The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Home In Time For Planting

By John Hassell Yeatts © 1986

Issue: June, 1986

During the afternoon of April 16, 1865, Thomas Spangler had turned a small hillside garden near his log house that stood just off the Cold Spring road in Mayberry, Virginia. While plowing he had uncovered several large earthworms and while his team rested he had located a piece of cardboard and shaped it into a crude box in which he placed some fresh dirt and several of the worms. He was planning, all the while, to saunter over the hill and down to Round Meadow Creek about sunset and snag a few of the abundant speckled trout that thrived in that creek for tomorrow's breakfast. He finished the last furrows, unyoked the oxen and turned them loose to forage on the young green sprouts of grass that were beginning to show in the apple orchard on the southern slope of the small productive place that would later become known as the Moore Place in Mayberry.

Earlier that morning he had pounded two lead bullets flat, and now he was seated upon the porch steps wrapping the thin, coin-like, discs around some twisted and waxed sewing thread which he was shaping into a fishing line. He wanted the sinkers exactly right for the swift, white water that tumbled down the gorge toward its union with Dan River. Now he paused, breathed in the clear, crispy air of the late afternoon and for a moment reflected upon the wonders of Spring. But his mind quickly flew to his boy, George Washington, known with fondness in Mayberry, as "Coon." Coon was fighting somewhere with General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Tom hadn't heard from him in months and he wondered, at times, if his boy was still alive. "That Coon would get a trout for every single one of these worms," he whispered, almost audibly.

The wind had shifted to the East and was whining around the house corner, telling Thomas that tomorrow would be a rainy day. Then above the whine, he heard it. At first he thought it was just the wind, and then he thought it was a man's voice. The man was singing. "Sounds like Coon," he thought. But then he was sure it was the wind and his mind playing tricks on him. But he heard it again and he called to his wife, "Honey come here quick," and Tensie stopped her rattling in the kitchen and came to the porch. "Ain't that Coon a singing way up in the Knobs, Tensie?" "Sure sounds like him and he's a singing all right." "Means the war's over Tom. That boy wouldn't be singing lessen the war was over. If'fin he ain't drinking. And I just don't think he'd be coming home drinking on a furlough," she said.

The singing grew louder. Now they could make out some of the words, "Tenting Tonight. Tenting tonight, tenting tonight. Tenting on the old camp ground. Many are the hearts that are weary tonight, praying for the war to cease," Then his voice was becoming fainter until it finally died out as Coon descended into Round Meadow gorge. Tom and Tensie stared at each other saying not a word, wondering, waiting, hardly breathing. Then they heard it again. Closer now and coming up the East slope of the farm. Tensie started running. "Coon, Coon," she called. "Is it really you. Is the war really over?" Tom then saw his son climbing the hill up from the gorge. Even so he was walking fast, his linsey-woolsey trousers wet to his knees from wading the creek, and his old muzzle loading rifle balanced loosely in his right hand. Then he saw Coon drop the weapon, and sweep Tensie up into his arms in a mighty embrace

Scribbler's Note...
As legend and word, passed down has it, this is how the news of Lee's surrender ending the Civil War first reached Mayberry, on or about the middle of April, 1865. Several of the details are, of course, imaginary... Coon's marriage soon thereafter to my great aunt Lucretia Boswell provided several of Mayberry's most unforgettable characters and many of my cousins. At the beginning of the 20th century, if one had excluded his descendents, cousins and in-laws, there wouldn't have been enough people left in downtown Mayberry to stomp out a good brush fire... JHY