The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

There Will Be A Way Provided

By Lee G. Stallard © 1986

Issue: September, 1986

She sat and rocked on the front porch, looking at the hazy blue of the distant hills. Her quilt pieces, each a colorful sample of some friend's or relative's dress material, lay scattered on her gingham apron, overflowing into the wicker basket at her side. Grandma was eighty-nine that September. Her wrinkled but kindly visage spoke of her years as a Kentucky farm woman - before the time of cosmetics and today's beauty aids which have been such a boon to women. The fact that it was 1931 and a Depression, unprecedented in history, had the country in its mighty grip, creating a feeling of sincere consternation about how we were going to live, brought only a word or two from Grandma. "There will be a way provided."

In our family we embraced the Depression with the hope that, as our President, Herbert Hoover, put it, "Prosperity is just around the corner." This seemed like a nerve-wracking uncertainty, but we faced each day, trying to keep our spirits up, trying to make do with what we had. Every piece of hand-me-down clothing, every vegetable from our garden, and every odd job my brother and I could get, was exploited to the fullest.

Grandma lived with us. She was born in 1842 and like many mountain women had never been to school. As she put it, "My daddy always said, "A woman's place is in the home and the fields; they have no need for book learnin'." So he sent his boys to school but not his girls. You would never guess she was not educated. Her wisdom and personal judgment were consistently sound and highly regarded by the family. While physical tasks were beyond her strength and agility, she was always there with her patient, peaceful smile, and a word of encouragement. "Now let's just do our best. I've seen hard times before and they don't last forever. The Lord will see us through."

I was twelve that fall. Grandma had always had time for me, whether it was tying the rubber band onto my sling shot or making tea cakes I enjoyed so thoroughly. So I asked, "What kind of hard times have you seen, Grandma? Was it here in Washington or in Kentucky, or Virginia?"

A look of dreamy reminiscence shone in her eyes and her southern Appalachian accent betrayed her mountain ancestry.

"It was in Kentucky, the year after the surrender. George, your grandpa, was just home from Confederate Army. We had made a good crop of corn, fattened our hogs, and cured the meat for winter. The old apple trees had born right well that year. He had made some apple brandy to sell to bring in a little money for the store bought items we needed. That was not against the law those days. We hid it under a pile of brush to be safe from the bands of "Rogues" we heard were riding the countryside, stealing anything they wanted, and killing anyone who objected.

"Sure enough, your grandpa was away on business when they rode up - about fifteen men in all. They took all the bacon and hams from the smokehouse, then all the corn they could carry. Their campfires burned all night around the pile of brush where the brandy was hid, but they never found it."

Not being able to hold myself, at this point I jumped up and asked, "Did they have guns, Grandma?"

"Law yes, they all had rifle guns and most had big pistols, buckled around their waists."

My mother's voice chimed in, "Son, let's be quiet and let Grandma tell her story."

The narration continued in Grandma's calm and unhurried way.

"When your grandpa arrived home, we had less than half enough corn left for winter and no meat. He managed to sell the brandy, buy a hog, and a little corn. It looked like we would surely starve before spring but George hired out to the other farmers and hunted some wild hogs in the mountains. We had two young 'uns at the time but I never lost hope and the Lord brought us through."

She smoothed her silver hair and in her homespun Kentucky accent assured us, "I just know there will be a way provided for us now."

I had been enthralled with the story and with the natural exuberance of youth I rose from where I had been sitting and said, "Grandma, I know you're right but won't we have to try hard to make it come true or will it just happen all by itself?"

This brought one of her wrinkled smiles as she answered, "No, the Lord helps them that helps themselves. He'll have to see that you are trying hard before He will bless your efforts."

Taking these last astute words as law and gospel, I made all haste to do my part. I milked cows on a diary farm while I attended school. It only paid ten dollars a month but a dollar went a long way those days. My brother, finishing high school three years ahead of me, was able to obtain some employment which was introduced by the "New Deal" program of the new administration. Even then we were just skimming by, but as Grandma put it, "We are making it so let's be thankful."

She knitted my socks, made quilts for my bed, and rocked serenely on the porch. I was with her all my life and I suppose I must have exhibited all those little naughtiness's that plague the average boy. She would give me a gentle word or two on how that wasn't nice, but never said a harsh word to me, or to anyone else that I can remember. Is it any wonder that she was my dearest relative?

Grandma moved quietly and unperturbed through life, dying at the age of one hundred and one. I have never quite captured her serene confidence and trusting faith. Still, when life's trials and burdens are upon me, I can feel the quieting and uplifting security that Grandma taught me. Life is more beautiful, more filled with courage, peace, and composure. I can still imagine her saying in her soft flowing accent, "Now just do your best and trust in the Lord. There'll be a way provided."