Dick Wills and Aunt Mary display a turkey that Mary will cook.
Aunt Mary is 82 years old this fall 2000. She can hardly walk even with the aid of her walking stick but when she gets in her old pickup truck she can drive wherever she wants. Locally that is, for she does not know her way beyond Rustburg where she drives every Monday to the coin laundry and grocery store that used to be run by Kyle Booth, a brother of her late husband Owen Booth. She knows every road and can make her way around within the triangle bounded by Concord-Rustburg-Red House. Nancy Steppe who lives on Homeplace Road calls her ‘Mary Petty’ because of her driving. Here is my transcription of her account of an early fall roundabout she recently took.
This is Mary’s truck. Standing with is are Mary, my daughter Moninna, and my grandson Bryan.
“I took my stick and stool and got in my truck. I drove over to New Chapel and sat in the cemetery a good while just looking at the names and dates. Your father died a good many years before your mother, 22 years you say? Then I went down Bear Creek Road, it runs behind the church, and at the end turned right and on around to Mount Zion church and sat in that cemetery. Uncle John and aunt Bertha are buried there and lots of other people I knew when I lived next door and went there as a girl, not family though. Then I drove on up the road to Three Forks and turned there. When I passed the bend where Gladys and Herbert Campbell live I saw Mildred sitting on her porch on the other side of the road. So I stopped and she recognized me. She was shelling some of the last butter beans of the summer she said. So we sat on the porch and we shelled her butter beans and talked for a while. When I got home I felt like I had been a thousand miles and didn’t ever want to leave home again. It has been a long while since I went around like that.”
Notes: Uncle John and aunt Bertha Bailey, brother of mother Kate Bailey Steppe. Gladys is a Bailey, daughter of Bud Bailey, brother of Kate Bailey; Herbert has been dead a few years. Alice is another daughter of Bud Bailey.
Mary told me about a dream she had recently. The dream was of a childhood experience. The dream was so vivid that she could recall exactly how it felt when she put her hand on a cupboard. When living near Mt Zion Church as a girl with Grandma DePriest she was awakened one night by a sound. She got up to feel her way into Grandma’s room and used her hands touching familiar objects to guide her. When Grandma came to see what Mary wanted they both thought they saw a man standing near the door. They imagined that it was a ghost from the church cemetery. I don’t think Mary told me the end of the story. I guess they decided there was no one there after all. There had been a promise to take care of the grave of a neighbor when he was buried at the church next door, made by Grandma DePriest and which duty fell to Mary. Mary said she never left so much as an acorn on his grave, but he returned to ha’nt her anyway.
Mary lives in an old country house, inherited from her father in law, flanked by the modern brick houses of her son Michael and nephew W C Booth. She spends her time doing country things. When nearby relatives or neighbors are away from home she will feed their dogs. Even though the house may be close by she has to get there in her pickup truck. She knows who saw and where the recent local sightings of a bear were made. She can remember and dream about minute details of things that happened many long years ago; but is forgetful of what she needs to know today. She knows who belongs to the local hunt clubs. She will cook and share with you and neighbors a wild turkey if you kill it and take it to her.
Aunt Mary was four years old when her mother, my grandmother Kate Steppe, went to Staunton. Aunt Em volunteered to take Mary, and her Grandmother DePriest took the other five children, including my father. Aunt Mary stayed with her Aunt Em for two years until she joined her siblings with her grandmother DePriest. Aunt Mary was close to Aunt Em’s daughters Ada and Edna from that time.
This is Mary with my son Lewis.