Thursday, December 28, 2017

Blanche's Permanent Wave

Rondy and Blanche Ledford after getting her first permanent wave. rage in the mountain town of Hayesville, North Carolina during the 1940s was bobbed hair and curls.  Those with straight hair got permanent waves, but many women simply set their hair at home using pin curls or twisted up in rags.

Movie stars such as Betty Grable and Ava Gardner influenced the fashion of women.  My aunts got hairstyles like these glamorous actresses.

My mother, Blanche, dreamed of getting her hair bobbed, too.  She enjoyed the cinema and these stars provided an escape from the gloom of World War II.

War influenced how women wore their hair.  Working in the fields, factories, or armed services, required hairstyles that would not get caught in machinery or in the way.

Many women who worked in factories wore trousers.  Granny Trese didn't approve of her daughters wearing pants.  She was a religious person and thought females should not dress like men.

Much to Granny's chagrin, her daughters wore trousers at home.  Pants were more comfortable than dresses to do housework.

Although Blanche never wore trousers, she still desired to bob her hair and get a permanent wave.  Of course Granny Trease frowned on that.

But Blanche's fiancée, Rondy Ledford, helped her fulfill a dream. He was serving with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Aquone, North Carolina.  One weekend Rondy came home and took Blanche to a movie.  She told him she wanted to bob her hair and get a permanent wave, but didn't have the money.  He gave her the cash to go to the beauty shop.

On Monday morning, Blanche sneaked into Mary Jo Burch's Beauty Shop.  She told her she wanted to bob her hair and get a perm.  When Blanche saw the wicked- looking permanent machine, it scared her to death.  She was afraid it would electrocute her.

But Mary Jo assured Blanche it was safe.  The machine had clips that hung from above and heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Dampened hair steamed and curled as it was heated on rods.

The machine got so hot that Mary Jo had to fan Blanche's head constantly.  The beautician and customer ran the risk of serious burns.

Blanche's heart raced and she broke into a sweat.  She promised herself if the beauty shop did not catch on fire, she would never get another permanent.

Hours later Blanche dragged out of Mary Jo's Beauty Shop with stiff and brittle hair.  Her fiancée loved her new hairstyle, but Granny Trese just rolled her eyes.

by:  Brenda Kay Ledford

The wicked-looking permanent wave machine!


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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Old-Fashioned Christmas

Not a sound
in the Matheson Cove,
snow glowing on black velvet,
cattle kneel at midnight.

Rabbit tracks zigzag
across the Shewbird Mountain,
wood smoke curves heavenward,
icicles hang from the log cabin.

Hickory sticks pop and crackle
in the fireplace,
cornpone bakes in the Dutch oven,
paper chains and popcorn

drape the fir tree.
Young'uns toss in the featherbeds,
listen for reindeer on the roof,
will Santa Claus find the cove?

Early on Christmas morning,
cranberry skies spill over
the Blue Ridge Mountains
echoing with sleigh bells.

Ronda, Reba, Ralph, Reuben, Rena,
Robenia, Robert and baby Ray,
grab goodies from their stockings:
apples, oranges, hazel nuts,

candy canes, peppermint drops,
and toys Granddaddy carved.
Before breakfast, Ma reads
the story of baby Jesus.

Robert gets his fiddle,
voices blend with carols.
An old-fashioned Christmas,
tinsel glistens in the candlelight.
--Brenda Kay Ledford

I wish all my blogger friends a blessed and peaceful Christmas.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


In the gap of Shewbird Mountain,
I revisit the old home place.
Perhaps it is the taste
of churned buttermilk, the smell
of cornbread baking in Grandma's
Dutch oven over the fireplace,
maybe the memory of sorghum syrup
Grandpa made each fall from cane.

I remember my childhood:
Harold pulling Rover and me
in a red wagon, swimming
with cousins in Hyatt Mill Creek.
Bantam chickens cackled and scratched
hieroglyphics in the barnyard.
The goat ate clothes off the line,
Mama shooed him with her apron.

Revisiting the space, I steal
a moment on the front porch:
whippoorwills whistling, catching
lightning bugs in a Mason jar.
I can still hear Grandma
calling us to supper as clouds unfurled
across the Matheson Cove like
mums twirling their skirts.
                 --Brenda Kay Ledford

This poem appeared in "The Sunlight Press"
                                       September 26, 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Great Grandpa's Apple Orchard

red delicious

Great-Grandpa Dallas Matheson owned 300 acres of land in the Matheson Cove section of Clay County, North Carolina in 1844.  His property included half of Shewbird Mountain.

His ancestors departed the Scottish Highlands in 1772 and sailed into the harbor of the United States of America.  They were some of the earliest settlers in present Clay County, NC.

Great-Grandpa Dallas was a learned man and spoke correct and distinct English.  He read many books and so did his children.  He and Great-Grandma Martha Norwood Matheson had three girls and three boys.  Minnie Lee Matheson was my grandmother and married Robert "Bob" Ledford in 1916.

Great-Grandpa Dallas was a farmer.  He grew an apple orchard above the frost line on Shewbird Mountain.  He raised the black beauty apple that was so red it looked black.  The Ben Davis was light with small streaks and white inside.  Other apples included the horse apple, hog sweet, red June, striped June, striped May, pumpkin apple, queen pippin, pound apple, and others with no names.

Each fall my family took a sled and mule on Shewbird Mountain and hauled apples to the house to store in the cellar.  They also dried apples on trays outside in the sun.

Dried apples were delicious, especially when made into fried pies or a stack cake.  It was made with five or six thin layers.  Dried apples were cooked with a little sugar and cinnamon then spread between the layers.  It was best when soaked for a few days.

Here's my grandmother's recipe for the stack cake:

Great-Grandma Martha's Dried Apple Stack Cake

2 cups dried apples                                                        1 cup raisins
1 cup sugar                                                                     1 cup molasses
2 eggs                                                                             1 cup milk
3 cups or more of flour                                                   1 teaspoon soda
2/3 cup baking powder                                                    nutmeg and cinnamon

Soak apples in water long enough to make soft.  Then chop them to about the size of raisins, and boil them 15 minutes in the molasses.  Add nutmeg and cinnamon to taste.

Mix eggs and sugar, add enough lard until it looks like a biscuit dough.  Add flour, baking powder, soda, add enough milk to make dough soft.  Mix in raisins.

Turn dough onto floured surface and roll in thin circles to fit black iron frying pan.  Bake in moderate woodstove oven until golden brown.

Spread cooked apple mixture between layers.  Will make 5 to 6 layer cake.

Put a dish rag over the cake and soak it for a few days before serving.

by:  Brenda Kay Ledford

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Great American Eclipse Experience

The Great American Eclipse united our country on August 21, 2017 awhile.  There were no blacks, whites, republicans, or democrats.  Conflicts were put aside and folks of all creeds and colors stood beside each other and beheld the magnificent big sky event.

The total solar eclipse stretched from the west coast to the east coast of the USA.  The moon's shadow covered a 60-mile-wide path across the United States toward the eastern part of our country. 

 Most people experienced 2 minutes and 33 seconds of darkness during the total solar eclipse.  Other parts of the United States experienced a partial eclipse.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime event for just our country.

I looked forward to the total solar eclipse with anticipation in western North Carolina.  Of course I knew the scientific explanation of the eclipse, but you never know...

I donned my solar eclipse glasses and "Mooned by the Sun" tee shirt.  The partial eclipse began around 2:00 p.m. in Clay County, NC. 

It was an eerie feeling!  Shadows grew longer.  The wind ceased and it was so quiet.  The temperature dropped 10 degrees and was chilly.  Security lights came on.  Pink clouds brushed the horizon as the moon progressed across the sun.  At 2:35 PM total darkness!  A diamond of light sparkled around the outer edge of the sun.  I saw stars and Mercury and Mars.

What an awesome experience!

No wonder folks traveled hundreds of miles even from overseas to see the total solar eclipse.  We didn't have as much traffic as expected in Hayesville, NC.  But the hotels and campgrounds were all booked.

It was a spiritual experience for me.  Many folks interviewed on TV felt the same way.  The total solar eclipse was indeed a moving experience.  The cosmic event reminded me of the Great I Am who created both the heaven and the earth.

I'm glad I got to see the total solar eclipse.  I was able to experience history being made.  The next total solar eclipse in my area will be in 2078.  According to nature, I won't be here to see it.  I hope my nephew, nieces, and cousins will be able to see this event and will be touched as much as I was by the handiwork of God!

by:  Brenda Kay Ledford

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Great American Solar Eclipse 2017

Perhaps people in the direct path of the Monday, August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse should get out their pots and pans.

According to folklore, some cultures got together and banged pots and pans in an attempt to scare away supposed demons causing the solar eclipse.

Total eclipse is an intense experience.  It will be night in the middle of day, and several planets will be visible with the naked eye including Jupiter, Venus, and Mars.  Bright stars will also shine.  Usually, any breeze will dissipate and birds will roost and stop chirping.  Nocturnal creatures may come out.  The temperature will drop 10 degrees.

A total solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  On August 21, 2017, the Great American Eclipse will begin at 1:15 pm EST, over Oregon, head southeast across the nation and at 2:34 pm, glide into western North Carolina, continue to Charleston, and head to sea.

The moon will cover the sun during total eclipse and cast a shadow on earth.  You'll see a total eclipse if you're in the dark part of that shadow (the umbra).  Folks in the light part (the penumbra), will see a partial eclipse.

Safety is the key to watching a solar eclipse.  Never look directly at the sun without protection because it can permanently damage your eyes.  The only safe way to view the eclipse is through special solar filters such as "eclipse glasses" or hand-held solar viewers.  It's safe to look at the eclipse with the naked eye when the moon completely covers the sun.

A total solar eclipse will attract crowds.  Some estimate the seven western North Carolina counties could draw one million visitors with people arriving days before the event.  Roads will be congested.  To avoid chaos, locals are encouraged to fill gas tanks, buy groceries, get supplies a week before the total eclipse.  Treat it like a major snowstorm.

It might even be a good idea to get out your pots and pans and bang on them.

Seriously, this will be a big sky event that we'll talk about for a long time.  Enjoy it and please stay safe!

by:  Brenda Kay Ledford

Friday, July 7, 2017

Big Sky Event

Nature's most awesome sight,
stars and planets come out,
once in a lifetime experience;
a total solar eclipse.

Stars and planets come out,
birds and squirrels nest,
a total solar eclipse;
an eerie feeling.

Birds and squirrels nest,
leaves hurl over the earth,
a total solar eclipse;
moon shimmies across the sun.

Gliding through the sky,
once in a lifetime experience,
the big sky event;
nature's most awesome sight.
                  --Brenda Kay Ledford

A total solar eclipse will occur on Monday, August 21, 2017 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.  The moon will cover the sun for two minutes and 20 seconds at 2:35pm.

We expect thousands of people to visit our area to view this fabulous event.

Friday, June 30, 2017


Honk!  Honk!  Honk!

A wedge of geese resounded.

Little Regan Blanche yawned and stretched.


Pictured:  Little Regan, her Mama and Daddy

Grandma Barbara gave her breakfast.

"We're having a total solar eclipse today," said Grandma.

Little Regan Blanche had never seen a total solar eclipse.

She dressed and headed to the event.

Fog danced over the mountains.  Corn shocks rattled in the wind.

Henry howled at a squirrel in the oak tree.  Bugs buzzed.

"Flies," called Reagan Blanche.

No, these were lady bugs.

Little Regan Blanche would tell Grandma.

White-tailed deer sailed over a fence.

"You're out early," said Mama Doe.

"I'm looking for the solar eclipse," said Regan Blanche.

The buck snorted and pawed pine needles.  "Look up," he said.

Reagan Blanche came to Hyatt-Mill Creek.  There was Beaver building a dam.

"Are you ready for the total solar eclipse?" he asked.

A cold breeze sliced leaves from trees.  An eerie silence filled the forest.  Bats flopped their wings.

The sun grew smaller, smaller, and smaller until it disappeared.  Total darkness!

Chickens went to roost.

"Where's the sun?" cried Reagan Blanche.

Two minutes of total darkness.  The moon moved.

Sunshine splashed the forest floor.  The animals cheered and Regan Blanche laughed.

"You just saw a total solar eclipse," said the wise old owl.

Little Regan Blanche skipped home.  She would tell Grandma, Mama and Daddy about her adventure.

by:  Brenda Kay Ledford

On August 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse will occur in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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