The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

I Remember

By George E. Jackson © 1992

Issue: February, 1992

We moved from Brush Creek to Max Meadows [Virginia] about 1920, '21. I was about seven or eight years old. The iron furnace in Max Meadows was still a booming concern. I often sat up in the windows of the school house and watched the steam and different things that went on down there with the little dinky engines. But every year about Christmas time we would go back to Brush Creek to visit my folks.

My Granddaddy was still living and we'd probably stay a week or two until sometime about the fifth or sixth of January and come on home. One time it was extremely cold while we were up there. We called ahead to Austinville and they said that there was a channel cut in the ice through the New River for the ferry boat. Well, we got on the little Cripple Creek Train, it wasn't the New River Train, but the Cripple Creek Train and rode from Cripple Creek down to Austinville. When we got there, the river was froze solid, I guess, over a foot deep. We had to walk across. There was three of us boys, my little sister had been burned up on Brush Creek in a fireplace. There was three of us boys and we didn't mind it a bit, but Mama was nervous.

I noticed there were some skaters in the distance. They weren't too close to us, but I figured out later that they were close enough and they were watching us in case we fell, or in case something happened, they could get us out of there.

Talking about trains, would any of you reading this remember the little train that headed up out of Pulaski and went through all the little towns along the way, Allisonia, Hiawassee, and Ivanhoe, Austinville, Jacksons Ferry, Fries Junction, Cripple Creek and sometime before that on up to Speedwell. We used to love to ride that train. There used to be a person by the name of Henry Whitiker that would ride it occasionally. He was the best on a french harp of anybody I ever heard. I remember the towns and things it went by. We called it the Cripple Creek Train.

We'd go across that mountain between Brush Creek and Cripple Creek and spend a few days over in there, but it was sure fun riding that train. It was the main thing up in that area because there wasn't many cars and everything had to come out by train. All of the old stations are gone now. Whenever I look through the fields at the cuts where the train once ran, it reminds you of the old times.  Some of the places are still standing - Beverly Mills, right in Cripple Creek, and some of the old furnace houses at Cripple Creek up Lucas Row and Red Row and the old Pound Furnace. But so many of the things are gone, except in our memories.  We still have the memory of the good old times that happened years ago - molasses and apple butter, and everybody was raising a little buckwheat and cane. And everybody loved everybody. Everybody enjoyed being together. They would go for miles just to talk and stay the night. People had their fiddles, banjos and guitars and they'd get together and really have fun. Now there's not enough of it done to amount to anything. TV's taken the place of all that.

Editors Note... Mr. Jackson is so right. Today TV has replaced one on one socializing with an electronic reality that is as far from real life as the canned laughter of a sitcom is from the smile and friendly laughter of real friends. Nothing can ever take the place of good folks sharing stories, old memories and laughter with each other.