The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Life At Meadows Of Dan

By Nancy B. Collins © 1986

Issue: January, 1986

Nancy B. CollinsNancy B. CollinsI was about eight years old when I lived in that beautiful country. When I lived there, I never thought I could ever look back and say it was a good country to live in. We were very poor and times were hard.

There were seven of us children - six girls and one boy. My father's name was Putnam Boyd. My mother was a Clifton before she married my father.

My father sold eye glasses and looked after the people's eyes as best he could in that part of the country for a long time.

Father and mother also made baskets and sold them for whatever they could get for them.

We lived in an old house between Meadows of Dan and Maple Shade [Virginia]. There was no indoor plumbing. No out door plumbing either. Just a patch of woods out back. It was no fun to go out doors at night with wild animals roaming around. What a life. We moved there to take care of an old man's place and look after a bunch of cattle.

The cattle were not there when we moved in, but later they brought them in by the drove - cows, bulls, sheep and some hogs. We were to get our rent free and a garden and some farm land which was very rough.

There was one spring not far from the house. We did not know that the spring was supposed to be the watering place for all the cattle. All of the property was fenced. The man just turned the cattle loose to run in the yard and drink out of the spring. This made my dad very mad. He said his children were not going to drink out of a spring with a bunch of cattle. He had always tried to keep us children well and healthy

Dad was very upset about this and thought about leaving, but we had nowhere else to go. Dad and Mom talked about what to do. There was an old saw mill on the place and Dad found a lot of old slabs there. So, all of us children helped him build a fence out of the slabs, using some posts from the woods. We built a fence around the yard and house and we also fenced in the spring.

This caused hard feelings. The man we rented from was very unhappy. We worked at building a pond in the spring branch that ran under the fence and finally things were going very well.

When time came for the mother pig to have her babies, one of them was a runt. The old man said we children could have it. We just loved it and looked after it and found an old nursing bottle and fed it warm milk. It was very small and for a long time could go in and out of the cat hole in the door. When it was cold, it would come in at night and crawl in the trundle bed and sleep with us. This was alright as long as our Dad did not find it in the house. He said pigs' and dogs' place was outdoors. The pig finally grew into a large hog and we had to build a pen for it to stay in. We children did not like this. Neither did the hog.

Winter was coming along and we had to forget the pig and help look after the baby lambs. The sheep stayed in the rocky and hilly places at night and sometimes we would have to go out in the deep snow and find them and bring them in to a shelter. All this was very trying on us children, as we did not have warm clothes like we should have to be out in bad weather. But, someway we made it.

When spring came it seemed like the whole world opened for us children. We had a good garden. We lived off of wild game and wild green salad. We always had plenty of milk and butter.

Many nights all we had for supper was shortening corn bread and good buttermilk. We ate lots of fruit and nuts. We seldom ever got sick.

I fell down a bank off a bridge and broke my leg. My dad went to get a doctor all the way out to Floyd County. The doctor was out on a labor case and would be gone for days. The whole family was upset. Finally Mama said maybe the old veterinarian might be able to help as he was good at looking after the cows and horses. Maybe he could come and help until we could do better. My dad went and brought him over and he spent the night looking after me. He set the bone that was broken and bandaged it up with some splints he made from old boards and scalded some old yard planting leaves and made poultices and put them on and left instructions for Mama to do this every day. In about a week it began to get better and heal. In a few months, it was doing fine.

About a year after that, I fell out of a tree and broke the other leg in about the same place My dad found the same old veterinarian to come and fix it up. The bone was broke in much worse shape than the first time, but he went to work on it. After a long time it finally healed. From that day until this, I have been afraid to even get up and stand in a chair. Thanks to some people, I am still around at age of 82 years.

We lived in the old house about four years. The old place was so hard to keep up and the work so hard (with no encouragement from the owner) that my father decided to move away from Meadows of Dan and go to the Schoolfield Mills and see if he could find work so we could live better.

I was the third from the oldest child. Some of us got jobs in the mills for a while. I worked about six months and met a time keeper that worked in the mill office. He was very handsome and I was a real grown up looking person at my age. People around said I was a good looking girl.

After World War I, we got married and we had two fine daughters. My husband left the mills and went to work for the government and worked there about 33 years.

We managed to educate our daughters. One went two years to Averett College and from there, the West Hampton College in Richmond, then on to the Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and married a minister. The other daughter went two years at Averett and from there to William and Mary for two years. She married a football coach and all, it was not bad.

Now I have a very good stone house - 8 rooms to do in as I can in my old days. I have everything I need, but I am lonely. My husband passed away about nine years ago, November 17, 1976. My children are good to me. They don't live so far away. I guess I can say I have had a good life.