by Tricia Lynn Strader
First published in the Newark Post, Newark, DE.
With each passing season I always look forward to going "back home" to the hills where my parents grew up. In the 1940s and 50s each moved to Delaware from West Virginia. What's so unusual about their move is that they grew up a few miles from each other in thr Appalacian Mountains and went to the same school, but never met until my mother lived in Delaware and my father, stationed at Aberdeen, MD, in the Army, went to visit relatives of his brother-in-law. They met and later married. Ever since then, we make the semi-annual trip back to our roots.
One might think that things have changed a lot since then, and it's not possible to "go home again.' Granted, there have been changes. Many people of my dad's generation moved away to find jobs; Interstate I-79 was built and took much of the town with it in the name of progress (including my greatgrandmother Olive Spaur's home); tourism is a big deal because of man-made lakes and recreation areas. Even so, there is much I can see that is still the same. .
Right, above: Linzy and Mae Strader with Tricia.
Left: an old swinging bridge over Oil Creek, 2008.The house my grandmother Mae Strader lives in is the same house she's been in since the 1940s. It is tucked away in a little valley called a holler. The road we use to get to it is still part dirt part small stream (called a "run"). Yes, there are still areas in which the road is in or crosses the run (no bridge). It empties into a creek which does actually have a bridge, but only since the 1980s! Before that we used to have to park on the other side and carry our luggage across a swinging bridge. That was fun to do as a child who was terrified of a moving bridge! I bet many people can still remember swinging bridges and runs.
When sitting on the porch my father and I reminisce. Still standing is the pine I shot the top out of as a girl being taught how to hold a hunting rifle by her father. The barn I used to milk cows in is quiet now but I can still see myself and friends playing in it with literally dozens of cats.
Looking in the other direction, I can see the old pile of sawdust from a once operational sawmill. New it is the site of the original family farmhouse where my father and his brothers and sisters were born. The steps at the front of the current house are made of sandstone from the old house. Out front, the run still beckons me to go wading in it and look for minnows and or craw crabs, which I loved to do as a kid. Of course, my mother used to have a fit when I did. She was afraid I’d surprise a snake or get a tick on me! The thought of snakes used to bother me the worst. Yuck!
Behind the house is the chicken coop. I can remember going in it for eggs many times. There’s a picture of me at age 4 or 5 holding chicks with my grandmother beside me. Little things like that never leave you. The house is the same except for a few changes in the furniture. In recent years she’s had indoor plumbing and a gas stove installed. Nevertheless, the wood stove is still in the corner of the kitchen for a rainy day. The TV only gets one channel to this day.
lt and rt: thrree quilts made by Mae (Posey) Strader.
Certain things are missing, though. My grandfather Linzy and my maternal grandparents, Minnie and Cecil Kuhl, are gone now. Both sides of the family used to visit back and forth. I can recall my grandfather Linzy on the porch, dipping snuff. He used to spit over the rail into the yard. He was a great old gent, much like the grandfather on The Waltons, but much more soft spoken. He always had that little stain on his chin from the tobacco. When I sit in the kitchen, I can see him at the pump getting water to to wet his comb and run through his coal black hair. At the supper table, which was a major event three times a day, he would nudge at, or tickle the kids under the table and act like he was some ghost. He drank his coffee from the saucer as many older folks apparently did. I can almost hear him saying grace.
Come to think of it, my family is a little like the Waltons! Despite progress and change, our family knows we can still go back to those hills to a slower pace and relax, and breathe in clean mountain air, and renew our minds and bodies. I say you can- even if it’s only in your mind’s eye.