The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Diary Of Memories - Part 5 of 7

By Nellie Jewell Wilson © 1989

Issue: December, 1989

"Hornet's Nests, Caves and Christmas"

Every year the hornets would build a large nest up in the attic by the window. After it frosted in the fall and all the hornets left their nests, we girls would look for large hornet nests in the fields and carry them home to hang in our room. We would be sure the bees were all gone first. Children do funny things. Sometimes we would keep these for weeks, admiring them because it was something different.

When I was 13, my sister Bessie, Mildred and Roy Jewell and I and Ballard, my brother, took Papa's sixty foot ladder and tied its top around to a locust tree nearby and started our descent down into a cave that had fallen out in the hill above Mama's house. We didn't realize the danger we took, as it was a new cave and no one had climbed down in it before. We climbed to the end of the 60 foot ladder, then on big rocks, down another 20 feet or more to a large room that had a solid bottom. It was real pretty and level and little rocks that looked like ice crystals hung down from the roof, with ice cold water dripping from them. We broke off a few of these. Then we saw another entrance by the lantern light. We could reach through this into a pond of cold water. We got scared and came out, thinking that the bottom might drop out from under us.

It was a long climb up, I being the first to get out and breathe a sigh of relief to be out in the open again. We children were always taking chances, but to this day, we always believed there to be several rooms under that hill, but no one has been down there since. It was probably the entrance to a beautiful cave. Over on the big spring hill below the house, I believe there to be another cave, for when it came enough rain to bring the spring to, water just roared out. When my papa was young, he put a bunch of hay or straw in an old pond called the sink hole and late that evening, it had come under the large hill and out the other side of the old spring hill. So that proved the hill to be hollow. We heard caves are in limestone rock.

We would love to gather the pretty poplar flowers from the poplar trees and put them in our play houses when we were real young. We liked green moss too. I remember one kind in particular we called reindeer moss, as it looked like reindeer horns with little knobs on them. Bessie and I would get acorns with buttons on them to put in our play house. We would call these our cups and saucers.

At Christmas time at school, we were all excited when the teachers began decorating the rooms for Christmas. We would exchange names at school in a drawing so each child would get a present. In the end we would get several, anywhere from pretty silk handkerchiefs to pretty hair ribbons and large sticks of candy and so on, from the small tree in our room to the large tree in the auditorium. We would get a box of candy and were always so excited to get home and see what the others had received.