Monday, August 4, 2008

Not A Single Luxury

As I have stated before, sometimes my childhood seems like stepping back in time. Here is a great example.

We spent several holidays and vacations traveling back to Tennessee to visit our relatives. These were the days before I-81, which has shortened the trip through the Appalachian Mountains to just eight hours. In those days we would pile everything in the middle seats of our station wagon and make a bed in the back. We often left in the evening so my brother and I could sleep through the twelve- to fourteen-hour trip. The winding up one side of a mountain only to be followed by the winding down the other side. This would repeat itself throughout our journey.

The funny thing I found about these trips is that we would stay in Tennessee about three to four days then load up the car along with many cousins and my grandfather to drive back into Virginia. My cousin Rusty always got car sick and we made many stops along the side of the road.

My grandfather had been raised in southwest Pound, Virginia, (coal mining country) along with his four brothers and one sister. When my great-grandmother died, the house and land was left to all her children. The boys (my grandfather and his brothers) gave their portion to their sister. So we always took Papa (my grandfather) to visit his only sister on the mountain.

His sister was born Eliza Ruth but she was always Aunt Ruth to us. Ruth had married Cornelius Horne who was always called Corn Horne. They would go on to have 13 children in the home that Ruth was raised in. She lived from the cradle to the grave in that little house. For, you see, it was truly a little house. There was a front porch that everyone sat out on during the long, hot days of summer, a living room, kitchen, three bedrooms, and a water closet.

Now the reason I call it a water closet is not because I'm trying to be British but because it was truly a water closet. There was no indoor toilet. There was indoor water for washing hands or taking a bath but if you needed to relieve yourself it was outside and along a well worn path. I would always beg to go to Ruth's house because I loved the mountains, the freedom, and all the kids she had. We also got to ride one of her kids' horses. The only problem was that confounded bathroom. So every time someone had to go into town for gas or anything else I would ask to go so I could go to an indoor toilet. I only remember using the outhouse twice and became quite good at holding it.

Oh, did I forget to mention the fact that there were not only three bedrooms but also just three beds. When her last child was born the two oldest had moved out. So most of the time we had her family (with thirteen) and we took at least five or six people, so there wasn't much sleep being done. But, we still had enough energy for piggy back races and walking up the gravel road to collect flowers.

The meals prepared in the house was amazing. They had to be to feed the army that lived there and their guests. Good old country cooking was always on the menu.
The last time I went before my marriage was in the late 1970s and they still had not gotten the toilet inside yet.

But after my marriage I took my husband up for a visit and he got and gave several chuckles for his "city ways." Yes, by the late 1980s they had an indoor toilet! When Rich asked where he could fire his gun Ruth's kids looked at him like he wanted something special and asked "is the backyard OK?" They weren't too sure about him. They were also very excited because they had just got their first big store, Wal-Mart. This was my first experience with a Wal-Mart.

Ruth died several years ago from Parkinson's but I will always treasure the time we got to spend with her family in the mountains.

*The names and events have NOT been changed, my imagination isn't that good!


Mrs.RGS said...

Wonderful memories. Did Ruth's home have electricity? Hot water?

Although I was raised in the city we were poverty level income. The house where we were raised had originally been built before indoor plumbing and there was the remains of the outhouse on the property. As you exited the house from the kitchen at the back of the house, you had to go down three steps to an enclosed porch. To the left was a room just big enough to house the toilet and to the right was a room that held the tub and wash basin. Both unheated!
Can you imagine my mother's ire the day she got the county assessor's report saying that the house had two bathrooms? That was the day she fought city hall.

Kim said...


Ruth's house did have electricity. I don't remember about hot water, since we mostly visited in the hot summer months.
I think I would like your mother. I can't imagine what the assessor was thinking, maybe $$$$ signs?
That bathroom sounds like a creative solution but one I wouldn't want to deal with.