The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Grannie's Fireplace

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1990

Issue: March, 1990

Editor's Note... Everyone has been asking when we were going to print another of Ivalien Belcher's stories. After a long absence, we are happy to have another story from Ivalien this month. Welcome back Ivalien. We missed you.

On these cold winter nights in the Blue Ridge Mountains as I struggle to keep the wood stove going, I'm thinking of Grannie Dollie's fireplace and its wonderful memories.

The house was just the way a Grannie's home should be, but the old fireplace was my special nook. In my childhood days, I spent some cozy evenings by Grannie Dollie's fireplace.

I stayed with Grannie Dollie at night until I was married. The fireplace is where Grannie and I spent the wintry evenings. I did my homework by the old kerosene lamp and the warm glow of the fire. Grannie loved to read and was fortunate enough to have attended schools through the sixth grade. Since there were no higher grades at Grannie's school, she went through the sixth grade three times. Many a time she gave out my spelling lessons until I knew every word.

After we had conquered the spelling assignment, Grannie took up her bushel basket of quilt scraps and settled down with them until time to go to bed. She sewed pieces into squares by hand while I did my other homework.

Some nights I would like to pick out different shapes of things in the red coals, or watch the dancing flames and shadows. When Grannie took the poker and chunked the huge backstick, sparks would fly. I love to watch them.

Grannie cooked on the fireplace a lot in winter, especially supper and breakfast. Evenings she cooked hoe cake in the ashes or a pone of cornbread in a big iron skillet. It was tasty with butter or milk.

Mornings would find Grannie frying buckwheat cakes in the old black skillet set in the ashes and red hot coals. Boy! I love them with homemade butter, molasses, or Dixie Dew syrup. Even apple butter and brown sugar were good with buckwheat cakes. I tried everything.

There was always a big iron tea kettle on the fireplace in winter. I guess I was one of the few people who liked frozen apples. People have told me that frozen apples will kill you. I ate my share of them and with the Lord's blessing, have made it to fifty-six years. The frozen apples were dropped in the hot tea kettle of water. When thawed, I ate a bunch of them.

As soon as breakfast was over, I would hurry to Mom and Dad's to get ready for school. Oh! How I hated to leave that warm fireplace and my cozy corner.

The other day I fried some buckwheat cakes on top of my wood stove in the old baker (a long cast iron pan for frying pancakes). They were good, but nothing compared to the ones cooked at Grannie Dollie's fireplace.

Grannie Dollie's house still stands. Fireplaces and chimneys are still there. The young couple that own the farm now love the old house and have been doing a few things to restore it.

I'm thankful for the wonderful memories of Grannie Dollie's fireplace. As I gaze out the window at the house, I can almost see the smoke curling from the old chimney. What is that I smell? Memories are so real. I think it's pancakes.