The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Diary Of Memories - Part 4 of 7

By Nellie Jewell Wilson © 1989

Issue: November, 1989

"A Trip In A Double Buggy"

When I was a young girl of seven, in 1917, my mother took a long trip with us children to Walnut Cove, North Carolina. We drove around 200 miles each way in a double buggy with two horses pulling it. It was a long and tiresome journey, but she wanted to visit some of her relatives and didn't have any other means of travel at the time. We would travel from day light until dark. Then at night when it was so late we couldn't see how to drive anymore, we would try to find night's lodging for us, food for our horses and food for us all. We were gone for about two weeks.

The first day we made it through Floyd, Virginia to near Woolwine and spent the first night at some of mama's kindred by the name of Zack Cockram. I remember distinctively we had left good early harvest apples at home and our fruit we had taken with us from home had run out and us children were missing our fruit already, not finding things as we expected, the apples all being late.

As I remember, they told us that at Cousin Zack's the week before, a large hoop snake had started rolling off of the mountain and stung an apple tree and caused the leaves to wilt and then rolled on to the bottom of the mountain so we children were almost scared to go out of the house. Also they had found a large rattler coiled on their door step when they opened the door to go outside one morning before we had arrived. So we were afraid to go far from the house. For a child of seven, that was a bad beginning of a vacation.

And so we traveled on day after day, visiting different people; my mama had a good determination or she might have turned back each place we stopped. They would pack us a lunch for the day and fresh water also and we would get grain for the horses and water them at nearby creeks in passing, or carry water in a bucket for them from a creek and bate them late in the evenings, giving them grass where we stopped for the night. I remember we started to cross a creek in Carroll County and almost got stuck in quicksand. In Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, we traveled on and on and we ate lots of corn, it being August. We children liked roasting ears on the cob with butter on them. My brother Ballard, fifteen years old at the time, but large for his age, had to be the driver and took care of the horses. I felt sorry for him. Sometimes he would even sleep in the hay in the barn and wouldn't hardly leave the horses. He was afraid something would happen to them. They were our only means of travel.

I remember my sister Clydie crying a lot going down, not wanting to leave home for some reason. She was thirteen years old and sang nearly all the way back. She had met up with friends and felt a lot better on her return trip. I remember one song she sung was called Old Smoky.

When we got to the end of our journey, we spent about a week at Mama's cousin's house in Walnut Cove, North Carolina, a Mrs. Murphy Morefield. I remember they were curing tobacco in an old tobacco barn and the young folks, with my brother Ballard and sister Clydie, would take roasting ears to the tobacco barn and roast them and eat it with butter until late at night, and had enjoyment and played games. I being younger, would spread out apples to dry on a hot tin roof in the daytime. It was so hot down there and the older folks pealed and sliced the apples, including my mama. I and another girl, Gladys Morefield, would climb the porch roof and spread out the apples. I was barefooted at the time and I remember the hot roof burning our bare feet. But in those days, children at the age of seven were still useful.

On our travels, we crossed a large mountain called Bull Mountain. We had left a place called Grant Pretty's place late in the evening about 6 o'clock and started up the big mountain. I remember before dark, we saw piles of little fairy stone rocks lying by the side of the road. They were in natural form and real smooth and just like little crosses. We girls thought they were beautiful and gathered some to bring home to make little lockets of. They were nearly a dark oak color of brown and such pretty shapes. We kept some for a long time.

Hard rains the week before had caused the dirt road to wash and large rocks had washed in the road so Ballard had to get out and lead the horses over the road, down the other side of the mountain and removing large boulders from the road. I don't think anyone had traveled the road for a long time. It seemed 9 o'clock that night before we had crossed the mountain and stopped at a family named Wood's place on the other side. There we learned that around 25 rattlers had been killed on that mountain the week before by people picking huckleberries. We heard the folks would wrap their legs in tree bark that had been stripped from wood some way to keep from getting snake bit and wore gloves. I sure wouldn't have wanted to pick berries in that condition, with my face down over the bushes.

At the Wood's home that night, Ballard slept in the hay and a rat ate his whole pocket out of his suit of clothes where he had wrapped up a biscuit and had it in his pocket from the day before. It ate his tie off nearly up to his neck too. It's a wonder they hadn't ate his hair or something. We had some narrow escapes on that trip. I still wonder to this day how he kept from getting snake bit leading the horses down the mountain and removing the large rocks by hand.

We would always try to get an early start from place to place and travel as far as we could each day. I remember one stop we made was at my mama's first cousin Lillie and Barzillio Salmon's, on Little Wigeon Creek in Carroll County, way up a hollow between two large mountains. There we had to remove a lot of rocks from the road where bootleggers had put there to keep law and revenue officers from coming up in there for they run large stills up in the mountains. We could see lights up in the mountains at night and if any one strange traveled the road, shots would be fired to warn people and we were met by an old man with a shotgun, wanting to know who we were.

I remember a neighbor girl and I walked up the high mountain to a watermelon patch and got one and dropped it before we could get down and busted it. We were disappointed.

I remember the last night on our trip we spent over at Pilot Mountain in Montgomery County, Virginia. We were so tired. We had traveled all day and it was getting dark and we didn't want to travel the last ten miles home so we stayed at my sister Lula's, over back of Pilot Mountain. Some of us children had to sleep on the floor because she didn't have enough bed room. But we were so tired we didn't mind. Just any place to lie down and rest was fine.

The next morning we headed for home. We were a happy family, but all our good early apples had rotted while we were gone and we missed these. But we were all happy to be home again and to find Papa, the two grandmas and the rest of the family alright. But I never forgot that trip.