The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Moody Dalton

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1985

Issue: June, 1985

Moody DaltonMoody DaltonOn a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I drove up to the peaceful little community of Mine Creek in Carroll County [Virginia] to visit with a nice gentleman by the name of Moody. Yes, that's his real name. I have known Moody Dalton over four years and have always been amazed at his boundless energy. Upon my arrival, Moody came in from the field and invited me into his home. Sitting at the table in an old fashioned kitchen the following is what Moody Dalton related to me on that Sunday afternoon.

"I was born February 27, 1913 in the Mine Creek Community. My father was George Washington Dalton and my mother was Fair Ellender. (Isn't the name Fair Ellender pretty?)

There were six children in the family. I always called my daddy, "Poppa." By trade, Poppa was a farmer and carpenter. He built houses, barns, and any other buildings people might need.

On the farm wheat and corn were grown along with a big garden. Every year we would grow a couple "cribs of corn." There was always two milk cows; one dry and one giving milk for the family. Poppa worked oxen at first and later turned to horses for farm work. He cleared land, cutting everything. Back in those days, timber was not worth anything. They had a lot of log rollings in those days. I can see those logs in my mind now.

Mama and Poppa took us to church almost every Sunday. We walked everywhere we went. The church we attended was the Grassy Creek Church. It was built of round pine poles. Poppa always expected us children to obey and work. If he left us at home to do the chores, you can bet we had them done by the time Poppa returned. I thought he was strict, but now I know Poppa was right about everything.

My Poppa bought the third new car in this area in 1919. It was a 490 Chevrolet. (How many of you remember this type of car?) Poppa paid $875.00 for that car. That was a lot of money back then.

The very first thing I remember as a little boy is the whole family being in bed with that awful flu. Mother was the only one up and trying to take care of us all. The Doctor had given two of my brothers up to die. Three of us had pneumonia fever. One night after midnight, our fevers broke. Lordy! How weak that flu left us, but we were lucky to be alive. A lot of people died during the flu epidemic. Yes, we were real lucky.

I went to school at Mitchell's Cross Roads 9 months out of a year. We had to walk two miles and went almost every day. At first I liked school, then the teacher reminded me not to tell little stories by giving me a light whipping. I guess she was right. I can tell you one thing, I did like picking out a special girl at school and having her for my special girl friend. Between going to school and doing chores at home, I didn't have much time left for playing games. Once in a great while a bunch of us would get in a good baseball game.

Two games I do remember playing were Blue Bird In and Out The Window and Bull Pen. But it seems I was always getting into more work than playing. Once I was trying to help my mother milk the cow and I must have been good at it because milking became one of my jobs.

By the time I turned 16, I was allowed to talk with the girls and we could walk to church together. I guess that was the beginning of my courting days. You should have seen my courting suit I was all dressed up in those bloused pants. Why! I even had three steady girl friends. The one named Myrtle won out and we were married when I was 19. The first year of our marriage we lived part time with my parents and Myrtle's. I became a father at the age of 20. Boy! I thought I would never in this world get to be 21 years old.

My dad gave me three acres of land where my house now stands. He gave me the lumber and helped build the house. Poppa sure did see that I got started out right. My mother gave me a heifer and Myrtle's mother gave her one. So I guess we got started out in a grand style for those days.

The first car I owned was a Model A used model. I paid $110.00 for it. Sure do wish I had that car now because it was a good one.

In 1941 I went to Dublin. Later I was transferred to Radford doing carpenter work learned from my father. Then I bought a farm and ten milk cows so I could sell milk. My oldest son was helping take care of the cows. The milking was all done by hand. Guess I didn't have enough to do, so I just went out and bought myself a sawmill. Now we were working from daylight to dark. That still wasn't enough, so in 1944 I bought my first two ton truck and begin hauling produce out of the South to the West Virginia coal fields. Mostly I hauled produce like watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, bananas and eggs. Later I added a pickup truck and did the produce bit for six years.

I continued with the sawmill and cows until about 12 years ago. Then I sold the farm that the cows were on and came down to 20 acres. That's where I'm living now. Let's see, there's something I forgot about the taxes on my first three acres of land. They were only 75 cents. Can you beat that?

Well after all the different things I worked at, I decided to try one more job. This one was with the Virginia Division of Forestry. I was with them for 15 years.

I've been retired for 10 years now. Well, I thought I was ready to retire and everything was going to be lovely. Somehow it just did not work out that way. I declare I'm busier than ever. Oh! I forgot to tell you I made molasses for 20 years and some pretty good ones too.

Now I keep a year's supply of wood ahead so that takes a lot of cutting and sawing wood. In the last three years, I've cleared four and one-half acres of land. A day now and then finds me running the sawmill. I like working with bees and have 10 stands. In spring and fall I do a lot of plowing gardens for people around here. Running lots of errands for the neighbors goes into my week's work also.

I am blessed with good health. Once the doctor told me I had a heart murmur, but that it was nothing to worry about. Now I just don't go to the doctor and I don't take any medicine. Sometimes I do get a little tired, but feel pretty good.

In the last few years I've been lucky enough to do a little traveling, including a nine day trip to Hawaii. Once at a Renfro Valley barn dance, I heard some good music and broke into an old timey flat-foot on the stage. The crowd went wild. I like to square dance and flat-foot and look forward to Friday and Saturday nights. Most every weekend I go dancing. I guess you could say my hobby is dancing. (Believe me, Moody is a smooth dancer doing the two-step, but you have to be energized to do a flat-foot with him.)

Moody raised a family of nine children and worked hard all his life and is still working. This is typical of the mountain fathers here in the Blue Ridge. Moody is very proud of his family and the values of life handed down to him by his father and mother. Before I left, Moody brought out one of the most beautiful family Bibles I have ever seen. It was leather bound and in perfect condition. This Bible has been handed down in his family with family records dating back to 1848.

The evening passed swiftly by and I knew it was time for me to go and let Moody get back over in that field to work. It was a very relaxed atmosphere for me, sitting in an old fashion kitchen. It brought back memories of my grandmother's kitchen table. Moody walked me to my car and guess what he was still talking about - WORK! Yes, Moody Dalton is a mountain man and it's nice to have him for a friend.