Community -Webster’s dictionary – 1 a: the people living in an area; also: the area itself.
Comers Rock, Virginia is located in a beautiful small valley that lies in the shadow of the Iron Mountain Range in Southwest Virginia. When I was growing up it’s landscape consisted of rolling green pastures full of beef and dairy cows, fields of tall corn and hay, lovely small homesteads, and a tight knit community of families and friends.
Everyone knew everyone, a wave of “Hello” was expected in passing, you could find most everything you needed down at Mr. Carl Williams’ store (including more information than the local news), and a handshake was a binding contract.
Like many areas in the Appalachians, because of it’s remote location, neighbors depended on neighbors and the sense of community was strong! To a little girl, it was paradise.
It was a place where the four seasons were prominent, each spreading it’s own beauty over the valley and mountains. My favorite season was Spring. I grew up on a dairy and beef farm so Spring meant warming weather, green grass and daffodils peeping up through the last of the snow melt, hauling those last bales of hay or loads of corn silage to the beef cows before working them and turning them out on summer pastures, and (my favorite) that’s when the baby beef calves were born!
Spring evenings after milking Daddy would load up bags of loose salt and minerals in the back of the farm pickup and we would go “over yonder” (yep that’s what we called it) to check the beef cows and calves. If it was warm enough I would sit in the back of the truck to ride the two miles up the road to their pasture.
As we bumped over the cattle guard into the field Daddy would start blowing his horn and calling the cows in with his own version of “cow talk” which sounded more like “swwwwooooookkkkcalf”. Of course I tried to imitate him but could never get the “swwwwoooookkkk” part quite right. Luckily, the cows always seemed to know what he was saying and came running showing off their new babies.
There was a certain salt rock, or that’s what I called it, where Daddy would always pour the loose salt for the cows to lick up. I liked to run my hand over the rock because it had been worn smooth by the cows rough tongues licking the coarse salt. And not to be out done, I would sometimes lick my finger and stick it in the salt and try a little myself.
There was nothing like those rich mountain pastures to grow and maintain productive beef and dairy herds.
Community – Webster’s Dictionary – 1 b: a group of living things that belong to one or more species, interact ecologically and are located in one place
Late Spring was a busy time for the community. Farmers were getting their fields ready for corn planting and everyone was plowing up the rich dirt to get ready to garden.
The majority of the homesteads had a big garden and most kept chickens for eggs and meat and pigs to slaughter in the Fall.
My mom tells a story of her first curse (we would say cuss) word caused by a grumpy old hen sitting on eggs. It was her job as a little girl to go gather the eggs and there was that one hen that would just not move off the nest and give up her stash!
One day, mom said that she had stalled as long as she could and knew that her mom would be wondering where she was so she took a deep breath and stuck her hand into the nest under the old hen. The hen proceeded to squawk and peck her so hard it brought blood. Mom jerked her hand out from under the hen and cried, “You old b****!”. Then she turned around and there was her mom (my Nanny) standing in the doorway of the chicken coop. Mom said she got spanked all the way to the house.
In the summer “How’s your garden doing?” was the main topic of conversation by the men down at Mr. Carl’s store as they sat smoking their pipes and playing cards. It was also the hot topic for the women back home having their morning phone conversations on their newfangled party line rotary phones. And yes, I can even barely remember Ms. Atro Fielder, the switchboard operator, on the other end of the old crank phone.
Many hours were spent planting, weeding, hoeing, harvesting, canning and freezing all the vegetables and fruits that these gardens produced. If someone’s pole beans got eaten by some mean garden critter or their tomatoes “blighted” there was always a neighbor with extra that was willing to share so that everyone’s shelves and freezers were stocked for the coming Winter.
Community – Webster’s Dictionary – 1 c: a group of people with common interests especially when living together
Growing up things just didn’t move nearly as fast as they do now and instead of rushing around people did take time to “stop and smell the roses”, literally.
Going to the neighbors to visit or having company over was a wonderful part of my growing up. People would just stop by if they saw you outside or sitting on the front porch and “sit a spell” to talk about mundane things, tell funny stories and enjoy each other’s company.
Most of the time there was coffee, sweet tea, Pepsi, and popcorn served at our house. And not the microwave popcorn kind! The home grown, popped in homemade lard over the stove kind with a generous portion of salt added in kind. It was yummy and as many years as I tried I still could not beat Joe Sutherland’s popcorn skills. It was just the best!
So my memories of growing up are based on strong community bonds where the sense of community was real. Unfortunately we have lost a lot of that camaraderie in today’s hustle and bustle world but I will always remember the great times and wonderful people along the way.