Chapter 26

Nostalgia: 2. Blackberries

Blackberries grew all over our hills at one time, especially where there was some limestone in the soil. The canes would get over six feet high, and when the berries were ripe you could just cup your hand and run it along below the cane and get a handful.

We used to go on the ridge at the Lost Creek Farm (which was above the level of the coal, and so is now gone) and bring back buckets and buckets of them. Usually Aunt Lotta would go and Mom would not - there was plenty for mom to do when we got back. We would put sugar on them and eat a bowl full for desert. Mom made pies and cobblers, they were put on cereal for breakfast and were given away. Blackberries were a most prized seasonal food, a real delicacy. Now our fields are pastured too systematically and clipped regularly so blackberries do not sprout up. They seem to have disappeared elsewhere, where the fields are less kempt than ours. The last wild blackberries I tasted were purchased from a kid in McWhorter about 1985.

Aside When I was a boy, my Grandma, Bessie Clark Bond, told me about the pipeline that was being laid through their farm when they lived at the Lost Creek farm for the first time (ca. 1914). The new pipeline was a six-inch collector for the gas wells being drilled in the neighborhood.

The ditches were dug and refilled with pick and shovel by Italian immigrants, who camped across the creek from the house. There were many of them and they were loud, boisterous and drunken, living away from civilizing influences, and she was scared to death of them.

Life hadn't prepared her for the pipeliners. She was a young woman with two small children. Her mother was an Adventist, so fanatic that she didn't have time to raise her younger children. Instead she sent them off to her older, married daughters. Grandma Bessie wound up in the parsonage of (Pastor) Elder Huffman of the Lost Creek SDB church, who later became the first President of Salem College. My grandpa, Thomas Marsden, found her in the parsonage.

Anyway, she said, "They didn't curse, they blackguarded." I was eight or so and had never heard the term, so I asked her what that meant. She said, "Foul, dirty words," in the most disgusted tones you could imagine. I never forgot.

Copyright © 1998, 2006, 2008, 2011 S. Tom Bond (stombond at