The following poem is the first I wrote, a class project in the 8th grade. It was published that year in a Dickenson County Newspaper, don't recall the name, in Clintwood, Virginia.

The Mountain Laurel


In Northwest Virginia, in that Appalachian land
Within the greenest forests, planted with God’s own hand
There blooms a mountain laurel, so different from the rest
With pedals white as satin and dewdrops on its crest.
And there beside that flowering tree that sprouts from virgin ground
You can feel the Blueridge Mountains and the hear the hill folk’s hounds

And late at night through the hills and hollows, 
Especially when it rains
You can hear that lonesome whistle blow from that coal black Clinchfield train
The rocks and waterfalls are spirit voices in this land as old as life
Voices of its people bent but no broken
From living hard work and strife.

There’s a haze hanging over that mountain now
And rolls through the hollows and glens
And surrounds that sweet mountain laurel
And that’s where this story begins

It’s been many years now, when the peaches were ripe and mellow
The cherries were heavy on brittle limbs and the corn was tall, swaying yellow
There lived a dainty little girl, a rose within my heart
We were like two vines twisted and growing
We vowed we’d never part

During the spring we’d walk the tracks all the way to Elkhorn City
Just to go to the picture show, she always looked so pretty

Sometimes on a summer day, we’d take a little stroll
Down to Tom Bottom, near ol Blue Head, we’d swim at the Garden Hole
I remember once she got mad at me and I saddled my young Sorrel
And rode clean to the top of ol Blue Head, and picked her a mountain laurel
It was such a little thing it seemed, but it was the world in her eyes
She kissed the soft ivory pedals, it’s beauty made her cry

I knew I was in love with her by the time I turned eighteen
But so was every other boy from Caney Ridge to Grundy
For beauty was just a simple word when beside it one compared
Her soft white skin and her deep brown eyes and her coal black wavy hair
It seemed our love was guided, we seldom ever quarreled
And when we did I’d steal her heart with a fresh clean mountain laurel

I finally got my nerve up, and went to her old man
Reckon I’d just turned twenty-one when I asked him for her hand
We picked the sacred month of June to hold our wedding day
I was proud as a stout buck deer, she was delightful and gay
It was just a month and a day away before those bells would ring
Just midway in the month of May when the mocking birds did sing
We’d walked to Elkhorn City and we weren’t quite halfway back
When I heard that Clinchfield coal train coming towards us down the track
We were heading into Skaggs Tunnel from the bridge above the Russelfork River
When the train began shaking on the tracks, the rumbling made us shiver
I’ll never forget that whistle blow as the Clinchfield left the track
And nineteen cars of dirty coal turned that river black

And when the smoke and dust had cleared, And steam hissed like a snake from the tank
I found my true love lying still upon the rocky bank
I ran and stumbled to her side, where motionless she lay
And memories of her raced through my mind as I desperately hoped and prayed
She was gone, my love, just like that, lifeless and limp on the sand
And a bloodred mountain laurel was clutched tightly in her little hand

We carried her up to ol Bluehead, with the flowers she loved best
And there in a handmade cedar box, we layed her down to rest
We walk now only in memory, my heart is filled with sorrow
For only in heaven will I kiss again, my sweet, sweet mountain laurel.