The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Floyd Wagons

By Gladys Edwards Willis © 1984

Issue: April, 1984

Cross Roads is a little community in Franklin County, Virginia that got its name because it is located at the point where the road that is now known as Route 40 crosses 640. When I was growing up there in the early 1930's, the roads were unpaved and we called them the Ferrum road and the Henry road, because that is where they took us in one direction and the other direction of either road would take you to Shooting Creek. I always had the impression that Shooting Creek was as far as you could go. The world mysteriously ended there! If you could get that far on the rutty red clay mountain trails. Very few automobiles did make it in those days.

One of my earliest memories is the sight of caravans of covered wagons slowly winding their way down the curvy mountain side bringing cabbage. It was an event we looked forward to every fall and caused great excitement. It was the only time we had a fresh vegetable from mid-summer until the next spring. The wagons also carried other produce, such as potatoes and turnips, but we stored those for the winter, so the cabbage was our only interest.

Suddenly one day, when there was a nip in the air, usually after our first frost, they would appear on the horizon about a mile away and someone would yell, "Look! The Floyd wagons are a coming!" We would watch the string of wagons, sometimes as many as ten in a row, come closer and closer. The ruts were deep and muddy from the fall rains and the sticky red clay made travel hazardous even by wagon. It would seem hours before they finally arrived at the cross roads all splattered with mud... Their covers no longer white, but red spotted, and the weary drivers would stop, while a crowd gathered and bought their cabbage for a penny a pound. We children were fascinated by the strangers from a far away place beyond Shooting Creek. We were awed by them, much like the children of today would be by visitors from another planet!

Sometimes the wagons would pull over and camp for the night, because Cross Roads was about half way on their journey to Rocky Mount. We peered from our windows while the men from the wagons huddled around the camp fire. But we would never go near these foreigners, because we had the impression that they would steal children and take them away in the covered wagons. We tried to see what they were doing, when the light from the fire would illuminate the circle of wagons. We wondered if they ever ate anything but cabbage...Our imaginations would run wild while they were there. One time I remember there was a young boy with the caravan and we were sure he had been stolen along the way. We planned how we would rescue him, when the men went to sleep, but we never had the courage to go outside of the house.

When the wagons pulled out early the next morning, we felt sad, because the excitement was over, and we watched them bumping along with their covers bobbing up and down on the bumpy road until they were out of sight. Then we would go examine the camp site for clues that they had been there. Later we would go home and enjoy the tender green cabbage with some corn bread and buttermilk for dinner. I am convinced today that there is no cabbage as delicious as the ones grown in Floyd County, Virginia, but they taste better if I can buy them from a wagon.