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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Barn Quilts

Image result for barn quilt photo + Lone Star Quilt

Winding through Appalachia,
quilt blocks painted
on the old red barns.

A legacy of love,
pioneer women pieced patterns
around the quilting bee.

Hours of labor,
feed sacks ripped up,
treasured scraps reused.

Folk art born
of necessity,
beauty in handiwork.

Gracing the barn walls:
a Lone Star quilt
and Double Wedding Ring.

by:  Brenda Kay Ledford

Image result for barn quilt photo + double wedding ring

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Decoration Day

Despite the protests, Ma Minnie Ledford ran her kids out of bed early on Sunday morning.  She would not allow anyone to "sleep in" on the Lord's day.

"Rise and shine," she yelled.  "Wash up, eat your breakfast and get ready for Myers Chapel."

"Oh, no!" moaned Ralph.  "Can't we stay at home and get some shut eye?"  asked Robert.

Ma frowned and shook her head.  That was a definite no.

After a hardy breakfast, Rondy, Ralph, Robert, and Reuben headed to the barn to milk the cow and feed the livestock.  They helped Pa hitch the mules to the wagon for church.

The girls dragged their feet getting ready.  Reba, Robenia, and Rena kept primping before the mirror.  They had their eyes on some boys at church and wanted to impress them.

"Lands sakes!"  said Ma.  "You would think you girls were going to the White House to meet President Hoover.  Church will dismiss before we get there."

Ma carried a poke of flowers to the wagon.  She and the girls had made crepe roses to decorate the graves at church.  It was decoration day,

"Reba, get baby Ray from the crib.  Get the box of food, Robenia," added Ma.

Pa helped Ma on the wagon and she cuddled baby Ray as they rode to church.  The narrow road wound through the Matheson Cove and the wagon bounced over ruts.  When it rained, the wagon got stuck in the mud.

Ma kissed her baby and recalled when he was born.  The mail carrier, Mr. Andy Padgett, wondered what she would name her child.  After all, she had given each of her seven children names that began with the letter R.

"What will Mrs. Ledford name her eighth child?" asked Mr. Padgett.  "I guess she will call him Rabbit," he said and laughed.

But Minnie came up with another name beginning with the letter R.  She called him Ray Andrew Ledford.  She was proud when her son grew up and became a preacher.  Her oldest son, Rondy, also was called as an ordained Baptist minister and was pastor of many churches in Clay County, NC.

Now as she held baby Ray, she hummed the hymn, "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so..."  The family broke loose singing with her and they finally made it to church.

Ma's brother, Luther Matheson, was leading the choir with shaped-note music.  The congregation tapped their toes and clapped their hands with the peppy song, "I'll Fly Away."

Joy filled the little country church.  Suddenly, Aunt Mae Hall (Pa's sister) got happy and shouted all over the church.  Her red hair unpinned from the bun on her head and flowed as she praised the Lord.

It was decoration day.  The guest preacher, Dr. George W. Truett, delivered the sermon.  He was a world-renown Baptist preacher born and reared in Clay County, NC.

Worship service ended around 1:00.  Everyone was starved and could hardly wait to dive into the food spread on tables under the maple trees.

The mountain women outdid themselves cooking.  They brought homemade strawberry cobblers, buttermilk pie, chocolate cake, banana pudding, blackberry jam, green beans, corn-on-the-cob, fried chicken, pork chops, molasses, biscuits, cornbread, buttermilk, lemonade, and iced tea.

After lunch they decorated the graves of loved ones.  Then folks gathered in the church for an afternoon of singing gospel songs.  Several groups performed.

As dusk fell, Ma and Pa loaded the sleepy younguns on the wagon and headed to the Matheson Cove.  Whippoorwills resounded on Shewbird Mountain and a Full Flower Moon glowed on the faces of the Ledford family.

by:  Brenda Kay Ledford

Friday, March 3, 2017

Going Barefooted

Each spring Rondy Ledford (my father), looked forward to the jonquils blooming in the Matheson Cove.  That's when he and the young'uns could kick off their brogans and go barefooted!

"Ma, when I got a bucket of water at the spring this morning, I saw the jonquils coming up," said Rondy.  "Can I go barefooted?"

"No, son.  It's too early to pull off your shoes.  You young'uns would get the flu.  Wait until the flowers bloom."  She smiled and patted his curly black hair.

A joint groan came from Rondy, Reba, Ralph, Robert, Reuben, Robenia, and Rena.  Even baby Ray whined.

"Hush your moaning," said Ma.  "You boys go to the front porch.  Robert just got his barber's kit from Sears and Roebuck catalog."  She shooed them out the door with her apron.

"Ain't no way old Doe's going to cut my hair," yelled Reuben.  "He would scalp me."

Reuben took off to the outhouse with Rover howling at his heels.  Ralph and Rondy caught Reuben and dragged him to the "barber's chair."  He kicked and squealed as they held him.

Doe's razor hummed as he mowed off red hair.  It piled up on the porch like hay.  "Let me go, Doe!" pleaded Reuben.  At last he finished the hair cut.

Reuben looked at his reflection in the living room window.  "Oh, my Lord!" he hollered.  "I'll have to wear a toboggan the rest of my life.  I'm ruint!"

The other boys jumped back like rabbits from the "barber's chair."  But Pa gave them a stern look, and they reluctantly let ole Doe lower their ears.

That afternoon it got so warm the boys broke out sweating as they planted taters in the field.  They begged Pa to let them go barefooted.

"Don't tell Minnie," said Pa.  "You can go barefooted just this afternoon.  Careful and don't stump your toes.  You'll have to let Ma Minnie put some rags and Red Rose salve on them if you get hurt."

The boys peeled off their brogans and headed to Hyatt-Mill Creek.  Ralph climbed a sourwood tree and swung on a fox grape vine and splashed into the cold water.  The other boys grabbed vines and sailed like flying squirrels through the trees.

As the sun set like beet juice over Shewbird Mountain, the boys put on their brogans and trotted to the log cabin.  They never told Ma about their going barefooted that afternoon.

by:  Brenda Kay Ledford

I wish all my blogger friends a beautiful and peaceful spring!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Legacy of Love

This "Lone Star Quilt" was pieced by my grandmother, Minnie Matheson Ledford.

Around the quilting bee,
a patchwork of grandmothers
left a legacy--life lessons
for a future generation.

Wearing flour sack aprons,
mountain women taught patience:
stitches no bigger than pinpricks,
to savor time, good stewards of life.

Grandmother Minnie matched seams,
created patterns from scraps,
taught me to create my shape,
to choose a color scheme.

Great-Grandma Martha taught
me to lay aside work,
take time for pleasure;
a lesson she learned too late.

My kinfolks taught faith
in the Cathedral Windows,
beauty of Grandma's Zinnia Basket;
love in Grandmother's Engagement Ring.
                   --Brenda Kay Ledford

"Lady of the Lake" quilt was pieced by my sister, Barbara Ledford Wright.

"McComma's Quilt" was also pieced by Barbara Ledford Wright.

"Monkey Wrench" quilt was pieced by my mother, Blanche L. Ledford.

The Shooting Creek quilters holding a quilting bee.


In the gap of Shewbird Mountain, I revisit the old home place. Perhaps it is the taste of churned buttermilk, the smell of cornbread b...