Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I remember when I was growing up, every year about the last part of August, we’d all load up in the back of the truck and go down to Romney and get several bushels of peaches. We’d go right to the orchard and get them, and let me tell you, you ain’t lived until you’ve ate a fresh peach right off the tree. Those peaches were so sweet and sticky they practically tasted like candy to us.

The whole bunch of us. I'm the baby.

I remember how one time when I was about 8 years old, we went for peaches and the day before we had used the truck for hauling sawdust to put down in the hog pen. Well, the truck bed still had some loose sawdust in it and when we started down the road the wind picked up the loose sawdust and blowed it all over us kids riding in the truck bed. You couldn’t keep your eyes open for getting sawdust in them. I recall that was one trip in which all of us kids stayed up towards the truck cab where the flying sawdust wasn’t so bad.

It was a pretty uneventful trip except for crossing the big bridge between Petersburg and Moorefield. I always hated that bridge and to me at that age, it was about as big a bridge as there ever was in the whole world. It crossed the South Branch of the Potomac and the water was green underneath, a sure sign that it was deep. I’d always try to close my eyes or hide face down in the truck bed because as we all know if you can’t see something it won’t bother you. Well, this time was especially traumatic for me since it was just after the Great Flood of 1985 which had washed away the huge concrete bridge there, and it was temporarily replaced with an old metal National Guard bridge. That rickety thing creaked and moaned, and made such a racket, I was just sure we were falling into the river below. Of course, all the other kids knew my fear, and of course, gave me a dose of my own medicine by picking on me incessantly before and during the crossing of the bridge. I guess I was always afraid of that bridge and that deep water because when I was little, me, Dad, Jason and the 8th husband of the woman who gave birth to my mother (note I did NOT say grandmother), all went there ice fishing one winter. His name was Skinner and he loved to hunt and fish. He was from around that area, and I remember him talking about how deep the water was, and how that several men had tried to swim to the bottom of the river one time and couldn’t touch the bottom. I’m sure he was just preying on my wild-eyed fears then, especially considering how I was tip-toeing around on the crackling ice. Never the less, I was scarred for life and remained afraid of that stretch of water for years.

This is the place where went went ice fishing with skinner. The bridge is maybe 500 yards upriver from here.

Anyway, after making the harrowing crossing of the river, we headed on to Romney. The rest of the trip down was typical for us, and we soon arrived at the orchards. Mom had grew up down that way and she knew all of the places and most of the people, so she knew who to deal with and who gave the best deals. We soon found prices that we could live with and got our allotted 5 bushels of peaches and we also got several bushels of apples. Since we were at the orchard, the men there let us kids eat our fill of bruised and damaged peaches because they couldn’t be sold and would ruin anyway in the heat. To us kids, you’d have thought we had died and went to heaven. We gorged ourselves on peaches, and had the sticky nectar dripping all down our faces and off the ends of our elbows. I’m pretty sure we even had the sticky peach juice in our hair. Oh, God they were good.

About the age I was in this story.

After an hour or so, we all loaded back in the crammed truck bed and started up the road. Well, that’s when the real fun began. Remember I was telling you about the loose sawdust flying around, well now that we were all sticky with peach juice, that sawdust started to stick to us. We were a sight! Practically every inch of our bodies was covered with matted-on sawdust. On our way back through Moorefield, Mom stopped at Heck’s Store and told us to stay in the truck that she just needed to quickly pick up something, so we just stayed there in the truck bed. Then the yellow jackets found us. I’ve no doubt now why the Moorefield High School mascot is the yellow jacket because that place must be over-run with them. Undoubtedly, all that sticky, sawdust-laden peachiness on us kids had attracted entire swarms of yellowjackets because we were soon dodging and swerving from the little buggers! To save us, our granddad who was driving the truck, told us to calm down and he drove around the parking lot to keep the yellow jackets off of us. I wonder what those people in the parking lot must have thought was wrong with that bunch of swarping kids in the back of that truck who were all covered with sawdust and swatting at the air! I’m sure they thought the whole lot of us was touched!

It wasn’t long before Mom came back out of the store with a small bag of stuff. None of us asked what was in the bag and we soon started on up the road. Soon, we neared the big bridge again, and once again the picking on me started, and I just let the derision slide off of me like water off a duck’s back, and remembered the ring leaders for later tormenting once the tables had turned! Well we crossed the bridge and granddad pulled the truck off in a wide spot just above the bridge. Mom hopped out and said, “Okay kids, here’s some shampoo and towels, now go swimming and warsh that mess off of you”. That's what she had bought in Heck's! Well most of the kids took off running for the river but I about freaked. This was the deep water near that bridge I was afraid of, as a matter of fact, you could even see that bridge from where we were at, and I was just sure that the whole lot of us was going to drown. Mom assured me that the water here wasn’t all that deep and that I should just stay near the river bank if I was scared. She then tried to point out to all of us the Fox and the Ox that were supposedly visible in the sandstone cliffs above the river and she told us that this was one of the best swimming holes in the area. Well, hesitantly I entered the water, and washed off real good and noticed the older kids swimming out in the middle of the river. They all seemed to be okay and no water monster or nothing had violently arose from the deep to devour them. Instead, there was only a trail of soapsuds slowly floating down the river away from them.

It felt good to get that itchy sawdust and sticky peach juice off of us and I kind of relaxed a little. We stayed there for a while and played in the water, and though I never did venture far from the riverbank, it did help me overcome some of my fear of that deep, dark and foreboding stretch of river. Soon, after we had dried off, we were loaded back in the truck bed beside the apples and peaches, only this time the flying sawdust didn’t stick to us, and we headed back up the mountain road that led to home.

Here is a link to a You-Tube video about The Fox and Ox Rocks, it has information and a photo of them at the end of it. The video is 1 minute long.


Jason Burns said...

Peaches - wow there's a story I'd not thought of in a while. I never knew you were scared of that part of the river. Hmmm....

Matthew Burns said...

Don't you remember how I always wanted to go down through Rig and around by Fisher so we wouldn't have to cross that bridge!

tipper said...

Nothing better than a fresh peach so sweet and juicy it runs down your hands and arms.

The sawdust is funny. I remember riding in the back of the truck and sand and dirt sometimes burning my eyes.

My younger brother was afraid of bridges when we were kids too. Your Mom is neat-in my family-Granny would have been the one afraid we'd die in the river!