The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Growing Up On A Farm - Part 2 of 5

By Regina Lilly Rider © 1990

Issue: September, 1990

Editor's Note... This is the second installment of a five part series, "Growing Up On A Farm." Each installment was written by a different Lilly sibling as follows:

Part 1, written by Juanita Lilly Evans
Part 2, written by Regina Lilly Rider
Part 3, written by Zed C. Lilly, Jr.
Part 4, written by Inez Lilly Depriest
Part 5, written by Dixie Lilly Jackson

I barely remember living at The Campbell Place and my two definite memories are not happy ones. Juanita and I were sent to bring in some wood and as I gathered up my load, I picked up a snake! Then the time I was riding on top of a sled-load of fodder when the load shifted and some of the fodder fell off, me under it screaming at the top of my lungs.

Living at Granddaddy's house is much clearer. There was a big maple tree at the end of the yard and when we heard the katydids holler in the evening, we'd go and touch the tree and they'd stop. I recall sitting in Granddaddy's lap, looking out the window at the fat snowflakes falling. I had such a warm, happy feeling. Once I had a loose tooth and Granddaddy said I could have his Victrola if I'd let him pull it. I was afraid it would hurt and refused.

I loved the summer except for thunderstorms, snakes and especially stinging worms. We were always barefooted and I must have stepped of on hundreds of those wretched things in the sandy holler. I was also afraid an airplane would fall on me and there seemed to be more of them in summer.

Granddaddy had a yoke of oxen. I was afraid of them, too. One evening I went to the barn and when I opened the door, there stood one of them in the main part where he shouldn't have been. I flew home to tell someone. Gran also had a team of horses named Bert and Jim. I think they were the only animals that didn't scare me, but they were awfully big when I was put on the back of one.

From my earliest memory, summer was a very busy time, even for us kids: hoeing and weeding in the garden, in the cornfield, and canning all sorts of stuff. I think the only foods we had to buy at the store were sugar, meal and flour. Sometimes, we took corn and buckwheat to the mill. For a year or two we used molasses instead of sugar. We always had to buy wheat flour but the buckwheat flour made fantastic pancakes. In addition to canning things from the garden, we also picked blackberries, strawberries, and cherries which Mom canned, preserved, jammed and jellied. Juanita and I had to stand on boxes or chairs to reach the pan of hot soapy water on the stove and wash the cans and lids. Our hands were small enough to be sure the cans were clean. At the beginning of each canning season, all that had to be bought were new rubber rings, for the cans were always opened carefully so as not to damage the heavy metal lids.

One time Mom and I were picking blackberries and had just crossed over the fence where the berries were bigger. Mom thought the buck sheep wasn't close around but then we heard his bell and he was RUNNING. I don't remember how I got back across the fence but Mom came through a tiny hole she wouldn't even have considered under different circumstances. We kids used four-pound lard buckets to hold what we picked, but the grown-ups used the big eight-pound ones. We wore belts and the end of the belt was put through the bale on the bucket, leaving both hands free to pick. Even with two hands, my bucket filled slowly - I was a better eater than picker. When I picked cherries, both hands were used to hold on, so I wasn't very productive except in a couple of trees where the limbs were the proper size and spaced just right. Sometimes, people would come and want to get cherries and would give Mom part of what they picked. Everyone loved jam made from elderberries. The bushes were so tall, the kids couldn't pick the huge bunches hanging there, so our job was to pull the tiny berries off the big stems and make sure none of the little stems or any "critters" got into the pot. I hated stink bugs!

In late fall, Daddy would dig a big hole in the garden, line it with straw and then put potatoes, turnips and lots of our Johnston Winter Apples in the hole and cover it up. When it was finished, it looked like a huge ant hill, someone would go out, shovel off some snow, dig out whatever she wanted, and cover it back up.

In summer, our milk and butter were kept in the springhouse. I loved to go in because it was cool, but hated the frogs and occasional snakes that were there.

I remember our first radio. We used to go to Miller's house to listen to The Grand Old Opry, but now we didn't have to walk back home in the dark when it was over. Does anyone remember how scary a screech owl's call on a lonely road at night is? I get goose bumps just remembering. Our radio was ordered from Sears Roebuck and it used batteries as we didn't have electricity. The batteries had to be ordered too, so we couldn't leave the radio on all the time.

The top annual event was Home Coming at the Methodist church. We went to Sunday School at Minnie Bell, the Baptist church, and then on to Bethel for preaching and "dinner on the ground." Sometimes, I got a new dress for the occasion. I had never seen so many people, and it was a very exciting time.