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My First Home

By Eva Brooks Campbell
May 2009

My first house was on a country road in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, not too far from the town of Sparta. The house was small, made of what I think was called board and batten, two rooms and an attic, which was unfloored so of little use to us. At first there was only Grandma, Dad, Mom, and me. When I was two years and four months old, a sister was born and in due time another sister before we had a brother, of which Dad was so proud.

By then the house was getting a little crowded, so Dad had a larger one built nearby, when I was about seven. But, I’m writing of the first one. It was beside a small stream and near the main road, both of which we were warned to stay away from. The stream was lovely but very icy cold. The road was almost free of traffic, which consisted of buggies and a rider now and then and less often a vehicle. Not even the mail passed our house. We had a mailbox at a crossroads a mile or so away. The post office was about the same distance in another direction.

The woodhouse was near, just beyond a narrow, grassy strip of a front yard. A huge white oak tree stood in the backyard and beneath its shade a log chicken house. I recall seeing a big rooster looking out between the logs and was warned to keep my fingers out or he would peck them, which meant bite me. I remember playing beneath the huge limbs of that tree. Nests for the hens were in the first section of that log chicken house. It was only a small flock.

Just beyond that side of the tree was a kiln where fruit was dried. To make the kiln, one dug a trench about a foot deep, with smooth sides and bottom. This was for the fire. The trench was topped with a couple of huge, not too thick, flat rocks. They were brushed off clean and that’s where the apples, peaches, and sweet potato slices were dried. A wood fire was started at one end. The other end had a stone and mud chimney, for the smoke and to cause the fire to burn all along the length of the kiln, six feet or so. Short walls, about a foot or less, of mud and rocks were built along the length of the trench. After the fresh fruit was put in place, the kiln was covered with boards that rested on the walls. The walls were tall enough to keep the fruit from touching the boards. The fire couldn’t be too hot or the fruit would scorch, but it had to be hot enough to dry it. We had some wonderful food from those dried fruits. Dried apple pie was especially delicious.

The garden was close by and had a small area for rhubarb for pies and sage for seasoning. Onions and peas could be grown early, red-skinned potatoes also. We also had a later garden with the usual beans, corn, beets, and tomatoes. Grandma had a kind of bean she called butter bean. Being a child I remember it only because of its name and its large size. We grew parsnips too, which had a very unusual taste and were very good when cooked properly. We always fried them. Grandma didn’t seem too fond of cooking. She would rather grow vegetables than to cook them. I feel much the same.

The barn was up just above the garden, and I remember walking up there with Dad holding my hand. The horses heard us coming and were making welcoming sounds. When I asked about it, Dad said they were laughing. Buster Brown was glad Dad was coming to feed and pet him. He was a big, chestnut horse and Dad’s favorite. The other one, Maude, was grey. I think the barn wasn’t very big. I recall only the two horses being kept in it. I remember later we had two Jersey cows, twins, that I liked. One was a dark Jersey called Mutt. The other was a tan colored one called Jeff.

The springhouse was made of logs and was up the farm road in back of Dad’s shop by a spring. An orange wild honeysuckle bush grew just above it. What a lovely scene—the log spring house, the orange bush in bloom, and the spring with the clear water flowing.

We carried water for drinking and cooking to the house in buckets. One day Grandma and I went to the spring to get some water. I had a small bucket. Grandma played a game with me, calling me her little horse. She said she would tie me to a big sarvis tree just before we got to the water so I wouldn’t get my shoes and feet wet. I stood there pretending to be tied until she returned. She had some water in my bucket, too, so we took it to the house.

When Dad was working in the shop he would let me play there sometimes. He gave me a tool to play with, a small drill, and I drilled a lot of holes in the end of the log foundation. The log was about a foot thick, so the small holes I drilled did not damage it. I admired my work for years. I loved to be in the shop with Dad.

I had a little dog named Tippy that I loved very much. Then he was gone and when I asked about him I was told he was run over and killed, but I was puzzled later when I grew old enough to think. It seemed odd to me since few cars came along that road. I missed Tippy such a lot. I felt so sad and lonely with no Tippy. I just sat crying in the little rocking chair Dad had made for me. Even though I was crying quietly, Mom made me hush, saying there was no use to cry. So, I recall sitting and rocking in that lovely chair. It was made of oak and just fit me. Grandma had braided long strips of cotton cloth and sewed them together to fit the seat and back. Grandma also would make scatter rugs of the strips of cotton. She knitted knee socks for my sister and me to wear to school later when we got old enough. We walked a bit less than two miles to school. Mom could knit too, but had less time than Grandma.

I remember my early years fondly and really enjoyed spending them in this lovely spot.