I was in awe as I read the story of Aunt Orelena Puckett. She was born in 1837, married at 16, and became a midwife after age 50. She lived in this house in the later years of her life – a long life having lived to the age of 102. She helped bring more than 1000 babies into the world, the last one in the year she died, and it is said no baby died due to her fault. Orelena knew great grief, however, because she bore 24 infants herself, with only the oldest living just past 2 years. All the others died in infancy.
That is the story written on an information board at milepost 189.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It tells so much but so little about the life of this woman. This homestead would have looked so different in 1900 when people were living here.
I wonder what her life was like on a daily basis when she was, say, 70 years old – like me. She had to be a tough woman because she, along with her husband, widowed sister-in-law and her children, had to provide for and protect themselves. She also needed to be tender and supportive to bring so many women through labor and delivery. How did she grieve the loss of 24 babies and maintain the “cheerful and witty attitude” that she was remembered as having?
I think I found a new hero on the Blue Ridge Parkway.