The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Uncle Sol

By Woodrow Golding © 1986

Issue: August, 1986

I recall with reverence the first seven years of my life living in the south western section of Carroll County, Virginia, south of the Blue Ridge. That was before my family moved across the mountain where I still live alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway. During the afternoon hours our house stood in the shadow of Fisher's Peak and on a spur of the Blue Ridge was the Sugar Loaf which reminded me of a gigantic ice cream cone turned upside down. Even after all these years, nostalgia always beclouds my thoughts when I remember the good old days romping and playing over the fields and meadows or wading in the small stream that meandered its way through the meadow in front of our house trying to catch water skippers or dragon flies.

My fondest memories yet were of Uncle Sol, as everybody called him, and the whopping tales he invented and told about the pioneer citizens who lived in this section many, many years ago. My favorites were the stories he told of the legendary Davey Lane, the great hunter. The old gent would invent and spin these yarns to amuse small children. They rivaled the stories of Washington Irving's "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle."

I was always delighted when Uncle Sol came calling. He would set me on his knee, lay a big cud of home-made tobacco in his mouth which he cut from a twist that he took from his pocket. He was toothless but his tough gums had no mercy on the cud of tobacco he chewed so rapidly that he reminded me of a sheep eating corn. His long nose and chin would meet each time he chomped down on the big cud. As he related to me the ups and downs of my legendary hero, Davey Lane, he punctuated each sentence by spitting a gob of tobacco juice on the hearth where there was usually a pone of corn bread baking on a mound of live coals. While he talked, the tobacco juice also dribbled down his chin and dripped on my mother's freshly-scrubbed, bare-wood floors.

"Tell me first about Davey Lane killing the deer on Sugar Loaf Mountain," I would beg.

"Right y' aire, Son," he would reply.

According to Uncle Sol, Davey Lane, with his trusty old mountain rifle, "Ol' Bucksmasher", was the best dad-gummed hunter in the whole dad-blasted country. With Ol' Bucksmasher he never failed to bring down a buck, that is, not until he met the one on the Sugar Loaf. That confounded critter habitated near the very top of the Sugar Loaf.

Every day Davey would climb the Sugar Loaf. Every day he would come upon the confounded buck at exactly the same spot. Each time he would draw a bead on the ornery critter and blast away. The buck would take off with the speed of lightening and, before Ol' Bucksmasher's bullet could overtake him, he would be on the other side of the mountain and the bullet would go straight on into space.

After this same thing happened several days in a row, Davey got an idea. He took Ol' Bucksmasher to his blacksmith shop and bent the barrel into a half circle.

The next day, bright and early, we find Davey climbing the steep slope of the Sugar Loaf as usual, but with a confidence he hadn't had in days. At the very same spot, as usual, he spied Mr. Ornery Buck standing there with a smug look on his face, anticipating another chase around the mountain with the same results experienced so many times before. When Davey saw the smirk on old Mr. Ornery's face, he grimaced with determination." Let me see you out run this bullet, you horn-swoggled critter," Davey hissed as he, once more, took a bead on the old buck that had tantalized him so mercilessly. Boom! Once again the buck bounded off and around the mountain like a bat out of Hades. But this time, however, the bullet did not go straight off into space when the deer disappeared around the mountain. No Siree! It went around the mountain, too, right after him.

There they came back in sight again from around the mountain. The old buck was still going like a bat out of You - know - Where and the bullet still following right behind him screaming, "Whar is he? Whar is he?"

After three such rounds the bullet finally overtook the dad-gummed buck and laid him low. Davey lost no time taking off his shot pouch and powder horn; hung them across something he vaguely noticed as being very bright and beautiful. In his excitement and haste, however, he did not give it a second look or thought but immediately went to work sticking, skinning and gutting his prize.

After that job was finished, Davey stood up and reached for his shot pouch and powder horn. Holey Moley! They were not there! Bewildered he looked all around him, but still, no pouch or horn. He stared out into space and, to his amazement, he saw his pouch and horn hanging across the crescent moon floating silently away already far beyond his reach. Muttering and grumbling to himself, he loaded his kill on his back and proceeded to carry his burden down the mountain and back home.

The next day at exactly the same time he killed his deer, found Davey back at the same spot as the day before. He saw the moon come in sight still carrying his pouch and horn. When it came near, he snatched them off and again proceeded on his way back down the mountain with a smile on his face and the satisfaction of having successfully accomplished his mission.