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 5 of 5

By Dixie Lilly Jackson © 1991

Issue: May, 1991

Editor's Note... This is the fifth 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 Christmas I vividly remember getting a set of miniature dishes and pans. And the one when Inez and I got bicycles! My bike was black and Inez's was red. We were the envy of all the kids at school, because bikes were very scarce in our community. They were bought with money carefully put back by Mom and Dad from the sale of eggs, chickens and pigs. That the bikes were used did not lessen our thrill a bit. Earlier Christmases I remember homemade rag dolls with painted-on faces and yellow yarn hair. The last doll I got was a joy and I still have it, though it is cracked and has lost both legs. I can still see it as it sat beneath the tree so many years ago - in a pink lace dress with bonnet to match, white anklets, shoes and wonderful eyes that opened and closed! Inez's doll was just like mine except in blue.

One of the reasons winter was dreaded and loved at the same time, was walking to school in knee-deep snow, sorry when it was only ankle deep in places. That's when we went looking for drifts and few of them escaped being tracked through and trampled down. All of us girls loved to make "snow angels" by lying down, moving our arms from our sides over our heads a few times, then carefully getting up to admire our wings in the snow.

There was usually someone to walk to and from school with in elementary school, but high school was a different matter. The bus came along the "big road" at seven in the morning and I had to leave home at six-fifteen to be there. Walking alone in darkness, no house lights and woods on both sides, was not enjoyable. I stumbled along at considerable speed, leaping in fear at the slightest sound. I carried a light only when it was so black I couldn't see where I was going... otherwise I was afraid I would see something.

I remember one birthday when I got a bracelet with a mustard seed inside a tear-drop charm from Robert and Shirley Adkins. They lived with Aunt Amy and Uncle Res, who were not really anybody's aunt and uncle, but kids and grown-ups all called them that. I didn't know what foster parents were then, but have since realized they were the first I ever knew. They were such dear people, and the boys were nice too. On winter nights when a dozen kids were sleigh riding on the hill by their home, they'd invite everyone in for hot chocolate and popcorn balls.

Walking to Granddaddy's was lots of fun when Inez and I would go out for a play session with our cousins. The walk back home was more hurried as we always overstayed our "curfew" and could take time only to toss a few stones into the bushes to see if a rabbit would run out.

I always enjoyed walking in the woods with Daddy. He loved to just walk in the woods, but I don't think he'd have let me go hunting with him for fear I'd scare the squirrels and rabbits away. I especially remember the creek that ran through the back of our woodland. It was so quiet and cold, but I was always sure there was quicksand. I feared I'd sink to the bottom of the earth so I stepped carefully when anywhere near the creek.

One chore I really hated was gathering eggs. I was afraid the hens would peck me, so I'd sneak up behind the ones who sat with their tails out to the front, yank them off the nest and get the eggs. After forcefully removing three or four from the nests, there was such a noise the rest willingly left. Daddy asked me one day why the hens cackled so much when I gathered eggs. I'll bet he knew!

I don't remember days of the horse on our farm but was well acquainted with the tractor. Once Daddy was driving and I riding the mower when we cut a snake in two. I was amazed to discover when a snake is cut in two, all ends wiggle.

Hiding and hunting Easter eggs was a big thing for us. The favorite place to hide them was among the Easter lilies which had been planted in the shape of a big L (for Lilly, of course).

Sunday afternoons were playtime. Playing "Andy over" with Neva, Reva, Junior and the Brooks girls created much activity. I think we spent as much time searching for the ball as throwing it, for if that one was lost, it was a real tragedy and the game was over. Sundays were also when Mom would read the "funny paper" to Inez and me. She must have done that years after we could read it ourselves but it was a special time for us.

Every time I taste a wintergreen mint, I think of all the mountain teaberries Inez and I ate from the little bushes along the sides of the road on our way to the post office. And the wild grapes, too... but only after it had frosted on them.

It's amazing that five of us grew up where we could have been hurt in so many ways, but never had any broken bones, bad cuts or smashed body parts. Oh, we had lots of bruises and scrapes and I do remember going to Dr. Hubert's office the day I stuck corn up my nose...