The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Alice The Ridgerunner

By John W. Stoneberger © 1992

Issue: April, 1992

Alice Lam in 1944.Alice Lam in 1944.Editor's Note: I am sorry to say Alice Elizabeth Lam died January 28, 1992, before this story could be published. She was seventy-three years old. John Stoneberger wrote after she died saying, "The funeral home was five miles west of Elkton, Virginia. On a hill, I noticed the funeral procession going into town and cars still coming from the home. Alice was as plain as I describe her, full of mountain wit and humor, and one of the best do-gooders I ever met. She was my right arm in family history, pictures, information. She was in need of a gall stone operation and was so large the doctor asked her to lose weight so he could use the new method. She lost 40 pounds and had a heart attack."

Most everything I write for publication in mountain memories pertains to Lewis Mountain, and my articles wouldn't be complete unless I mention Alice the Ridgerunner. She is a chip off the old block, Cora V. Roche, "The Lewis Mountain Widow," who was our grandmother. As I tell the truth about the chip, it will sound more like fiction than truth.

When Alice was a little girl, she was a typical tomboy. Her folks enjoyed visiting Grannie Roche who had a little pet sow with four or five pigs. The pet sow was friendly and loving. She lived around the grassy yard and walked through the spring branch water and appeared as clean as a pin.

Alice was four years old and she had learned to ride the sow as the pig went around the yard or searching for food in the meadow. It seemed the sow and pigs enjoyed the play as much as Alice did. Lunch time came for the little pigs one day and the mother lay down on the clean grass and stretched herself out so the pigs could nurse. Alice knew it was the right time to make the other children laugh, so she pretended she was a pig and would eat with them. This caused much laughter and made Alice's day.

At the South River picnic ground on the Skyline Drive at a Roche Reunion some 60 years later, someone told the story of Alice and the pigs, and asked Alice if the story was true. Alice said, "Yes, it is true. And it was good too!" This brought about the most joyful laugh of the day, which Alice was an artist at.

In the fall of last year, Alice was real sick for a while. When I went to see her she was some better. She went on to say how nice and loving the neighbors, church and kin folks had been to bring her gifts of special food, flowers, with prayers and compassion. Then came her line, "Why, being sick wouldn't be bad at all if you just didn't have to feel so bad..." This is real mountain humor. Later she found out she needed a gall stone operation.

Then she wrote and told me about someone who broke in a home in the area and took a lot of valuables while the people worked a night shift. She went on to say she didn't mind going to the hospital for the operation, but she didn't like to leave her home with no one there. Then her line, "Suppose someone broke in my home while I was in the hospital and got my rag pile. Why, they could get on my sewing machine and make a half a dozen quilts and I wouldn't be able to tell they had been there and got anything. Wouldn't that be terrible... Alice was a worker and loved to sew. She made quilts by the hundreds. Her supplies took up a big part of a room. That is what she called her rag pile.

At one time she had seven sick, aged invalids, or handicapped people that she washed their clothes, carried them food, cut their hair, prayed with them, and did whatever she could to help them, and would never take any money for her services. Once an extra large man who ran a service station grocery store with a carry-out beer business needed her help as a live-in nurse. He told her all went well until he would have to go to the hospital, then someone always broke in his business at night. So, as he prepared to go again, he gave her a large pistol and told her what to expect. Alice said she heard someone rattling the storm door one night, so she quietly slipped the latch off the lock on the main door in the dark so the intruder wouldn't break the door as had been done before several times. With the gun in hand, she walked to the other side of the room in the dark to the light switch. When the person walked in, she cut the light on and with the pistol pointed at him, she asked, "What do you want?" He said, "Oh! My Lord!" Then he backed out of the room, stretched his arms straight up in the air and lay face down on the hood of a car for a minute or so, as it would appear he was praying. Then he raised up and said, "Thank you lady for not shooting me!"

Alice said, "I am glad I didn't shoot you this time! But I want you to know if you ever try that trick on me again, the undertaker will be stuffing cotton up your backside before the sun goes down..."

At church, Alice was once asked to testify and with good deliverance, she expressed gratitude for the love of God and his marvelous Grace. She also said she was glad she was born poor, that learning how to struggle and do well for yourself and others was a big part of the joy of life.

I once ate at her house and she had a big mess of cured pig feet, homemade sauerkraut and cherry cobbler pie. This is good eating, all favorites of mine.

A man used to ride a big sorrel mule at Elkton Field Day years ago. He would drink whiskey, set his hat a bit sideways and enjoy the day. Someone told this tale on him. He came home hungry between meals and an iron pot of food was warm on the old woodstove. With a big spoon, he began to eat out of the pot. His wife came in and said, "You should have put the food in a bowl." He said, "Go away, Malindie. I have ate the broth, and I am just beginning to get down to the noodles!" The reason I liked Alice, she was full of humor, love and goodness. Also law and order, and knew that the noodles of life are at the bottom of the pot.

She was so much like Grannie Roche in sheltering the needy, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, and knowing the joy of life is in helping others. Alice gave me the first Mountain Laurel I ever saw. She has given me stories, pictures and helped me in writing mountain history. So, you can see why we all loved Alice the Ridgerunner. She was the real noodles of our mountaineers from Lewis Mountain.

Alice rode the hog and ran the ridges for chestnuts, apples, cherries and berries. She also could catch the trout, trap the rabbit, snitch the apples, dry the beans and bake the best coconut cake for family reunions. She learned to do special sewing as a child, and she could harness a horse or mule and plow the garden, trim the hedge, or prune a tree.

She was related to the famous Lams who made the best string music for about four generations in the Blue Ridge Mountains. When she was young, she could run the neck of a guitar and pick, "Don't Let Your Dead Go Down" that was pleasing to hear. Four of her children were musicians - Charles on dobro, Fuzzy on guitar, Debbie on piano and Dick on banjo.

When it came to excelling Alice in tricks, humor, love and goodness, kindness and mercy, law and order, and telling it like it is, I think you would find "she would be a hard cat to shave."