A creek ran through St. Charles,
beginning in hills at road’s end.
In dry times, babbling over rocks,
flowing gently around bends, leaving town
in a leisurely kitten trot.
In rainstorms the lazy feline
evolved into a catamount,
wrathful and swollen by water
surging from each groove and hillock,
and grabbing everything around.
From our house on a hill, we had
a bird’s eye view of the prey
floating by, attached to the cat’s back-
toys, clothes, lumber, tables, chairs,
and an occasional outhouse,
one of which landed upright
near the train depot one day,
or so the story flows.
I often think of our
little yellow house
in St. Charles and the
small threads which wove
my childhood tapestry,
the aroma of yeast rolls
and donuts mother made.
gathering around the radio
on Saturday for “The Hit Parade”
the clean plate club
Daddy pulling Bobby and me
on an old wool blanket
to polish newly waxed floors
reading in the overstuffed
chair, “The Wizard of Oz”
and “Little Women” series
over and over again
Mother’s back rubs
Daddy pulling teeth by teasing
that he would slam the door
with thread tied to it,
which made any other way
acceptable to us
Mother’s shining blue-black hair
the tree I climbed, where I sat,
sang, and thought about the world
snows too deep to walk in
our canary who died
Daddy’s beehives out back
playing on our slide and swing
waving at trains, on the nearby track
hide and seek with our dog Boots
watching the town’s creek rise
our elbows on the window sill
my fall into the coal bin
the doctor removing
all except two slivers
which remain embedded today,
as a reminder of my
and the little yellow house
on the hill.
We reached the picnic spread, Schaffer’s Ford,
by a winding dirt road several miles long,
then parked next to a split rail fence.
You could hear the rushing river,
cows lowing and occasional
soft clangor of their bells.
Wildflowers colored the place,
roses, black eyed Susans, lilies,
yarrow and Queen Anne’s lace.
We crossed the fence and pasture,
artfully dodging cow chips
while balancing food and drinks.
A resident bull once charged Uncle Abe,
so none of us ever wore red.
In the ford’s cool water, we cousins
floated, splashed each other, played games
of knighthood, sat on thrones of ancient rock,
wore daisy crowns, and bore scepters
which we made form sycamore.
Ring of horseshoes, thud of batted balls,
and known voices of aunts, uncles,
and parents were a soothing backdrop
during our afternoon of play.
Later smoke from cooking fires
wafted to us promising food
fit for all of us queens and kings...
hamburgers, baked beans, watermelon
cherry sodas and churned ice cream.
Today my inward eye sees
with clarity those picnic days.
flare along the way.
If I could somehow return
to one long ago place,
it would be there.
The coal train, its whistle a haunting wail,
every car piled high with shiny black,
clickety clack, day and night chugged along the rail.
The miners streamed from carbon into gloam,
voices low, hats with lights, tin lunch pails,
tired eyes, hunching backs, faces black, trudging
on to home.
Rockers creaking, knives a’ whittling, kin folks
spun tales of old in their dialect,
and lulled the children all to peace
with the stories told.
Feet on wood floors, tapping, dancing, clogging,
set to bluegrass music, young and old’s delight,
resounded through the hollows, livened up the night.
Ever smoothing her ancient rocks, the river’s
roar filled up the soul, her peaceful pools
became the young folks’ favorite swimming holes,
back in those hills of Virginia.
In a sea of green sat the steepled church,
fresh-white, where hymns rang out, twangy, sweet,
and dinner on the ground lingered on ‘till twilight.
Fingers flew, needle and thread whished away
through myriads of cloth...a quilting bee,
where scraps emerged as masterworks of stitchery.
Nestled in the valley’s point, the farthest,
that little town, now ghost, was once alive
where plain folks led simple lives, lived them to the fullest,
way, way back in those haunting hills of Virginia.
Order your copy of Appalachian Girl at
Morganton, Georgia 30560
or contact the author Barbara Groce