The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Her Kind Of People

By Bob G. Tannehill © 1985

Issue: April, 1985

Over narrow, wire-rimmed spectacles she peered at me, a stranger in these particular hills, as I ambled up the stone lined path to the aged farmhouse.

Fractured porch steps revealed a crude but make do doghouse, complete with speckled beagle, who made threatening gestures with his teeth, but otherwise lay motionless.

A proud bantam rooster cocked his crimson comb in my direction from a corner of the rusted tin covered dwelling, and a calico cat, curled up on the top step, completely ignored my approach.

"Wonder what HE wants?" the woman was probably muttering under her breath. "I must look a sight!" She plucked a well-chewed twig from her pooched lips and dabbed at the hinges of her mouth with a bordered apron, visibly snuff-stained, but obviously handy.

"Evening, ma'am", I said, with an especially cordial drawl. "Know where I might find some old chestnut rails?"

Picking up a brown-splattered spit jar and clearing her jaws of a glob of exhausted tobacco, she pushed her worn body to its feet and momentarily braced herself against a nearby porch post.

A sun-bleached bonnet hung from a nail just above her worn hand, the thumb of which was wrapped with a soiled strip of cloth. My grandmother did that, I remembered, to protect her thumb when she peeled apples.

"Ain't none around here no more, 'cept what's rotten. Wuz some leaning agin' that walnut tree yonder by the barn, but 'spect they ain't no good neither."

Tidying her apron and attempting to smooth her faded print dress, she fixed her squinting eyes on me as I lit my pipe.

"You ain't from around these parts, ere you?"

A familiar crock churn had rested between her legs; legs covered by well-used and sagging stockings, rolled down and tied with narrowly torn pieces of cloth. The old rocker in which she had been sitting reminded me of the one my grandparents always kept on their front porch.

"No, ma'am," I answered apologetically, "but I was raised in the mountains by my grandparents, who went to be with the Lord some years back. I sure miss them. Our house looked a whole lot like this one....almost makes me feel at home."

Well now, you could see the life spring into that old weathered face, which appeared to be just itching for a grin.

"You had any supper, young feller?" she asked, with a most inviting smile. "My man's scrubbin' up inside. We ain't got much, but you're more'n welcome to sech as it is. Got some hot cornbread and fresh butter, and a few leftovers from dinner. Ain't got no rails, but always try to have a little something to eat. Seldom have a body to share it with, though. Come on in!"

Taking a final puff from my pipe and clearing it of ashes, I started up the steps. The beagle rolled his eyes, wrinkled his nose and offered a muffled growl.

"I'd sure like that," I answered. I really like cornbread and fresh butter."

The calico pulled herself together from a long stretch, rubbed her tail against the woman's sagging petticoat and proceeded to escort us through a doorway....which I just knew would lead me into another world of nostalgia.