The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Green Eyed Nana Ella

By Sandra Redding © 1985

Issue: March, 1985

My maternal grandmother, Flossie Eugenia Butler, before her death three years ago at 89, used to relate an incredible tale about her mother, Nana Ella Davenport.

On June 15, the summer of her 19th year, Nana Ella, wearing no shoes at the time, weeded the family flower bed. When she pulled up a clump of marigolds, a copperhead fell out, biting her on the ankle. The family claims that her leg swelled to nearly ten times its usual size and when the doctor finally arrived, he held no hope for her recovery. "She has enough poison in her system to destroy a horse." he told the grieving family. But Nana Ella didn't die. She lived long enough to watch her own grandchildren swing from the limbs of the persimmon tree that grew in her backyard.

But after the snakebite, a peculiar change took place in her. Thereafter, according to the story my grandmother often related, every June 15th, the anniversary date of her skirmish with that feisty copperhead, her eyes, ordinarily as blue as the sky on a clear day, turned "a sickly-green-mean as sour apples," for a 24 hour period. During this green-eyed time, Nana Ella always claimed to feel "poorly."

Because my great-grandmother died before my birth, I can not vouch first-hand for the truth of this tale, but my grandmother Flossie had the reputation of being "honest as the day is long,” so since she always swore it was true, I too, believe it.