The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Diary of Memories - Part 6 of 7

By Nellie Jewell Wilson © 1990

Issue: February, 1990

A Fishing Trip; early one Saturday morning, my brother Frank and I went with my oldest brother Ballard and his wife, Rosa, on a fishing trip over on Brush Creek. We had to get an early start for we knew the day would get hot. We climbed Pilot Mountain [in Montgomery County, Virginia] and then down the other side about four miles in all to the creek. We each took turns carrying the picnic basket that Aunt Rosa had prepared for us.

When we arrived, Frank and I slipped off our shoes and waded in the good cold water with our bare feet. We baited the hooks and fished for hours trying to catch the big suckers that lay in the shard of the banks of the creek. We caught some.

When the sun got high in the sky, we knew it was time for lunch. Aunt Rosa spread out a little white table cloth on the green grass in a good shady cool place and spread out our lunch. She had good soft biscuits with fried chicken in them, a nice good soft pound cake, red ripe tomatoes, good yellow transparent apples, a good jar of coffee, cucumbers sliced - just a real good lunch packed with cold milk and lots of goodies, cookies and so on.

We fished some more after lunch and continued wading in the creek until late in the evening when we started home.

We had all had an enjoyable day, but we were real tired when we reached home. We remembered that fishing trip for a long time to come. We meant to go again, but never got the chance.

A Watermelon Feast; late in the summer, on Sunday evenings, Papa would take us children to a watermelon patch over on Little River. We would bring them home and cool them in our good cold deep spring. Then before dark, we all gathered on the front porch and had a good watermelon feast, maybe 15 or 20 of us, all enjoying it all. Those were the good old days, back in the 20's when all the children were at home with Mama and Papa and all one big happy family at home together.

Late one evening, Bessie and I were driving down the two horses from the pasture and they had gotten in Papa's millet patch up on the pine woods hill near the big oxheart cherry trees. We were running the horses out of the millet when we passed an unusually large clump and there must have been a rattler in there for a whole clump of some rocks jarred, scaring us. We had known there had been copperheads on the place, but not rattlesnakes. It was hot and coming up a storm, so we hurried home. Lucky to have not gotten snake bit, we didn't get close to that particular spot anymore.

In the late summer months, I believe in August, Papa would have bushels and bushels of Elberta peaches to sell. We children would have to help pick these for market.

After we would finish for the day, we would hurry down the middle ridge above the house to a favorite rock we called the old rocking chair and bring peaches with us. We would take turns sitting in the "chair" as we called it, eating peaches and throwing seeds down the hill. Everything we aimed to do, we would get enjoyment out of playing in the end. It made life worth living. I believe if children were like that today, there wouldn't be so many spats. Nearly every tree and rock in the mountains held some mystery for us and in the fields also.

In February and March, when the new baby lambs came, we children would have to raise one or two on a bottle. This would be a job every morning and night, holding the bottles for the lambs before going to school. We would generally be in a hurry and dread this job, but our pet lambs had not been fed, so we came upon a bright idea. We had a pet cow we called Old Daisy. She was unusually gentle so Bessie and I tried letting one lamb nurse the cow. She had a new calf, so we just put the lamb on the other side. After a few times holding it, it would always know where to go get its dinner. When selling time came for the lambs in June, our pet lamb was larger than the rest. Mama wanted to know why and we told her it had been nursing Old Bessie, the cow. We all had a big laugh.

When Mama sold the lambs, she would ride in the buggy, behind the sheep, and some of the menfolk, usually my brother Ballard, would help keep the lambs in the road until we got to the weighing scales where the lambs would be weighed for the market. We would usually dread this day for we would have to part from our pets, but we knew there would be another year and more pets that the old sheep wouldn't claim.

When sheep shearing time came each year, we would have to drive the big sheep up in the barns and Mama and Ballard would do the shearing with hand shears while we children would have to hold the old sheep down for them to shave. There would usually be around 13 or 14 ewes and the old buck. We were generally afraid to hold him, but would tie his feet and hold his horns until they finished shearing him. Mama would sell the wool each year when she sold the lambs at lamb market.

One winter day when we were going to school, my brother Frank tracked a rabbit where it had gone up under the bank of the branch and saw its breath hole in the snow; he slipped and caught it and put it in the corn crib and thought it would be there when he came home from school. Instead when he got home, it had climbed the slats in the corn crib and got out under the roof and hopped down in the snow and took off again up the hollow.

It was so late by the time we got our evening chores done that we couldn't track it anymore, so our rabbit was gone. We were glad when a new skift of snow came and we could look for another, but never did find one. We enjoyed getting out and tracking them in the snow.