The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Grandma and Her Place

By Catherine Mulholland © 1986

Issue: August, 1986

A row of cabins formerly occupied by slaves but long since vacant lined the garden. At one end of the acre was a grape arbor that produced large, sweet juicy purple grapes from which Grandma made jelly, preserves, juice and wine.

The east corner belonged to a grand old gnarled crabapple tree. Grandma would send all the grandchildren up the tree to pick the tiny tart-tasting bite sized fruit for crabapple jelly like only my grandma could make.

Just a few feet from the back porch with the swing and the north end of the garden was the smokehouse where all the meat was preserved and kept until it was needed each day. The smokehouse was also where all the kids could go for a piece of sweet smoked ham (if Grandma didn't catch you).

The equivalent to a city block from the house was a garage (for Grandad's Model T) and connected to it, in fact, the other partitioned side, was a blacksmith shop where Grandad and his sons shod horses. As a child, I loved to watch them take the horse's hoof between their legs, position the shoe, drive in the horseshoe nails and slant them out the side of the hoof and finally snip them off. The farm and race horses would stand perfectly still as the man worked on their feet.

A half mile back through the woods, built over the cool water, was the spring house. After the cows were milked (by my dad and uncles), the raw milk was poured into crocks and placed in the cool running water in the spring house. Kept there also were the butter and the rich buttermilk that Grandma churned and enticed one of the grandchildren to carry to the spring house to keep until it was needed in the house. Then she would dispatch one of us to bring it to her, always with the admonition "Don't you dare drop my crock!"

There is so much that I remember about my grandma. She taught me to crochet, embroider, to quilt, to make a rag rug. She showed me how to crack a walnut or hickory nut just right so that the kernels would fall out of the shell.

Grandma kept a jar of rock candy covered with rye whiskey on top of the grandfather clock. She dispensed this remedy for any ailment!

She had the most comfortable lap, and when she was sitting, (which wasn't very often) she was rocking a grandchild. In this way she cured all our falls, tummy and headaches or just gave us an extra dose of being loved.

But, most of all, Grandma taught me to love everyone. I loved you, Grandma, and I still love you. If you are looking down from heaven, please remember me. I know you do.