From Chapter One: Kicking the Dirt Off Corn
Even though life in the Appalachians was lush with wild berries, herbs, wild onions, apples, and during the growing season, plenty of good food from the garden, it could be a harsh place to live. Rich Patch, Virginia, where Mildred was born, is deep in the hills of the Allegheny Highlands. Today, it is a place that has the haunting, ethereal beauty of a land filled with ancient stories. Abandoned mines, mills, and old farmhouses dot the hilly fields and winding roads. This is a place where rock and earth meet sky and nature almost always has its way.
A small white farm house sits off a gravel road, with no driveway. Cars are parked along the road. The place sits in a small hollow down from a curving, grassy hillside. At one time, Ruth Ann Craft’s dahlias framed the entry way, her roses lined the wire fence, and her house was filled with 12 children. One of those children, Mildred, had enough energy and drive for the whole family. She won 4-H prizes for her potato crop and she did not have the time or inclination to play with dolls. Nor did she want to help with cleaning the house, though she did not mind cleaning the barn or tending the animals.
Born in 1913 to Ruth Ann (Wilson) and James Henry Craft, Mildred was the ninth child in a family of 12. She was the last of the Craft children to be born at her grandmother’s house, the Old Rock House, a native limestone I-house on a hall and parlor scheme. Built just after the Civil War, it was her mother’s home place, still standing and owned by a member of the extended family.
On a trip to Rich Patch, the 89-year-old Mildred visited her mother’s home place with her sisters Bertha Mays and Virginia Bowers. The house stands on a hill beyond a bone-dry creek bed. But just seeing it brought memories flooding back for the sisters