The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Fears and Phobias

By Nancy B. Collins © 1989

Issue: September, 1989

I ask myself over and over why people have phobias and fears. I have many of them today. I wonder if things that happened to me when I was a child have anything to do with it today.

When I was very young, older people thought that one must go on and do the things they were afraid to do to overcome their fears. I remember some things my dad made me do that frightened me no little bit.

I remember one time when he wanted me to go with him to a mill that we had not been to in a good long time to get some buckwheat flour. We got started bright and early. My mom dressed me up in a pair of new brogan shoes and a long dress that came down below my knees and tied a little bonnet on my head. I looked more like a little Dutch girl than I did myself.

I was doing all right until we came to a big creek. The bridge had washed out and someone had cut a big tree down across the creek for people to walk across on. I saw that and it scared me. The water was deep and the log was high up off the water. I told my dad that I was afraid and could not walk across that. He said once I did it, I would not be afraid to do it again. I just cried and said I could not.

He went on across and left me and said, "Come on," and I began to cry. He said, "You might as well come on across. I am not coming back to help you."

I finally got down and crawled across. He just laughed and said, "I knew you could do it. Now that was not so bad was it?"

I cried all the rest of the way. My dad said, "What is wrong?" I said, "I don't want to ever cross that creek on that log anymore." He said, "We will go back another way."

When we finally got back home my face was all dirty and Mom ask me what was wrong, had I been crying? My dad told her all about it. She said he should have held my hand and led me across and I would not have been so afraid. He said he wanted me to do things that I was afraid to do so I would get over being afraid.

I remember another time when I was scared almost out of my wits. We lived not far from a small town called Hillsville [Virginia] where the Allens and Edwards had a shooting in the Courthouse and killed some people. I was very young and I don't remember much about the story. What I remember is the people talking about what went on. Some of them liked to say what the Allens and Edwards said when they were sentenced. "Gentlemen, we ain't a going." Then they began to shoot. I heard this over and over. All the talking so much really upset me no little bit.

One morning my dad said he had gotten a post card from a man that lived in Hillsville wanting him to come over and fix his glasses. When he mentioned this, I guessed he would want some of us children to go with him over there. Sure enough, he said, "Ella and Nancy, I want you to go with me to Hillsville in a few days."

We finally got started after things settled down and people quit talking so much. I was scared to death to go over in Hillsville. I thought Allens and Edwards were still shooting over there. No one ever said that they had been locked up. If they had, I would not have been so afraid. There was no use for us children to say we did not want to go any place when my dad said go.

We went on over to the Courthouse. My dad wanted to learn more about what went on the day of the trial. There was an old man looking after things around there and he invited us to come on in and have a seat. He went over the whole gruesome story and showed where the Allens and Edwards were when they were shooting. We stayed there a good time while I guess my dad looked in every crack and corner of that building before we left.

We finally left that terrible place and went out the old country road and found a little store and bought some sardines and crackers. Dad said, "Did you like the old Courthouse?" We knew we had better say yes. He thought it was good for us to see all kinds of things that would be history in the years to come. It took me a long time to get over that trip.

I remember another time when Dad wanted to see his cousin that lived way back in a rough section of the mountains. She and her family lived in a little log house close to a big waterfall. The water poured over some big rocks and a hill high up above her house and made a thundering noise that scared me. I was afraid dad would want to stay all night, but he finally said let's go on back. When we got out of that place, Dad said he did not even like that place she lived either. I felt like I had won in my mind, but I did not dare say anything about it.

I don't believe I was such an abnormal child. I believe if my dad had talked to me about things that I was afraid of and took me by the hand it would have helped me get through them in a better way than I had to. I guess people just did the best they knew in those days.

I found myself wanting to get away from all those things that I was afraid of doing. One day while we were in the field working, I sat down in front of an old shed that we went into when storms came up while we were working. I looked over the fields and mountains and thought I sure would like to get away from that place where there were so many things that bothered me. In a few months my dad and mom decided we would move away from there and go to Danville, Virginia. I was happy about moving until we got moved and settled down. I found out there were problems where we moved to.

There is nothing worse than poor people looking down on poor people and well, that is what happened. It took us a while to live this down. There were all kinds of loud noises - train whistles, bells, kids on the streets from morning until night. Elevators were one of the worst things I had ever heard of, but I finally got so I could ride on one. (But I still don't like them.)

One day I found myself sitting out in the back yard in the quietness of the evening looking back toward the mountains even wishing I could go back there and live. There were so many things we had to overcome living in town. We had to learn to dress like the folks that lived around us. This brought back memories of when we lived in the country. In the country we just bundled up to suit the weather, whatever it was. Children made fun of us if we did that in the city.

I am a big girl now and should not look back and wish it had been different, but sometimes I do. When I was a child growing up, there was a lot of ignorance going around in our country. Back then it was hard to be any other way. Things are better in 1989 for everyone. No one has to be ignorant if they really want to rise above it, thanks to those who let me come through.