I have this cousin named Mary. She came into my life when I was four or five and she remained there for eleven years or so. Then my favorite Aunt Edith married Walt and Mary disappeared into Walt’s family. She was no longer a part of my life and I missed her. She was the sibling I never had and she got a brother and sister in the new arrangement. When there were opportunities to see her at my grandmother’s house, I stayed away because I didn’t want the pain of missing her all over again. I was seventeen and didn’t know what I was losing.
The year 2017 has brought a massive change and Mary has come back into my life with a bang. She is on a mission of reuniting those of us that have been lost and I am grateful to her. She has been to my place in Roanoke, I have been to visit her and her husband Steve in Louisville, and recently we had lunch with our cousin John and his wife Kay at the Valley Country Restaurant in Green Valley, West Virginia. After lunch, we drove to Brush Fork, West Virginia to our grandparents’ homestead in Perdue Hollow. Our cousin Don owns the place today and he has done a terrific job refurbishing the house.
As a youngster, my bedroom was in the left back corner on the second floor of the house. Mary slept in the front room across the hall from Weaver and Dora, our grandparents. For the longest time, this house was about a mile off the Perdue Hollow Road. It was also the home of our great-grandparents Will and Mary Perdue. We were all part of the long line of Perdue’s that inhabited this large Valley or “Holler” as we preferred. Then they built the airport road right through the middle of the farm. It’s still a two-lane road–the airport is not very busy. I never liked that road.
Donnie, Mike(me) and Johnny new every inch of the mountains and plateaus around the place. Plus we knew a lot about the Whitt Hollow which was on the other side of our mountains. This “Holler” was mysterious and a little scary, but we were brave lads looking for adventure. Soon enough we had Mary tagging after us to the Whitt Hollow. The memories of this wondrous place are much grander than the actual events in the fifties. But, I cherish every moment I was there.
Mary, John and I were waiting for Don in the drive where the old gate used to stand, looking up the valley. It all looked closer together–the big hill with the road to the plateau was somehow closer than it seemed in 1950 or even 1957. I haven’t seen the place for 39 years and haven’t seen my cousin Don or his new wife, Connie, in that time. I was upset by the way Don had manipulated my Grandmother to let him have the property. She was a difficult person to deal with most of the time (actually she had a mean streak), so he probably deserved it for his efforts to help her. I am not upset anymore.
Don finally arrived. Connie was in the house and he took me in to meet her. She was not feeling well but was very lovely and nice. The house was beautiful on the inside and Don showed me a picture of Will, Mary and their ten children, including Dora Belle. My grandmom hated the name Belle. I knew all the children in that picture–my aunts, and uncles.
The fourValley Country of us stood in the yard and talked about old times. It hit me like a punch in the stomach. I love Mary. I love Don. I love John. I love Steve, Connie, and Kay. Standing in that place we were one and always will be.