The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Grandma, Grandpa and Grandpa's Wife

By Sylvia Sampson © 1990

Issue: March, 1990

"Tell us a story." We begged Aunt Eudy each time she came to visit. She would always make us wait until after supper and promised the one who cleared away the dishes the first pick on the story. Those were the only days the three boys in our family offered to help clean the kitchen.

Eudy had so many stories and we each had our favorite. The things she told us weren't really stories but accounts of her childhood and our family history, but to us the people she talked about lived in a magical world.

She told us about week long camping trips into the wild Virginia mountains to pick berries. She told how our Grandparents and three of their seven children walked from the blue grass country of Kentucky to the rich coal fields of Virginia. The boys loved to hear how the local miners fought for the union, going as far as to turn the camp doctor's car into the creek when he tried to smuggle in workers.

Aunt Eudy made the past come alive as she talked about her mother and father and the many more no longer with us. My favorite story was about her grandparents. Eudy had forgotten their first names and simply called them Grandma, Grandpa and Grandpa's wife.

These three were very unusual, and as Eudy told us about our grandparents her eyes would fill with laughter so I believe this was her favorite story too.

Grandma it seemed took up with a traveling preacher and left Grandpa with their four small children. Grandpa didn't waste any time worrying over his runaway wife but simply went out and got another one. This woman Grandpa took as his new wife was well liked in their small area of Kentucky for she was a mid-wife.

Life for Grandpa and his new wife was very good. Grandpa took care of the farm and his wife cared for the children and continued with her work as mid-wife. Then one day Grandma came back, sorry for what she did and begging for a place to stay and a new pair of shoes.

Soft hearted Grandpa couldn't turn her away since she was the mother of his children so a deal was struck. For room and board and a new pair of shoes Grandma would take care of the children and help Grandpa's wife with the garden as well as the house.

Aunt Eudy recalled visiting them before leaving Kentucky. "Their house," she said, "was made of old rough unpainted boards and in several places you could throw a cat through the cracks in the walls. Dirt packed down and swept clean was their floor and all the furniture was handmade. What there was of it. An old cook stove was the center of the home. To one side of it set an old homemade table with benches, and to the other side was Grandpa's and Grandpa's wife's bed, half hidden behind quilts hung from the loft. In the loft was soft feather beds for Grandma and the two children still at home.

While there Grandpa's wife was called away to a birthing and it was Grandma who gathered up her bag and coat and helped her onto the old mule she always rode.

Times have really changed and I couldn't imagine something like this happening today but it was a very interesting part of my heritage and a story I'll never forget.