The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Growing Up On Tuggles Creek - Big Will

By YKW © 1985

Issue: July, 1985

Big Will Cockram on left. Tom Harris on right.Big Will Cockram on left. Tom Harris on right.(Editor's Note: Tuggles Creek is located in the Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the tiny mountain community of Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Meadows of Dan is a crossroads community where US Highway 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway cross. Mabry Mill is north about 1.6 miles and Mayberry Trading Post is about 2.8 miles south on the Blue Ridge Parkway.)

Since Dad was gone most of the time on the mail route, we had to have a lot of hired hands to help with the work. We needed a lot of corn and hay for the four or five horses we always kept and Dad thought we should grow it on the farm rather than buy it. One of the most faithful of these hands was Big Will Cockram, a short, stout man who had some experience at most farm work. Sometimes he brought along his two sons, Henry and Caleb.

In the winter time Big Will and I cut down big oak trees from our wood lot and trimmed them up ready to be dragged to the wood pile when snow was on the ground. Come summer it was corn hoeing time and pretty soon haying time. We had a mowing machine but a lot of the grain had to be cut with a scythe or mowing blade as we called it.

At lunch time the blades had to be sharpened on a hand turned grind stone. So while all the other hired hands lolled around in the shade and rested, Big Will ground the blades sharp, while I was elected to turn the grindstone. Sometimes it seemed to take an eternity to get the blades sharp enough to suit Big Will's keen eye and touch.

Big Will never did learn to make it on his own small farm. After the boys left him he was reduced to selling off small tracts of his farm to support himself and his daughters, Kate and Lelia. Most of the land was sold to my Dad but when it come down to the house lot, someone else whom he'd borrowed money from, bought it, and he and Kate were forced to get out and go to an abandoned cabin on the old Cockram place.

With no more resources, and getting too old to hire out, it was reported that Big Will and Kate were about to starve to death. My Dad killed a small hog, dressed it and cut it in half and threw, one half over his shoulder and carried it across the hills to Big Will. I guess that kept them alive a short time longer, but the poor old man soon passed away.