Chapter 2: Ruth’s Childhood Memories

April 6, 2009 - 1,116 views

Birth and Family

A little girl was the eighth child to join the Lee and Lenora Bond home (August 10, 1899). Ada, Orville, Orson, Lydia (Morrow was deceased), Susie, and Ian were there to greet her. Ian being the smallest was somewhat overlooked, but his turn finally came. He said, “Mama, I want to see that little cucumber.” She was named Ruth Content. They later said she should have been named Ruth Confidget since she never seemed to be still.

Early Childhood and Church — Description of a Home Place

My early memories are of a two-story house, two large rooms downstairs and two upstairs with a hallway between. A kitchen and dining room with a storage room were on the back side of the house with a shed-type roof. My father and mother started housekeeping in the two rooms and added on as the family grew.

Also close by was a shop with one large room and a smaller one. A buggy shed was attached to it. A corn crib left ample space to drive between it and the shop. A chicken house was close by.

A barn stood on one little hill back of the house; and a stable for the horses, on another hill back of the house. A smokehouse stood in the yard close to the house. Besides being a place to smoke the meat, it also served as storage space. It had an attic, which made a lovely playhouse, too.

A dug well stood in the yard. A large level garden was close. On the far side of the garden was the pig house and lot. The privy was along the path to the pig pen.

A cherry tree stood close to the house and always held a swing. The limb that held the swing was well padded to protect the tree. No one knows the hours I spent in that swing.

The road ran in front of our house. A rail fence paralleled the road. That made a good place to let trees grow. Some large white oaks grew along that fence, making an easy way to get to the limbs to climb into the tree. Ian must have taught me to climb, and I liked high places. I don’t remember this, but they say one day when Papa and Mama returned from Roanoke (one and one-half miles away), they found me in the very top of the white oak tree swinging in the branches. They were frightened but afraid of scaring me and making me fall. Papa finally said, “Ruth, don’t you think it is time to climb down?” I obligingly climbed down to safety.

Supplemental Income for My Parents

To supplement the meager income from the farm, Papa made brooms and Mama wove carpets and rugs. Most people around there grew broom corn and made carpet rags out of worn out clothing. Papa took pride in never having a broom come off the handle or unsewed. He did most of that work in the winter months. A Burnside stove kept the room nice and warm.

Mama used an old loom that one worked hard to weave five yards in a day. The time finally came when she got a “Fly Shuttle” loom. That was the time when children came in handy keeping the cylinders full of carpet rags. With that loom she wove 27 yards in one day and had other things to do part of the time. I don’t remember how much they got for their work, but it all helped out.

A Younger Brother

Main joined the family on Christmas Day after I was two years old. That made four boys and four girls. There were nine children in Mama’s family, and she had as many children as all the rest put together. I am glad–otherwise, six of us would not have been.

Spankings I Remember

We had a woodyard close to the shop, for we burned wood in the kitchen stove. There were lots of chips and soft ground there. One time Susie and Ian caught the turkey gobbler and decided to plow up some of the woodlot. They had him by the tail. Main had one wing, and I had the other. As he dug in, trying to get away, the chips really flew. We laughed so hard Papa, who was working in the shop, heard us and came to see what was going on. He did not think it was funny. As I remember, Susie and Ian got spanked; but Main and I were too small to know any better.

Don’t think I never got spanked or whipped. I had my share. One I well remember–I shot a bow and arrow one Sabbath p.m. up at Grandma’s with some of Uncle Everett’s children. Ian knew better, but I learned the hard way.

Sabbath Activities

Sabbaths were very special at our house. We got ready for them on Friday so no more work than necessary had to be done on Sabbath.

Uncle John Heavener was my first Sabbath School teacher. In the summer he would take us out under a shade tree by the church and tell us Bible stories and nature stories. He grew orchards of fruit trees. He compared a fruit tree growing up out in the pasture field where it had no care to a child growing up without going to church.

Uncle John Heavener was the song leader at church and Sabbath School. He loved music and loved to sing. Many Sabbath afternoons were spent at the church singing favorite songs and learning new ones. I have heard it said that Uncle John could not carry a tune when he was married to Papa’s eldest sister. He loved music, and she helped him to learn the notes and carry a tune. He made a good singing teacher. He bought the first organ in the community–also the first phonograph. Many Sabbath p.m.’s were spent there listening to him play records. He enjoyed it as much as we did.

Sometimes on Sabbath afternoons in the fall or spring the Heavener young folk and Bond young folk went for long walks over the hills. Usually we could find nuts that had survived the winter to eat. Or in the fall there was some kind of fruit. Chestnuts were a favorite, but a disease has killed them off. Sometimes we would find wild grapes and maybe swing on a grapevine.

Once a month, the first Sabbath, the preacher from Lost Creek came. He preached Sabbath morning and sometimes that evening, too. Our house was the first one he came to, so usually he stopped there. The first one I remember was H. C. Van Horn. I think Lost Creek was his first church.

Uncle John Bond lived about two miles from the church. They often came home with us for dinner on Sabbath. I loved to get him to tell about things that happened to him. His son Charlie and family used to come to our house a lot. Their older children were about the ages of Main and me, so we loved to have them come. Sometimes when Main and I were older, we would walk up there on Friday night and come to church with them on Sabbath.

Elementary School

I started to school after I was six years old. Russell Ramsey, Lela Heavener, Eston Bond, and I were all in the first grade and finished the eighth together. Brier Point was about one-half mile from home cross country but more than a mile by the road. Some of the fun times were ciphering matches, spelling matches, map matches, and question boxes. About once a year on Friday evening, we went to Roanoke or Conoe Run and had a spelling match and arithmetic match with them; and they came to our school. We won our share of the time–if not more.

At recess we played tag, base, drop the handkerchief, and baseball. We had a straight stick of wood for a bat, and the balls were made from the yarn of worn-out socks. The best balls had a little rubber ball in the center. These yarn balls had to be thoroughly sewed if they lasted any time. When the weather was bad, we would play hot hand, mumble peg, chop wood, and jacks.

4-H Projects

The last year I was in grade school, we had a district supervisor. He organized the first 4-H clubs in the county. Main and I were members. Main’s project was an acre of corn, I think; and mine was chickens. I think I “set” two or three hens on fifteen eggs each. They hatched very well; but after they were two or three weeks old, they got diarrhea. I lost all but seven of them. I did not know how I was going to tell the supervisor when he came to check on our projects. Main said, “Just tell him they got the trots.”

We were working Main’s patch of corn when the supervisor came. After greetings, he asked how my chickens were doing. I looked at Main, and he was looking at me. We both just giggled. I don’t think I ever did tell him what was wrong.

Recreation and Work on the Farm

The first day of May was a big day at our house. We could go barefooted for the first time that year. The first thing was foot races, Ian could always outrun me, but he liked a close race. So he let me get all the start he dared to make it close. Once in a while he made a mistake, and I won–not often. He did the same with a running jump and a broad jump. I could jump about as high as he could.

We did not play all the time. Papa took us with him to the corn fields, hay fields, and to cut the filth on the farm. His farm was the cleanest around. We had to do our work well. If one got a little behind, Papa would hoe a few hills in his row so we all kept close.

The summers at home were something special. We got up early and worked hard all day. I was usually helping with the farm work, whatever that might be. Supper was near five o’clock; and when the dishes were done, we were free for the evening. A large family had moved into the neighborhood, and all the young folk got together in the evenings and played folk games and sang until nine or ten O’clock. We kept the grass tramped down in their yard and ours, too. There must have been from twelve to eighteen of us.

Papa cut two apple trees out of the orchard close to the house to make room for a tennis court. We also had a croquet set. When there was a lesser number who got together, we played tennis or croquet. When cooler weather arrived, two or three nights a week Main and I got together with Harvey and Vesta Heavener and played Rook or Dominos. Most of the time they came to our house. No dull moments!

Picking Blackberries

Usually there were lots of blackberries to pick. We had to go to the neighbors to pick them since Papa would not let briers grow until much later. Usually it was the women folk who picked the berries, with help from the smaller children; the men had farm work to do. We would take the buggy, put a washing tub in the back, buckets for everyone to pick in, and larger buckets sometimes. The berries were canned or made into jelly or jam. Sometimes a twelve-gallon kettle of jam would be made outside. The best part was to pick a bucket full of the nicest berries we could find to eat with sugar and cream, along with bread and butter (a favorite meal with the family).

A Lost Ewe

Papa only had about fifty acres of land, so he often rented corn ground and pasture for his sheep and cattle. Someone had to take salt and look to see the animals were all right once each week. One summer we had the sheep about a mile from home. Main and I were sent to see that they were all right. One ewe was missing. We called and called, but she did not come. We went all over the hill looking for her and calling. I could hardly keep from crying, but I did not want Main to know it. Finally I glanced around at him, and there were tears in his eyes. We both sat down on a log and cried. That was the first time we had been sent to look after the sheep, and we had failed. I don’t think the ewe was ever found.

Raising Corn

Usually the corn ground was easy to work in. Papa believed in thoroughly preparing a seed bed. It was plowed, drug, and harrowed time after time until one could track a bird in it. There were lots of killdeer to make tracks as they hunted for worms and grubs.

Papa liked to let the corn ripen enough to shuck it on the stock. Then the fodder was cut and dropped in piles to be bound with a single stock of corn. About every twelve to twenty feet in the row four hills of corn were tied together by taking the opposite corners and tying them together with one of the ends. Then the bunches of fodder were placed around that and tied tightly with a stalk of fodder.

When the fodder shocks were well cured, it was hauled off the field and stacked around long poles secured in the ground. The bunches were stood up closely in a circle around the pole. When the circle got ten feet or so in diameter, a heavy twine was tied snugly around near the top. Then another row was placed on top of that (but not as big around). Usually the stacks were four or five tiers high when finished. Each one was tied at the top. That kept the fodder protected from rain and snow but made it easy to take out to feed the cows.

Later Papa bought a silo. Then the corn was cut after the grain was mature but before the stocks began to dry. With that process the corn had to be cut and dropped in neat piles so they could be loaded on a sled and hauled to the silo. There it was fed into a cutter that chopped it up and blew it into the silo.

Harvesting Corn with Uncle Lonnie

I remember one time we were short of help, and Papa got Uncle Lonnie to help cut the corn. He was very hard of hearing. He, Ada, and I were to cut and bunch the corn; Main was to haul it to the silo; and Papa took care of that end. We were cutting two rows each. I had the middle rows. When we got to the end of the rows, Ada was a few hills behind; and Uncle Lonnie twitted her about not keeping up. We had to walk back to the beginning of the rows so the bunches would be lying the same way to be easier to load. As we walked back, I said in a low voice to Ada, “We will fix him.” (Remember, he could hardly hear.)

When he was cutting in the row farthest from me, I was cutting in Ada’s row; and we were the first to get to the end. He just dropped his head and did not say a word as we walked back. The same thing happened again and again. Then he got to cutting a few hills at the end of his row so he could finish at the same time we did. At that rate we got so far ahead of Main hauling it in that Papa thought Uncle Lonnie could cut the corn, Ada could go to the house and help Mama, and I could work in the silo and keep it trampled and leveled. Some way it did not take too long until Main had caught up and I had to go back to cut corn.

A Surprise for Papa

Another time I well remember, Papa had gone to Orville’s to take care of his crop as he was in school at Morgantown at the time. We had a good size field of corn that Papa wanted shucked, cut, and hauled off the field so he could plant winter wheat. The moon was full, and not a cloud was in the sky. Main and I got up at 4 a.m. and went to the corn field. We raced to the end of the rows, shucking corn. Sometimes one won, and sometimes the other; but we raced every row. About six, we went to the house to eat breakfast and do the chores. Then we went back to the corn field and continued to race.

When the corn was shucked, we raced cutting it. He cut two rows, and I cut two. The fodder had to be piled in one row. He let me cut the right hand rows, and he had to reach across to put the fodder in one bunch. That gave me just enough advantage to make a tight race, and we raced until it was all cut. Then each of the bunches had to be tied. That was another tight race. Sometime along, we ate dinner and supper and did the chores again.

When we were ready to haul off the fodder, Ada drove the horses. Main would grab one bunch of fodder and I another one as we loaded it on the sled. The horses moved right along, and we kept up with them. Before dark came, we had it all off the field.

When Papa got home, he was as much surprised as we had hoped he would be. I remember that night I dreamed Ada got to running the horses and I got so tired trying to keep up that I just fell over on the sharp corn stubbles and thought that was the softest bed I was ever on.

Making Hay

The hay field was hot work, but no one seemed to -mind. We had a mowing machine pulled by two horses to cut the hay. Trimming had to be done with a hand scythe. The thick grass had to be turned with the fork and loosened up so it dried evenly. The hay was raked with a one-horse rake. Ada did that job when she was available.

The rows of raked hay had to be put into shocks. A long pole was “set”” in the ground on as level a place as could be found. Three fence rails were laid (one close to the pole and the others equal distance apart for rails to be laid crossways to make a foundation for the stack of hay.

The shocks were hauled to the stack by horse. My first job in the hay field was to ride the horse. A long heavy rope or a chain was fastened to the right trace. You rode the horse around the right side of the shock and backed it up to the shock, facing the haystack. Someone was there to hitch the shock. He would slip the rope under the edge of the shock to the back side, then put the rope on top of the hay along the back (stepping on the rope to firm it there), then slipping it under the hay on the other side, and securing it to the other trace. An expert could do that as fast as a horse could walk around the stack.

Usually it took two horses hauling the hay to the stack to keep up with the ones stacking–one on the stack tramping the hay and shaping the stack, the other pitching the hay up to him. The top of the stack had to be well tramped, and a rope of hay was wrapped tightly around the pole to prevent rain from soaking in. The loose hay was carefully raked from the top of the stack down so rain would run off.

I eventually learned to do all of the haying jobs.

Papering the House

Another time Ada and I were home alone. I don’t remember where Papa and Mama had gone. We decided to paper the hallway upstairs and down. She was a good paper hanger; I just helped out and did what I was told. We wanted to get that finished to surprise Papa and Mama. We worked so hard to get it all done that by evening we had both lost our appetites. So we decided to go to bed instead of fixing supper. That night I dreamed we had left the space under the steps. It was so real I had to look as soon as I got up–sure enough, it had not been papered.

Memories About My Mother’s Home

I was small when Grandma Rebecca passed on. I only remember seeing her one time. She was bedfast and asked me to bring her a drink of water. I went to the kitchen, and Aunt Antha gave me a glass of water. I very carefully carried it to Grandma. She called me her little woman. I was so proud.

I remember Grandpa visiting at our house some years later in the summer. Main was sitting on one knee; and I, on the other. He was a big man with a white beard. Some of the older ones had picked the strawberries growing on the hill. llama brought in a big bucketful of berries for Grandpa to see and eat what he wanted. Main and I joined right in and ate our fill, too. What an opportunity!

Grandpa had a big two-story white house with a big double porch on the front. A milk house was built over a good spring of water. That kept the milk and butter cold, besides supplying water for the house. He was a prosperous farmer and had a good apple orchard.

Uncle Tom, Aunt Bessie, Lotta, and Paul lived in Grandpa’s house after he was gone. I remember visits much better after they were there. The upstairs front porch made an ideal place to spread chestnuts out to dry. They were just right to eat on one visit. Also that same time Uncle Tom had a number of watermelons stored in a coal mine on the farm. (They dug their own coal.) No watermelon ever tasted better.

Perhaps on this same visit one evening we younger ones (Lotta, Paul, Ian, Main, and I) were playing in an upstairs room. Paul sat on the floor and challenged anyone to get him up. (He was a husky lad.) After Lotta and Ian had failed, I took my turn. I kissed him on the cheek, and he really came out of there. It was bad enough to be kissed, but it made him all the madder to realize that I had gotten him up. We laughed so hard that the older ones came to see what was going on.

It was a day’s journey from our home to Grandpa’s, although it was only about twenty miles. We liked the strip of road where the river was on one side and the railroad track on the other just as we were getting into Weston. Papa always whipped the horses to get through that strip as fast as possible. I liked to go fast! On the other side of Weston, a pipe carried water from a cold spring to welcome any thirsty traveler. We always stopped there. Grandpa lived on Hacker’s Creek, about 1 1/2 mile from Berlin. We always stopped to see Aunt Tamer Wolfe before we got to Grandpa’s.

Memories of Papa’s Home and Family

My paternal grandfather’s home was close to us since Papa built on his part of Grandpa’s farm. Papa was small when his mother died. Grandpa eventually married Eliza Crowell. They had Lillie, Everett, Jenny, and Lonnie.

My first memory is of Grandma, Aunt Jane ‘ (her sister), and Lonnie living in the home place. Uncle Everett, Aunt Darlie, Urcil, Oras, Eston, Novice, George, and Alta lived on the other side of Grandma from us. Uncle Sammie and Aunt Jane lived beyond Uncle Everett’s. The church was beside Uncle Sammie’s house.

On a branch road that went by Grandma’s house lived Uncle Mansfield Heavener. He was really a cousin to Papa (their mothers were sisters). His half brother, Uncle John, had married Papa’s oldest sister; and they lived at the head of the hollow. I only remember when Aunt Fronie kept house for Uncle John. One daughter lived in Clarksburg, and her oldest child was about my age.

Uncle Eddie lived on Indian Fork, maybe about fifteen miles from us. It was a treat to have them come or to go to their house. Papa had made his home with Uncle Eddie quite a bit of the time after their father died when Papa was thirteen. Uncle Eddie’s grandchildren were about my age and younger. The two families have always been especially close.

One time when we were something near 14 to 16, our parents let Main and me take a horse and buggy (also Beatrice and Walter Bond took a horse and buggy) and go to Uncle Eddie’s for the weekend. Since Beatrice and Walter had been there more than we had, Main rode with Beatrice and I rode with Walter so they could tell us who lived along the way. We felt real “grown up,” being permitted to go alone. We did not feel so big later in the evening.

Supper time came. Uncle Eddie had a long, drawn-out way of speaking; and when he was giving thanks, one of us (maybe me) got tickled and all of us giggled. We were all so ashamed of ourselves, but we just could not help it.

We spent most of the time at Uncle Eddie’s son Charles’ home since they had a girl and boy about our ages. We had a good weekend and did not disgrace ourselves any more.