The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

When Pennies Made A Difference

By Wm. Axley Allen © 1985

Issue: February, 1985

A group of regulars were gathered around the stove in Mayberry Trading Post on a cold January afternoon swapping old tales and stories as usual. They included John Adkins, Burt Stanley, Dale Yeatts, Miss Addie Wood, Jeanette and Raymond Shelor and me. Laughter could be heard as those gathered recalled an event that typified mountain folk's attitude toward a dollar or a penny as the case may be.

Years ago, in the days before US 58 was paved, a fellow by the name of Sam Akers had a contract to haul the mail from Meadows of Dan to Stuart, Virginia, a distance of 16 or so miles. Each day Sam would pick up the mail at Meadows of Dan, then make a stop at the Vesta, Virginia Post Office, then deliver it all to the Stuart Post Office where he would pick up the mail for the top of the mountain and haul it back to first Vesta and then Meadows of Dan. Sounds like an easy job at first, but it starts sounding a lot more like work when you consider that Sam walked the entire route each day with the mail carried on his back.

Now-a-days, it's hard to imagine walking all the way to Stuart from Meadows of Dan even if it is down hill most of the way, but it's next to impossible to imagine walking back up the mountain (let alone doing it every day with a load of mail over your shoulder). But Sam did it every day, rain or shine.

As he was on his appointed round one morning between Meadows of Dan and Vesta, one of the neighborhood ladies stopped him and asked if he would mind picking her up 2 pounds of number 3 nails in Stuart. Now evidently Sam Akers was a good man, cause he agreed to carrying the extra burden back up the mountain with him that afternoon, along with the mail for the Meadows of Dan and Vesta Post Offices.

The Vesta Post Office was located in Larkin Cockram's Store back then and by the time Sam got there, he obviously was dreading carrying an extra 2 pounds back up the mountain cause he asked Larkin why he didn't, "carry number 3 nails" in his store. Larkin told Sam he did have them, but his were 3 cents a pound and they were 2 pounds for a nickel in Stuart. After Sam explained to Larkin why he'd asked, Larkin said, "Tell you what I'll do, Sam. You can wait till you get back this afternoon and get the nails from me and I'll give you that 10 cents pack of cookies over there for free, if you'll charge her a nickel for delivering the nails." Well, a little quick math told Sam which way he'd be better off and he agreed to Larkin's idea.

That afternoon, he picked up the nails at Larkin's and headed up the road toward Meadows of Dan and the lady who was to get the nails.

Next morning bright and early the lady who'd asked Sam to bring her the nails was at Larkin's Store. "Larkin, you still got any of those number 3 nails?", she asked. "I asked Sam Akers to pick me up some in Stuart but he wanted to charge me a nickel for delivering 'em."

The crowd around the stove at Mayberry all had a good laugh as they recalled how Larkin had said it was all he could do to keep from, "busting out laughing" when the lady had registered her complaint about Sam. But as the laughter died down and moist eyes opened fully, it was plain to see that the crowd around the stove this cold January afternoon at Mayberry all had their own memories of the times when pennies made a difference.