Thursday, September 19, 2013

Granny's Pantry# 7: Finding Polly Mahaley

According to High Rock family legend, ever so often Polly Mahaley would catch a ride with the rural mail carrier and then walk up the dirt lane between the twin rows of cedars leading to my granny’s house in the High Rock Community of Davidson County, NC. Polly had come to visit with her few belongings in a little bag, her long dresses and strings of beads around her neck. As soon as Polly arrived, she would busy herself doing something helpful, like peeling vegetables.            
[I know of no picture of Polly Mahaley]
Carrying “news” from house to house in this rural area was an important part of what Polly did. Her visits might last a few days or a week, and she might not reappear for months. My granny always welcomed her as company. When it was time for Polly to go, she would move on to spend time with other families in the community.

My mother, who’s now ninty, remembers going outside of her home as a child and knocking on the door, pretending to be Polly Mahaley come to visit.

No one knows where Polly Mahaley came from. I’m not sure why Polly Mahaley’s story so captivated me. What was life like for this thin, pale woman who belonged to everyone and no one?  I always heard that Polly went to live in the Davidson County Home. County homes were often the refuge of folks who had no family or means to take care of themselves.  

Where was she buried? Could I find her grave? I searched for her online unsuccessfully. And then a summer ago, while driving home one weekend through Lexington, NC, I noticed a street sign for County Home Road. The time to look for Polly had come.

Former County Home, Davidson County, NC
We found the big old gray rambling structure that was once the County Home for Davidson County,NC. It’s now owned by Davidson County Schools and part of the property is fenced off. It was Sunday, and we searched where we could...but no cemetery was visible.

Back home, while searching online again, I found a wonderful helper in Linda Davis, Cemetery Coordinator of the Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department. She took the very minimal information mixed with guesses I had about Polly Mahaley and within hours, Polly was found:      

                          Birth: unknown
North Carolina, USA
                          Death: Jul. 11, 1941
Davidson County
North Carolina, USA

Polly Mahaley was a single white female who was born about 1866.
(There are no stones [in the cemetery] but depressions are visible...around a giant oak tree.)

Polly Mahaley was one of 74 persons listed as buried in the Davidson County Home Cemetery (NC) from 1913 through 1960 ( Registrants on Find a Gravemay go to the individual site entry for each person listed to post virtual flowers and a tribute, which I have done for Polly. There’s still a lot I don’t know (who was Elvira Mahaley who was buried there in 1915--her mother/sister/or a stranger)?  I'll likely never know more about Polly, but I can’t explain what finding her has meant.

Although she was not real "kin," Polly Mahaley is part of the collective memory of High Rock and a real life story from Granny's Pantry. 

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

(Matthew 25:35;40)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Granny's Pantry # 6: Morning glories

Granny's Pantry # 6

When I was young, Granddaddy Cole plowed the fields at High Rock with two horses named Dan and Ada. 
Dan was white and good natured—one we could ride on occasion when his work was done. Ada was chestnut brown and not to be trusted by young riders—a lady with a bad reputation. Granddaddy’s mornings came early, and he was always in the field long before I got up for breakfast. After lunch, he would stretch out on the chaise lounge in front of Granny’s kitchen work table and take a short nap before going back out to finish plowing.

Sometimes I liked to tag along with Granddaddy when he went out to plow. He grasped the wooden plow handles and reins, calling out “Gee!” or “Haw!” to direct the horses and keep the rows straight as the metal plow tips cut through rocky soil. Granddaddy made the whole process look so easy that one day I begged him to let me try…and found out it wasn’t—thus ending my plowing career.

One detail that always makes me think of those times in the field with Granddaddy is the tangles of morning glories growing along the edges of where he worked. There was majesty in their wildness and beauty in their untamed spirit as these simple flowers of blue or white, pink or purple marked the borders of the fields. 

I’ve tried planting packages of morning glories in pots or boxes, but those are never as glorious as wild ones, uncultivated and left to their own devices. This year, I didn’t even try. My fall backs were the morning glories that grow wild  in front of the hay barn where I go to feed the barn cat.

This year, the vines were sumptuous, but mostly bare of blooms. I waited and fretted…were the seeds hybrid and failing to reproduce properly? (I read these flowers are annuals…not true for the ones I know.) Was it the weed control that had been broadcast (without my knowledge) causing the problem? Where were my morning glories? I missed them. I longed for them.

And then one morning this week when I went down to feed, there was a riot of purple blossoms covering the bottom of the barn and reaching up in places toward the roof. I was overjoyed. Their beauty was breathtaking…a gift to me and a tribute to my Granddaddy. 


When their time was right…not morning glories bloomed. Wild and untamed, yet fragile, each of their flowers lasts but a day. It has only a few hours to share its beauty before it fades.

To every thing there is a season
… (Ecclesiastes 3:1)  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.  (Isaiah 40:8)  Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment… (Hebrews 9:27)

***[From The Project Gutenberg EBook of Riley Songs of Home, by James Whitcomb Riley--

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