The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Diary of Memories - Part 2 of 7

By Nellie Jewell Wilson © 1989

Issue: September, 1989

Mr. Charlie Jewell of Riner, Virginia and father of the author.Mr. Charlie Jewell of Riner, Virginia and father of the author.One cold day in mid winter, my sister Bessie and I were coming home from school walking about three miles. We passed by the big Lawrence Pond and started to skate on the ice. The sun had shown out some that day and melted the ice a little. As we were skating over near the middle, the ice cracked and down I went up to my knees in the icy water. I had to get out and walk about two miles nearly frozen with my feet and legs wet. I nearly froze to death, but it didn't even give me a cold as I remember.

We children must have surely been healthy back in those days. I imagine it was because we were used to being out in all kinds of weather feeding animals, getting in wood in snow and rain and so on.

One thing we girls would love to do, especially Bessie and I and our cousins Mildred and Roy Jewell of Roanoke was on Sunday to go over to the Cambria Station and watch the trains go by, to count the cars on each of them and also go over to the Merrimac Tunnel and watch the trains come out of the tunnel. We enjoyed going to tent meetings. Our whole family would go in a double buggy drawn by two horses, take a picnic lunch and make a day of it. I remember once losing a large bow of ribbon that I had on my hair when I got out to open the gate at a woods we called the Lawrence Woods. The next Sunday I saw a neighbor with it. I recognized it at first, but could not get my ribbon back. I was disappointed.

When we were small children at night we would run around the house and play "Blind Man's Bluff." One would count for the others to hide. We would play and change places for hours late in the evening, not realizing any danger that might have happened.

Mr. Howard's children would come down sometimes and play with us. They were our neighbors from up on the mountain above us.

Late one evening in the fall at hog killing time, we got awful excited. Our papa had about three large hogs hanging on the pole cooling out the meat when around dark we heard a large crashing noise down below us near the woods gate. It sounded like something trying to climb the gate and the planks were creaking. We were really scared. Our papa thought it was a bear, so he hastened and got the meat in the house before anything came up after it.

Sisters Bessie and Nellie Jewell in a photograph taken in 1917. Nellie Jewell Wilson is the smallest girl.Sisters Bessie and Nellie Jewell in a photograph taken in 1917. Nellie Jewell Wilson is the smallest girl.There were a lot of exciting times back in those days. One Sunday our father and Harley Bishop and our brother Ballard went out snake hunting. They climbed up the large cliffs above our house and turned the rocks over until they found thirteen snakes. As I remember there were two large blowing vipers and eleven smaller ones. Snakes were quite numerous. The largest black snake that I remember was around six feet long. A man 6 feet 2 inches tall killed one and held it up even with his head by the tail and its head touched the ground. It was some snake.

I used to enjoy hunting turkey nests. My mama and sister Clydie that lived over in the orchard at the old home place both had several turkey hens and I was generally the one that had to hunt the nest when they moved them from place to place in the woods and fields. One year I can remember finding 23 turkey nests. Sometimes my brother Frank and sister Bessie would also help, but lots of times I went alone. I got so used to the turkeys I could tell when an old hen was trying to slip off to her nest. She would try to get away from the other hens and old gobbler. I would hide where she couldn't see me and finally, up the hollow she would go or around the side of the hill where there were pine bushes. I'd slip and hide behind a pine bush when she got near her nest. She would hold her head up high and look in all directions to see if anyone saw her and finally she would slip under a pine bush on her nest. I would sit and wait anxiously in hiding until she came off of her nest and left. Then I would go to her nest and gather the eggs, always excited wondering how many there would be and being particular to leave at least two eggs in the nest. I would sprinkle a little dry grass or straw over them so she wouldn't think anyone had bothered her nest.

When mama aimed to set an old turkey hen, she would make a nice nest of straw in a turkey coop and put around 15 or 17 eggs in it and shut her up at night so nothing could break up the nest. She would leave the coop open by day so she could come out when she wanted to peck around. We children were always happy when the eggs began to hatch so we could feed the baby turkeys and water them.

One thing I remember in particular was when Mama set an old chicken on duck eggs and hatched out several little yellow ducks. The old chicken seemed real proud of them and would cluck around and scratch for them in the patches. Only one day, trouble started. The mother hen roamed down too close to the fish pond where Papa kept his carp fish. No sooner than the little ducks saw the water, they started out on the pond swimming. I felt sorry for the old hen. She ran around the pond clucking and trying to get her babies back. But they didn't come back until they got tired of swimming. I was around 9 years old then and my brother Frank was about 7. We got a lot of enjoyment out of watching the little ducks swim so we would drive the old hen down to the pond to see the babies swim. Finally the old hen got used to the baby ducks swimming and didn't cluck so hard and set on the bank pruning her feathers and picking herself while the baby ducks swam.