I am so proud of my country roots. I grew up in a small valley tucked away in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. It was the place my ancestors settled when they left Ashe County, North Carolina and the place I called home most of my life. It’s not my home now, but it is the place where my core beliefs were formed.
As kids, we had the freedom to roam anywhere just about anywhere. We usually had a pair of shoes for the school year, a pair of shoes for church, and a pair of tennis shoes for summer. We went barefoot most of the time because wearing shoes was so restricting. I can remember being about 7 years old, sitting on the walkway that led up to my grandmother’s house, waiting for the dew to dry so I could play in the grass.
I read a lot now about how children need to have the opportunity to explore outside to develop a sense of curiosity about science. Boy, oh, boy did we have the opportunity. We left the house in the morning and did not come back until dinner time. (I honestly do not remember going home to eat lunch, but we must have had peanut butter and jelly at some point during the day.)
It was nothing for us to strike out and walk the railroad tracks to go swimming or just go for a walk. We swam in the creeks, caught crawdads and night-crawlers, went fishing and swung from huge grapevines wrapped around the branches of trees. We crossed the creeks by jumping rocks. We knew where to watch for snakes and what to do if we encountered one. We learned to look at the leaves on the trees or the clouds crossing the mountains as a sign of coming rain.
My grandfather took me into the woods when he gathered mayapple and ginseng constantly teaching me to watch out for the stinging nettle or poison ivy along the way. He would show me the hidden Jack-in-the-Pulpits and sing me old-timey songs. It was a wonderful way to grow up.
We had very few toys. Instead, we played games outside. Some familiar and some we made up. Tin Can Alley (kick-the-can) was a community favorite. We also had a game similar to hide-and-seek called No Bears Are Out Tonight which had its own original song to go along with it.
We walked everywhere we went. Along the way, we broke milkweed stalks to discover if our love was true. We popped the seed pods on touch-me-nots. We gathered glass pop-bottles to turn in for the 2-cent deposit in hopes of having enough money to buy bubble gum or candy at the small local store.
It was a great way to grow up.
I sat down tonight to write about some of our country traditions, but that may need to wait until tomorrow. For now, I am happy to be doing a little mental time-travel.