Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2013 - 48

I expected brambles and vines clinging to the
gravestones, but there were only leaves and a few small
limbs and twigs scattered about. I counted 11 marked
graves. The oldest markers were nothing more than
jagged slabs of stone.
The first stone I studied belonged to my greatgrandfather, who died eight years before his family
left the mountains, but it was my great-grandmother’s
stone that captivated me. MY FAVORITE had been
chiseled across the top when she died in 1900. I wondered whose favorite she had been, but knew the old,
gray stone would never reveal its long-held secrets.
We knew our great-great-grandmother was buried
here, but if her headstone had ever been inscribed,
the words had disappeared somewhere in time. We
saw where our daddy’s baby brother was buried at the
age of three, and nearby were two identical headstones
with baby shoes carved into them. These belonged
to infant girls, sisters – our third cousins. The babies
48 | BlueRidgeCountry.com

were born two years apart, in 1927 and 1929, and
both had died the day they were born. This above all
was a testament to the harsh reality of life in these
remote hills.
We lingered at the cemetery awhile and then
walked along what appeared to be a game trail paralleling a stream. Joda thought it should take a mile of
hard walking to reach the homesite. We fought our
way through thickets of mountain laurel and rhododendron, crossed the stream several times on wet,
wobbly stones, and climbed over and under fallen
trees blocking our path. In time, Joda began to doubt
her memory. Reluctantly we turned around.
In the face of disappointment we trudged back
through the same thickets for a quarter mile where
we stopped to rest. Between bites of his peanut butter
and honey sandwich, Don said, “I can’t believe it! I
bet we were nearly there, why did we turn around?”
We had given up too easily and decided reaching the


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