Queen of the Kingdom of Blue Smoke (rhapsody_98) wrote,
Queen of the Kingdom of Blue Smoke
rhapsody_98

Ruth is my grandmother.

When the Lester and Lillian Mabe moved away from Saltville to Buchannan County, they found a small one room cabin at a remote place called Young’s Branch, after the creek nearby. Lester found work in the mines, on the night shift. Walking to school became an adventure, starting out before dawn with Garnet, the oldest child, carrying a flashlight, and the kids walking in single file. The straightest path meant crossing the creek five times before hitting the first road, and then another half mile to the bus stop.

In 1943, Vaydon, the second child and oldest daughter, was in 6th grade. At school, she started aching, and complained about a sore throat. When it was time to walk home, she could only go slowly, stopping at intervals to rest. Lester and Lillian had never been very sick before, and were sure it was just a cold and their daughter would get better.

She only got worse. She lost weight, unable to keep food down. She was bedridden for several months before they admitted it was beyond their ability to make it better. Somehow, they had to get her to a hospital, but the nearest one was almost twenty miles away in Grundy, and the family didn’t have an automobile.

Winter soon solved the problem when Young’s Branch froze solid. That Saturday night, Lillian loaded up her rocking chair with every spare quilt, and Lester and Garnet carefully lifted her into the cozy pile, and wrapped her up. The two of them carried her out to the creek. Lester’s miner’s headlamp lit the way as he and Garnet used the rockers as runners, and slid the rocking chair down the frozen creek. Where the creek met the road, a well-to-do neighbor, Mr. Childress, was waiting with his car, ready to drive her to the doctor. The third child, Ruth, was left in charge of her younger siblings as her parents and brother slid Vaydon away.

Vaydon would stay in Grundy hospital for over three months. She was diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever, and each day she was given a shot. To her dying day she would remember exactly how many shots she’d received, but Ruth only remembered that it was over 100. The family believed that her life had been saved by this miracle of medicine, a new drug called penicillin. Eventually, she was able to return home.

She had fallen behind in school, and so for the rest of their lives she and Ruth would be in the same grade. She had to re-learn how to walk, and was exempted from all but the lightest indoor chore load. Eventually she would make a full recovery, though for years her parents feared a relapse, or permanent damage to her heart.

In high school, she joined the basketball team. Ruth threatened to tell her parents, but Vaydon said that as long as she was alive, she might as well do the things she wanted, or she might as well have died. That ended the argument even with Lester and Lillian, and Vaydon became the highest jumper on the team.
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