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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hold Everything Lightly #5 {Summers}

Everything about my childhood was not grim. 
Mother with her odd mountain wisdom and cunning, think Hatfield and McCoy cunning, decided to send me to Hangingdog for the summers.

Hangingdog, a community in extreme western North Carolina was where mother grew up and where my uncle and aunt maintained the family farm.
 Kenneth and Judy had two daughters one two years older and one two years younger than me. I was perfectly sandwiched between those girls. Uncle Kenneth farmed the land full time and Judy worked in the larger town of Murphy part time. They ate everything they grew and seldom went to a store. They had chickens and pigs. I remember Judy once exploded a chicken all over the ceiling with a pressure cooker. It took days to clean bones off that ceiling and I am still wary of pressure cookers. They grew beets and canned beets and we ate beets every day. Judy made me eat beets and I detest them. 
Try eating beets once or twice a day for three months.

Judy came from a wealthy Murphy family and was quite eccentric.
 She talked different, her speech was precise and elegant. Not a mountain dialect at all. Not like mama and Kenneth. She was thin, tall and had a long face and long, long straight black hair. She looked a lot like Cher. The driveway to the home place was winding and long and the place was isolated at best. Judy would mow the grass stark naked. This was rather alarming to me. She had me embroider Pot Pocket on her jean pocket. I do not believe it was a joke. The county they lived in was a dry county and allowed no liquor or beer sales. But no worries, the moonshine flowed bountifully from those mountains. I tried it once in the back seat at the drive-in theater in Murphy. White Lightning indeed.
 I have never tasted ignited gasoline but that is a good analogy.

When I was in my mid thirties Judy called and said she had a quilt of my grandmothers.
 She and Uncle Kenneth had been divorced for many years by this time. I drove to Murphy to get it. Judy looked much the same, long black hair flecked with grey and she still had that voice. She had always been passionate about antiques and the past. The house, upon my arrival, was brimming with vintage and antique items. To the degree that we could barely walk through the rooms. We made our way to a back bedroom and she opened an old steamer trunk and took out eight quilts and handed me one. She said it was grandmothers. I am confident she knew the correct quilt. She also offered me a job as a nurse. I turned her down as I had no desire to relocate, but there again, Judy always had the ability to surprise. It is entirely possible her motive was to get me there to care for her family member but I appreciated the quilt. My cousin has given me numerous vintage items of my aunts over the years and I treasure them. Perhaps my love for things of the past was sparked by Aunt Judy.

Judy died far too young, Kenneth is still with us and my cousins reside in Texas.

"Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts, when God pries your fingers open."
                                                      ---Corrie Ten Boom 1892-1983

To read other parts of the series click on HOLD EVERYTHING LIGHTLY at the top of the page.

Thank you for reading


  1. OMGoodness, I can envision Judy. I'm trying to block out the naked mowing image. lol I'm so glad you have amusing memories like these, and treasured vintage keepsakes. Love this entry.

  2. Stark naked? Pot Pocket? Halarious! Love this story.

  3. Judy is breaking me up! According to Dr. Oz, Judy was right about the beets and we should be eating them every day. But, the naked lawn mowing is just plain weird! ~ Maureen

  4. I love beets; every day would suit me. But, if you didn't, that's another matter. I used to think the lady I passed daily, who mowed in the buff when she mowed, was eccentric. She went back and forth on land bordered by a state highway. She was eccentric. Aunt Judy was just comfortable.

  5. How fascinating. What a different lifestyle Aunt Judy lived.

  6. I got a picture of Cher mowing the lawn in the buff. Made me laugh. You had some interesting experiences at the farm. It was nice of Aunt Judy to give you one of your grandmothers quilts.

  7. Aunt Judy sounds to have been a great character, and obviously completely uninhibited. I can just picture her, tall and lean, with her straight black hair. She seems to have had your best interests at heart♥

  8. Why do people make others eat things they hate...has never made sense to me.

    Great series. I so enjoy them.

  9. I love these memoirs Olive. I can see how you love antiques.

  10. Olive, It's so nice that you have your grandmother's quilt. Your life seems like a movie to me. I would love to read a book about your life. My aunt made quilts by hand..she had no machine. I remember loving those quilts. Can you believe when she died her children sold all those lovely quilts. I do not even know who owns them...I just wish I did. I loved my aunt although she was stern and snippy. Happinesss to you Olive. Smiles, Susie(She Junks)

  11. Judy sounds like quite an unforgettable character...makes me wonder how I'd be remembered. What a boring world it would be if we were all completely alike! It is so nice you have your Grandmother's quilt, my aunt and uncle gave me one from my is a treasure. I find your stories are a good storyteller!

  12. I don't even want to know how that town got its name! And your aunt's naked mowing cracked me up. What about sticks and rocks flying up and hitting you? And the occasional snake you run across? Sounds a little dangerous to me, but maybe she was making use of her pot pocket before her mowing sessions.

  13. Wow - she makes me laugh... :)

    Bones of the ceiling - that is a good one too.

  14. I've never eaten a beet, but just planted a row in my garden because I'm curious. Looks like they could be used for dyeing things if we don't like them. Your aunt Judy sounds like a character. Stark naked lawn mowing? Too funny! Would love to live up in that part of Western North Carolina. It's so gorgeous up there. Loved your memories; thanks for sharing them.

  15. Hi Olive...

    Ohhh sorry that you don't like beets and had to eat them so often. I love beets! I sooo enjoyed reading about your Aunt Judy and family! How nice of her to give you your grandmother's quilt! Treasured keepsakes!!!

    I just read the sweet note that you left for me and wanted to come by to say thank you, my friend! I soo enjoyed your visit!

    Warmest spring wishes,

  16. Olive,
    your Aunt sounds like quite the character! We've all heard of sunbathing naked but I have to say I've never heard of "mowing" naked! Maybe mowing naked was her way of getting an "all over" tan! So glad you were able to get one of your grandma's quilts!

  17. Your aunt certainly sounds like quite a character, Olive! I love beetroots, but I guess if I had to eat them as much as you did, I would go off them quite easily!! They are supposed to be very good for you though. That's lovely that you have your grandmother's quilt and, I agree, perhaps your love of antiques and vintage things has come from your Aunt Judy. I must try moving the lawn naked sometime. Hee Hee!!

  18. OK, this one had me totally surprised and laughing...but I DO have this bizarre image burned in my brain!

  19. I love, love, love your life stories..and this one does not disappoint...maybe when I grow up I can write like have a great gift....

  20. Can't imagine what you
    thought when Judy mowed
    the lawn starkers....Talk
    about a free spirit. Those
    must have been SOME
    crazy summers. Love that
    you are still sharing....
    xx Suzanne

  21. I am loving reading your stories and you tell them so well! I have family from western NC, (I can vision the long driveways and farms) I am sure if I inquired, I would have a naked relative mowing too!
    Your story is both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I admire your courage to sharing it with us. We love our families, good and bad!

  22. I can't imagine anyone cutting the grass naked back then - perhaps today but not then. Funny. Great writing.

  23. Okay, the mowing buck naked made me laugh out loud -- I guess we really didn't know the dangers of the sun in those days :)



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