The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Here Comes Maw, Peter-Pie Paw

By Martha Cockrell Robinson © 1991

Issue: May, 1991

From time to time Maw had to make the trek to Powderly, approximately two miles away, to purchase flour, meal, coffee or sugar. Most everything else we needed was produced at home. There was no car to jump in and zoom off to the store. Hardly anyone we knew had a car out there in the country. Transportation was largely by foot or streetcar. It was as far to the streetcar line, and in the opposite direction, as it was to walk down the dirt road to Powderly, and it didn't take as long. Besides that, it cost 7 cents each way and in the early '30s it was much more economical to walk and save that 14 cents for something else.

In the cold wintertime it seemed the lesser of two evils to leave my sister and me at home with strict orders to behave ourselves than to bundle us up and take us out into the cold weather for the long walk there and back.

As soon as Maw got out of sight we amused ourselves first by doing precisely what we had been told not to do - we played in the fire. When the end of the poker was stuck in the red-hot coals (or wood, if that happened to be the fuel used) for a few minutes, it became a bright red and when applied to a piece of paper on the hearth it burned a brown-rimmed hole in the paper. It was fun to burn holes in the paper. After we tired of that, we amused ourselves in another fashion. There were two double beds in the large back bedroom of the old homeplace. Well, those bedsteads were the old-fashioned kind with high metal headboards that had curlicue designs on them. When one climbed to the top of the headboard and jumped off into the middle of the bed, one got the most delightful bounce halfway to the ceiling. Talk about fun!

After the hot-poker game and after enjoying the high bounces together for a while, we kinda figured it would be a good idea for one of us to keep watch at the front door while the other bounced.

The lookout was posted just inside the front door. The upper half of the door was made of glass and we could easily spy Maw a quarter of a mile away as she rounded the last curve. That would give time for the lookout to warn the other one. No tell-tale signs of our shenanigans must be seen when Maw got back.

All too soon it ended - when "Here comes Maw, Peter-Pie-Paw" rang out as the lookout spied Maw coming 'round the bend and we scurried to put things back in place. I have often wondered if we really fooled Maw. Of course we destroyed the evidence of the paper with the burned holes in it. The poker was no longer red-hot and wouldn't give us away. I don't see how the two of us could have gotten all the wrinkles smoothed out of the bedspread, but if Maw noticed anything unusual she didn't let on, and we got by with our shenanigans one more time!