The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Papa and Mama

By Dora P. Maine © 1990

Issue: September, 1990

Papa was born in 1874 and Mama was born in 1876 in the mountain section of North Carolina. They lived their entire lives in that area. They were married in 1895.

We heard stories about their lives when they were young. Mama told about the clothes she wore. She wore at least four petticoats - all starched and ironed. These garments were ankle length. They were gathered fully to a waistband - yards and yards of white material. Her dresses were colorful and had the same billowing fullness as the petticoats. Her shoes had high tops and buttons. Her hair was cut short till she was about ten years of age. After that she could plait her hair or wear it in curls. She did not wear it short any more.

When a girl was planning to marry she worked hard to have a featherbed and two pillows ready. To do this she must pick goose feathers to fill those ticks. One morning Mama woke up to find the whole flock of geese were missing. Maybe they got tired of that plucking and flew away. The neighbors helped her to get finished. Beautiful quilts were also ready. She also had curtains and linens ready for her new life.

Social life was centered in church meetings. People looked forward to Sundays to visit with their friends and neighbors. A girl walked to church with her family and friends and her boy friend walked her home. In the evening they took the long way home to stroll through the moonlight.

Some rough fellows played dangerous tricks when they were jealous. There was a custom they called "rocking." After a boy walked his girl home they hid in the bushes to throw rocks at him as he walked to his home. Once Papa got struck in the eye. He lost sight in his right eye forever.

When they married they bought a farm and settled down and reared eleven children. There was lots of work and we each had our chores, but as I think back it seemed peaceful. The early mornings were refreshing. Breakfast was the best meal of the day. Papa always started the fires in the stoves and left for the barn to water and feed the horses and cows. Mama got busy getting food started. They had a few minutes to talk quietly and solve problems before we forced ourselves to leave our warm beds. We could hear their quiet voices.

Mama made pans of buttermilk biscuits, sausage and eggs. She made the best coffee I ever tasted in a tall enamel coffee pot. We all had to be ready to sit at that long table in that country kitchen. Of course, most of our food came from the farm. If someone dropped in at meal time we just set another plate.

It was a busy and peaceful life. Why do we call it the "good old days" when we had no TV - no washing machine - no electricity or fast moving cars? It was because we felt safe and secure and we had love.

Mama died in 1942 after forty-seven years of marriage. There must have been many tears and triumphs before eleven children grew up and spread their wings. Papa died in 1954. In 1939 we gathered back home for a family reunion. That was the last time that we were all together.