My elementary school set at the very top of a big mountain. To get to the top of the mountain we had to beat our way through the trees and bushes, sometimes falling over twigs and branches. What kind of path you got to walk on depended on which part of the holler you were from. All paths led straight to the elementary school. On the elite side of the mountain, there was a gravel road where all the town children walked there from the little town down below.
Our school occupied one side of the mountain and on the other side of the mountains set our local grave yard. If you stood in the middle of our little town and looked straight up the mountain, your eyes would rest on the elementary school and the tombstones at the same time! The grave yard was on the left and our elementary school was on the right.
Our means of transportation was foot travel. Well, I guess I’ll be telling my age with this story but that is all right too. I’m very proud of my age and who I am! I’m very proud of every wrinkle on my face because every wrinkle tells a beautiful story and my very first wrinkle came straight from Chavies Elementary School, in Perry County Kentucky!
My mommy was a little widow woman, she was left with five children to raise when daddy died at the age of 33. Mommy raised us on welfare and I’m not ashamed of that either, because women did not work back when, they just stayed home and raised their children. There was no work in Eastern Kentucky anyway except the coal mines and women were not allowed to go near those mines.
All we ever had to eat was pinto beans and corn bread and fried taters. Believe me I am not exaggerating either, that’s the truth; all we ever had to eat was beans, beans, and more beans. We had fried beans for breakfast with home made biscuits and gravy, and soup beans for supper with fried taters and corn bread. Our late night snack was a skillet of beans fried on the open fire in the fire place.
We could not afford to buy lunches, so while the other children ate lunch, we just
wandered up and down our one long hall way. Sometimes I was so hungry, I would almost get full by just smelling the wonderful aroma coming from the doors of the cafeteria.
One spring day I decided I would just go out back and sit on the big stone steps that led to the cafeteria. If I sat there long enough I could catch my best friend as she came out the side doors. That particular day I was so hungry I could almost taste whatever they were having for lunch.
I looked around and saw the principal coming toward me kind of smiling from the corners of his mouth. As he got closer, I heard him say, “Mary, if you’re hungry, I think we had a lot left-overs, would you like to come and eat”? I was sure one happy kid as I went through those cafeteria doors.
Now I had heard that they served hamburgers and hot dogs and I had never tasted either one, so I just couldn’t wait to sit at that big long table and taste whatever they were serving that day!
One of the women who worked there brought me a big blue lunch tray, I looked down and I was looking straight in the face of a bowl of pinto beans and of course the side dishes were fried taters and a piece of corn bread.
I really wanted to get up and run, but Mom had raised me with lots of manners and raised me in church! Mom took us to church every time the doors were opened, Sunday, Sunday night, Wednesday night and Saturday night and all the revivals in-between!
I couldn’t take my eyes off that bowl of beans so I just sat there for a minute or two while I was trying frantically to find my voice. My face evolved into a crinkled frown and when I finally was able to speak I said “thank you”! I ate those beans like I was starved to death and I had something that was very good called Jell-O.
I thank God for that miracle meal, because I know it came from God! He sends all good and wonderful things to his children.
©Mary Alice Bowles