The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Train Lunch

By Jeffrey Rowan Lockhart © 1988

Issue: December, 1988

My father, John A. Lockhart, mother, Catherine Rowan Lockhart, and sister Cecelya Renee were taking in a lasting view of the fog-wrapped Smoky Mountains before heading home.

"Let's stop in Spencer and visit Aunt Myrtle," daddy announced. We exited and tracked through half of Spencer before spotting Myrtle's house. A knock at the glass front door and singing out, "Aunt Myrtle, you've got company!" brought slow footsteps and the tap of a cane. The door opened and Myrtle stood in the doorway wearing old-fashioned black leather lace up shoes, a dress of unpretentious taste and wire-rimmed spectacles. She stepped back at first, studying us for a prolonged moment and I wish you could've seen the look of surprise and joy gleaming in her eyes when she finally recognized who had called. The widest grin broke out across her plump face. "Come on in and rest yourselves, I reckon you're wore out from driving," Myrtle exclaimed. The tongue-and-groove floor boards creaked under foot. No telling how long since Myrtle had entertained guests. She escorted us to a foot pump organ and played church songs until her legs tired.

Our attention shifted to an ornate oak clock chiming twelve noon on the fireplace mantle. Myrtle stored the sheet music in the bench and headed for the kitchen. "Time for a bite of lunch," she said. A bite my eye! She fried ham, made gravy, baked biscuits and peach turnovers. How she loved to cook and after eating one of her meals I guarantee you would've never forgotten it.

During dish washing ceremonies Myrtle asked if we could take her to Daniel Boone's Cave, said she always wanted to go there. The path to the cave was too rocky and steep for her footing so she turned around and waited in the car while Rene and I pretended to be Daniel Boone and explored the tiny cave's deepest recesses. We hiked back to the car and during the return drive to Myrtle's house we illuminated wild tales of Daniel Boone's campfire flickering inside the dark grotto, keeping the enigma of Daniel Boone's Cave vibrant in her imagination.

Aunt Myrtle was too excited to rest. "We'll have snap beans, fried chicken, sliced tomatoes and turnovers," she proclaimed. What a supper! Afterwards we plopped in the living room laughing and trading stories. Myrtle started dozing and our eyes felt heavy. We bathed in an enameled bath tub that stood on lion's paws and snuggled into the most comfortable beds we've ever slept in. Myrtle's beds were stuffed with goose feathers and fluffy as a cloud. The ticking mantle clock and hooting trains lulled us into slumber.

Sunshine streaming through Myrtle's handmade curtains, the aroma of coffee perking, biscuits baking and bacon and eggs frying roused our appetites from the beds. That warm kitchen was buzzing with Myrtle's high spirits. We prayed together, shared a delightful breakfast and kicked off another round of stories.

"Aunt Myrtle, we'd love to stay but it's a long drive home, we'd best get going," Daddy said. Myrtle received a bunch of sweet hugs and kisses and directed us to look in the pantry. We found a large box wrapped like a parcel. "I fixed some lunch for your trip. Down the road a piece this will taste good to you. When I was a little girl Mama and Papa and my brothers and sisters traveled by train and Mama always fixed a train lunch so we would have something fit to eat on the train," Myrtle explained. Another batch of hugs and kisses were showered upon Myrtle. "Now go on so you'll get home before dark and remember to come back and see me," she said.

We piled in the car and slowly drove away, waving at her as she stood on the porch waving and blowing kisses. We opened the train lunch at a roadside park uncovering fried chicken, biscuits, apple turnovers, peanut butter cookies, slices of cheese and a dozen hard boiled eggs. She had prepared the train lunch while we slept and the most beautiful gift packed inside that box was Myrtle's love.