the Long Road Home
The year was 1944. The place, on top of a mountain in rural West Virginia. It was a warm, sunny morning. My mom had just hung the clothes on the line to dry. I was making mud pies in the dirt by our country home. She called me to come into the house because she wanted to give me some money and a list to go to the store, about two miles away.
It was a long hike for such a little girl; I was only seven, but I had done it before, so I held my hands under the pump while she pumped up the ice cold water. I couldn't go to the store with muddy hands! She slipped the money and note into the pocket of my pinafore.
Now, I had a choice to make. I cound either go through the woods, straight down the mountain, or I could take the long way, and go by road. I chose running down the steep hillside. I knew I would have to hurry, because if I could make it back in less than two hours, my mom would make some fudge and popcorn that night. This was long before television.
The mountain was very steep. I grabbed on to sapplings to keep myself from falling, head over heels. All the large trees on that side of the mountain had been cut, so there was nothing to prevent me from falling all the way to the bottom and land in the creek.
Upon entering the little country store, I gave the clerk the note. He set to work, filling a paper bag with beans, milk, sugar, (I had to give him a Stamp, because due to the war, sugar could only be purchased with war stamps), and two loafs of bread. He wrote all the items down on a bill, then handed me a copy.
The bag was very heavy. I knew I couldn't carry it back up the side of the mountain. I had to take the longer way home.
Every few minutes I had to stop and rest. The glass milk bottle had sweated and made the paper wet. The bread was smashed. "Mommy was going to be mad at me". I thought. "I might even get a whipping"! I started to cry.
About three-quarters of the way up the road, there was a "short-cut" path that most people climbed when they got that close to the top. I decided to take that path so I could get home sooner. The path was very steep. By then the bottom of the bag was torn out from the wetness. I wrapped the paper around the milk bottle, cradled it and the beans to my chest, put a loaf of bread under each arm, and proceeded up te steep, narrow path.
It had rained the night before, so the path was very slippery. About half way up, there was a small house. The owner, an old woman, was said to be crazy. All the children were afraid of her. As I near her house, I heard a noise. I was so scared I started to slid backward. My arms let go of the milk, and it went sliding down the mountain. I threw the bread and beans as hard as I could up the path, then slid down to retrieve the milk. That was the way I finally made it to the top; by throwing my groceries ahead, one item at a time.
When I finally reached the top, I started walking toward home. I came upon a house that had a bad dog. The dog came running out to me. He stopped, looked at me, and started growling. I didn't know what to do next. I was afraid to move. I stood there for what seemed to be hours, then he started toward me. I paniced, threw my groceries at him and started running. He was right behind me. I ran straight over the side of the mountain.
I don't know how long I lay, unconscious, in the rut beside the road. I remember looking down upon myself, and then I was talking to my Great-grandma who had died just a few months before. She said that I must go back, because I had a lot to do, and it was not my time. I didn't want to go back. I wanted to stay with her, but the next thing I knew, I was lying there, covered in blood and mud, trying to reach my teeth that were lying in the mud beside me. I couldn't reach them. I was too weak. I couldn't cry out. The pain throughout my body was excruiating. I don't know how long I had lain there, but all I could think about were my teeth, and my mommy being mad at me for loosing the bread, beans and milk.
I heard a noise. I was able to move my eyes to see an old woman. She was getting water from a community well. She said that she thought she had heard a kitten crying, and she crossed the road to investigate. That's when she found me. She carried me to the well and washed the blood from my face. She screamed for help. Her son came running and picked me up. He ran to our house with me in his arms.
There was only one car in the little community. The owner of the car drove me to Dr. Borne's office. He placed me on a table, and started sewing up my face. I was clutching three of my teeth in my little hand. Of course I was in shock, so he couldn't give me anything for pain. He just started sewing. My bottom teeth had gone through my lips. Dr. Borne put eighteen stitches in my mouth and lips. I could only moan as the needle went in and out.
It took six weeks for me to be able to sit up. I could not eat. I could only sip through a straw. I had lost a lot of blood. I had to learn to walk again, which was a long, hard chore for such a little girl. I still carry the scars, to this day.
From that experience, I learned a great lesson. Life is continuous. I saw the after-life, and never again will I be afraid of what is on the other side.