The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Memories Of Squirrel Spur

By JAW © 1984

Issue: February, 1984

The September issue of The Mountain Laurel carried a story "Reminiscing with Mr. Coy Yeatts and Mr. Will Barnard". I am not familiar with Kibler Valley, but I can relate a few things about Squirrel Spur that might be interesting to some of your readers. To put this story in perspective, I will go back a number of years to my younger days. My father's farm joined a farm owned by James Shepherd. He had a family of five girls and three boys. My father had five girls and four boys. I was one of the younger children and was never allowed to take part in sled-riding or skating parties or any of the summer activities that young folks did in those days. I was just a little brat and supposed to be seen and not heard.

Jim Shepard was killed in a sham battle while participating in a fourth of July celebration at Hillsville, Virginia. His youngest son, Grover, took over the operation of the farm until his mother passed away. Then it was sold to Robert (Bob) and Edward (Ed) Jackson. This farm is presently owned by Mrs. Ninevah J. Willis, who is the daughter of Bob Jackson. In the meantime, Mr. Shepherd had married a sweet young gal named Doris Jessup. She had grown up in the vicinity of Bankstown.

Grover rented the Amos Goad farm located about three miles south of Laurel Fork, Virginia. I worked most of the summer of 1917 for him on this farm. Back in those days, about all it took to be a successful farmer was brawn, brains and a good team of mules, all of which Mr. Shepherd possessed. There were very few tractors, combines and other labor-saving devices. Everything was done the hard way. Grover was not a slave driver, but if you followed him all day, you knew you had done a day's work. At that time, there was no child labor or minimum' wage law. Instead of our day beginning at 8 A.M. and ending at 5 P.M., it began with the first light of day and ended at dark. For this I was paid 50 cents per day and board. This sounded alright to me, considering the amount of food that I put away. Plowing, harrowing, planting and sowing crops of corn, oats, wheat, buckwheat, rye and millet made busy days from spring to fall. These were not necessarily done in the order listed.

This is how my memory of Squirrel Spur entered into my story. One day it was raining and looked as though it might last all day. We were hitching the mules to the wagon when Grover told me I was going to haul a load of lumber to the foot of Squirrel Spur. I asked where I was going to get the lumber and how I was going to get to Squirrel Spur.

He told me to drive down the road and I would come to a creek. Just across it and on the right, I would find a road cut through the laurel bushes leading to the lumber yard. He said to load the wagon and return to the road, turn right and I would come to a crossroads. Pine Knot school would be on the right. Go past Mark Marshall's store, out Dry Ridge past Bell Spur Church to the top of the mountain. I would see a place where I could pull off and lock the wheels. From there I was on my own.

With chains for booming the load, a bucket hung on the coupling pole to water the mules, oats to feed them and my lunch wrapped in newspaper, I was off to a world unknown. I found a narrow road cut through the laurel bushes. About a half mile or so down the creek I came to the lumber yard. There was a stack of lumber there that someone had been hauling from. The boards looked like they were about twelve feet long. I coupled the wagon to suit the load, loaded it and boomed it on. Then I headed out. When I came to the crossroads and Pine Knot School I knew where I was. I had walked that road many times with my mother going to Bell Spur church even before I had ever owned a pair of shoes. Dry Ridge that day was the wettest dry ridge I ever saw. I passed the church and came to the place to lock the wheels.

If I had had any idea what was ahead of me, I would have left that wagon right there and rode a mule back to Grover Shepherd's place. Since I did not know, I plunged ahead and I do mean plunged. The mules were not shod for road hauling and they were slipping and sliding. My load was slipping and, I was getting more frightened by the minute. At last I came to the foot of the mountain. The two top layers of lumber had slipped and I was sitting out over the rumps of the mules. I suppose I crossed Dan River going down but I was so badly scared I did not remember it. At least I crossed it going back. I pulled down by the track where I was to unload and sat there a few minutes until my knees stopped knocking. Then I said a little prayer of thanks and felt better. I did not unhitch the mules but I dropped the outside trace, took the bridles off and hung them on the hames. I watered and fed the mules and ate my lunch. Then I unloaded the wagon, coupled it up shorter, bridled the mules, hitched the traces and we were ready for the mountain.

The return trip was not so frightening. I had a chance to observe what I had driven over on the way down. Of all the trips I made down and back up the mountain that summer, I never met anyone. I decided maybe that mountain road belonged to the squirrels and me.