The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Christmas At Meadows Of Dan

By Nancy B. Collins © 1988

Issue: December, 1988

In 1911, there were much Christmas preparations, with little to make do with.

There were chestnuts, walnuts and some other things we could get in for goodies. There were sweet potatoes and pumpkins for pies. If the winter was real cold, they would kill hogs and have fresh meat. Sometimes we would have wild turkey. Mom could always fix it so it was real good. We really enjoyed that.

The men got their stills going up in the hills a good while before Christmas, so there would be plenty of brandy and corn liquor around for those that wanted it.

My dad would always go out in the woods and find us a nice tree for Christmas. Mom would gather things to go on it from the woods such as sycamore balls and pine cones. She would white wash them and we would hang them on the tree. We would string lots of popcorn too.

Dad would make us a new homemade sled or some truckle wheels. Us children managed to get around on them and had some fun.

When Christmas night came, we hung our stockings up and with a great bit of care, hoping Santa would surely be there. We got one orange and a stick of peppermint candy. We were so happy to even get that, but this always seemed to come through even though we were very poor.

Most of the people that lived in the mountains back then were poor. We had one family that lived not far from us that seemed to have plenty. It was rumored around that they were selling bootleg liquor. They had a very nice home and some big dogs that barked when anyone came around and there seemed to be barking all nights some nights. Revenue officers seemed to be going there quite often to check on them. They hated the preacher just about as much as they did the law. The minister lived quite a ways down in the valley, but he tried to get around and visit all the people that lived any place near enough for him to visit. This family that had plenty kept a watch out for the revenue officers so they would be prepared for them when they came; one day the mother saw the minister riding his horse, coming on up toward the house. They had four mean boys and she told them to go upstairs and stay until the preacher left.

The preacher came on in and was staying a good while. I guess something just had to happen. This family kept a slop jar upstairs in the children's room for them to use at night. All at once, the slop jar came rolling downstairs, lid and all, clank, clank - right out in the living room where the preacher was sitting. He got up and said what is going on and the mother said she guessed the children were just playing. I guess the children thought he had stayed long enough. It just happened the slop jar was empty. The mother called up to the children and told them to behave. The preacher left soon. Then mother asked the children why they did it. They said it was an accident. She just said be more careful and don't let such a thing happen again.

The next day the woman passed by our house and told Mom all about what happened while the preacher was there. She even laughed a bit, but said she was so embarrassed she did not know what to do.

Us children were not allowed to play with those children. They were mean and never minded what anyone said.

It was easy to shut the whole world out at Christmas in the mountains. It usually was very cold and we stayed pretty close to the fireplace to keep warm. Mom would read us stories from an old book that was used in school. None of us were old enough to use it. Someone handed it down for us to use in school later. I wish if anyone had or have one of those books they would contact me. I will write some stories and you will know them if you have read them in a school book a long time ago.

One was about the fool and his money. An Irishman was on his way to Gotham when he met a man carrying a door on his back and he said, "My good man, why are you carrying the heavy door on your back?" and the man said, "I had to go to town and I was afraid someone would break the door down and steal all my money." the Irishman said, "Why didn't you leave the door at home and take your money with you?" and the man said, "I never thought of that."

Another one was about a fool and his cow. The Irishman went on down the road and he saw some men trying to shove a cow up on the roof of a house and he stopped and said, "My good men, what are you trying to do to that poor cow?" They said, "There is a vine growing up on the roof and we are trying to put the cow up there to eat the vine." The Irishman said, "Why don't you pull the vine down and give it to the cow to eat. Seems this would be easier." They said, "We never thought of that."

If anyone reads this story and knows what I am talking about, please write me. I have tried to tell my children and grandchildren about this old book, but can't quite remember what it was like. Mom would read this book to us and Mom and Dad would tell us old stories that they heard a long time ago, such as Jack and the Beanstalk. I believe such stories as those will live on and forever.

One day when I was a child, things were going along pretty normal, when a sort of trampy looking man came by. He said he was Jesus and us children sort of became frightened, as we had always been taught by our Mom that Jesus was a meek nice looking man with a bright pretty robe on and loved everyone. We had a picture of Jesus in our house and that is what and how he looked.

My dad was not a very religious person, but he did not act ugly toward the man. He even told Mom to fix him some food as he had said he was hungry. This was about the middle of the afternoon and meant Mom would have to build a fire in the cook stove and cook him something to eat. Don't think Mom liked that, but she fixed him some food. He looked very humble and sat down and ate. He tried to convince us that he was Jesus, but don't believe any of us believed he was. My dad said just suppose he was and he was not sure how Jesus could deal with people that he might even come around as a tramp just to see how people would treat him. The way my dad behaved sometimes I really think he believed the devil was after him. I guess he is after all of us all the time, but it is up to us to see that he doesn't get us.

Well, I got away from Christmas a bit, but it always seemed to be a great time of the year for everyone.