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A daisy for Momma

The old T model Ford chugged and stammered its way along the thin pig trail that crisscrossed up the side of the Gravelly Spur Mountain.
On one side looking down was a shear drop, while the other side was straight up.
As Pearl looked off the mountainside, in the valley below the farmer’s new crops of corn were beginning to show some strength in the neatly planted rows they laid off earlier in the year traipsing behind their best mule teams.
The mountain laurel dotted the side of the mountain and a faint smell of wild roses occasionally whisped through the open car.
This trip up the mountainside would eventually reach a point where the car would stop because there was no more passable road and Grandma Kitty, Grandpa Bill and little Pearl would get out and walk the rest of the way.
Their goals were three fold — Grandpa Bill was scouting the mountainside for any usable timber, Grandma Kitty was planning to hit her favorite spots to gather remedy roots, barks and berries, but the main goal involved a tremendously large bouquet of daisies tightly grasped in Pearl’s hand.
You see this was Mother’s Day weekend and for Kitty and Bill their mothers were both in heaven.
Grandpa Bill’s mother lay in a green patch of ground nestled between stately cedar trees on the side of the mountain where generations of the family rested, while Grandma Kitty’s mother was buried miles away in another county.
Through the years they had created a tradition of alternating between the locations on days like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Memorial Day.
As the T model hit the end of the road, Grandpa Bill shut her off and picked up the lunch pales sitting neatly in the back seat. Grandma Kitty pulled her burlap sack from beneath the seat and Pearl jumped out without losing a single daisy from her bouquet.
As they walked up the old mountain trail Grandpa looked over at an old cabin and said, “Pearl, that there is where your great, great, great grandpappy built his home after beating them there Red Coats.”
Though abandoned the lonely the cabin still held its position strongly on the side of the mountain creating a natural fortification against potential attack from indians.
Grandma Kitty spied a bit of wormseed and she strayed from the trail to gather some to grind. Some of the neighbor’s kids had needed a batch of her remedy to rid them of worms.
The canopy of the dogwood trees almost hid the entrance to the little cemetery.
As you walk between two majestic oak trees, in a clearing high on top of the mountain, was this lush green field with lines of stones marking departed loved ones. Some stones were store bought with fancy writing on them while some were simply mountain stone where someone had chiseled in the name of those gone on.
Pearl had made this trip before and knew the ritual just as if it was a part of daily life.
As they stopped near the edge of the cemetery, Pearl gave half of the daisies to her father ‘cept six.
He took them and walked over to where his mother slept. He sat down on the grass next to the stone and started talking with her. He told her about how the crops were last year, how the children were, and anything he thought might interest her.
As he did this Kitty took Pearl’s hand and they walked to the graves of the other six mothers who came before her and placed one daisy on each plot of mountain ground.
When they finished Bill had placed his flowers on the grave, told his mom how much he loved her and said goodbye once again.
He joined Kitty and Pearl and they walked slowly to the edge of the cemetery that went up to the very edge of the mountainside.
Pearl still tightly gripped the other half of the bouquet and when the time was right she gave it to Kitty ‘cept one.
Kitty quietly held the bouquet and looked to the east to her ancestral home, she called out to the four winds to carry her love to her mother dear and she tossed the daisies across the sky and they flew through the air off the mountainside.
As Kitty walked back to join Bill and Pearl, Pearl looked up at her and handed her the one remaining daisy she would not relinquish earlier.
“Mommy, I want you to have my love now. I don’t want to wait until I have to talk to a stone or to the four winds.”
Kitty put her arms around her and Bill put his around Kitty’s. They stood there and gazed off the mountainside watching the four winds carry the daisies across the sky.
For more stories of the Gravelly Spur, see the book “A Mountain Pearl.”

A mule in charge

In the valley below the Gravelly Spur Mountain there was a partnership of sorts between the humans and the animals that worked the farms to create the crops that helped feed them all.
There was no more needed partner than the mules that helped to cut the furrows straight along the curves of the mountainsides near the old apple, peach, pear and plum orchards that bore the fruit for summer canning of preserves and drying for the special Christmas cakes that helped make each season a little more fun for each family.
Young Pearl had a knack with the animals and especially the mules around the valley. No matter whose they might be, she always seemed to be able to get them to like her too.
On the Wood farm nearby it was old Pete that helped to make each workday that much easier.
All the kids loved old Pete, though he wouldn’t let anyone ride him. It was like he was a kid himself especially in the summer time. As all the kids rushed towards the swimming hole once released from their chores, you would see Pete traipsing behind them headed there too. He would be the first to climb to the leap overlooking it, jumping into the waters below as his black coat shimmered in the summer sun until he plunged deep into the waters below.
This was the only time that anyone had a chance to climb up on old Pete’s back as the kids swam along. While keeping a float himself, Pete had no power to buck them off.
One time the Wood’s hired man Richard decided he was going to teach Pete a lesson and break him. Richard was a big man, so Pete seemed small as he climbed up on him, and wrapped his long legs below Pete’s belly and twisting his toes together so Pete could not buck him off.
Pete finally got tired of trying and instead of being broke; he simply lay down and rolled over with the hired hand still attached. Needless to say, it wasn’t Pete who got broke in that maneuver,
While it was hard to realize, Pete was getting to old and weak to continue his tasks around the farm and Mr. Wood had grown so fond of him, he couldn’t bring himself to take him out and shoot him as many did when their usefulness had faded, so he decided to trade him in on a new mule.
He took him up to Shirley’s Trading Post and with the addition of 15 dollars U.S.; he traded Pete for a light brown mule named Mary. She had all her teeth and appeared as though she had many years of plowing and hauling in her.
As Mr. Wood began at first light hitching the plow to Mary, he could see that she had a reluctant streak that was deep and wide within her. It was a fight to get her moving and keeping her on the straight and narrow pulling each furrow.
As an experienced worker with mule, he did all he knew to get Mary in line but to no avail.
Finally, he went back to the house and called to his five-year-old boy Bryant to come and assist.
He told him to climb up on her back facing backwards; he cut a peach limb and handed to him.
“Boy, you just hit her with that if she starts to balk,” he said.
Mr. Wood hated to hurt any animal; he knew that young Bryant’s coaxing would be more like a nuisance than a whipping to Mary. So it began a long day of getting Mary accustomed to her duties.
By the next day, things were no better except this time after a night of rubbing cornstarch on the inside of his legs, Bryant got a piece of broken machinery belt that came from the valley saw mill to serve as a shield between he and Mary’s back and the process continued.
By the third day, Mr. Wood decided that Mary was just not the mule she should be, and he proceeded to take her back to the trading post to renegotiate.
Somewhere in the discussion with Mr. Shirley the word liar aimed at Mr. Wood brought forth a flow of anger not often seen in a man such as Mr. Wood. Bryant just barely big enough to get away from his brothers in a game of tag, saw the sawdust from the floor begin to fly as the two men exchanged blows. The flying fists stirred the shavings while Mr. Wood gained ground with each swing.
Before long the ice man cometh and before you could say winter freeze, he had pulled the two up. Showing his special deputy badge he brought the match to an end.
He told them both to settle their disagreement peaceably so the sheriff didn’t have to be summoned.
The iceman asked Mr. Shirley if he wanted to give Mr. Wood back his mule and the money or give him a new mule.
Shirley agreed on a new mule; so the threesome headed back home, with yet another helpmate for the farm.
This time, the white mule named Ada was one that actually wanted to participate without Bryant sitting astride whipping him along the way.
While he was no Pete, it was not long until the kids loved him too.
The moral of the story is simple, if you plan to trade a mule, be sure he or she is willing before you have to see the shavings fly.

Sledge and the rustling run

As a youth my Granddad Bill made his way west and when he returned to the Gravelly Spur, he brought with him the stories of the Old West, gunfights, cattle rustlers, ranchers who ran large ranches like kingdoms.

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