The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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

Lasting Love

By Ina T. Wray © 1988

Issue: October, 1988

Jennie was aware of the pendulum swinging to and fro in the old mantle clock downstairs on that particular Wednesday morning, November 5, 1919. She was dressing for a trip to the northeast town of Rocky Mount, Virginia, the nearest city to her mountain home. The house was quiet; Mama and Papa were tending chores somewhere outside. She brushed her long brown hair; then adjusted the wide brim, black felt hat on her head. With a pleased glance in the mirror, she crossed the large loft-bedroom to the stairs. As she descended the stairs, the clock struck nine.

"Get the Victrola and come on, Kitty," Jennie called to her sister, "we need to hurry so we won't miss the train. Carrying the heavy Victrola will slow us down." Two miles to Nola, commonly known as Prillman Switch, was a long way to walk even without a heavy load.

Pausing on the porch, Jennie looked at the trees in their brilliant hues. Autumn had lasted into early November and was in its final days of glorious Indian summer. The day promised to be warm and abundantly beautiful. Jennie went down the steps and around the house to the gardens where Eliza was picking turnip greens. Jennie called to her mama, "We're leaving now." The brim on her granny bonnet hid Eliza's face until she stood up. Straightening her shoulders, she wiped gritty hands on her large gingham apron that protected a dark calico dress. "Be careful now," she cautioned. "Have a good time in Rocky Mount, but be sure you don't miss the train home tonight."

When Jennie rounded the house, Kitty had just passed the barn on her way up the steep lane toward the rocky road. They often walked that way to Prillman Switch to the general store or to catch the train. Before they reached the station, the sun made them uncomfortably warm in their coats. They had worn coats because it would be cold that evening when the sun dropped behind the foothills. The road was not as shady as when it was during the summer when, in many places, the trees on each side of the narrow passage met to form a low canopy over it.

Jennie and Kitty were relieved to reach the station. When the train arrived, they boarded, selected their seats and relaxed during the thirty minute trip.

When the railway cars stopped at the Rocky Mount depot, the young ladies quickly located the jewelry store and left the phonograph to be repaired. Once rid of the cumbersome load, the two eager girls shopped in department stores, the millinery shop, and several ladies shops.

The morning soon became afternoon, food was, all of a sudden, a major concern. The blocks to Monroe's Cafe seemed rather long. A brief rest and a delicious hot meal supplied new energy for more shopping.

As the afternoon wore on, enthusiasm faded. After claiming the Victrola at the jewelry store, Kitty suggested they return to Monroe's Cafe. She was hungry. Tired feet and sluggish bodies retraced several blocks to the restaurant.

Kitty plopped down on a stool at the counter; Jennie sagged down beside her. The warmth of the steamy room felt soothing. Glancing over her shoulder Jennie saw the handsomest man she had ever seen. Modestly, she began smoothing her wind blown hair, easing the loose strands back under her hat.

Monroe, the owner of the cafe, was working behind the counter. He began chatting with the young ladies. The dark haired, broad shoulder man moved closer and joined in the conversation. Monroe introduced Woodsie Brown. Jennie casually observed his beautiful peridot colored eyes. When he smiled they sparkled like crystals.

"That's a pretty locket." he told Jennie. "Whose picture do you have in it?" Jennie opened the little gold pendant with the decorative engraving that hung from the fine gold chain around her neck. Woodsie held the shiny, round case, and inspected the picture inside. "It's my brother, Tommy," she informed him. "He gave me the locket." A big grin danced around Woodsie's ruddy face.

Time passed quickly as the three became acquainted.

"We better go to the depot," Jennie advised Kitty, "it's almost dark. We can't miss the train."

Woodsie lifted the phonograph under his arm, and followed Jennie out the door. Jennie shivered and buttoned her coat as she stepped into the chilly air.

At the station, the threesome learned that the seven o'clock train would be late. There had been an accident somewhere on the tracks. Knowing that Eliza would worry until they reached home, Jennie began to fret. It would be dark and cold walking home from Prillman Switch. Well, her high top shoes would make it easier to walk down the rutted, dark road.

It was a long wait, but Woodsie stayed with them until the engine puffed into the station. Inside the passenger car, the girls collapsed into their seats. Woodsie placed the phonograph in a seat across the aisle from them, bent over and whispered to Jennie that he would see her Saturday. The whistle blew, and he waved good-bye from the platform as the train chugged away from the terminal. It was almost eleven o'clock when the young women reached home.

Saturday morning came and Jennie's heart flip-flopped when she heard the long whistle of the locomotive in the hills south of Nola. Believing Woodsie would be getting off the train at Prillman Switch, she wondered how long it would take him to walk from the depot. Nervously, she busied herself near the front door to watch for him.

After the longest time, she saw him as he paused at the entrance of their lane. Jennie was not the only one who saw him. Eliza saw him and asked Jennie if she knew who he was. Jennie's mother's long, gray hair pulled into a chignon on the back of her head accentuated her round, tanned face, which at the moment was pinched from squinting at the six foot stranger.

"I don't know who he is," Jennie meekly fibbed. How could she explain the way she met Woodsie? She never took her eyes off him as he ambled down the hill toward the house.

All the while, Woodsie Brown was observing the picturesque landscape. The little log house with white washed chinking and shiny tin roof, was built with a porch across the front. The cabin nestled in the hollow, with the rock chimney on the left side, was framed by trees growing on the incline some distance from the rear of the house. In the far distance, a ridge from the chain of the Blue Ridge Mountains formed a semi-circle at the skyline. A few yards from the house, on the downward slope, was a fresh spring bubbling sweet, cold water.

Woodsie hesitated again as he reached the barn which was about halfway between the house and the road. Then he disappeared inside. Papa was working in the barn, and Woodsie had seen him.

Later on, Papa brought Woodsie to the house. "Eliza," he called to his wife, "we have company for dinner. This is Mr. Brown. He has come to see Jennie. Put a plate on the table for him."

The family gathered around the long table, which was in the middle of the kitchen, loaded with home grown food. Four cane bottom chairs were placed at the table, one at each end and two to the opposite side of the long, homemade bench. The kitchen was warmed by the fire in the wood burning cook stove.

After dinner, Woodsie and the twenty-two year old, blue eyed Jennie walked over the farm and trough the orchards now naked of their leaves. They talked about themselves, sharing thoughts, ideas and dreams.

The November afternoon was chilly, but love blossoming in their hearts made them warm and happy.

When the sun dropped behind the mountains, casting long shadows down into the hollow, the fire in the fireplace was cozy and inviting. Finding themselves alone while the other family members tended to outside chores and prepared supper, the courting couple embraced and Woodsie kissed Jennie for the first time.

A kerosene lamp was lit after supper. The reflections off the smooth, white washed walls, along with the flames from the open fireplace, lightened the cheery sitting room. Family talk and fellowship lasted until bedtime.

Snuggled deep in her feather bed, Jennie could not get to sleep. Her mind flipped like pages of a book being turned by the wind. Events were moving too rapidly; Woodsie had stolen her heart.

Woodsie spent most of the morning in the barn with Papa. Jennie was brushing her hair when Woodsie came from the barn. He went through the sitting room, across the breezeway into the kitchen where Eliza was.

Woodsie slipped his arm around Eliza's waist. "Mrs. Wray," he placidly stated, "I want to marry Jennie."

"No!" she exclaimed, "You can't have my baby." But she knew differently. He had already asked Abner while they were in the barn.

All too soon the day ended and Woodsie left to catch the train back to Rocky Mount.

Thursday night Woodsie arrived on the seven o'clock train.

Friday morning brought excitement in the Wray home. Pertly, Jennie and Kitty dressed for a junket with Woodsie to the southeast city of Martinsville, Virginia to shop for Jennie's wedding outfit. The larger town would offer more choices for such a special occasion.

The fine shops displayed exquisite fashions. The bride to be selected a stylish ankle length, long sleeved brown satin dress with a fichu collar. The hat she chose was black velvet with a wide brim.

Their shopping completed, they stopped at the studio to have their picture taken for the memorable event.

Saturday, November 15, 1919. The Wray household was up early. The soon to be bride took special care dressing in her beautiful wedding clothes. She laced her high top shoes with never a thought of her dislike for them.

Eliza hugged and kissed her daughter as the bride and groom were leaving. Again, Jennie was aware of the clock striking nine. Abner shook Woodsie's hand and wished them God's blessings.

After arriving in Rocky Mount by train, Woodsie, Jennie, and Kitty made their way to the Franklin County Courthouse to get the license and marriage certificate. There Woodsie's sister and brother, Beulah and Edgar Brown, met them. Beulah had Jennie a cape jasmine corsage, which she pinned to her dress.

The wedding party walked to the home of Randolph Perdue, the Primitive Baptist minister of Rocky Mount.

At two o'clock the minister's wife began playing wedding music on the old pump organ. What she played has been forgotten, but probable the live songs of that day, Oh, Promise Me and I Love You Truly. Beulah and Edgar stood beside the bride and groom as their attendants. There in the parlor of the minister and his wife, Woodsie Brown led his wife, Jennie Wray, to the alter where two became one.

After the ceremony, Woodsie took Jennie to meet his mama and daddy, Martha Ann and Johnson Brown. Their wedding night was spent with his parents in their home in Rocky Mount.

On Sunday the newlywed couple went back to her home. Eliza had prepared a wedding feast for supper that night.

Jennie and Woodsie Brown lived their life together, almost sixty years, near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Woodsie died on July 21, 1979. Jennie is still living and resides in Stanleytown, Virginia.