The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Only Doll

By Mae Clifton © 1984

Issue: April, 1984

I was born June 4, 1899 at Vesta, Virginia, in Patrick County. My parents lived in a two room log house near the head waters of Smith River, mountains on every side. There were no roads to travel, only a narrow path through the wilderness either way. I had one brother four years older than I.

When I was six years old, I remember Mother and Dad talking about Santa Claus. Someway I got interested and ask them who was Santa Claus and where did he live. Naturally they knew the babble that children were told that day and time, about Santa coming down the chimney and we had to be real smart or he would not bring us anything.

That was several days before Christmas, so I tried to be real smart. I helped my brother carry in wood and feed the dog, which we loved very much. It was like one of the family. It slept under the floor up next to the fireplace in cold weather. It lay beside the hen's nest of eggs and did not bother an egg. There was a loose plank in the floor inside the house near the hen's nest. My mother could raise the plank and get the eggs without crawling under the floor.

I slept in what was then called a trundle bed that pushed under Mother and Dad's bed in the day time. My brother slept up stairs. He said he counted stars through holes in the board roof to help him go to sleep.

After so long, they said it was time for Santa to come, so he and I hung our stockings by the mantle and left Santa some hickory nuts on the hearth with the hammer. I really thought he would come and while he was cracking the nuts, I would get to see him. But I fell asleep and did not know when he came. The next morning I found my first and only doll in my stocking.

I was so thrilled with it. I would not lay it down even to eat. It was a store bought doll with black hair and slippers and porcelain hands with a cloth body filled with sawdust. It was 10 inches tall.

I loved it more than I could explain. I was so afraid something would happen to it, I put it in an old time chest where our best clothes were kept at night.

My brother and I buried everything that died - little chickens, birds, kittens, or anything we found dead. We had a neat little graveyard. There was slate rock in the ground that was easily broken. We made tomb stones from it when we buried something. Brother always bowed his head and said something before I pushed the dirt over the graves.

One day he said, "Sis, why don't we bury your doll. That is a good way to keep it." I thought he was right so I agreed to bury it, crying all the time we were digging its grave. We put some pieces of chestnut bark on the dirt in the grave and I wrapped my doll in a piece of red lindsey material and laid it on the bark and put bark over it before covering it with dirt. Then, Brother did the service and I packed the dirt and set the tomb stone, crying all the time.

That night there came a big rain storm and washed our grave yard away. I could not ever find my doll.