The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Shadows of Time

By Linda J. Crider © 1990

Issue: September, 1990

My mother prided herself on her elegant flower garden and this year was no exception. Bulbs were taken up every fall and replanted in the earliest days of spring, always resulting in a rainbow of magnificence. The front porch was bordered with blooming tulips in various colors, jonquils and iris. Dahlias were planted behind and would grow tall and bloom later in the season. Occasionally, she would plant cherry tomatoes and trellis them to run up the porch pillows. I thought this was rather strange but kind of nice too. I could sit in the porch swing and eat them right off the vine as they ripened.

This warm spring day had brought a profusion of color and activity to the small farm where I lived. Dogwood trees reached skyward as if to show the heavens the beauty of their blossoms. The fragrance from the wild azalea was soft in the air. A hive of honey bees, next to the old apple orchard, had swarmed and the new colony now hung in a massive black clump, on a low limb of the red maple in the side yard. They were resting before making their trip to a new destination. Birds of all variety were singing, building nests in the shrubbery, under the eves of the house, and even in the knot holes in the pasture fence post.

I saw a garden snake crawling the back stoop. I guess it was looking for crickets, or maybe for its breakfast.

Patsy, our beagle, had given birth to seven little puppies, three girls and four boys. They were so cute. Daddy said their eyes would open in about nine days. I wonder why that is. Babies aren't like that. He told me I couldn't play with them, or Patsy might move them and they were safe, dry and warm out there in the barn. I thought they were so pretty. They just fit in my hand, and Patsy knew I wouldn't hurt them. They smelled so good. I had never thought of baby puppies having a smell all their own, but I guess they do. Maybe daddy would let me name them when they got their eyes open. I would pick out good names, not like Spot or Blue.

Molly, the cow, had delivered a healthy calf, and now that it was a few days old, it had begun to follow along behind her. The peeps of the baby chicks could be heard from the hen house. The old rooster strutted around the yard like he knew he was the world's greatest father. He would crow and act feisty but the mother hen would really have flogged him good if he came too close to her babies.

Spring was definitely in the air, and having my chores all done, I could play the rest of the day. I was glad I was six and it was Saturday.

My friend, Carol, brought her bike over. I didn't have one, but she was going to teach me to ride hers. I was hoping my mom and dad would surprise me with one of my own on my next birthday.

The dusty dirt roads were perfect for riding back and forth. Carol's bike was a pretty bright green and it had a passenger's seat over the back tire. She would pedal hard and fast and I would hold on tight to her waist or her blouse. I would stick my feet way out. She said it would be very dangerous if I got my feet caught in the spokes of the wheels, or in the sprocket chain.

She was my very best friend, and a year younger than me. Carol was big for her age, about a head taller than me, and her hair was honey blond. She always wore french braids that came down to her waist. I knew she was probably the smartest girl anywhere around. Even though she was only five, she could play the piano real good and she didn't even look at the song book. She played the piano and sung in churches with her family too. Sometimes, they'd go away off and sing and play at churches in other counties.

Carol didn't know it, but I was kind of jealous of her. It seemed like she had everything she wanted, was so talented, and pretty too. I, on the other hand, was thin, very fair skinned, with large gray eyes and thin, fly-away flaxen colored hair that mother always cut short. She said it would grow thicker and be cooler too. What I really wanted was braids like Carol's.

We had ridden her bike most of the afternoon when Carol decided it was about time for her to go home. She said her father would be home soon and her mother liked to get supper over with early.

The sun was beginning to set low and cast strange shadows on the mountains in the distance. We stopped and watched as they seemed to crawl over the peaks and valleys, changing their colors from light to dark.

Carol said, "Do you think that's how it will be when the end of time comes?"

I hadn't thought about the end of time much, but I knew that everything died sooner or later, and that there really was an end of time. The minister preached on that subject sometimes at the Sunday services. I didn't know when it was suppose to happen though.

Maybe the end of time would be like a cloud and just crawl over the world, and when it shadowed over everything... then it would all be over.

We continued to stand in the dusty road and watch in eerie silence as shadows continued to envelope the mountain range, and the sky changed from a deep clear blue to shades of pink, orange, lavender, gray and gold.

Neither of us commented on the wonder of beauty of the sunset. We seemed to be hypnotized by the crawling shadows that were now gathering speed.

I spoke softly, "Carol, would this be the end of time? It sure is strange. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this before."

A loud noise sounded and I thought I felt the ground shake under my bare feet. We turned to the direction of the ever growing noises. Frozen in my tracks, I saw a huge missile shaped, brown object with numbers written on its bottom. The sky couldn't hold it up. It was going to fall. It was coming our way.

Carol let go of her bike and screamed, "Run! It's a bomb!"

There was no time to think about dying, it was too late. I ran as fast as I could for the shelter of my house and my mother. She had come out to see what was going on.

I was hysterical. "It's a bomb, Mother. It's the end of time!"

She held us close. "No, it's not. It's a blimp. It won't hurt you. Look up. People ride in them. They're kind of like an airplane. It's not a bomb, but a big balloon. I promise it's not the end of time," she said as she wiped our tear stained faces and pushed wispy hair away from my eyes.

I had never seen, or heard of a blimp before but with the Korean Conflict heavy on everyone's mind, I had heard of bombs and knew of their destruction.

Carol and I turned to see the monster in the sky, just as it crested the distant mountains. It took a few minutes to calm down and realize that it really wasn't the end of time, and that thing overhead wasn't really going to crash down on us.

Mother agreed to stand on the porch as Carol and I retrieved her bike and I walked with her up the road to her house. It was time for her to go home and for me to go inside for the day.

Mother was waiting with opened arms as I ran back up on the porch, still shaken.

"With spring everywhere around, bringing forth new life, I want you to enjoy life and all the good things it has to offer. No more about the end of time today," she said smilingly. "Let's have some lemonade then go feed Patsy and check on her puppies."

Tears dripped off my chin as I hugged my mother tight and knew she would always be there for me.

There are times, during late spring, when I am reminded of that long ago tragic childhood fear. Times when my heart will almost stop as the sun sets and begins to form dark shadows that crawl over the mountains, changing their bright beautiful spring time colors from light to dark, or I see barefoot children riding bicycles on the dusty dirt roads of the North Georgia mountains.

It also makes me feel warm inside to know my mother was there with open arms to try and protect me from harm and calm my fears with the simplicity of her gently voice and the comforting touch of her hand.