The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Chat With Lizzie Pack

By Tootsie Cassell Pilson © 1983

Issue: December, 1983

a chat with lizzieA Christmas smile all year long from Lizzie Pack of Vesta, Virginia.A character straight out of the Beverly Hillbilly’s best describes Lizzie Pack - but she like them, is no fool.

When I talked with her, she carried her spontaneous watermelon slice of a smile throughout the conversation. I have yet to see her not smiling.

Sixty-nine years ago, Lizzie was born in the “Rich Bent” section of Patrick County. This section is now known as Busted Rock. She has one brother, Willie, who is 74. Lizzie spent her childhood in an old log bodied house with very few comforts. The family survived by planting a large corn field and garden. They brought their grain to be ground by oxen to Uncle Buck Clifton’s Mill at Vesta. Uncle Buck did not charge a fee in cash, but took a toll (which is a small amount of grain in payment for grinding.)

Lizzie’s school days were few. She attended one year at the old Free Union School. She walked some five or so miles to attend, carrying a small lard bucket of milk and bread for her lunch.

She told me she felt fortunate to get one pair of shoes a year and all her clothes were made from feed sacks.

Rain, sleet, or snow did not deter her if she set her head to go to a particular destination, and to this day, she is one with the weather.

For entertainment she played hopscotch, stealing sticks and loved to play in the creek.

When Lizzie was 22 years old, she married but was deserted by her husband when her second child was 17 months old. After this, she stayed by herself and worked at the old Crystal Cannery at Stuart, Virginia. She worked there for 14 years until the cannery closed, putting both her girls through high school. Her mother (Mary Hooker, now deceased) was a great source of help to her during this time, helping with the children when she could.

Today Lizzie does not have a tooth in her head, yet she has never been to a dentist. She told me she pulled them all herself. Many times she made a poultice of hot ashes for the toothache and she also used rubbing alcohol for her painful gums.

Her eyesight remains good to this day. She sees well enough to thread a needle. She has never been to a doctor in her life. In her childhood, she was treated with home spun remedies. Today she admits to taking a little Pepto or Milk of Magnesia for a tummy ache.

She never owned a radio until she married, and when she saw her first TV she had no idea what it was.

None of these hardships have made her bitter. Her ability to laugh at life and enjoy the present is beyond comprehension. She is a character in her own right.

When I asked her what was the worst thing that ever happened to her, she threw back her head and laughed, “Not a thing, not a thing.” (And by the way, she was not under the influence of drugs.)

When I asked her what is the best thing or what do you enjoy most, she simply said, “Going to church.”

Today Lizzie can be found helping neighbors when they call on her. She does house cleaning, digging taters, hoeing gardens, washing and staying with older folks at night. She admits that as much as she loves people, she sometimes likes to be by herself.

When I asked what she would like to be remembered for, she said, “Being good to people is what I would like to be remembered for, and I would like to be treated like I have treated others.”

A bit of this returned respect paid off when Mr. and Mrs. Carl Hill (whose house she cleans) dressed her up, bought her her first corsage and included her in their son’s church wedding.

Once when she asked me about my mother and I told her she had cancer, she threw both arms in the air and said, “Lordy, mercy, Lordy mercy, how I love that woman. If there is anything I can do let me know.” And I knew she meant it.

This lady carries the spirit of Christmas with her throughout the year and never puts on airs. She radiates love of life everywhere she goes. I can not help but feel I am a better person for having known her. After all, isn’t that what life is all about?