LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Monday, August 23, 2010

She Holds a Century of Culture

We met her three years ago quite by accident. We were visiting a local glass artisan's shop and she was sitting on the screened porch having a glass of lemonade. Such an engaging and friendly person, she struck up a conversation with us. (All modesty aside, my husband and I are pretty engaging and friendly too. All right...we ARE friendly.) We sat down on the porch and had a wonderful 30-minute chat with Vera Stinson.



It quickly became apparent that Vera (she insisted that we call her Vera) was the genuine article. A real North Carolina mountain woman. We chatted for quite some time and found that we had many things in common. I could have listened to her all day, but too soon she had to leave. Before she left, she asked us how old we thought she was. We absolutely declined to hazard a guess. (Been burned with that one before.) "Well," she said, "If the good Lord sees fit, I'll be 97 on August 19th." We were appropriately surprised. She is both physically and mentally in very good health. Holding herself erect, she didn't even use a cane.


(Photograph from The Transylvania Times, taken last month)


We soon discovered that Vera Stinson is a living legend around here. She was born August 19, 1910 in Cedar Mountain, not far from where we live. William Howard Taft was the President and the United States population was 92 million. The average life expectancy for women was 51.8 years of age. The average annual salary was $750.00.



Vera, widely known as a keeper of oral history started writing a book at age 90. The book's title gives some insight into Vera's love for words. She chose Stumbling Blocks Were Stepping Stones in Appalachia because her family always met their challenges and crises and overcame them.



This is Vera's book. Her parents are pictured on the cover standing in front of the "old homeplace."

(This photograph is our own copy. She inscribed it: 'Best wishes to R and Carolyn; friends of mine from Cinti, Ohio.' She had been delighted that we once had lived in Cincinnati and she had lived there as well, so that made us her friends from Cinti.)


The book tells the story of her family, and of life in the mountains so long ago. It is filled with anecdotes and while it may not be great literature, it gives a reflection of life in the mountains over the last century. It tells of a time when singing, talking and story telling made up the evenings in family circles around the fire. Vera clearly loves to tell stories and who cares if they are embellished a bit?

Vera gives the following advice in her book:
"Don't begin to write a book when you are ninety years old and complete it when you are ninety-five. At this age your mind plays tricks on you...as you read, try to imagine how it was to grow up in a family of ten in what was then a wilderness...I'll admit that writing these stories was more difficult than telling. When I tell my stories, you hear my enthusiasm for my mountains. As you read my story, I hope the words will convey what my heart feels for these hills."

Vera, I don't think your mind is playing any tricks on you yet. And we do feel the enthusiasm as we read the stories.

HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY, VERA!

23 comments:

pat said...

interesting story...but you won my cookbook...;(

Karin said...

Wow - what a delightful story!! Where I work we have a couple of really sharp and definitely not looking their age, 100 year olds!! Thanks for sharing!!

The Thundering Herd said...

Isn't it amazing the fascinating people you meet if you just slow down long enough to listen.

Barb said...

Hi Carolyn, I have a friend living in AZ who is 101. She is also still keen of mind and lives in her own home.

cyclopseven said...

She sounds like a fountain of life for many around her. Guess her knowledge and experience are priceless. Thank you for sharing this beautiful 'Walking Century' with us.

Vicki Lane said...

What a terrific story!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Oh My Carolyn.... What an incredible lady... That's the type of older adult I love to meet and talk to... Sounds like she is still in pretty good health... Glad she did write that book... Her family (and others) in the future will be so glad that she finally did... Thanks for sharing this wonderful story with us.
Hugs,
Betsy

Toni aka irishlas said...

Inspirational! It's wonderful that you had a chance to chat. Many would not have bothered and would have missed out on meeting such an engaging woman.

carolina nana said...

What a wonderful story. I'd sure like to buy one of her books,I love reading about life in these mountains over that period of time.
Do you know where the books are sold?
Oh, and I have to tell you ,my son's wound culture came back as a moderate staph infection he has an appointment with the infectious disease doctors on Wednesday morning. At least we now know why it stopped healing!!
Have a blessed tomorrow.
Marilyn

George said...

What a wonderful story about a very special lady. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Sam said...

I hope we have a chance to meet Vera one day! Happy Birthday, Vera!

Sam

Jayne said...

How lovely that you got to no only meet this remarkable lady, but be given such a great gift!

Busy Bee Suz said...

I imagine I could talk with this lady all day long. She sounds sweet and interesting!

The Bug said...

What an amazing accomplishment!

I'm working in Cincinnati - & I used to live in Waynesville. So I could be her Cincinnati friend too LOL.

scienceguy288 said...

As we say in Polish: "Sto lat!" Which translates to may you live 100 years, so I ammend that by saying, "Dwiesczie lat!" (200).

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Vera is certainly a spirited individual -- writing a book at 90! Her title Stumbling Blocks Were Stepping Stones is a philosophy that many persons could or should adopt. Thanks for introducing Vera on your post -- barbara

robin andrea said...

A true treasure. How wonderful that your paths crossed.

Marsha's Mpressions said...

Carolyn, that is a wonderful story. How interesting she must have been to talk to. We should learn more from our elders and give them due respect.

Coffee with Cathy said...

Connie -- thank you so much for sharing this story of such an incredible woman. Made my day.

Appalachian Lady said...

I loved your post. I think she has lived so long because she keeps her mind going. That book is a treasure. My aunt recently reached 100. She lives alone and is still quite active.

troutbirder said...

What a great post Carolyn. Lots of history there.

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for your comments everyone. There was a big birthday party for Vera over the weekend. It was held at the church at which she was baptized, married, and hopes to be buried. Birthday gifts were limited to non-perishable goods for the food pantries.

pat - I'll think of you when I bake that pound cake.

Herd - Well said. We have had so many interesting conversations with folks we run across.

carolina nana - I'm not sure where the book might be sold, but since you are in the area it might be at your local bookstore. Good wishes for you son.

bug - that definitely qualifies you as a "friend from Cinti."

Twisted Fencepost said...

Wow, that is a cherished memory. I love to listen to people talk about the way things used to be.
I'll bet she is a beautiful lady inside AND out.
I hope she is still just as spry as when you met her.