The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Little House on the Mountain - Part 3 of 4

The illustration is a drawing of the cabin the author lived in as a bride in 1940.The illustration is a drawing of the cabin the author lived in as a bride in 1940.By Naomi Dickenson Wells © 1992

Issue: January, 1992

Across the mountain from us, I guess a mile more or less, there lived another large family and we all became very good neighbors. They had a grown boy and girl, and some younger children at home. We mixed and mingled, played some music, hoed corn and picked berries together. Thought we had a courtship going a time or two. We went to church, down the mountain, and back up the mountain. Sometimes we traveled our mountain road and sometimes theirs. All of it rocky and steep.

Once their oldest daughter and I had a date with two boys from the CCC Camp which was a few miles away. She had been dating this boy and asked him to bring along one for me, which he did. They walked through the mountain to her place. I had spent the night with her so on a pretty spring morning we four walked down the tree lined rocky road about two miles or more to Sunday School. When we stopped to rest and talk, this boy would spread his handkerchief on a flat rock for me to sit on. We parted at the church and I never saw him again. He was such a nice boy.

Sometimes if Papa was going to be away for awhile, maybe all night or a day or so, we secretly invited our neighbors across the mountain to come over awhile. We would pop corn or make taffy or just sit around and talk. Sometimes we told riddles or ha'nt tales. Papa had bought us a guitar, very cheap but a pretty good instrument. When the work was done in the evenings the boys would take the guitar to our neighbors if they were not visiting us, and sit around their fire singing the songs we all knew like "Maple On The Hill," "Home On The Range," "Corina Corina," "Nobody's Darling But Mine," and sometimes a few of the old sacred numbers.

The time flew when young folks got together and it was soon time to go home. We spent many nights, however, in each others homes. We also went huckleberry picking together across another mountain and walked the top of a narrow wall which held back acres of water. I wasn't afraid then and too I wanted to show how brave I was, walking that wall. Not even a rail to hold onto. But the Good Lord spared us all and we were friends all through the years. Good friends.

At that time one could buy a good cow for twenty-five or thirty dollars, so we had two good cows. I believe their names were Roan and Flower. Old Flower was a red cow with a white face and both gave lots of rich milk. The milk gap was a long way from the house and in warm weather the milk and butter was carried to the spring around the hill

There was a box with a lid to keep dogs and wild animals out. Such good cold milk for those bread and milk suppers, and firm yellow butter. It was always my job it seemed to go to the spring for milk and butter but I loved the opportunity to just hear the birds sing or see the pretty wildflowers blooming along the path.

There were many blacksnakes and poisonous snakes too, but to my knowledge, no one was harmed by them. Once the boys went hunting and the dog, Old Snooky, bayed a rattlesnake. It sang and got away and they did too.

Summer storms were fierce and scary. From way up on top of the mountain we could see the dark clouds gathering ever so far. The wind would swoop down against the poor little cabin and the thunder, it seemed, would shake it from its foundation of rocks. Jagged streaks of lightning hit and split several locust trees, tearing them to splinters. The wind would lay the pretty corn to the ground but the powerful sun would pick it right up again. Sometimes hail would pile up in the yard and would beat the tender garden vegetables to shreds.

During the hardest part of the storm we caught the streams of water in the pans or buckets we always set out on the beds or in the middle of the floor. When the storm subsided and things had quieted down it was like music to hear the dipping of water in the vessels - drip-drop, drip-a drop. Then they were emptied till next time. Many times our dad would take us to the cellar until the storm passed. He was afraid of a storm too. The heavy rains would cut gullies down the bank into the yard and leave piles of small rocks to be picked up.

The chickens would run for shelter or an old hen with baby chicks would spread her wings, the chicks would run under them and they were safe and dry while she took a beating from the rain.

If there was only a light shower, when it was over Papa would say, "Boys, git the hoes and let's chop out that piece of corn. We'll have to chop it between showers." It didn't hurt the corn a bit.

We planted bunch beans in the garden and pole beans in the corn. The vines would be loaded with the prettiest beans from bottom to top. He called them "cut-shorts" and you talk about good eating... We'd cook a big pot of them with a hunk of fatback, scrape new potatoes which had been "graveled" and cook them on top of the beans, boil some roast 'n ears, slice juicy red tomatoes, bake some crusty cornpone and pour some fresh-churned buttermilk and who could ask for more? If we were short on milk somebody dug a nice sassafras root and we boiled down some good tea. Good fresh, sweet, warm pink tea poured from a three-quart pitcher!

Lots of food was consumed daily by our big family. That makes the memories sweet and tasty.