The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Cardboard Doll

By Grace Cash © 1987

Issue: February, 1987

Editor's Note... The following is one of a series of articles written by Grace Cash. She lives in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Watch for more of her stories in future issues.

My cardboard doll was an especially significant treasure and even now, looking back over half a century, I still consider it a childhood treasure. Its value increased after I came down with typhoid fever at which time the doll had been in my possession a year, sitting brightly, beautiful, on the mantel.

I got the doll at Macedonia, a two room elementary school. It was a three mile walk to the schoolhouse. One year the school principal boarded at a relative's house one mile beyond where we lived. He would walk to our house, and join us for the walk to school.

Yet it was another principal who awarded the doll in a Friday afternoon program. He was a tall handsome man. It was the week's end, a time for celebration. He sat on the stage, his long legs stretched lazily across the floor, seeming to enjoy the primary students and his own upper grade students, all gathered in the long hall which was the main classroom. He found the doll in a newspaper supplement, and he held it up temptingly, then offered it to the primary girl student who guessed the correct number, ranging from Number 1 to Number 30.

I guessed fifteen, and the doll became mine. The smiley faced doll had on a beribboned bonnet, matching a frilly dress, which billowed over white laced edged petticoats. Black patent leather slippers and white socks covered the feet, and the face was a friendly one, seeming to smile directly at me.

We ran all the way home, to the cotton field bordering the farmhouse, where Mama, hearing us, waited on the porch. Mama cut cardboard to fit the doll, which she clipped from the colored newspaper supplement. She pasted the doll on the cardboard, and stood it on the mantel, where it stayed until the wind blew it in the fire. At that time I was dangerously ill with typhoid, but I could hear various family members telling visitors, during my long illness, that the cardboard doll belonged to me. I felt now a special personal importance, not knowing that the attention was partly a concession to a child who might not get well.

But I slowly recovered, always mindful of the slightly fire damaged doll which Mama had pasted on fresh cardboard. The doll marked a period of time in the life of a farm family, who had to struggle to survive. We made two bales of cotton that year, the crop having been devastated by boll weevils. A hard winter faced us, and other families in similar circumstances.

We didn't know then that prosperity, which came later, wouldn't bring total happiness. Poverty is not glorious in itself, but it is a great teacher of what is durable, and what is chaff, in the long tenure of one's life.