The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Gleaves Gardner

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1984

Issue: July, 1984

gleaves gardnerGleaves Gardner - 84 years young.March 18th was a beautiful day and I decided it was time for me to take another one of my little trips. I love to go places where no one knows me but it never takes me long to make friends. This Sunday morning I decided to stop at Pine Grove Baptist Church for service. The church is located in Dugspur, Virginia. Jack Holland is the pastor. Everyone made me feel at home and before leaving, I had a lot of new friends.

A young man at church told me about a very special gentleman living down the road. I hurried on, hoping to find Mr. Gleaves Gardner at home. Lucky me! He was at his daughter's having Sunday lunch.

When I met Gleaves Gardner, it was hard for me to believe that he is 84 years old. He is a fine looking gentleman, very strong and healthy, and loves to stay busy. There is hardly a wrinkle in his face.

Born where his daughter's house now stands, Gleaves lives across the road by himself. His wife, Minnie Alderman passed away several years ago.

As we chatted, I found that Gleaves comes from a family of long-livers. His grandfather lived to be one hundred years, five months and twenty-seven days. His grandmother was 98. He told me that his great-great-grandfather came from Massachusetts and lived in a house where the Southern States Store in Hillsville, Virginia now stands.

Gleaves has worked hard all his life. By the time he was 10 years old, he was doing most of the work on the farm, working oxen, and going with the "thrashing machine." He operated his father's old water mill until a flood washed it out into the river. Also, he has done a little bit of blacksmith work.

Let me tell you a few of the things Gleaves Gardner does at the age of 84. It made me feel tired just listening. He has boundless energy. In summer there is a large garden to tend, and mowing to do. Gleaves does all the hay mowing, rakes and hauls all the hay. He takes care of his cattle winter and summer. Would you believe? He has a cattle herd of sixty head and that isn't all he does. The week I visited, Gleaves had cut logs all day and sawed them the next at his saw mill. Of course, he still drives a car.

Remembering the depression, Gleaves talks of hard times and no money. He worked all summer and didn't even make five dollars. But there was always food. They grew the food on the farm.

Gleaves Gardner likes to stay busy. He and I agreed this is the best thing to do. Working seems to agree with him. Sometimes on rare occasions, he watches television or reads.

This was the first time I ever met Gleaves Gardner. I only wish I had known him all my life. On this Sunday I made a very special friend.