The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Strange Lesson

By Ronnie E. Knight © 1990

Issue: September, 1990

Back when I was about six or seven years old, my family lived on a farm. We lived in a rented house and my father sharecropped with an old man we called Uncle Allen. Together they raised potatoes, field corn, and beans as well as a variety of garden vegetables.

The field where the crops were planted consisted of twelve acres. Along the lower edge of the field, Uncle Allen had out a crop of buckwheat. Beyond the buckwheat were pasture fields and a large boundary of woodland.

Like most youngsters I was inquisitive and was anxious to know what buckwheat looked like. One evening I decided to go down and check on the crops and take a look at Uncle Allen's buckwheat. Grabbing my mother's old worn out broom, I got astride my make believe horse and rode across the field. The corn was well over my head and weeds were growing in a strip of ground which had been left for a road between the crops. Since it was only needed to get a team of horses and a sled from one place to another, it wasn't a very wide road.

The trip went all right going down and I was really having fun. My horse didn't buck and there was plenty of grass for him to nibble on along the way. Before long we arrived at the lower side of the field and I got a good look at the buckwheat with its white blossoms. For a little while I watched the filed of white sway in the wind and even picked a few of the flowers to see how they smelled. Satisfied, I left to go back home.

It wasn't long before trouble began - a wildcat squalled right out in the middle of the cornfield. I was so scared that the hair stood up on my head. I turned my broomstick horse loose and hightailed it back to the house. Before long I arrived at the door hollering for help. My mother came running, half scared out of her wits, to see what was wrong. She told me that I was as white as the old Maytag wringer washing machine standing on the porch. I told her about the wildcat and we went inside.

For years I thought that a Bobcat had really been in the cornfield that day. It wasn't until I was a teenager and after the death of my father that I found out that he had actually been pulling a prank on me on that eventful afternoon. It seems that Dad had decided that I shouldn't be out in the high weeds alone since there were a lot of copperheads around and that a good scare would keep me closer to the house. The scare had the desired effect; from that time on until I was old enough to be out in the woods and fields alone and knew to watch out for danger, I stayed closer to the house and usually asked permission before straying very far.