The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

John Stowell Hylton - My Dad

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1984

Issue: June, 1984

john stowell hyltonJohn Stowell HyltonThis story is in loving memory of my father, John Stowell Hylton. Dad was a quiet, gentle and humble person. As an outdoors person, he was the happiest when working close to the land and nature. His father died very young so Dad had to take on a lot of responsibility as a young boy.

My earliest memory as a child is going over the farm with Dad working a team of oxen and doing little chores. I loved to go fishing with him in the "River Road" streams. We had to walk miles to get there. It was so beautiful and wildflowers were everywhere. As a child I remember all the beauty I saw on the River Road and it's a picture in my mind yet. Dad loved these mountains so much.

We used to play in the snow. Dad could make some of the biggest snowmen I ever saw. When there was ice over the snow, we would spend a whole evening riding a board down the hill. What fun this was. And those buckets of ice cream made in a big dishpan of snow makes my mouth water now.

Dad loved to make things of wood. He would spend hours carving and whittling. Dozens of oxen yokes were given to friends and neighbors. When I was a little girl, Dad made me whistles from pumpkin stems and alder boughs. I had the best pop-guns to shoot thorn berries with. My little bow and arrow set was a treasure. Children loved to watch Dad make these things and would sit at his feet for hours, watching him whittle and tell stories. Sweet music came from a harmonica Dad carried in his pocket most of the time.

While living with Great-Grandmother Hubbard for a while, Dad learned to cook some old fashioned dishes and became a good cook. Many times I've come home from work to find a big dish of "Poke" waiting for me to take home. Dad could fix them so good, better than any I ever ate. Those big pots of "mush" in winter by the fireside were a delight. I don't have the touch for this. Mine is always lumpy. Perhaps I'm always in a big hurry and do not have patience in making "mush".

My son Ronald was very close to my Dad. He always called him "Pa." The following are memories Ronald shares about "Pa".

My "Pa" was a kind loving man, always sharing his love with others. He played games with me and made many toys with his hands for my enjoyment. We planted seeds and watched them grow together. Pa was good at growing things. We had a garden that was a delight to see and in summer Pa fixed a place to can outside, and we canned a lot of our harvest. We roasted marshmallows and wieners as we canned on the fireplace Pa built.

Once when all our lawn mowers tore up, Pa took parts and made one good mower out of them. I'm still moving my yard with it. Yes, Pa was good at fixing things.

We shared many things together and he taught me the finer things of life. My Pa was a great man. Now my Dad is resting on a hill overlooking the mountains he loved so much. Precious memories of you Dad, how they linger.