We lived in a two bedroom white clapboard bungalow with a full basement (816 sq.ft.). The front faced a single lane dirt road at the foot of a steep hillside and rock cliff. The back door faced a rippling creek (Porters Creek). It was surrounded by steep Appalachian hills and a little tributary that we called “Ad Hollow”. There were two bridges between our house and the school, which was about one mile below (as the creek flows) our house. The school, the post office, the United Fuel Gas Company compressor station, and the depot were all within a quarter mile of Elk River. Porter is a meandering creek that runs into a meandering river, which runs into the Kanawha, which empties into the Ohio, which empties into the Mississippi. Upstream from Bell, WV, the Kanawha is known as the “New River”. Contrary to its name, the New River is the second (to the Nile) oldest river in the world.
Now, I might be meek; but I ain’t weak.
Cause I was born’n raised on Porters Creek.
Butted heads with many a sister and many a brother;
But we still love one another.
I often slept at the foot of the bed –
Two at the foot and three at the head -- on Porters Creek.
I ain’t no fool, 'cause I went to school -- on Porters Creek.
The teacher used a switch; but she seldom left a welt.
SHAME was mostly what I felt.
Mother said, “You’re still better’n that witch.”
Played “Cowboys ‘n Indians.”
The cowboys would nearly always win.
But, “What the heck!”
It was still politically correct, then.
Carved my initial on many a tree,
Stubbed my toe seven times in a row,
An’ got stung by many a bee -- on Porters Creek.
Hoed corn for two dollars a day.
Big brother thought I was very slow.
But I thought I had a hard row to hoe;
and we all got the same amount of pay.
Included free dinner, with all we could eat –
Plenty of beans an’ taters;
An’ lots of fried green t’maters –
Good home cookin’ that couldn’t be beat -- on Porters Creek.
There wasn’t any street crime.
(THERE WERE NO STREETS!)
An’ no-body did time.
(THERE WERE NO JAILS!)
But I had to dodge many a rock,
An’ still took many a knock -- on Porters Creek.
If I’d known then what I know now,
I might have stayed behind the plow.
'Cause the air is pure, the water runs clear,
the birds sing loud,
and the Rhododendron blooms proud--on Porters Creek.
Went to town every Saturday nite.
Watched th’ cowboys an’ Indians fight;
An’ then I walked back
By way of th’ railroad track.
Sometimes the wild cats rattled th’ leaves at night;
And I didn’t always have a light.
But Daddy said, “You don’t need to fear.
Bobcats don’t go hungry here -- on Porters Creek.”
Sunday was the LORD’S day;
And we weren’t allowed to work for pay.
The preacher prayed both loud an’ fast;
And we never knew how long th’ sermon wou’d last -- on Porters Creek.
Now Mother an’ Daddy, don’t despair!
When th’ roll is called, I’ll be there! -- on Porters Creek
by Dallas E. Boggs
We had a hedge around the base of the house to hide the bare concrete of the basement walls (about 2½ to 3 feet off the ground). The foliage included white and pink hydrangeas, azaleas, and snowballs. Wisteria vines rested on trellises at the north corner of the front porch. Every spring, little house wrens built their nest in the vines under the eaves of the porch. The nest was just outside my bedroom window, and I loved to hear their sweet songs early in the morning. I would climb up and peek into their nest after they laid their eggs, observing them until the eggs hatched and the babies were born. (We were careful not to handle the baby birds because we were warned that ants would infest them if we left fingerprints on their bare skin.)
In the lower yard, we had a witch hazel tree with a flower bed around its base. Hollyhocks and Coxcombs were some of our favorite flowers. We also planted snapdragons, Sweet Williams, and petunias in that section of the lawn. Along the fence in the front yard, we had chrysanthemum, crocuses, gladiolus, dahlias, Easter lilies (daffodils), tulips and bleeding hearts (columbines). There were a few forsythia bushes along the fence in the lower yard. We had some more flower beds in the middle of the front yard. Marigolds, petunias, and zinnias were among our favorite annuals for those beds. Between the fence and the road, we had Bearded Irises (“wild flags”) and gladiolas.
Rhododendron grew naturally on the hillside across the road—facing the front entrance to our house. Some large tiger lilies came up every year along the rock wall at the back of our house, and there were some large lilac bushes, some hibiscus and some Rose of Sharon (“Dog Day Bushes”) along the fence in the back yard. Ground ivy grew wild on the borders of the back wall. It made a nice ground cover, and Mother often used it for medicinal purposes. It was supposed to be good for a “spring tonic” or for treatment of colds and flu. To find the way to the outhouse, you took the path most traveled. It was located next to the creek at the lower end of the garden above the house and near the walking bridge that went to the garden on the other side of the creek.
There were some elephant ear magnolia trees—we called them “cucumber trees”—in the lower yard. They had a large white flower in the early spring; and, when the pedals dropped off, the stamen became a large seedpod shaped like a cucumber. The leaves were very large, maybe a foot long and six inches wide, and they made very good shade tents for newly transplanted tomato plants. They were quite different from the magnolia trees we see in Tennessee. I understand that there are as many as three hundred different varieties of magnolia trees. (Ours were deciduous, and the most common ones in Tennessee are evergreen.) We had a clump of hemlock trees in the corner of the lower yard closest to the creek with a rope swing between two of these trees. When I was about four years old, I was swinging very high and fell out of the swing, knocking out two front teeth, leaving a gap for a few years—until my permanent tooth grew in. Mother waited for a good rain to soften the ground before pulling weeds from the flower beds—so that the flowers were not uprooted. The soil around our home was mostly sand (DeKalb), which was very good for rooting new cuttings; and Mother was an expert in starting new plants. Whenever she was visiting one of her relatives, friends, or neighbors, and saw a new rose bush, she often asked for a slip off that plant. She had several growing in different spots in our yard.
Facing the road, the front porch was fenced with white rail banisters. Concrete peers supported the floor of the porch, and concrete steps with concrete wings led from the porch down to a cement walkway extending to the road. A swinging seat hung on chains suspended from the ceiling. I don’t know how many times one of us got a knee stuck between the banisters. We were like the monkey that couldn’t get his hand out of the cookie jar because he couldn’t let loose of the cookies. All we had to do was to extend our leg so that the knee joint straitened to a smaller diameter so we could get our leg out in the reverse direction from which it went in; but sometimes our leg may have swollen so that they had to lubricate it with soap to slip back through the perpendicular rails. We never had to call the fire department to get us out (We didn’t have a fire department!), and we never had to cut the rails (banisters) to free a kid’s knee.