The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

John Hayes Hollow - Grandma Parker

By Hazel P. Hedrick © 1985

Issue: November, 1985

Recently I found some old photographs of my grandparents, had some copies made and sent them to my three children. With their thank you notes come this question. What about your Grandma Parker? Are there no pictures of her, if not, why?

Suddenly it dawned on me that I knew almost nothing about my daddy's mother. I remember hearing Mama say my Grandma Parker died when I was a baby, of something called consumption. That is all I could remember hearing about her. I started to wonder why Daddy never talked about his Mama, or if he did, why didn't I remember? After sixty-five years I was suddenly very curious and started searching for any information I could find.

My Daddy, all four brothers and his one sister are dead. All but two of the in-laws are dead also. Aunt Kate, the oldest brother's wife, and Aunt Mandie, the youngest brother's wife, are still living, in North Carolina. First I went to see Aunt Kate. She is not well and her memory is about gone, so I went to see Aunt Mandie. She is in good health and more alert than me, but she had not known her mother-in-law. She started going with Uncle Flate several years after Grandma died. I learned little from her.

Next I went to see my mama's only living sisters, Aunt Rosa Lee and Aunt Florance. both in their eighties, never been married and living alone on a North Carolina mountain, growing their own vegetable garden, freezing and canning more than I do. They are two delightful ladies, but couldn't remember much about my Grandma Parker, even though they were neighbors all their childhood days.

My aunts suggested I go to a book called The Wilkes County Heritage and see what I could find there. I found the book and there was quite a bit of information about both the Parker and Moore families, but nothing about Grandma. There was one picture of her in a group watching a baptizing in a creek. I couldn't tell anything about what she looked like in the long skirt and black sun bonnet.

I was about ready to give up and go home (for this day anyway). We stopped in Wilkesboro, N.C. to visit my sister Agnes, before going on back to Virginia, and there I got lucky. My sister's first husband was killed in an automobile accident some years ago. She is remarried to a wonderful man, Lonnie Brackett. Agnes was going to see her ex-mother-in-law who lives a short distance away. I walked along to see Mrs. Grace Fletcher. Grandma Grace is what everyone calls her. She is 87 years old, lives alone and is as alert as any young person I know. She was delighted to see us. It had been some time since I had seen her. Almost the first words she said were, "Why Hazel you look more like your Grandma Parker every time I see you."

I said, "Did you know my Grandma Parker?"

"Oh law yes," she said. "I knew Aunt Ruie, she was a fine and hard working woman. You know, Aunt Ruie is what we all called her.

"You know her man was gone most of the time and she had to raise them boys and run the farm by herself, and when John was there, he always had some bum or dead beat for her to cook and do for. John Parker had the reputation of taking in all the strays. He was a fine man but he made it awful hard on Aunt Ruie.

"Why I remember," she went on, "walking past their house going to Dodson's store, and your grandma would stop me and ask if I would bring her a box of snuff. Seems like John Parker and Henry Dodson had a falling out and John would not allow his family to go about Dodson's store. I would take her nickel and bring her snuff."

I said, "what did she look like? Was she a pretty woman?"

She said, "she was a short chubby woman with long black hair balled on top of her head. Her skin was dark and tough looking for she worked in the fields like a man. She had a great sense of humor and was always making funny little remarks. She was like your Pa and your Uncle David and your Aunt Texie. They took all that funny stuff after their Ma. Their Pa was a serious, somber man, not much foolishness about him."

Here I had accidently stumbled onto everything I had been so desperately searching for. Grandma Grace had known my Grandma Parker when she was a young girl and had known her to be a lot of fun to be around as well as a hard worker. Needless to say I was delighted to get this information, but I still wonder why daddy did not talk about his Ma, or if he did, why didn't I remember?