Photo by my professional photographer brother: John Churchman


By Beth Trissel

The sun was low in the sky and the woods dusky as my husband and I hiked the Milam’s Gap trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains. How green and still it was among the hay-scented fern, and the twilight mild and sweet, like a melody softly played. Few birds called. The flutelike trill of a thrush sounded overheard and a robin flew into the ancient apple trees that mark the beginning of the walk. Gnarled, lichen-encrusted, branches thrust high above us.

Milam’s Gap apple trees are far removed from the modern day dwarfs. These relics from the past were planted by the mountain people who once lived here and were coveted as the apples for cider and apple butter making. An old mountain woman told me. The ridges and hollows still bear the names of these stalwart souls, like Lewis and Dean Mountain, Hensley, Kemp and Corbin Hollow, Hannah Run Trail, and Mary’s Rock.

More menacing names, Rattlesnake Point, Dark Hollow and Ghost Forest also remain. The invisible presence of these people seemed to linger in these woods where their log homes once nestled, smoke rising from the old stone hearths, corn cakes sizzling on the griddle. What must life have been like for those hardy folks? Cold much of the time, and hard, I should think.

I envisioned the women and girls in calico dresses, the men and boys in worn pants and overalls, gathering chestnuts, hazelnuts and wild berries, clearing patches of ground to grow corn and vegetable gardens, sorghum for molasses, struggling to keep a few pigs, chickens, and cows alive. A bear snatching the pig the family had been fattening to supplement their winter diet must have been quite a loss.

Trips to town would have been arduous and rare, the supplies purchased slim: perhaps flour, sugar, salt and cornflakes for a special treat, cloth, gun powder and shot for hunting. Timber, orchards, livestock and the lucrative moonshine trade helped to supplement what was quite a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Doctors were hard to come by and the people often doctored themselves. Anyone who was a healer, whether with plants, charms or incantations, would have been highly sought after. Some healers specialized in one thing, like wart removal, or in the stopping of blood from a gushing wound. Others claimed to have special stones called mad stones to cure the dreaded bite of a rabid animal. We can only imagine this long gone time.

In honor of The Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers one year anniversary I'm reposting my first post on this blog.

©2008 Beth Trissel

8 comments

  1. Keli Gwyn // August 16, 2008 at 11:39 PM  

    Lovely post, Beth. As usual, you paint a scene so beautifully.

    Congrats to all the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers on your first anniversary.

  2. Beth // August 17, 2008 at 10:10 AM  

    Thanks Keli. :)

  3. Nightingale // August 17, 2008 at 10:31 AM  

    We're a year old! Wow, I don't feel that old. I was out of pocket all day yesterday at a mini-rally. Really enjoyed this hike, Beth. I was there with you!

  4. Terry Odell // August 17, 2008 at 10:34 AM  

    Happy Anniversary! We've only driven through the Blue Ridge mountains, although dh camped out there one night with the kids when they were younger and I was stuck working. I recall one daughter saying, "And Daddy put our food up a tree because there were bears!" She wasn't all that happy to hear that.

  5. Sammie Jo Moresca // August 17, 2008 at 12:43 PM  

    Beth,
    Reading this post again gave me a big smile and a warm pink fuzzy feeling, thank you so much!

  6. Anonymous // August 17, 2008 at 1:05 PM  

    Beth, I live in Georgia and your words paint such a vivid picture that I didn't have to look outside to see the images! Loved it the first time I came across it and even more so this time. HAPPY BIRTHDAY PINK FUZZIES!!!!!!!!!

    The Scarlet Pumpernickel

  7. Beth // August 17, 2008 at 9:25 PM  

    Wow, thanks guys. :))) Love your handle Scarlet Pumpernickel.

  8. Mary Marvella // August 17, 2008 at 10:47 PM  

    Beth, your words are as lovely today as they were last year. I could read them again and again.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!!!!!!!