but I believe Mr. Babe Pendleton was running it at the time. To go through the ice we would wrap a cow chain around our shoes. We didn't have to worry about getting over the fences, the snow and ice was so deep, you just walked over the top, not really knowing for sure where the fence was at."

"As for my schooling, I didn't get to go very much, but I did go to the Lawson School. My teacher was Miss Velda Pratt. The school is still there and a very dear lady made it into a nice little home. That building has stood the times good. Building materials were better back then."

"Now Benton, tell me all about your courting days."

"I'll let Claudine tell that. It's kinda funny how we met."

"O.K. I'll let her do that later. How about some of the work you have done over the years?"

"My first paying job was for Mr. Daniel DeHart. I made 15 cents an hour. Can you imagine that? I was logging and driving a team of horses. Also I fired the old boiler. I've done a lot of farming with a yoke of steers. We raised corn, oats, wheat, rye, and buckwheat. Yep! Always had to have that buckwheat so we could have good old buckwheat cakes for breakfast."

"On the long winter nights we played checkers by the fireside. We also had a fox and goose board. Don't guess you ever played that? It was played with corn. The goose was a grain of red corn and could jump. White grains of corn was the fox and the fox couldn't jump. Dad always kept a beef in the smokehouse. In the winter we would go and slice a big hunk, put it on a stick, roasting it over the fire. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it."

"Oh! I almost forgot to tell you about my mother making Ashcake in the ashes. She swept the hearth clean, poured the dough batter, then covered it with ashes. When it was cooked, you could scrape the crust away and the inside was pretty and white. It was good, too."

"Benton, tell me some of the things you do these days. I know you love working with wood and made almost all the furniture in your home."

"Yeh, I love working with wood. Well, I guess I did make most of our furniture. Let's see, I made the combination coffee table and bookcase, desk, lamps, clock, tables, rocking chair, a table for Claudine's sewing machine, and a few other odds and ends."

"You certainly did a fine job and have some beautiful furniture. What are some of your hobbies?"

"I like to make baskets and have made quite a few of them. Now let me show you some of my pretties. I collect wind up toys. Over on that shelf I have over a hundred small wind up toys. Now here's some of the big ones. I'll set them in the floor and wind them up for you. The kids and grandchildren always know what to get me at Christmas and for my birthday. Also I got into the plastic canvas craft lately. Here's a church and farm I made. I have to have something to keep my hands busy these winter days here in the mountains."

As you can tell Benton Wood is a busy man these days with his interests. Every Sunday finds him in Mountain View Methodist Church. If you are ever in our community on a Sunday morning you can hear an old church bell ring at ten o'clock. That means it's time for Sunday School and that will be Benton doing the pulling on the rope. He's been ringing the bell at church for the past fifteen years.

When I asked Benton if he had anything else to tell me, he replied, "I guess not. I guess it's time to turn this over to Claudine."

Now Claudine Hall Wood looks back over her life and reflects some of the good memories. She treasures her younger days and the values learned.

"I was born in 1920 in an old log house known as the Fraze Helms place located in the Mountain View Community of the Blue Ridge. My parents were Joe and Nora Hall. I have two sisters and a half brother. My twin sister Irene died very young."

"The first thing that I can remember clearly is living down near the Dark Hollow and walking up the hill with Mama to Conner's View Primitive Baptist Church. I was five years old at the time. Mama had made me a pair of black satin bloomers and I was so proud of them and wanted them to show below my dress and I did. We sat in the choir and I was so proud. My mother passed away when I was six so I cherish this memory of her. She was a beautiful lady. After that I looked to my older sister Edna for help."

"I went to Mountain View School. Miss Handy from Stuart was my first teacher. The first day I went to school she had us to go to the board and make our ABC's. I didn't know my letters and I cried. School was fun and I went through the seventh grade three times just to get to go to school."

"School lunch in my day was carried in a Karo syrup bucket. I carried milk and bread a lot. It would freeze where I had set it in the cloak room, then I would have to set the bucket on the stove to thaw my milk and bread. Sometimes I carried pancakes with fatback between them. They would be frozen and I could hardly bite them. But they were good."

"Recess and lunch was always fun. We played hopscotch in the old dirt road in front of the school house. Sometimes we played Drop The Handkerchief. I love to play the guitar, so my friend Geneva Pendleton and I played together. We would go into the woods and set on a log and play our guitars. The other children would gather around us and listen."

"I remember the Christmas tree and programs at the school. My first doll was given to me by Santa at the Christmas tree when I was in the first grade. She had on a white dress and bonnet and was wearing little shoes. It was a porcelain doll, and I loved her. She slept with me at night."

"Now Claudine, as you grew up tell me about your courting days, parties, and how you met Benton."

"Well, when I was young we had to walk everywhere. We would go to applebutter stirings, molasses boilings, and taffy pullings. It was always fun to do these things."

"I was sixteen when I met Benton for the first time. One Sunday evening I was sitting in the parlor. Benton walked through the door and turned me over in the floor out of my chair."

"Boy! I bet that made you mad didn't it?"

"No, when he picked me up, I looked into his eyes and it was love at first sight. We went together for two years. During this time most of our courting was done at home. Now Dad called bedtime at ten o'clock. He had an unusual way to let the boys know it was ten o'clock. First Dad started whittling the fire kindling for the next morning. That meant it was ten o'clock and time to get moving. If Benton didn't go right then Dad would say 'all right boys' and we only had five minutes to say good night."

"Benton and I got married at his Dad's home in front of the fireplace. Rev. Rufus Wood performed the ceremony at eight o'clock. After we had been married a week, a bunch of friends and neighbors came to serenade us. They put Benton on a fence rail and me in a washing tub, and then dropped me!"

"Our first home was at the Jim Vipperman place. We bought it. I was very busy being a home maker and started raising my family. Washing took all day and then I ironed all the next. I ironed sheets, dish towels and just about everything. We had a garden, cows, couple of hogs every year. The spring always had plenty of good cold milk for drinking. Pumpkin and apple butter was made every year. I always canned a hundred cans of green beans and about three hundred more of other vegetables and fruits. I've done a lot of work in my time, but I've never worked on a public job in my life."

"Boy! you are lucky. The way things are these days in public work, you haven't missed a thing."

"Benton has some interesting hobbies. How about you?"

"I help him with the baskets and plastic canvas and do a little crocheting. In summer we have two gardens and I love my flowers."

"Then there is my church work. I joined Mountain View Methodist Church when I was nineteen years old. There were thirteen of us baptized that day in the river on the 'Shack Conner' farm. I love my church and the people in it and teach the Primary Class. Your son, Ronald, was in my class when he was a little boy. I still play the guitar and sing with my daughters at church. My daughter Margret Ann plays the autoharp and writes songs. Jean always sings and does the talking when we go places to sing. I've been blessed with a wonderful husband, four sons, two daughters, and seven grandchildren. Now isn't that something to be proud of. The Lord has been so good to me."

"Ivalien, before you go. I want to give you this little house we made."

"Oh! I didn't expect this! How lovely, and made in my favorite color, red. You probably know red is my favorite because I'm always wearing red clothes. I certainly do appreciate this and will find a special place for it in my house. Someday, maybe I'll have time to do some of this beautiful plastic canvas craft."

Time passed so swiftly, I couldn't believe that I had been with Benton and Claudine for two hours. When I get to talking about the past days, I get so relaxed and lose track of the fast pace. Thank Goodness! I can some of the time or I don't think I could survive. You see why I'm always talking about our wonderful people here in the Blue Ridge. They are friendly, caring, sharing, and will always take time for a fireside chat. Benton and Claudine Wood are typical of our people here.