My Mountain Top
Coneva Holler Kentucky, 1956
When I was a ten year old in the hills of Kentucky, one of the happiest things I liked to do was go black berry picking with my mammy.
We had a mountain above our house that was as tall as the sky and we had never picked black berries there before and on this one day in particular Mammy said, "Mary Alice, let's climb to the top of that mountain, and see what is up there."
We climbed straight up that mountain called the, "N" Cline," Up and up and up some more and me being 10 years old, was very skeptical about whether we would ever reach the top or no. I thought we would never make it. I kept watching the top looming up over us, and it seemed like we had climbed all the way into forever, But finally, after our legs were shaking and trembling and our faces were as red as the noon day sun, we reached the top.
At the top of that mountain was a valley that laid for miles, and I was determined in my mind that my mammy and I had discovered the bottom realms of heaven.. The greenest grass I have ever seen covered that place, and the bushes and tree branches entwined themselves toward the sky, bouncing toward the light of a millions summers. The fruit and berries just hung in clusters all over the sky.
On the southeast side of that clearing stood a house, well, I don't know where one could call it a house or no, maybe a vine covered cottage. The vines extended back under the mountain ledge and hung down on to the roof, extending up and down the porch entrance. But the thing one noticed most about the cottage was peach trees, they surround the house from the left side to the right side and the unripe peaches just hung in clusters.
Mammy said, "Mary, I don't know whether you remember the couple that use to live here in this paradise, their names were Elijah and Mary Sizemore." Often times I can remember this couple that walked through our yard when I was a tiny tot, maybe no more that three or four years old. Our house is the first house one sees after dropping off the "N" Cline mountain and they would walk through our yard to get to Chavies, Kentucky, to go get their mail
Mammy said, "I often wondered why Elijah and Mary lived here, so isolated from everyone, and now I know that this had to have been about as close to heaven as a couple could get"!
I let the sweetest air I ever breathed touch my soul and as I threw myself down on the green carpet, my mammy dropped right beside me. We never spoke a word, for God was surely walking in this place and we just let his peace surround us and in our silence glorified his Name.
I took my hands and pushed back the sides of my hair and let my temples just breathe in the wind and at that moment I closed my eyes and the wind whispered messages inside my ears, messages of times long gone before me.
I saw a hundred generations come marching toward me. An Indian Maiden stopped beside me and I saw a tear slide from her face and as the tear fell, she bid me good-by with a shushed finger to her lips! As she turned to go, a tiny face from a papoose smiled at me from the very depths of her soul, the smile fading from her face as the Indian maiden disappeared on up the road.
Then the distant drums hammered up the hill side, the drums one could hear for miles, if those soldiers wanted to be quiet , they had already lost the battle. It was a marching army of red coats, their regiment kept the "N" Cline" busy for awhile and I kept my eyes tightly closed and my fingers crossed, wishing that they would not see me, but see me they did, the drums subsiding for seconds and seconds only as the main officer cleared his throat and said, "Young lady, have you seen any Indians on this mountain top"? O wow, "how do I answer this one? " I shrugged my shoulders nonchalantly and said, "No sir, I have not seen any fighting Indians on this mountain side at all"! He said, ""Thank you young lady," and saluted his hat and bowed all at the same time. They marched on down the path with the drums beating to the sound of their marching feet..!
To my amazement after the Red Coats disappeared in the smoke of the distant mountain, someone stood in front of me that I had longed to meet all my life, he just appeared out of nowhere without an army or anything! He spoke to me in a soft tender voice, which took me by surprise for I had always figured that he had a booming voice, kind of like a fog horn on a foggy morning. He said, "You know who I am, don't you Mary Alice"? My name is Daniel, your desire is my command, I am sent to you on a special mission, then he said, "I know about you, you little dreamer"! And in the same sentence he said "Daniel Boone, at your service"!
My ten year old voice came out in squeaks and stutters as I slowly voiced out, "Is it really you"? He said, "Yes it really is"! He took off his wide-brimmed beaver hat and placed it on my head, and I was a little bit confused for all I ever heard about Daniel's hat was that it was a coon skin hat...
He placed that hat right on top of my head, my heart was bouncing heart beats up and down the hill side, boom, boom, it was going, boom, boom!
Daniel said to me, "Mary Alice, I am here because you need me and I need to teach you something about faith....then he took this tiny little seed from his pocket and placed it in my hand and then his brown eyes twinkled, and he said, "With faith the size of this seed, you could say to yon mountain, move and it will have to move just as sure as my name is Daniel Boone, this mountain can be moved"!.
I stammered as I looked at him but somehow, I could not speak a word, He said, "Mary Alice, I have to go now but put that seed in your dress pocket and carry it with you wherever you go"! He reached down took my tiny hand in his and took it gently to his lips and kissed it and he said, "Now, Mary Alice you need to wake up your mammy because you two need to get to picking black berries".
I looked over at mammy who had fallen fast asleep there on that soft green grass and as I started to shake her gently, I looked backwards over my shoulder and Daniel was disappearing into the blue white skies. I waved a soft good-bye and he was gone.
Mammy awakened suddenly exclaiming, "Oh Mary Alice, I am sorry, but that climb kind of got the best of me and the peace in this place lullabied me to sleep." I said,"That is ok mammy, I had an interesting time while you were asleep; She looked up at me and her eyes turned to laughter as she said, "Mary Alice, where in the world did you get that hat? Have you been exploring without your dear old Mammy"? I reached up and took the hat off my head and said to myself, "Oh no, it was not a dream"! I said to mammy with a giggle, "Nice hat, haaha"!
I looked all around and up and down to try to discover where and what direction everyone had gone in and I noticed quite a difference in the sky since we got here, it had changed from oranges and gold's and silvers and purples to a golden shade of pinks and blues. I felt all I had to do was reach up and touch the clouds with my hands and wave back and forth and a door would open with golden stairs leading into heaven.
At that moment, I heard Mammy say as she pulled herself up from the plush carpet of green, "Come on Mary, let's go get a drink of water," and I wanted to protest and say, "Mammy there is no water here that we can drink", but man, was I ever wrong?
I followed her down that green pathway, letting the tree limbs touch me and soothe me and caress my tiny little arms, I felt like someone was holding on to me, and suddenly I saw my mammy drop to her knees around a spring of water, she cupped her hands and buried her face inside that spring of clear crystal water! I just stood there watching her, and then she looked up at me and said, "Come on honey, taste, see that it is good!"
I kneeled down beside her, cupped my hands like hers and I have never ever tasted or felt anything like it since that day. I just sat there and watched the flow of water come in like a rushing river, coming straight in from the side of that mountain earth and landing in a little hole of water and circling round and round and then dropping off the mountain ledge!
Using my hands for a cup, just like Mammy did, I dipped into the coldest water I have ever felt in my life, and I let the cold drips drop down the front of my dress, and then I just got carried away and delighted myself as my face came down and swam inside the spring of refreshing water.
We just sat there for another minute or two on the grass by the spring and kind of leaned our heads back and closed our eyes, letting the wind blow our hair and the sun love us into being dry again. The mountain blue bird sung us a lullaby , and the wild honeysuckles caressed our noses! This is just about as close to heaven as I could have ever been.
My mind floated back to last Sunday in our verse for the day as Sister Nora Deaton read the verse over and over to us until each one of us could recite it by heart: Her Sunday school class was the best class this side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but you know I could be a little bit prejudiced and I have a total right to be, because that Sunday School class was made up of some of the best children that ever walked up Coneva Holler Kentucky in Perry County: Me, my two brothers, James and John and some of our best friends, Zena, Bessie, Frances, Jack, Shirley, Harold, and that is just naming a few of us...
Nora Deaton was such a holy woman, no one could ever listen to her read or sing or anything, without knowing that someone had taken abode inside that heart of hers, his name is JESUS. I can almost hear her read it now:
Psalms 34:8~~~~~Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him!
After sitting there by the spring for just a little while, letting the sun invade our souls and the wind take refuge in our hair, I looked at my mammy and without saying a word she jumped up, grabbed her pail and headed toward the big berry patch overlooking the west side of the mountain. I grabbed my pail and took off right behind her..
All my day dreams came to an end when I heard mammy say, "Mary Alice, I think we had better head back down the mountain side, those two brothers of yours are probably getting hungry by now."
I said, "Mammy, I have never seen John and James when they wasn't hungry and we both let out a little giggle at the same time.
We started back up the way we had come and mammy noticed her shoe was untied and she put her pail down just long enough to bend over and tie it.. and while she was bent over, we heard this sound we knew so very well, the sound of a rattle shaking hard and long and my heart leaped in my throat as I saw it strike mammy right at the bend of her knee. Those teeth went in and blood came spurting out, and I screamed a blood curdling scream that you could have heard all the way to Hazard, Kentucky.
After that snake did its damage, it slithered on down the hill. I was shaking in my shoes for I knew my Mammy was a goner, for it took 45 minutes to climb this "N" Cline mountain and it would take that amount of time to go back down.
Mammy sit down on the ground and pulled her leg to her and with every bit of courage she had, she said, "Mary Alice, now you have to be brave, Ok"! She took the kerchief from her head that she wore when we went berry picking, pulled it around her leg right above that snake bite in double knots, took the Case knife from her pocket that she brought with us every time we went berry picking and I never did know until that minute why Mammy always carried that Case knife. She cut a cross like slash right in the middle of that snake bite and the blood just poured bright red all down her leg and on to the ground.
After she did all that work on her leg, with me kneeling beside her, totally stunned into quietness, she said to me, "Mary Alice go find me the biggest stick you can find so I can use it as a walking cane, we have to try to conquer this mountain and we have to do it quickly"!
We walked for about 10 minutes, Mammy leaning on me and the walking cane and I noticed she was getting weaker by the minute, then right in front of my ten year old eyes, she collapsed right to the ground in a dead faint.
I panicked just exactly like a ten year old should and kneeled down beside Mammy and touched her cheek softly and the tears just flowed from my face watering the ground where my knees were touching and then I remembered to pray. At the top of my lungs, I cried out to God, "Oh God please help me, Oh God please help me"!!
Instantly the whole top of that mountain was stilled, the sky got brighter, music began to play somewhere way beyond that mountain side and a big bright light gathered and just stood there above me, the music I was hearing, I had never heard before and a still small voice said, "Remember Mary Alice the mustard seed inside your dress pocket, take it out"! I took it out quickly, the still small voice said, "Now look at it"! As I was looking at that tiny seed the still small voice said, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."
I said, "But Lord this is a mighty big mountain" And then He said, "I am the mountain mover"!
I clutched the mustard seed in my hand as tight as I could, and I said unto that N'Cline Mountain, screaming like a wild panther, "Mountain, you move now and take me and Mammy with you, let us stand at yonder place, at the front door of Mount Mary Hospital in Hazard Kentucky and with the same breath, I cried out,
"My Father gave me permission to do so"!
The earth began to shake and rattle, the trees and bushes were flattened and sucked inside the earth. the wind blew, I could hear the wind roaring inside my ears and that mountain flattened out like the flat lands of Kansas.
My mammy was still sleeping like a baby and I was still kneeling beside her as the mountain disappeared completely into thin air and we were still in the same position as the front doors of Mount Mary Hospital emergency room in Hazard, Kentucky opened and doctors and nurses were everywhere, grabbing My Mammy and putting her on a stretcher.
One nurse said to me, "Can you tell us what happened little girl"? I said, "Yes, my Mammy got bitten by a rattle snake at the top of "N" Cline mountain right above Coneva Holler and I finished my sentence like this and God brought us here"!
I watched her smile as she took my hand in hers, and she said, "Come with me. Mary Alice, you will be able to see your mammy in a little while and I will sit with you until one of the other nurses come to get you"!
Story by Mary Alice Bush Bowles ~~~ October 29~~~~2013
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