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 4 of 5

By Inez Lilly Depriest © 1991

Issue: April, 1991

Editor's Note... This is the fourth 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

One of my first memories is of taking an unauthorized trip. I was about five and one of my favorite things was to go over to where the big old sow was and scratch her with a stick. When she saw me coming with my stick, she would flop over on her side and I would sit on her. I'd scratch and she'd grunt. That day I got tired of scratching her and decided the dog and I would take a walk. We went to Grandaddy's house but when Aunt Bertie discovered no one knew where I was, she gave me a lecture and sent me on my way back home. I had to pass one house on the way back and felt I should visit those people. That's where Jean and Z.C. found me when they were sent looking. I almost landed in big trouble for that one.

When Jean and Juanita wanted to go somewhere and didn't want me tagging along, they would ask Mom in pig Latin. I finally mastered their language though.

Dixie and I had the job of washing and drying the supper dishes while Mom went to milk. One evening we thought it would be a good joke if we made her think we had not done them. We washed and dried all the things and piled them back in the dishpan on the end of the cookstove. Mom didn't think it was funny at first and almost got us with the apple butter paddle before we convinced her they were clean. Mom insisted the dishes be scalded between washing and drying - not simply rinsed with hot water but scalded. When we'd try to hurry, she'd call from the next room, "Girls, that kettle isn't singing right yet. Let it get hotter!"

When Daddy and Z.C. built our cellar, they put a room over it and that was our playhouse. Kids would walk for miles to play with us. Nobody else had a real house for their playhouse.

Z.C. had to clean the chicken house out one day and he wasn't happy about it. I was having a great time sticking my head around the door and laughing at him. He didn't throw anything out for a while and when I peeped around, he threw a big shovel full right in my face. He told Mom it was an accident, but I think he lied!

In winter, kids for miles around would gather at the Adams Hill to sleigh ride. It was a long, steep hill with a turn near the top and a big turn at the bottom, so kids were scattered all over the road frequently. We'd carry water and pour it on the road down the other side where it came off Route 60, so the school teacher's car couldn't get up the hill. Then the teacher got wise and put a cot in the bell room so she could spend the night when the weather was bad. When we started high school it was a lot easier. We just did a lot of sleigh riding and our bus couldn't make it up the long side of the hill. It was really great when the snow got so deep it covered all the fences. Then it would sleet and we could walk on top. We'd take the sled to the top of the hill-field and ride all the way to the barn. The sled belonged to Z.C., who got it one year for Christmas. It was a small sled but a good one - lasted through all of us kids and our friends. Years later Mom told us it came from Sears and cost eighty-eight cents.

One afternoon some of us got kicked off the high school bus for singing too loud. We started hitch-hiking up the Slim Dixon Hill but weren't doing much good. That hill was so long and steep, the big gasoline tank trucks barely crept up it, so we decided to get on the back of one that was coming up. We just got situated on the bumper and what came up behind us but Mr. Campbell's pickup truck and Daddy was with him. Boy, did I get a lecture that evening. Don't think I ever got kicked off the bus again and I know I never rode on another gasoline truck.

I was about twelve when Daddy got a tractor. Not many people had a tractor and we were very proud of it. We never had a car, so we used the tractor like one sometimes. I liked to haul hay. One day Dixie and I had the trailer piled high. She was riding on top and when I went over a bump and hay toppled off with Dixie under it. Mom and I dug her out and got the hay put back on but she wouldn't ride again. When Dad and Mom worked in the fields, she'd ride whatever Daddy was pulling, bouncing around and hanging on for dear life as they went tearing along. So far as Daddy knew, that tractor had two modes: top speed or stop! Boulders, ditches, and other hazards, he ignored. Z.C. taught me to drive it and I taught Dixie. Both were near disasters, but Dixie was more spectacular. I was standing on the back and when I told her to push in the clutch she pushed the governor wide open. We ran into the trailer, which was parked in the shed, and pushed it halfway out the side of the barn. I got the switch turned off before we demolished the entire structure.

That barn - what a marvelous place when it rained! I'd climb into the loft, snuggle down in the hay and listen to the rain on the tin roof. The whole world was tranquil; I've never had another experience like it.