The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

John Hayes Hollow - The Path Taken

By Hazel P. Hedrick © 1985

Issue: May, 1985

On a cold but sunny morning in 1929, my brother, John Henry, my two sisters, Hessie and Agnes and I were on our way to Piney Grove School, four miles on the other side of the mountain. It was around 7:00 or 7:30. The one clock we had was stopped and we had to guess at the time by where the sun was on the tree tops on the mountains that surrounded the John Hayes Hollow.

We were supposed to go over the Vern Mountain, but this morning, brother Johnny suggested we go the Tedder Road. Now this was against the rules. We were never supposed to go any road or path except the one our parents told us to go. But, Johnny was the adventuresome kind and always tried to get us to go along with him. Most of the time, when he made a suggestion, I would say a flat NO. But this morning, I was feeling a bit adventuresome too. I didn't put up much of an argument

We decided, even if it was a little farther, to go the Tedder Road. If we hurried, we would not be late to school, and no one would be the wiser.

About half a mile from the house, there was another stream that ran into the one by our house. That stream came down the hollow between two mountains and about two miles up that stream was where Jeff Tedder lived with his wife and daughter. Their place was sort of like ours, only nicer.

No one had a lawn mower in those days. If they had, they would not have had time to use it. Most every family had at least one milk cow and the cow was "staked" (tied to a stake with a 10 or 20 foot chain) to graze. That's how the yards got mowed. After the cow finished grazing, the kids would take up a shovel and 'bucket and gather all the droppings and put them on the garden.

The Tedder place was always neat. Even the wood was stacked neat in the wood shed. They had a little dog and as we came close to the yard, that dog came at us barking and growling. I was sure my brother would get dog bit. He was kicking at the dog, trying to protect his sisters. We did all get by in one piece.

We cut across one corner of the yard and took the spring path crossing the stream on a foot log. (If you never crossed a rippling stream on a foot log, you haven't lived. I never liked it then and I know I couldn't do it now.)

We stopped at the spring and had a nice drink of warm mountain water, out of a gourd. I don't know if you know, but mountain spring water is very cold in summer, but seems warm in winter. No matter how cold it gets, a mountain spring never freezes over.

Leaving the spring, we had to climb a mountain. Even though there was an old wagon road, it was harder to climb than the Vern Mountain where Daddy trimmed a path for us through the woods. This old road was so over grown with trees and mountain laurel that the sun never shined on it. Where water seeped out of the mountain, it froze and was solid ice. (Now I know why Daddy trimmed out the path over the Vern Mountain for us.)

John Henry was having a grand time on the ice. I was busy trying to get my two little sisters over the ice without any of us falling and getting hurt.

Finally we reached daylight at the top of the mountain and the main road. We stopped at the first and only house to ask the time of day. It was already bell time and we were still a mile or two away from the school. Our feet and hands were near frozen. We wanted so much to thaw them out near the nice fire, but knew we were in trouble soon as our Mom found out what we had done. So, we hurried on as fast as we could, hoping we would not miss our first class.

The little ones had class first. My sisters got there just before their class was over.

It was a while before word got back to Mom that we had taken the Tedder Road to school and came in late. We thought it had been so long past she wouldn't be mad. We were wrong. We had disobeyed and we must take our punishment. She didn't get a peach tree limb and use it on our legs. But before she was through lecturing us, I wished she would. A peach tree switch on my legs was not nearly as hard to take as Mom's sermons.

Believe me, we didn't take the Tedder Road any more without permission!

Piney Grove was a one room school in the Brushy Mountains of North Carolina. It had all seven grades in one room. One teacher (female) walked at least a mile to school, built a fire in the pot belly stove and tried to warm it up before the children got there. Then she would have a class on every subject with every student every day. She took all test papers home and graded them at night. I never knew how much pay a teacher got, very little, I'm sure. They were very good. We learned whether we wanted to or not. All that and we still had time to plan parties and programs for relatives and friends.

I look back and wonder how one teacher got so much done. I guess the main reason was the students cooperated. They knew they better or their parents would find out why real quick. I remember seeing one boy talk back to the teacher. He refused openly to do what she asked. Two other boys laughed. The teacher opened the door and asked the first boy to leave and not come back without bringing his parents with him. Then she asked the two that laughed if they wanted to go home or write on the blackboard, "I'm sorry I laughed" 100 times. They chose the writing.