Often in life there are obstacles which we can never foresee coming our way.
It is often during these times we really come to know what we are made of, whether we can overcome adversity or simply crumble beneath the weight of whatever is thrust upon us.
In the valley below the Gravelly Spur, the prosperity of the 1950s had given way to most folks living comfortably. The desperation faced by many during the Great Depression was long since a memory. The faces of those lost in World War II were slowly moving from being ripped from presence to fondly remembered family members.
Granddad Bill was in his 70s and had given up full-time farming just to keep a few head of cattle and plant a light garden with some of his favorite vegetables.
He rose early one morning, and as usual placed the black cast iron pot on the wood stove to heat water for some coffee.
He turned on the radio to listen to the price of stock as he made his JFG coffee.
He took last night’s biscuit out of the breadbox over the stove and put some homemade strawberry preserves on it. As he reached it up towards his mouth, he dropped a bit of the preserves down on his faded blue overalls that showed more than 20 years worth of trips down to the old barn and hundreds of boilings in Grandma Kitty’s cast iron wash pot.
He took the kitchen towel and wiped it away. He sat with his coffee, sipping it from the cup saucer,and finished his biscuit as he listened to the Martha White Bluegrass Show on WSM.
He then pulled on his old brown work boots, put on his hat and headed off towards the barn.
It was not unusual for him to be gone for quite a spell when he was out with his cattle in the morning. Grandma Kitty had gotten up and prepared a full breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs, fresh biscuits and sawmill gravy. When he did not return after a while, she became worried, slipped on her green coat, pulled on her bonnet and took off down to the tattered barn.
As she called to him, she heard no answer; her worries intensified as she called louder and began looking more quickly through each stall.
As she reached the last stall with no luck, she heard a banging coming from outside. She raced towards the sound and found Granddad Bill lying next to his old Farmall tractor. He was banging on it with an old board.
When she found him, it was apparent he had suffered a stroke; his face was drawn, and he could not speak or use his right side. He could only look up at her in desperation.
This man who left home in his teens on horseback to go west wasn’t even able to pick himself up off the ground.
Grandma helped him to his feet and got him to the house. She laid him in the bed near the wood stove and sent to town for the doctor.
Old Doc Lawson said there was not much that could be done except keep him comfortable. Everything was up to God and Bill. The doctor suggested calling all the family in just in case.
When Pearl arrived, she could not get in her mind that her father — the pillar of strength she adored — could be leaving soon. She joined the family vigil around his bed, providing constant care, massaging his affected limbs, helping him eat and coaxing him to speak.
She stayed with him night and day, lending him her strength until he could use his own.
She had dozed off by his bed when she was awakened by the sound of her name: “Pearl, Pearl… water.” She knew then that Granddad Bill was on his way back.
And he did come back, regaining his speech and the use of his arm and his leg, although he did walk with a cane after he recovered, returning to doing what he loved — tending his cattle.
A story from the Randall’s book “A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes.”