The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Home On The Blue Ridge

By Glenna Cox Rakes © 1991

Issue: March, 1991

Nestled in the rolling hills on the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway in southwestern Virginia stands an old weather beaten house, gray, tall, and lonesome in the little green valley well away from the dusty road; the driveway is really a wide path used by horses to get to the highway. Just before you reach the house there is a little creek with a foot log in front of the picket fence surrounding the house.

The yard is filled with forsythia, wild roses, boxwoods, pretty flowers, and shrubs; the wide steps up the porch leading straight to the lazy-back chair seems to be just waiting for you.

The large front room which served as a bed/sitting room was the hub of activity next to the kitchen. It held the gate-legged table where my grandmother kept all her important papers and her Bible; nearby on the wall hung an old hand crank telephone which intrigued me greatly. One long and two short rings would reach my uncle down the road; it was fun picking up the receiver with its black string cord and just listening to the neighborhood gossip line, only you had to be very quiet about it. A few straight-backed chairs, a half bed covered with a pink chenille spread, and two oil lamps completed the furnishings in the room.

As a young child I often spent the night there. The unfamiliar sounds of the night - peep frogs croaking in the darkness, dogs chasing coons in the distance, the nightingale, the hoot owl, and even the odor of the nearest skunk family passing by - were frightening to a city girl.

I knew it was almost time to get up when I would hear my grandfather building the fire in the cookstove so my grandmother could prepare breakfast. That meant I had a few more minutes to doze.

I loved the smell of coffee perking on the big black stove and golden brown biscuits coming from the oven, ready for a slab of country butter and homemade apple butter. Good thick sausage gravy and scrambled eggs would top off breakfast. As the three of us sat around the big homemade table covered with a red checked oilcloth, I would hear them make plans for the day's work. The kitchen was a big sprawling thing, opening out into three other additions built on in which to do the baking, hold the old green pump and for storage.

The only other room on the ground floor was my grandparents' bedroom in which a large staircase ascended to the upper floor where there were two more bedrooms. Often I was allowed to sleep in the nicer of these on a feather tick. The most inviting thing about this room were the books about Dick Tracy, Blondie and Dagwood, and other favorite characters in books that had belonged to my mother and my two uncles.

What secrets would the old house tell if it could speak? I am sure that hidden within its depth are tales of deceit and intrigue; my uncle, was dumped off one night by a buddy with a bullet in his arm, never told who had crippled him, or what he had been doing to deserve being shot. Here my mother lived when she was growing up and married my father. Here, too, my grandmother turned out the many quilts, crochet pieces, and other beautiful things she made to sell. These and the farm produce were her only means of making money in those days.

The old home place is deserted now, empty of its secrets, its love, its laughter, its tears, but the memories linger on.