I'd Like to Go Back-Where No Cabins Fall

Family Bonds that Lie Deep

My grandparents,Reuben and Maybelle Thompson Ballard were an awesome couple. In the 60 years of their marriage, their union produced fourteen children:Charlotte, Ophelia,Wilkie (my dad), Fralow,Clyde,Albert (Bill),Phalba, Willavie,Robert (Happy),John, Carolyn,Roy, Laura and Edward. Grandpa was a farmer and the family lived where he had grown up on a small farm sitting on top of Mount Olivet and in a rural community of the Blue Ridge Mountains commonly known as Zirconia within the Green River Township.

Life was hard for my grandparents as it had been for their parents and with a growing family even more difficult. Growing crops that could be turned into money and feed the family and livestock they owned was a priority. The fields that had long ago been cleared with an ax, mattock, shovel required a lot of sweat and back breaking work were terraced and stones removed by hand and hauled on a wooden sled built by my grandfather pulled by oxen, mule or horse. The stones that might inhibit plowing and cultivating crops were piled between the terraces and wind breaks provided a natural habitat for small animals like field mice,toads, snakes and the common non poisonous scorpions and lizards that live in this mountainous region in North Carolina. It is interesting that many of these stones later were sold and now are in retaining walls and fire places in many homes around the region.

Sumac and sassafras grew in the wind rows and in the field nearest the home place, several apple trees grew that provided fruit for hungry boys and girls in the summer who would often stop using their hoes or if they were picking pole beans stop to enjoy one of the apples that might have fallen from the tree. Later, some of these apples would be sliced and dried on the Thrash Rock just up the road from the farm house on an old bed sheet and later made into those wonderful pies my grandmother would make. These were apple trees of an unknown variety (some called the yellow apples, horse apples and the red ones, June apples) that now have been lost to "father time" but remain alive in our memory although I have learned this week a cutting was taken from one of those trees. and planted on my Uncle Bill's property and has done well. Wonderful apple trees that not only compelled us to climb but challenged young arms and legs in search of the biggest and best apples or to take out a pocket knife and carve our initials in the bark adding to those who came before us. Wild strawberries also were abundant along the wind breaks and in the summer time provided berries for the best cobblers a boy could ever hope to eat.

My grandmother once commented she raised her sons to work and her daughters to help her around the house. The Ballard men were always physically strong having muscles of steel. They were hard workers who had begun early in their lives to help out on the farm. Most as soon as they were old enough to contribute and use the implements necessary for crop production. They learned farming from their daddy while helping my grandpa in the fields plowing, cutting and hewing cross ties and taking on other work when it was available. One of my grandpa's brothers,Ulysses, was caretaker at what is now Connemara which was later purchased by poet and biographer, Carl Sandburg. Dad told me he and Fralow earned ten cents an hour grubbing stumps while working for Uncle Ulysses on what is now a home listed on the National Registry of historic home.

My aunts helped grandma. You gotta know with no electricity on the mountain until around 1958, the house work was tough. I remember as a young boy helping fill the big black wash pot with water from the spring, carrying wood to heat the water, and my grandma and some of my aunts scrubbing well worn overalls, shirts and other clothing with a scrub board, octagon soap, and hanging on the clothes line. Solar energy is nothing new, by the way, and the wind and sun made the clean garments smell so fresh and new.The girls also learned all the basics, cooking, sewing, quilting, how to preserve fruits and vegetables and even how to rear children as they helped care for the younger siblings. They could have easily taught an home economics class in public school.

In 1942 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and our nation going into WWII, my dad and two of his brothers joined the war effort. Dad was in the Army and his brothers Fralow and Albert (Bill, to everyone who knew him) joined the Navy. Dad served in Panama but both Fralow and Bill served in the Pacific. Bill was on the USS McGaffon, a troop transport ship that got acclaim while landing troops at Guadal Canal. I remember my Uncle Fralow telling me he served as a gunner on his ship and how one shot from those big guns could destroy a Palm tree and any "Jap" sniper who might just being perched in the top.

My two uncles who were in the Navy met during their tour of duty through an unusual happenstance. Unexpectedly on a street in Honolulu while on liberty from their respective ships they just ran into one another. A photo was taken of their reunion and an article was included in the Army Times of that event. It was also while they were there that they received a telegram telling them of the untimely death of their brother, Robert, ( I was named after him) who was affectionately nicknamed "Happy Jack." The news saddened the brothers but the circumstances of war prevented them from coming home. Fortunately, dad and my two uncles survived the war unscathed and would often tell their "war stories" at family dinners held almost every Sunday after church when everyone made the trip back to the old home place.

The Sunday dinners were huge and grandma fixed plenty but the siblings who now were married and had families of their own would always bring food to add to the table and some like my Uncle Fralow would help grandma fry chicken. It was the custom at the Ballard home on Sundays with such a large crowd, sometimes 30 to 40 people, that the men ate first. The family table with ladder back chairs and a bench was filled to capacity and grandpa always sat at the head of the table covered with a red checkered table cloth. Grandpa like his coffee black and hot and poured his coffee in a saucer and blew it cool before pouring it back into his cup and drinking. Once food was placed on the table, the ladies and children sat patiently talking in the sitting room. It was not uncommon to have the current Pastor and his family join the Ballard's for Sunday dinner.

After dinner with the ladies cleaning up the kitchen, the men would sit around and talk. Sometimes the discussions ran lively and encompassing the full gamut of war stories, who had the best deer rifle and who just might be the best shot. My girl cousins stayed inside and played with their dolls or helped in the kitchen. The boy cousins would play outside and more often than not, there were puppies and kittens to play with or pet. I never recall us playing baseball like many of the kids in the mill village. We played in the woods or hung out around the barn petting grandpa's mule, Kate. The livestock on the farm were another source of interest: a baby calf or a new litter of pigs and the proverbial old hens with a new brood of chicks not at all happy to have young boys so close to their babies.

My grandparents have been in heaven for a long time now and out of the 14 children, only four of my daddy's siblings remain. This Wednesday my Uncle Bill was laid to rest after a long illness. As my cousin, Patrick, Fralow's son and a minister, delivered the eulogy, many of the memories contained in my article came so vividly back to mind. Truly, the family bonds created so many years ago serve as a reminder it is not the size of the bank account, or position in life which one attains that are important but rather the unconditional love, strong ethics that have been taught both moral and spiritual that mark the sands of time. The lyrics of a song I learned some years ago say it best:

Songwriters: NOLAN JEFFRESS
As my mind wanders back to the quaint little shack
Where in childhood I used to play;
There with mother and dad, we were happy and glad
As we whiled the sweet moments away;
We would all kneel in prayer and in reverence there
We would praise the redeemer on high.
Now in sadness I pine for that old home of mine
And I long for that mother's love.

(Chorus)

I'd like to go back to that quaint little tumble-down shack.
I'd like to spend a day where in heaven forever I'll stay,
But time won't turn back; we must travel til Jesus shall call.
Then we'll be happy in that land where no cabins fall.
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/r/rhonda_vincent/where_no_cabins_fall.html ]
Though I drifted away from childhood's sweet play
I can still hear those voices sweet.
They are calling me back to that quaint little shack
Where the circle will never more meet;
But til that happy day, up in heaven they say,
We will praise the redeemer on high.
Now in sadness I pine for that old home of mine
And I long for that mother's love.

(Chorus)

I'd like to go back to that quaint little tumble-down shack.
I'd like to spend a day where in heaven forever I'll stay,
But time won't turn back; we must travel til Jesus shall call.
Then we'll be happy in that land where no cabins fall.

I sometimes wonder how my grandparents fared so well raising 14 children without all the modern conveniences. It is for certain their work ethic and deep faith had a lot to do with how they survived. The heritage they gave to us is something of which I am proud. My grandkids will never know their hardships just as I never knew many of the hardships my dad endured. I am thankful everyday for the lessons I learned and the example set before me.

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Comments 4 comments

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

I'd like to go back to that quaint little tumble-down shack.

I'd like to spend a day where in heaven forever I'll stay,

But time won't turn back; we must travel til Jesus shall call.

Then we'll be happy in that land where no cabins fall.

Beautiful chorus to end a wonderful hub.

Thank you so much Fiddleman for sharing this wonderful gem.

Enjoy your weekend.

Eddy.


Sarra Garrett 4 years ago

Voted Up Awsome and Beautiful. What wonderful memories to have and now you have shared this incredible life with us. Thank you. Ahhh the Good Old Days, they were hard, but you know what, everyone had what they needed.


Fiddleman profile image

Fiddleman 4 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina Author

Thank you Eiddwen, hoping your weekend is good also.


Fiddleman profile image

Fiddleman 4 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina Author

Thank you Sara.

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