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April 21, 2021

Dicy McCullough: History in our backyard

History is hiding everywhere in Rowan County. Itís just a matter of looking for it. Many times we drive hundreds of miles to visit historical sites when we have a treasure trove right in our backyard.
Have you ever heard of Gooseneck College? I used to live a few hundred yards from where the college stood, and never knew of its existence until I spent a few hours with Beulah Parnell Lemly.
Beulah is 95 years old, and as they say, ěsharp as a tack.î She is a delightful lady, who was kind enough to invite me into her home to share sweet memories of her childhood. Her childhood home used to stand not too far from where Bethel Methodist Church is now on Long Ferry Road. She was born in 1915, in a time when families had to be self-sufficient. Families, during those years, pretty much raised what they ate and often would find ways to make a little extra money. Beulah and her siblings helped out by looking for wild strawberries or blackberries to pick and sell. Usually, they sold the berries for 10 cents a quart.
The seven Lemly children always had work to do because Beulahís dad, John Luther Parnell, was a sharecropper. One of Beulahís chores was to check the rabbit traps. If any rabbits had been caught, then she had to dress them in the mornings before going to school. Her dad would stretch the fur out on a board to sell, later, at 25 cents per pelt and 25 cents per rabbit. After all the chores were done, it was time to walk to school. The walk was about a mile and a half. If the weather was bad, the horse and buggy were hitched up so they could ride.
Beulah attended school in the Trading Ford Community, at Gooseneck College. She remembers the school as having three rooms. Itís odd that this school was called a college since it only went to the seventh grade. Even in those days, children liked to get out of class and would volunteer to go behind the schoolhouse to pick up wood for the woodstove.
One of the funniest things happened one day, when some of the kids decided to play a trick at school. Beulah remembers there was a hole in the ceiling of her classroom big enough for students to climb in and hide. Teachers were concerned because it seemed like there were more children out on this particular day. Little did the teachers know what was about to happen. Students started to feel water dripping down on them. Looking up, they realized water was coming through the planks of the ceiling. The children who were hiding had managed to take buckets of water up through the hole with them. They began slowly pouring it out. Those playing the prank didnít get in too much trouble, but the principal lost his job.
Even though life was hard, there was always time for fun and a good joke. Beulah sat back and thought for a moment. She was thinking about the time her dad was given a race horse named Beauty. Beauty couldnít race anymore, but she made a good horse to hitch up to a buggy. One Sunday morning, while Beulahís family were on their way to church, a neighborís Model T Ford was holding things up at the crossroads. Beulahís dad decided to loosen up the reins, and the horse took off. Beauty beat the Model T to the church that day, and then everyone stayed in the buggy until the slower car went by. It made for a good laugh.
Itís true, the community Beulah grew up in as a little girl has changed over time. There are more houses and roads, and people arenít self-sufficient like in the days of the early 20th century. Although a lot has changed in almost 100 years of living, Beulah loves her life and wouldnít trade it for anything in the world. Evidence of this can be seen in the smile that lights up her face and the contentment seen in her eyes. We all should be so lucky.

Dicy McCullough is a freelance writer and poet who lives in Rowan County. She can be reached at 704-278-4377.

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