The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

I Wonder Why?

By Nancy B. Collins © 1990

Issue: April, 1990

I have searched all the avenues of my life and have come to the conclusion that the happiest days of my life were when we lived back at Meadows of Dan in the Mountains of Virginia. There just isn't any place quite so beautiful that I know of. This was the place I spent my childhood days. I did not know anything that went on outside of my little life.

There were seven of us children. With all of our cuts, bruises and problems, we ran to Mama. She reached out her big arms and took care of us like an old hen with her little brood.

When bad thunder storms came, we would sit down at her knees. I knew she was afraid of lightening and storms. She tried to hide that from us, but some way we knew she was afraid. My dad did not seem to be afraid of anything, but inside I believe he was. In those days in that country, men were supposed to be real he-men and not afraid of anything. When he got nervous he would go to the cupboard and get his bottle and take a snort. They would say this kept down colds and snake bites.

I remember a time in March we had a bad winter storm. We let all the little animals such as cats, dogs and some chickens come in the house to keep from freezing. Most of them were pets and we did not mind staying in the house with them, all but the cleaning after them. Most of the bad storms only lasted a few days.

There was an old stable that had a big shed built off of the back. When all the cows and horses got in that shed, they could keep warm enough to do. After bad storms the birds came out looking for food. We would feed them scraps from the table.

I remember many things that went on while we lived near Meadows of Dan at a place called Maple Shade. There was an old lady who lived across the way from us. She lived with her granddaughter. Sometimes she would come over and want to spend the night. She did not like us children, nor did we like her either. Once my oldest sister Mattie told her, "You didn't really want to stay. We got bed bugs." Some of the rest of us said, "Yea, we got bed bugs and lots of them." The old lady said, "Lord, I don't want them. Guess I better go on home." Mom really got after us for telling stories. She said, "You know we don't have bed bugs!" I told Mom that I didn't like the old lady. Mom said she didn't like her much either, but we should be nice to her. My Mom hated bed bugs and all other pests that were around. She worked hard to keep a clean house.

We children told stories and got into just about every mean thing we got a chance to get into. I guess we were normal children. We got whippings and scolding's week in and week out.

There was an old man who lived on the property over the hill from ours. We would slip over and steal his peaches from the time they shed their bloom until they got ripe. We would put on our dad's old big shoes hindside before and tie them tight on our little feet and no one could tell which way we were going. We never were caught. If we had been caught we would have got one more spanking.

There was a time we got a really bad spanking. My dad had to go to Stuart on business and he met another man that raised tobacco. He gave Dad what they called a hand of tobacco which was all twisted up sort of like a hand. Dad rolled it up in a wet cloth and got it damp and unrolled it. Then he put some honey on it and rolled it back up and hung it up in the kitchen. When it was dry, we slipped some of it and got some old newspaper and some matches and went out back of the stable. We crumbled up the tobacco and made us some cigarettes. We smoked some and got sick and let the fire get in the dead grass. The stable was just about to catch fire. We ran into the house and told Mom a fire was burning out back of the stable which might burn the stable down. She told Dad. He made us carry water from the creek which was a good ways away. When the fire was out, we really got a spanking. We did not do that any more.

There is a saying - "You must have learned that out back of the barn." We learned one thing - that cigarettes and tobacco can make one sick. The spanking taught us that we needed to be punished for doing wrong.

There was a swamp a good ways out from our house. Mom and Dad said don't ever go near that place. They said there were the worst kind of snakes in there and sink holes all over the place. Large bushes and touch-me-nots grew tall all over the place. There was a rail fence all around the place to try and keep people from going near the place. We children would slip off and go to the swamp and walk on top of the rail fence and sit on the fence, watching to see what we could see. I don't see why we did this unless it was just because our parents said not to go there.

There is something about children that when you say "no, you must not do that," that makes them want to see why for themselves.

I believe children are no different in 1990 than they were back when I was a child in 1910. They still want to see for themselves why they are not supposed to do something. This goes back to Adam and Eve.