The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Paths Across The Hills

By John Hassell Yeatts © 1985

Issue: July, 1985

Editor’s Note: Mayberry, Virginia is located 2.8 miles south of Meadows of Dan, Virginia and 4.3 miles south of Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Not much is left of the once thriving community but the memories will live forever.

Way back in the 1920's and '30s when the profile of the average mountaineer more closely resembled a string bean than a turnip, as it does today, people used to receive some wholesome pleasure from walking from here to there through the fields and forests. Much of that walking, in the Heart of the Blue Ridge, was done along paths that parents and grandparents had used for years on end. The pathways not only reduced the distance, but afforded the walker an opportunity to touch and smell the flowers as he listened to the bird songs. Sometimes it allowed the traveler an opportunity to concentrate and meditate and to arrive at problem solutions. That, coupled with the exercise, was sure to send him off to blissful slumber that night.

A few hours travel along a mountain pathway would almost always reward one by meeting a pretty girl, a legendary hermit and hunter, or a man toting a bag across his shoulder containing corn that was measured by the pint instead of by the bushel. Sometimes an encounter with a whittling partner would give him the opportunity of "shaving away" the afternoon and learning some of the news from across the hill as well.

In the Mayberry section alone there were six or eight major paths that would guarantee the stroller safe passage to Meadows of Dan, Laurel Fork and Pike City without his walking the roads for more than a few hundred yards; and then mostly in crossing. It was once possible to travel from the Rich Bent via Mayberry to Cock and Agee's Store on Highway 58 (now Lionel Stanley's establishment) by taking well-worn footpaths some distance of five miles. The roads between the two points required about 14 miles of travel. And if by Model T, at least a couple of tire blowouts.

Landowners were generally considerate of the walkers by building foot ladders across barbwire fences and pasturing fighting bulls in fields without a major pathway. If a path happened to pass near a mountain home the walker was often invited in for a glass of lemonade or cider and a few moments of rest.

This scribbler can recall several boy/girl encounters along pathways that led to courtship and marriage. Sometimes there was more talk than substance, but it was always believed that there were greater romance potentials along pathways than along the county highways. And one could also miss the mud by avoiding the public roads. Then, there were sometimes opportunities for a little libation along the trails.

One enterprising Mayberry youth took to using the field paths and toting a one gallon, covered, syrup bucket. A collapsible aluminum drinking cup in his overall pocket allowed the thirsty traveler an opportunity to be served a sip, snort, or gulp from the bucket of corn. A nosey Mayberry woman once inquired of Charley, the strolling bartender: "What you got in that bucket, Charley?" "I've just got a bucket of lasses, Mrs. Mabry," the lad replied. "Yes and from what I've been hearing, your lasses are in need of sarching [searching]. Fact is right now, I'm thinking of telling your mama on you." This led to the "breaking up" of the traveling bar route and the boy eventually turned into a fine law abiding young man.

Today the paths are no longer seen. Man's love affair with the automobile and his propensity to hurry up and wait has robbed him of the pleasures of walking the mountain pathways. And it's added inches to his girth!