Last week, we visited my great-grandpa’s home place deep in the Uwharrie Mountains. In this story, we are gonna cross the hollow to visit my great-uncle L.D. and aunt Rilla.
You’ve seen pictures of an old home sitting atop a mountain with a long, winding road leading up to the house. Well, this was it. If it had been raining much, we’d just have to walk up to the house, but most of the time our old ‘50-model Ford would make it up the winding road to the house. They’d always see us coming and would be waiting on the porch.
Uncle L.D. had long since retired from farming but would always be wearing a fairly new pair of overalls with an old suit coat and a pair of brogan shoes. Aunt Rilla was a rather short and stocky lady and always wore a long homemade apron around her waist. I really liked to visit these old folks, but when I started to step on the porch, Aunt Rilla would lift up her apron, wipe the Tuberose snuff from around her mouth and proceed to give me one of her big, juicy kisses. Well, when you’re a little fellow, you endure a lot of things — don’t we all?
Well, I knew things was going to get better when Uncle L.D. would say, “Come on, boy, let’s go out by the old well and draw up a gallon of fresh cow’s milk” which he had placed in the well to cool. See, they had electric lights but hadn’t bought one of them new iceboxes, as they called it. Why, he’d let me wind that old wooden handle connected to a rope which was tied to a well bucket that held the jar of milk.
After we drew up the milk from the well, we proceeded in the house where Aunt Rilla was just slicing a big deep-dish apple pie. Now, folks, this weren’t your storebought apple pie, no sirree. Them apples had been picked from a tree right there in their yard and dried on the hot tin roof of their woodshed. It had been baked in the oven of an old woodstove by loving hands. It had a crust on it that was so good that iffin’ it broke off, you didn’t brush it on the floor. You popped it in your mouth, don’t you know. Then we’d wash it down with a large glass of fresh cow’s milk, and no, I didn’t mind if it ran down my chin.
By then I was ready to take a nap, but the reunion day weren’t over till I followed Uncle L.D. down to the barn to feed the old mule and cow. Some of the tin was missing off the top of the barn and it looked pretty rundown, but it still served its purpose. When you opened the door, there in the barn would be old mule bridles, singletrees, harness and plows that had seen a better day. While Uncle L.D. was feeding up, I’d climb up in the hay loft and play on the hay. To this day, I can hear Uncle L.D. saying, “Boy, don’t you tear up my hay up there, you hear?”
Well I’d play up there for a spell, then I’d jump out of the barn loft on the ground where there was an old hay rake. You know the kind that had a medal seat with holes drilled in it to let the water out. I would imagine being pulled by a team of beautiful black horses with a shiny leather harness, around and around the hay field. ‘Bout that time I’d hear a car horn and I knew my folks was ready to go. I’d start up the hill back toward the house looking forward to next year at the reunion.
You know, as the years go by and I get older and older, I sometimes catch myself looking back down that hill and I can almost hear the faint sound of gospel music coming from the little church there in the oak grove. Why, sometimes I can even feel a tear or two coming down my checks as my memories take me back to the days of the Thompson reunion.
J. A. Bolton is a lifelong resident of Richmond County and a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild and the Story Spinners in Laurinburg.