The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Rucker and Lola Harris

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1985

Issue: November, 1985

"The Rooster Trade"

Rucker and Lola Harris and two of the donkeys.Rucker and Lola Harris and two of the donkeys."Let's see, let me tell you about a rooster trade I made one time that people are still laughing about around here."

"One day my uncle and a nephew came over to the house. I had this fine rooster there. My uncle wanted to make me a trade with a rooster he had. So I asked a lot of questions about his rooster and decided to trade. Well, my uncle brought his rooster over and I gave him mine. I took that sack out to the chicken house, got the rooster out, put him on the roosting pole. He fell off and I thought, 'What in the world is the matter!' Guess what! That rooster didn't have any feet! I had asked my uncle everything about that rooster but his feet. That's the way trading goes. People here still laugh about that rooster trade. My nephew was laughing and talking about it the other day. Yes siree, everything happens to you when you are a trader."

The Mountain View Community in the Meadows of Dan area of the Blue Ridge is noted for its beauty and relaxed atmosphere. Here the people are friendly and caring; always ready to lend a helping hand to someone in need. This is my home and I'm proud to be a part of it. Just up the road a little way stands a tall, beautiful, colonial house, complete with a veranda. You see beautiful flowers adorning an old fashion walkway that are tended by loving hands. In the yard one may see two burros, a mother and her baby, grazing at the tender green grass. Two special people live here, Rucker and Lola Harris. I spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon recently, sitting on the back porch chatting with these fine neighbors. Both Rucker and Lola are 81 years, not old, but young.

Rucker and Lola Harris' home in Meadows of Dan, Virginia.Rucker and Lola Harris' home in Meadows of Dan, Virginia.Says Rucker: "I was born at Meadows of Dan, Virginia in a log house at the Lawson place. My parents were Elkanah and Minda Hall Harris. Mother was the daughter of Hardin Hall. Father passed away when I was one year old leaving mother with eight children. We left the top of the mountain for awhile and moved to Schoolfield, Virginia. Later my oldest brother was taken right sick and we moved back on the mountain to the Lee Handy place. I had little jobs around the farm as a very young child. I would feed pigs, fetch the cows in and learn to milk. There wasn't much time left for playing back then. We kept busy and out of trouble. I never had any store bought toys just a home-made truckle wheel. It was a mobile type, complete with a steering wheel. Sometimes riding my truckle wheel could get to be a lot of work. I'd pushed it up the hill until my tongue was hanging out, just to get to ride back down.

With a big family and father gone, we all had to pitch in and help Mother. At age seventeen, I was driving a team of white horses with a wagon, hauling chickens, eggs, butter and stuff to Stuart for my Uncle Taz Hall. He had a store at the head of Rock Castle. I'd pick up dry goods at the depot in Stuart for the store. The trips took a day and night (sometimes I camped overnight in Stuart) other times at the old Hopkins store. I'd fix me a good supper over the campfire, frying some good slabs of fatback, eggs, and making a mighty good cup of coffee. Most of the time a crowd of people would stop by the campsite, but there were nights I was by myself. Then I'd just roll into that old covered wagon and go right to sleep. But you know what? You sure couldn't do that in no peace these days.

Rucker and Lola enjoying life in their back porch swing.Rucker and Lola enjoying life in their back porch swing.I saw Lola at school, church and gatherings all along. One day I noticed she was a mighty purty little gal. After that I kept my eye on her. Finally I won Lola's heart and we were married December 6, 1922 by Mr. Jim Dickenson at her home.

We have farmed all our lives. Well me, I was born a trader. My horse and mule trading started as a young man. My uncle offered me a plug horse if I'd mow a three acre patch of alder bushes. I done it, and had the mowing done by, twelve o'clock that day. I got the horse and my first deal. Next, I jumped on that horse's back and lit out to my Uncle George Harris' house and swapped my horse off that day. The next Monday, I went to Floyd, Virginia court. They always had trading day when court was going on. I swapped my horse for a mule, giving $2.50 to boot. It took me five days to make that $2.50 at fifty cents a day. Sometimes I would be so pleased and excited with my trading I couldn't sleep. Next day when I hooked up the horse or mule, I'd be so sick of the deal, I couldn't sleep again. So there I had lost two nights sleep. I still do a lot of trading horses, mules, cows or anything.

My first car was a second-hand roadster. I swapped a four month old colt even for that little 1923 Model T. Gas was thirty cents a gallon. If the tank was not full, that car wouldn't go forward. I'd have to turn around and back up the hill. You sure could loose a lot of time that way.

Now a day, I keep a few cattle, a horse or a mule, and my burros; Pearlie May and baby Teddy. One time I owned Pearlie May and sold her. Then I decided I wanted her back, so finally traced old Pearlie down. The burros are my pets and I think a lot of them.

Rucker Harris looking over his farm.Rucker Harris looking over his farm.I still drive and go places and piddle around on the farm a lot. There's always something to do. But I always have time to sit in the porch swing, play with my dog or talk to people that come by. Yes, the Lord has richly blessed me and I've lived a full life."

Says Lola: "Well, I guess I'll just let Rucker do most of the talking since he's a big talker anyway. Maybe I'll tell you a few little things about myself. My parents were William Tilden Underwood and Mary Ellen Belcher Underwood. My mother passed away when I was barely six years old. This made my childhood kinda sad with no mother to guide me. I was born down on Rock Castle near The Bear Rocks. Running and playing on these rocks was a favorite game. I was a little tomboy I guess, climbing trees and swinging on a grapevine. I remember having one doll in my life. It was porcelain with a red percale dress. I kept this doll until I married and then gave it to my half-sister. We never had a Christmas tree as a child. Now I'm 81 years old and have never had a tree. But I do some decorating at Christmas. I like to make wreaths of spruce pine, black pine cones, painted different colors. Then I put red ribbons on them. Sometimes I make white paper flowers to put on the wreaths. I can make a wreath and somebody comes along and says, 'I was looking for some- thing like that for my door,' and I'll give it to them."

"As a young lady, I always enjoyed parties and dances, but especially liked parties. We had to walk everywhere, but walking can be fun. My family would walk from down in the Bear Rocks to Mountain View Church for Sunday School. I remember seeing Rucker around at different places, so I guess we really knew each other all along. Back then I didn't know he had an eye for me."

"After Rucker and I were married, we went all over the country side renting land and putting in big fields of corn. We have done a lot of hard work, but honest work never hurts anybody. Rucker's mother lived with us and we took the Old Ballard Telephone Switchboard over for her to run since she couldn't get out and go around with us. We kept the switchboard for 12 years. There were seven lines. Mrs. Harris' health failed and she was bedfast for two years. We took care of her like she was in a hospital."

Rucker "getting in" fire wood.Rucker "getting in" fire wood."We have lived here at the Jeff Cockram place since 1949. This house is around 75 years old and has been the scene of many parties. In early years it was one of the finest homes in Mountain View. I like this house. Raising and tending flowers are a great joy to me. I like cooking and canning too. My cooking is 'ole-timey,' nothing fancy. I'm just a plain old country cook. This year we have three gardens and have got a 'right smart of stuff' out of them. Usually we dry a lot of leather britches beans. They are favorites with us. There has always been plenty of food on the farm."

"I have worked hard, but I do know how to relax. People these days don't know how to relax. That's one of their problems. We have been happy living and working on the farm."

Rucker and Lola Harris are caring neighbors and an asset to our community. I enjoy their house especially the veranda with its elegant woodwork. As one drives by, there will be Rucker out with his burros and Lola going about her daily chores. If you stop by, there's a friendly welcome and they will take time to sit a spell and talk. In summer time, the back porch complete with a swing is a favorite place for visiting. Lola told me that sometimes twelve or more people may come by in an evening. Once you ever go there, you can understand why.

Rucker and Lola do not have any children of their own, but have given their love to others. Their love has kept a marriage together for sixty-three years. They are the people of the Blue Ridge and love to share memories and traditions. As one sits on the porch enjoying the beautiful flowers, antics of a puppy, seeing the burros lazily grazing, and talk of days gone by, a relaxed feeling closes in. That's the way to enjoy life to the fullest.