The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Bibb's Place

By Edith B. Albertson © 1988

Issue: January-February, 1988

Paul, me and Paul's little brother and Major. Taken at the Bibb's Place.Paul, me and Paul's little brother and Major. Taken at the Bibb's Place.The happiest time of my childhood was when I was five years old and we lived in East Radford, Virginia. In the spring of 1922 my father, Reverend Baud B. Bulla, was called to pastor a small church there. We drove up from North Carolina in an open touring car that had snap-on curtains with isinglass windows. When the weather was bad and those curtains were put up, we children would "scrooch" under a lap robe in the dark cave of the back seat and go to sleep.

When we first arrived we stayed with various members of the congregation. One family had a little boy about my age and we became fast friends and constant playmates. His name was Paul Hensley and I've often wondered if he is still alive and if he remembers, what to me was, a wonderful summer. I liked it when we stayed at his house. They had a player piano that was a source of fascination. I'd never seen a player before and never tired of watching the rolls of punched paper turn slowly while the keys went up and down all by themselves. I believe someone had to pump the foot pedals to make it work. Another family had a big new house and I wanted to know why we didn't go there. Mama said it was because they had bed bugs.

On a hill near the Hensley's was a large old house known to everyone as "The Bibbs' Place." Mr. and Mrs. Bibbs spent the winters in living quarters over a store they owned in town. That spring they decided to stay on and let the preacher and his family live in their farm house while a parsonage was being built. (I suppose it really wasn't a farm, but a big homeplace out a ways from the center of town.) I don't know what my two older brothers and sister remember of living there, but to me it was a place and time of discovery bordering on magic.

The Bibbs' left a horse, a cow and a big shepherd named Major. The dog and I immediately belonged to each other. I think Daddy looked after the horse and Mama the cow. There was always butter and cream and milk in the cool spring house.

Strawberries grew so big, just one would fill a little peanut butter glass. There was a cherry orchard, a peach orchard, an apple orchard and pear and quince trees. I must have eaten more outdoors than I did at the table. There was an apple I've never seen since but I still remember the wonderful taste of it. Its skin was streaked and its meat had translucent spots all through it. There was an Indian Peach that was red inside and out. I ate tomatoes right off the vine, chewed rosy stalks of rhubarb that grew along the kitchen yard fence, and even tried the quince but didn't appreciate that fruit until Mama made quince jelly.

Most astounding was the huge white cherry tree. Someone said the year before it yielded twenty bushels of cherries. Back in North Carolina in the third grade, I told my classmates about those great cherries and our teacher said that there was no such thing as a white cherry. That was my first recognition that teachers didn't know everything.

In the fourth grade I had a letter from Paul and that was the last time I heard from him. He and I played in the pasture, on the fences and climbed the smaller trees. Sometimes my brothers would let us play "Moonshiners and Revenuers" with them out in the woods beyond the orchards. The game was to gather stuff for a "still" and hide it where the "Revenuers" couldn't find it. When Paul and I were the "Moonshiners," my brothers always found our old pots and bottles.

I even had a special dress that summer. Mama had it made when I was invited to a birthday party in town. I usually wore hand-me-downs or things my not-so-good-a-seamstress Mother put together. My special dress was white poplin with a Bertha collar and a wide pink sash. The scallops on the collar and on the bottom of the dress were edged in pink. It made me feel pretty. It was a "little girls only" party. We drank cocoa from small tea cups, ate dainty cookies and played with our hostess' dolls. She had many dolls and a baby carriage, a cradle and a baby doll bed and I thought they must be very rich people.

Carefree and protected by fences, I had not yet encountered and feared the cows and bulls that roamed loose all over town. Daddy said Virginia didn't have a stock law. People let their cattle out in the morning to graze along the grassy lanes and drove them home in late afternoon. It was later that I came to be frightened of a horribly scarred cow. Some old lady had sloshed boiling water over it when it wouldn't stay out of her garden.

The only chore I remember having was wiping the dishes while my sister washed. I had all the time in the world to explore the fields, woods and garden. I found jack-in-the-pulpits, wild roses, clumps of moss and little green curls that grew on the grape vines. And I had lots of time to just play on the porch with Major nearby. He was an old dog and his romping days were over.

September came, the parsonage was finished and we moved into town.

That summer had only as many days as all other summers but in retrospect it was a big beautiful chunk of my childhood.

Would that every kid could spend a summer at a "Bibb's Place!"