Friday, December 17, 2004

Downtown Beloved Report

Downtown Beloved Report
By: Miss Annie Pankey

Christmas time in our home of Beloved, Kentucky is always a wonderful time of year.  Us folks who are members of the Beloved Merchants Association voted again to decorate the streets of town before the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.  We strung a right smart load of lights all up an’ down the street on the trees an’ around windows.  They was all lit up Thanksgiving’ evenin’ after the traditional turkey fry an’ jet turkey races put on by the Pappy Yokum Masonic Lodge #149.  Folks inject a quart of moonshine into a 13 pound turkey and light that thing’s tail. Them turkeys take off like they was scalded dogs!  The best distance this year was a turkey what was brought in by Cousin Peanut Chappell.  His turkey went horizontal quickly thanks to the plastic American flags on each wing an’ flew 47 miles before it run out of fuel.  ‘Course, Cousin Peanut was actually the originator of the flyin’ jet turkey, but that is another story.

Beloved’s Storyteller Laureate, Cousin Stephen Hollen was Santy Claus for the parade again this year.  He always comes down home with his little red wagon and his 8 pet squirrels.  He named them squirrels Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixon, Comet, Cupid, Donner an’ Fluffy.  Storyteller Stephen Hollen has welded 8 little hamster wheels to the pull handle of that wagon an’ them there squirrels pull him all over Beloved dressed like Santy.  Y’all will have to ask him more about that.

The winner of this year’s decoratin’ contest was again the small antique, quilt an’ lace goods shop named “Pankey’s Hankies”.  The owner did a lovely job decoratin’ the window with a marvelous collection of Santy Claus figurines.  It was delightful to see the daffodils forced to bloom from bulbs in the plastic Easter Bunny.  This is the sixth year in a row that fine establishment has won the decoratin’ prize.

Editor’s Note: Miss Pankey is  the owner of Pankey‘s Hankies, and is also the contest chairwoman.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

13th Annual Watermelon Chorus

13th Annual Watermelon Chorus
By Sister Hazel Nutt Budder

This year we celebrated the arrival of the Christmas Season with our traditional Community Chorus singing the regionally famous “Watermelon Chorus”.  Readers may remember that two years ago it was moved from the assembly room of the Beloved Carnegie Library to the big meeting room at the Pappy Yokum Masonic Lodge #149.

The crowd was even larger than ever with over 487 attending.  In spite of the unfortunate flu bug that nearly ruined the first community chorus event, this writer has put her chin up, swallowed a great deal of pride and given the community what it asked for...the “Watermelon Chorus” in place of the Hallelujah Chorus.  There is, of course, no accounting for taste in some communities.  In spite of this writer’s objections, the vote of the committee was magnanimous, so this writer went along, knowing there will be stars in my crown for the suffering I do here on this earth.

The ladies of the community did a fine job making choir robes out of flour sacks we have saved for the last twelve years just for this event.  It would have been nice if the little flower prints had matched on each flour sack, but it was lovely all the same.  Several of the larger men, Rancey Sams in particular will have to wait till next year to have a back to their robe pieced and sewn.  It wasn’t obvious unless Rancey turned around.

Many thanks to all the chorus members, Miss Hazel Mosely for playing the organ and Mrs. Myrtle Collins for doing a bang up job on the piano.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Cart Surfer

I have to open up and confess
Tell someone what is on my mind.
Have a Tell It Now gatherin'
Speak my peace, once for all.

Y'see, I am a shopping cart surfer
A grocery aisle roller.
Freewheelin' on a grocery cart
Whizzin' past the produce.

I walk calmly in the crowd
Wait patient for a break.
Seek the empty aisle
No shoppers in my path.

Then I push right hard
Grab on, lift my feet.
Lean into the cart
And fly over the concrete.

My winged cart whizzes
On past the produce.
Through the bread an' cakes
Down by the laundry products.

Then, quickly as I start
I'm done, respectable.
I stroll past the ancient lady
Wrapped in her moth worn furs.

Nod to the meat counter girl
Grinnin', knowin' me.

Seen her on a grocery cart,
Leaning forward, feet lifted.
Smilin' like me
Eyes closed, wind on her face.

There are many like us
Saw one yesterday.
Sweet pretty brown-eyed girl
Lookin' round, leanin' for take off.

I'll go again, you know
Clandestine shoppin' surfer.
Wait till no one sees me
Lean in, push off an' go.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Soup Pot

Marie Lawson sat in the room that was her living room and bedroom.  It was the only room in the house she kept heated all winter.  The room was also the room that her Great Great Grandpa built first when he homesteaded this here little holler in the hills of eastern Kentucky.  The outside of this part of the house was logs, but the inside had been covered with layer after layer of newspapers stuck to the walls with home made flour paste.  Marie's Mama had gotten snooty, or at least that's what folks said when she sent away to the Sears and Roebuck an' ordered wallpaper to go over those layers of newspaper.

The fireplace in front of her had a coal grate burning warm and a big ol' pot simmered close to the coal fire.  Inside was a thick soup Marie was cookin'.  She had started with a little bacon grease to coat the pot an' to brown the deer meat giver to her by Hap Ledford.  Some soup bone stock had gone in next 'long with a couple quart jars of her prize winnin' home canned tomatoes.  Over to the side of the coal grate was quarts of other home canned vegetables from Marie's garden waitin' their turn to go into the soup pot.  A salt celler an' pepper mill stood guard over the event, waitin' to step in now an' again to add the right taste to the proceedin's.

Marie enjoyed sittin' in her rockin' chair every Wednesday in winter an' makin' soup.  It was an all day process.  Folks just don't want to hurry good soup.  It needs to steep an' blend in a slow an' steady dance of tastes.

Right now she was a' peelin' taters that she would leave sit in water till time to throw them in. They was still nice an' firm with few eyes in them just yet.  Later in the winter she would go to the root celler an' scrounge through the ol' wizzled taters to find a few that looked an' felt good to the touch in the darkness of the root cellar.

Later in the day, 'bout the time she added the quart jar of sweet corn, Marie took time to darn a sock that had worn at the heel.  Her darnin' egg was placed in the heel an' she carefully pulled tread back an' forth along the thin threads left in the heel.  Back an' forth, back an' forth, over an' under, her thread filled in line after line of the heel till it was near good as new.

Although there was a basket with quiltin' pieces layin' next to her rocker, Marie determined it was time for a short nap.  She laid her darnin' egg an' sock in the basket an' folded her hands in her lap. Her Mama used to say that "idle hands was the Devil's playground".  She still missed her Mama to this day, but was glad to have the peace an' solitude to do what she wanted.  She didn't happen to agree with that piece of theology an' proved it by takin' naps most every day.

Lunchtime was called by her ol' dog scratchin' at the door wantin' to eat.  She had spoiled that ol' dog by feedin' it three times a day, but it was good company.  It knew better than to get too close to her soup pot or the fixin's waitin' to go in.  A couple biscuits filled with country ham an' a little spoon of her muscadine grape jelly to grease it down was sittin' on a plate with a glass of cold milk.  When it was this cold she didn't need to put the milk in her Frigidaire to cool it down, she just left it on the back porch after she was done milkin' an' covered it with a clean dish towel.

Her ol' dog, Luke didn't know, but she didn't ever feed him exactly what she was eatin'.  She kept her food scraps in a bowl an' brought it with her when she sat down.  As she ate her biscuits an' ham, she would reach in an get a little scrap from the scrap bowl an' feed it to Luke.

"Well, Lukie, time to add the beans an' taters." Marie told her dog.  She had already added corn, okra, peas an' carrots.  The green beans an' taters was always the last in the pot.  She sat an' stared at the coal grate as the soup pot simmered.  As she sat, she could swear the flames made odd things as she watched, pictures in the burnin' fire.  Pictures an' faces an' places Marie had only dreamed of would appear as she gazed an' daydreamed.

Later in the evenin', Marie doled out the hot soup into Mason jars she would seal an' take to the shut ins an' sick around her hometown of Beloved, Kentucky. She sat aside a small portion to go into her own Frigidaire for her own use.  Twenty-seven jars later an' she poured one little bit into a coffee cup.  Quickly she sipped on the soup as she checked the seal on each jar.  She wiped each with her dish towel an' set them upside down so they would seal.  Most folks would eat the soup right away, but if they was a reason it could not be eat, it was still good for a long while, sealed like it was.

About six o'clock, Uncle Billy Gilbert an' Sister Hazel Budder, the preacher's wife would stop by to pick her up for Wednesday Night Prayer Meetin' at Booger Holler Holiness Church.  Uncle Billy had stopped to pick up Sister Hazel just down the street so folks wouldn't talk as him an' Marie delivered her soup on the way to church.  They left an hour early every Wednesday night just to deliver a bite to eat to the folks in Beloved who might not have or be able to do for themselves.

Marie would arrive at church just like everyone else.  She didn't ever say a word about her day long venture.  She never told folks or bragged about the good she did. Uncle Billy never even said much about pickin' Marie up.  They just did it.  No need for braggin'.  No need to talk about it.  It was just what they did.

Years later, when folks talked about the saints they had known, two names always came up.  Uncle Billy Gilbert for the many things he did over the years for any an' everyone in the' Marie Lawson.  When they talked about Marie, they always called her "the soup lady, Marie".  Funny thing, no one could mention her without pausin' an' sayin', "she sure knew how to make good soup."

Friday, November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving in Beloved, part two

The day is progressing well and the jet turkey contest is such a hit.  There have been a few problems, as I mentioned earlier.

One I forgot to mention earlier was the secret ingredient of Miss Henrietta Carpenter.  She is a fine cook and thought she might give her turkey a little extra get up an' go if she added a little to the moonshine.  She doctored it all adding 14 tablespoons of garlic juice and some ramp extract.  Ramps are a wild garlic found in the hills.  Better tasting but more pungent.

When her turkey was lit, it took off fine, but bumped into the turkey of Uncle Jim Bob Combs.  The left wing of her turkey was crumpled a little an' the flag leaned down just enough to make the bird fly in a circle overhead.

It has been flyin' now for over two hours an' the smoke comin' from the backside of that turkey carcass is somethin' awful.  You don't know how bad garlic juice can smell till you add a half pint of ramp extract.

It is like the stinkbomb from purgatory itself...where the worm dieth not an' the fire is not quenched.  It is like the pit of the netherworld has opened up an' the sulfur of a thousand punishments has filtered up.  Oh, Lordy Lou it is bad.

It keeps flyin' round an' round, emittin' that terrible odor.  Folks suggested shootin' it out of the sky, but we are all afraid of gettin some of that stuff on us.  I reckon we'll just have to wait for it to run out of moonshine an' them we'll help Miss Henrietta bury it far away from town.

Miss Annie Pankey has confronted Miss Henrietta an' is hollerin' at her in the Main Street area just in front of the Pappy Yokum Masonic Lodge Number 451 an' is claimin' that odiferous bird has ruined all the quilts for sale in Pankey's Hankies, Annie's antique store on Main Street.

Annie has formally challenged Miss Henrietta to a duel an' said it was definite grounds for a feud between the Pankey an' Carpenter clans.  Luckily we have taken all her shotgun shells a long time ago or it would be bloodshed on the streets of Beloved for sure.

Well, cousins, the next thing to happen is the noontime parade.  I have to start gettin' the squirrels ready for their hamster wheels.  I try to feed each of them a little Skippy Peanut butter each day for a month as we are in trainin'.  I use the chunky kind for them.

This afternoon is the 4H young hen, squab an' Cornish hen jet fly contest.  They use just a half pint of moonshine an' have to make it themselves.  It really does get the youngin's in a holiday mood.

Stephen Hollen
My Daddy always said happiness is like moonshine; make your own and you'll never run out

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving in Beloved

Thanksgiving is a pretty exciting day around my hometown of Beloved, Kentucky.

There is always the famous Thanksgiving Day Parade through the streets of town in which I play Santa and ride in my little red wagon.  I have welded eight little hamster wheels to the pull handle.  I have my eight hand-trained squirrels; named Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixon, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Fluffy, runnin’ as hard as they can in the wheels to pull me along.  They each have their little antlers on that Oh My Darlin’ made from pipe cleaners.  I have a fishin’ pole I hold out in front of them with a walnut on the end of the string.  By movin’ the fishin’ pole I can change directions and go any which way with them little furry fellers.  Only problem I have is the back side of my Santa suit drags in the street an’ when it is snowy or rainin’ it looks like Santa is incontinent.

The excitin’ part is the new addition this year to the Parade an’ all the goin’s on.

You may remember a couple of years ago my Cousin Peanut stirred things up right smart by pumpin’ his scrawny jake turkey full of moonshine.  That there turkey went into orbit an’ became a fine meal of the Americans on that Russian Space Station.  Them astronauts didn’t like the borscht much.  Them there Russians suggested it would go good with fried turkey.  Made folks a little windy…an’ y’all don’t even want to imagine a bunch of windy astronauts an’ cosmonauts in a small space station!

Well anyways, the Thanksgiving Day Parade steerin’ committee decided Cousin Peanut got so much attention from his jet-powered turkey that they made it part of the festivities.  This year is out first ever jet turkey races.

The rules are simple.  Dobson’s General Store bought 50 frozen turkeys all exactly the same size – 11 pounds 4 ounces.  Cousin Peanut’s Daddy, Vergie Chappell came out of retirement to make one batch of turkey jet fuel, that is his world famous moonshine.  Folks agreed that his moonshine was better than even the stuff Cousin Peanut used in his bird.

Each contestant bought a bird at Dobson’s an’ received exactly one quart of Vergie’s finest.  The birds were thawed an’ each was injected at exactly 6:00 am this morning’ with one quart of moonshine right in the tail area.  The folks were allowed to decorate their turkey any way they wanted, but were not allowed to put anything other than a small American Flag on a stick on each wing to provide lift – just like Cousin Peanut’s bird ended up with as it flew through the leftover 4th of July decorations at the very first jet turkey fly.

At daylight the contest began an’ it was like somethin’ out of the movies.  The fireworks over the state capitol of Frankfort couldn’t have been more amazin’.  Good thing each bird was limited to one quart.  We’d of never been able to judge the winner if they went any further.  As it was, each bird was fitted with trackin’ devices that fellers usually put on their coon dogs when they go into the woods.  Coon dogs is known to run off, so radio collars were developed so’s fellers could find them.

Each bird’s trackin’ collar was turned on just after the “beauty contest”.  Amy Snoddy won that part of the contest with her turkey dressed up as Dolly Parton.  I don’t know how she figured out a way to lift and separate that there turkey breast, but it weren’t too aerodynamic an’ it crashed an’ burned first thing off the launch pad.  Too top heavy, I reckon.

One by one the contestants lit the tail of their turkey.  The moonshine would sizzle for a second before it took off, then, Nellie hold the door!!!  Them turkeys, with their wings spread an’ American Flags flyin’ from each wing tip took off like a moonshiner bein’ chased by the Revenuers from Hades themselves.  It were a glorious sight as the sun came up like a big ol red ball over the hills of Appalachia.  One by one they lit up their tails an’ flew like the wind.

Folks got out of the way real fast as they took off.  It wasn’t long before they was out of sight.  ‘Course, they was the accidents an’ all.  I mentioned the Dolly Parton turkey that was too top heavy.  It hit the street an’ just skittered aroun’ for near a half an hour till it ran out of moonshine.  They was one that Sister Hazel Nutt Budder had mistakenly stuffed with oyster dressin’. They didn’t know an’ it couldn’t be helped.  That turkey exploded in midair.  Folks was covered by four pounds of the best oyster dressin…complete with three quarts of oysters that Sister Hazel had shipped in all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio.  That was a mess, I’ll tell you what.

I won’t even go into detail ‘bout the one that Homer Hiney entered. He thought that if he widened the tail a little by flattenin’ it out, the moonshine might burn slower an’ the flight might be longer.  When he flattened it, he didn’t realize he was messin’ with a natural jet aperture.  All his ol turkey did was sit on the startin’ line sizzlin’ an’ makin’ sounds like that of a flatulent astronaut after havin’ too much borscht.

Well, they are trackin’ the turkeys right now with a homemade radar device.  So far forty-three turkeys are still in the contest an’ they have passed from Clay County air space an’ the control tower at the Corbin, Kentucky airport has given them clearance to continue on across the Cumberland Gap an’ into the Tazwell, Tennessee area.

It’s goin’ to be a great day in the history of my hometown of Beloved, Kentucky.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

My Daddy

Well cousins,
December 17 would have been my Daddy's 80th birthday.  Note the "would have been".  You see, he found out on April 4th that he had a mass in his lungs.  Then a few days later they told him he had maybe 6 months to live...them they said 3-6 at the most.  They actually were being overly generous.  He died 41 days after they found the mass.  Cancer had crept its way into his body like the thief it is and took his life from him very quickly.

Now, folks tell me it was a blessing he went so very quick.  From my point of view that is not much of a blessing.  It is a terrible thing.

I called him Pappy most of the time.  He was a kind and gentle soul who I never heard bad mouth anyone.  I have seen him get up when folks were gossiping and go to another room.  That was the kind of fellow he was.

When I was a little boy Pappy had a gold tooth in front.  I think it was one of his incisors.  He had it replaced when he was in the Navy during WWII.  Later in life he wore dentures and his smile never was the same.  Mama begged him to get that gold tooth put in his dentures, but he said it tasted bad.

Pappy wasn't much of a talker.  When I told him I loved him, his usual reply was "same here".  It always reminded me of Fred Flintstone saying, "Vicey versey Wilma" when Wilma told him she loved him.  It just wasn't easy for my Daddy to talk like that. 

I wish he had been able to say good-bye to my brother Mike and I.  I guess I have seen too many movies or read too many books, but I wanted to hear him say good-bye and give me some words to live the rest of my life by.  Sort of like him telling me one last time what he wanted me to do.

'Course, he hasn't told me what to do for a long time, so I guess he didn't see the need.

You know, I knew he was in his declining years, but I didn't think my Daddy would die.  I just didn't think it was possible.

I wrote him one letter after I found out.  Just one.  I told him I loved him and was proud of him.  I planned to write more, but there just wasn't time.

I reckon Pappy is with the Good Lord now.  I plan to join him someday.  I suspect he is just sitting there, maybe on a porch waiting.  I also bet he is having the time of his eternity. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Sheep Dip Chorus

You may remember that each fall my hometown of Beloved, Kentucky celebrates Sheep Dip Days at the annual Sheep Dip Festival.  The festival started over 100 years ago when the farmers around the area would bring their sheep and goats to one central location to be dipped.  Of course, there was always time on their hands as they waited their turn, so folks would canned goods, fruit and vegetables to swap or sell along with the occasional quilt, chickens, turkeys or the leftover pups from a good huntin’ dog.

For the last 100 years the festival has been one of the high points of the year around Beloved.  This year is no exception.  The only thing that brings out more civic pride is the annual Watermelon Chorus, now in its seventh year.  The Watermelon Chorus is the pet project of Sister Hazel Nutt Budder.  Sister Hazel is the wife of Brother Woodrow Budder, pastor of the Booger Holler Holiness Church…but that is another story.

Because the Watermelon Chorus has been such a hit, Sister Hazel determined that folks might like to hear some other, less highbrow music as part of Sheep Dip Days.  Bein’ as organized as she is, she had flyers mimeo’ed an’ on every window an’ bulletin board in town.  The Carnegie Library bulletin board had about three notices on it.  The notices told of tryouts on the last Saturday in October.

It was to be a wonderful event, a small group of singers who could read music and could sing 4-part harmony would be banded together to sing a few old hymns like “I’ll Fly Away” that had rousin’ bass repeats an’ high tenor notes that would ring in the twilight of the Sheep Dip Festival.  Some secular favorites, as Sister Hazel put it, would be on the program also.  Especially noted was the song “Elvira” by the Oak Ridge Boys.

When I heard that the group would be singin’ 4-part harmony and would feature some wonderful bass lines in the songs, I determined I would try out for the group.  I have been known to sing a fine bass line, no brag, just fact.

Well, I bought about half a pound of “Fisherman’s Friend” throat lozenges an’ some lemon, a big ol’ quart of sourwood honey an’ a little of my special throat ingredient…some moonshine made by my favorite relative, Cousin Peanut.  I mixed up a batch of Dr. Ironbeard’s Throat Relaxer and Hair Gel an’ began private rehearsals.

What I did was get a tape of the Oak Ridge Boys an’ put ‘er in my tape player as I drove all over three states workin’.  As that bass singer for the Oaks would start with the “Ohmm whappa, Ohm Whappa Mow Mow”, I was right there.  I was hittin’ them low notes so good I sounded like a foghorn sittin’ beside a foggy sea.  I don’t mean to brag, but I was soundin’ good.

Tryouts were wonderful.  Sister Hazel Nutt Budder had the group there for tryouts sing a few lines an’ she would walk around an’ listen.  Now, she learned her lesson years before when she put together the first Watermelon Chorus.  She knew there were times when she needed just singers what could read music AND sing 4-part harmony.  She smiled an’ nodded when she stopped in front of me as we were singin’ “Leanin’ on the Everlastin’ Arms.  I hit the bass line, “Leanin’ on Jesus, Leanin’ on Jesus” as hard as I could.  I just knew I had a part in the group.

Sister Hazel put different folks together to hear how they sounded an’ would sit back an’ listen as we sang alfredo – that is without any piano or anything playin’ along with us.  I was in more than one group as she put the best voices together.

I went on home, thinkin’ I got the part an’ would start rehearsals anytime.  Sister Hazel told us to look at the bulletin board at the Carnegie Library for the list of names.

Over the weekend, I went by to see the list after word went round town that it was up.  I was expectin’ to see my name as lead bass… yet it wasn’t there.  Talk about havin’ a depression flung on you.  Not only was my name NOT there, no guys names was listed as bass singers!

The name listed was once a friend of mine, then a competitor, and recently the bane of my singin’ career.  There it was for the world to see.  I had been beat out for the bass part in the Sheep Dip Days 4-part harmony group by none other than…

Sophie Precious of Precious Smoked Meats.  It weren’t fair an’ I said so.  A bass singer ought to be a man.  It weren’t natural, actually that she could hit them low notes the way she did.

It came from sittin’ day after day smokin’ cigarettes the way she did.  That was her secret weapon.  She had one of the lowest voices ever heard by man or beast.  She had to talk high just to be understood by most folks…that’s how low her voice was.

 Her voice was so low the elephants in the circus that would come to town would hear her talk an’ get to squealin’ an’ carryin’ on, thinkin’ they had a cousin elephant somewhere in Beloved callin’ to them.  She made the mistake of stoppin’ an’ talkin’ to a bull elephant once at a zoo.  That bull elephant fell in love with her an’ her husky, low voice.  It broke out an’ went after her singin’ pachyderm love songs.  Sophie had to promise never to go back to the zoo after that.  I hear her name is on a list of folks around the world what ain’t allowed to go to any zoo.

So, she has been practicin’ with the group an’ singin’ the bass parts I should sing.  They carry on about her like she is the end all.  I hear they had to take the Oak Ridge Boys “Elvira” song off the program after the bass singer heard her an’ realized she could sing lower that him.  He heard about me an’ didn’t want another singin’ career ruined.

I ain’t a poor sport, though.  I sent Sophie a gallon of my special Dr. Ironbeard’s Throat Relaxer and Hair Gel just to keep her in fine voice.  I may have forgot the right mixture of ingredients, though.  They might be a little alum in the mix…don’t know that it will hurt much, I reckon.  I didn’t have enough sourwood honey, so I put a little motor oil in to soother Sophie’s throat.  ‘Course, if sister Hazel Nutt Budder smells Sophie’s breath, she might realize that batch of Throat Relaxer is about three quarts of Cousin Peanut’s best moonshine.  I’m hopin’ Sophie Precious has a snootful one of these rehersals an’ the tea tottlin’ Sister Hazel Nutt Budder, wife of Brother Woodrow Budder, pastor of the Booger Holler Holiness Church, will kick ol’ Sophie right off the community chorus an’ need a replacement.

I’m practicin’ an’ learnin’ all the words…just in case.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Comfort Sounds

Somethin' comfortin' about the sound
Of an axe splittin' wood.
The crack of it
Floatin' up the creek
Calms a busy mind.
Shh, voices,
Soft an' intimate
Sneak along the hills.
Folks hardly know
Their conversations
Get away from them
And run to neighbors
With all them little
Secrets of livin'.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


To know
   In your heart of hearts
To feel
   Deep within your spirit
To rest
   In the blessed assurance
That there is a place
   Called Home.

Sunday, October 31, 2004


Greetings from Beattyville, Kentucky.  Beattyville is world famous for the annual Wooly Worm Festival.  I am storytelling tomorrow and sit in a little bitty motel on the hill above the town.

As I came through the Natural Bridge area I slowed down and rolled my window down so I could hear the many voices of the rills and falls coming off the mountainsides.  It has rained a good bit recently, so the creeks were up in each holler I passed.

Dark thunderheads herded up over the mountains and every now and again a cloud calved and made the sky even deeper in color.  I listened close for the sound of thunder rumbling over the hills and in the valleys near Slade.  I didn't want it to rain yet, but I yearned for the slow grumblin' of a storm just waitin' to start.

The trees have turned and already lost most of the leaves that make Natural Bridge a destination for Yankees wantin' to get a bite of Appalachia.  Instead folks can look into the hills and see the rough slate and rock stickin' through the skin thin layer of topsoil.  As I drove I heard magnolias holler out, "hey, hi Uncle".  The hills whisper, "howdy cousin, how's mom-n-them?"  Deep in the trees deer and turkeys pause and wonder how long I'll be stayin' this time.  The fog swirls around me, teasin', tryin' to push me through to another time.if only I'd say "yes".

Now, cousins, if you come to Beattyville, don't get uppity about where to eat.  I asked and was told 'bout the best place was the Purple Cow and so I sat me down and ordered supper.  (Dinner here is what folks have on Sunday afternoon.  Lunch is the noon meal and supper you have in the evening.)  I had a green salad, turnip greens with a little dash of vinegar, home fries and a big ol' piece of country ham that hung over the plate 'bout like my Uncle Taft's belly hung over his belt.  You won't believe this, but they brought me a corn cake AND a biscuit with real butter and home grown apple butter - made in a copper kettle.

Menfolks came in and sat at the counter and ordered various fried steak, meatloaf, ¼ of chicken fried in a cast iron skillet. (I asked and was sorry I didn't know that.  Tomorrow before I leave I'll go back for supper and order that up.)  They spoke of many things, tobacco prices, the Wooly Worm Festival and the woman that got "Citizen of the Year" but ain't done nothin' for Lee County OR Beattyville.  I bought a paper so's I could read all the news and see these folks who race caterpillars at this festival.

Tonight I rode back up the hill and parked.  As I got out I looked back down the hill and saw the mist had wrapped the trees and hillside so it almost seemed like a magic.  I stood and wondered what might come walking out of the mist to greet a curious storyteller.

Oh My Darlin' an' y'all might walk in my steps here and maybe not see the glory of the hills, the beauty of a waitress, grown hard an' old from the wearin' down mountains do to folks.  My meal, served on ol' melmac dishes might not taste of manna to you'uns.  It is real, it is earthy and hit is home.

I will sleep well tonight, dear cousins.  Not because the bed is soft.  My dreams will be full and humble.  I will fly like a red tail hawk over this place and look out upon a thousand miracles.  I will rush up above the thunderheads and race the lightenin' down to the deepest holler.  I'll throw on dungarees an' well used brogans, passed down through generations to me an' run the hills like a wild man.  I will not see enough.  I will look left an' right as I run, chasin' the deer an' scarin' the coon to the trees.

I will eat the feast of Appalachia and never be full, drink deep of the sweet waters flowin' from the mountains and never quench my thirst for this place.  These hills are a passionate and jealous lover.  They will hold me and thrill me throughout the night and turn me loose only when mornin' comes.

I wish you were here with me, dear ones.  I would take you to the hoedown in the hills an' help you meet an' greet this place with me.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Love of a Woman

The love of a woman
Is best expressed
Not by passion
But by soft snores
Next to you
Night after night.

The passion of a woman
Can't be shown
In makin' love.
Instead it is manifest
Sittin' in church
By a wink and raised eyebrows.

The loyalty of a wife
Will not be measured
By how she wears a golden band
It is shown best
When in deepest sleep
She whispers your name.

Sunday, October 03, 2004


I was thinkin' about my Cousin Peanut the other day and remembered the time he decided to be a moonshiner.  Now Peanut wasn't the brightest star in the Chappell family, as I have told y'all before.  When he told me he was buildin' a still...well, I shuddered to say the least.  I could just see ol' Peanut layin' on some hillside all blowed up an' all from some sorry ol' still.

When I went over off Booger Holler to see his handiwork I was plumb shocked.  Not only did he make a still, it was some kind o' fancy still.  He had gone over the Fort Knox and bought a surplus jet fuel tank and had put all sorts of copper tubin' on it along with pressure gages an' works that made one first class still.

He had taken some of his Daddy's field corn an' sprouted it to run a small batch.  He also had got into his Mama's sugar to run the test batch.  He told me he planned on sellin' the batch, replacin' the corn an' sugar an' buyin' his own supplies.

The first batch had run off an' he was skimmin' the foam an' all off the top.  That is what we call "headpop" an' you don't want to even get near that stuff.  It tastes bad an' will get a feller sicker than a dog.  The shine beaded up real nice an' told him it was a pure batch.

Cousin Peanut gave me a little ol' mason jar half full to take home.  He know I don't drink the stuff, but my Daddy put rock candy an' lemon juice in shine to make some awful good cough syrup.  Daddy seemed to get the cough right often when he had his homemade cough syrup.

I did let it set for a week or two before Daddy mixed up the cough syrup.  When he tried a sip of the shine he declared it the best he ever had tasted.  We thought Cousin Peanut had found his callin'.

Heck, he even washed his hands as he was makin' the shine.

Peanut sold that whole batch an' went to town to get supplies.  He replaced his daddy Vergie's field corn an' his Mama didn't even miss the sugar.  His next batch was just as good an' word spread about Peanut's shine.  Folks came from as far as Kingdom Come an' Hell for Certain, Bullskin an' over to Teges Creek to buy a mason jar full of pure, clear moonshine from Cousin Peanut.

Then Dobson's had a run on sugar at the end of summer when all the womenfolk started puttin' up muscadine jelly.  The muscadine grapes had been plentiful an' there is no better jelly than muscadine grape jelly (muscadine wine ain't bad, either).  Them womenfolk knew they better make all they could.  The Farmer's Almanac said it was going to be a bad winter an' folks might not see as many grapes next year.

So, when Peanut went to town to buy supplies for the next batch, they was very little sugar.  An' to beat it all, Knuckles Feed Store was out of corn.

Cousin Peanut was resourceful.  He went to every little store around my hometown of Beloved an' bought sugar in little bags till he had enough.

Corn was a different matter.  There was no corn to be had.  Then Peanut had an idea.  He heard they were givin' out commodity cheese an so on.  Sometimes they gave out other commodities, so Peanut went over.

They had no corn, but Lizzie Bishop, the woman that ran the commodity program told Peanut she had over 500 pounds of dried prunes no one wanted.

Peanut took 'em an' made his way over to Booger Holler where he started soakin' them prunes in pure branch water till they swelled up right nice.  He then put them in his jet fuel tank boiler with a little yeast to let them ferment.

Cousins, I have to tell you that the shine he made was some of the prettiest stuff ever to come out of a still.  It was deep purple, almost black an' clear as a moonlit night with not a bit of floatin' stuff in the bottom.

It tasted pretty good too.

Folks came around all day Saturday to buy some of Peanut's new shine.  Ol' Hap Collins laughed an' said it weren't moonshine, it were "Pruneshine" an' the name stuck.

Cousin Peanut had 147 quarts of the stuff an' sold it all that very day.  It tasted so good that folks sat on porches an' in barns drinkin' it all day an into the night.

Then the s#$t hit the fan, so to speak.

What Cousin Peanut did not realize was that as he cooked down them prunes, their medicinal qualities were concentrated.  Peanut had made the strongest, most potent laxative liquor ever known to mankind.

The next day was Sunday an' churches showed the effect of Cousin Peanut's Pruneshine.  Dozens of men, hundreds even failed to show up to take their traditional place at the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, shucks, even Brother Woodrow Budder over to the Booger Holler holiness Church noticed a dip in men folks comin' to church.

All over my hometown of Beloved the same scene happened; folks would go to bed with a pleasant buzz in their head.  A few hours later, eyelids would fly open as would back doors as' quite a few women made a run for the little shack out back.

'Bout the time they would finally start back the path to go in an' back to bed...the prune shine would grab their guts again.  Most folks finally jus' got comfortable an stayed in the outhouse readin' the magazines left there.  If your drove up any creek in the county you could tell who bought Pruneshine from the moanin' comin' from the outhouses.

That ended Cousin Peanut's moonshinin' venture, but I heard that Procter and Gamble bought the recipe from Cousin Peanut an' sell it even today for relief of constipation.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

October Frost

First frost this mornin'
Glazin' the windows.
Makin' every blade of grass
Sugar coated.

Old maple tree gets notice
Winter's comin'.
Already he is paintin' his leaves
See them fall.

Ol' dog runs in the sweet grasses
Feelin' the frost as he rolls.
Comes home wet
Time to hunt.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Tarnished Reputation

I got a tarnished reputation
A tattoo on my butt
There'll be no celebration
If I get out of this rut.

I'm wearin' dirty bluejeans
My pocket's hangin' low
No money left to wash 'em
Jobs are sorta slow.

Just sittin' on my cycle
Waitin' for the light.
Ain't worth a plug nickle
Just can't seem to get it right.

Yep, a tarnished reputation
That tattoo on my butt
I'll visit some relations
Convince them I'm a nut.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Cycle Flying

The burpa burpa of a cycle
 Smell of Leather
Liquid touch of chrome
Creaks as I move
Perfect angular mechanics
Tight against your chest
Well oiled poetry
Movin' like a second skin
Feels like flyin' down the road
Makes the world feel good.

Thursday, August 19, 2004


Don't you hear them?
Can't you feel the tug?
Won't you listen?
Must you stay?

It is the rain
Clogging on a tin roof.
Pitty-pattin' in the dust
Tappin' out the tune.

Or maybe the wind
Chucklin' down the chimbley.
Glad handin' the pines
Good natured in its callin'.

Perhaps it's the memory
of a pretty red-haired gal.
Her smile still a callin'
Eyes still hauntin'.

Listen to the call,
Hear the mountains sing.
Hallowed is their harmony
Sacred is their song.

Breath in deep, cousin
Smell the hint of sassafras.
Catch a wiff of honeysuckle
Teasin' gently, "come".

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Hard Maple

The wind whispers
A secret joke
Caught up
By the crabapple
The leaves titter
As they laugh.

The solid maple
Hardly stirs
Barely a chuckle
Maybe just too busy
Perhaps so very deep
To mind frivolities.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Rain on a Summer Day

The early hours of the morning had been interrupted with thunder so close it seemed like bein' inside a tin pot beaten with a sledgehammer.  Lightning broke the dark constantly like a mad photographer.  The animals in the barn were startled more than once and the milk cow bellowed her opinion with right smart regularity.

On rainy days a tin roof is a blessin'.  On a stormy night that tin is the only thing standin' between a man and the fury of Mom Nature.  On a morning like this a five "V" corrugated tin roof sure didn't seem like much protection.

Billy Gilbert wasn't one to fret much about the weather.  It was fine commentary when men gathered to sit and visit.  Weather was always a safe topic.  A bunch of men on a porch tended to hem and haw around hard subjects when they sat and visited.  This storm would be one discussed pretty often in the next few days.  As he waited the storm out in the comfort of his feather bed he dozed.  Old Dog wasn't afraid of loud noises but had curled up close to the side of Billy's bed when the storm started.  Billy had reached a hand down several times just to rub Old Dog's neck.  The rubbin' sure seemed to calm man and dog.

A real firecracker of thunder hit close and the room lit up for only a second.  On the tail of the thunder Billy heard the Frigidaire go off.  He figured the storm would hit the power eventually.  It happened a lot in the mountains.  For a long while there was only the sound of the rain hittin' the tin roof.  Once the power came back on and the old Frigidaire hummed back on.  The hummin' and the power faded pretty fast and the cabin was in darkness.

Most folks called Billy Gilbert "Uncle Billy".  Age and a bunch of family gave him that title not only out of courtesy but just because half the folks in Beloved, Kentucky were kin to him.  Uncle Billy Gilbert was the only boy left from his original family of twelve children.  He had two sisters left.  The sisters lived together near Beloved.  As he lay there, he remembered it was Monday.  Billy would usually spend Mondays with his sisters since his wife Del had died.  Mondays were and always had been washday.  The routine was usually the same, load up a basket of clothes, drive over to his sister's home and help them fill an old iron pot with water.  The pot sat in their yard as it had for near one hundred years.  Every Monday it was filled and a fire started under it to heat water for the wash.

Billy would carry buckets of hot water up to the porch to be poured into the washin' machine.  His sisters, Mag and Bess would start washin' whites first, them colors and finally work clothes and darks.  The same water was used for each load.

"Don't reckon we'll be doin' washin' today, Old Dog,” he said.

Old Dog heard and his tail beat softly on the poplar floor.  He lifted his head and scooted his nose under Uncle Billy's hand to get a free pat on the head.  As Uncle Billy patted absently he went on talkin'.

"No sir, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the power co-op took the better part of the day to get the 'lectric back.  Don't bother us none, does it?  Nope, we'll just lay right here and enjoy the fireworks.  That’s what we'll do.  Yes buddy.  We'll just enjoy the fireworks."

It seemed like the Lord heard Uncle Billy talkin' to Old Dog.  About a minute later the sky lit up and the biggest cracker of all broke over the cabin.  Uncle Billy and Old dog dozed off and on for the rest of the mornin'.  No sense in gettin' up and fumblin' around in the dark.

Monday, July 26, 2004

I Love the Fair

First of all, I have to tell you right off that I love county fairs.  There is nothing better than going to a fair and walking around just to watch all that happens.  I especially love going during the day.   There is not the press of folks common in the evenings when all the city folks come to ride the rides and the boys try to win prizes and impress their gals at the midway games.

The daytime is dedicated to showing 4H animals, judging, grooming cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and chickens of every variety.  Kids in blue jeans and boots move with serious dedication to their goal of herding an animal into the ring.

Today I took a long lunch to go over to the Clark County Fair and walk through as I ate.  I had a fish boat.  It was filled with fried catfish, hushpuppies and French fries that I covered with vinegar.  I couldn’t eat and play games, so I felt safe walking through the midway.  I listened to the carneys calling to boys, “come on now, fella, win one for that pretty gal there.”  Or maybe, “Hey there, everyone is a winner.  Only two to play and one of the two wins a prize”.

Then I walked through Cow Barn 4.  There were younger 4H kids with calves in that barn.  As I walked I saw a little Jersey calf lying on a thick pile of fresh straw.  She was curled up and sleeping peacefully.  A little blonde headed girl of about 7 was curled right up against the calf with her head on the calf’s neck.  Her hand carefully rubbed the calf’s ear as she grinned up at me.

I walked through the goat barn, the rabbit and chicken barn and stood at the side of a show ring and watched some boys and one single girl show their pigs.  I have to say that I grinned constantly as I heard the pigs squeal and saw little boys trying to make their cantankerous pigs move in the right direction.

The Grange displays were full of beautiful tomatoes; gallon jars of soybeans or corn, squash, huge heads of cabbage and baskets overflowing with beans.  There were jams and jellies that delighted the eye,  cakes that just cried out for eating.

I believe I could live at the fair.  I could eat rib eye sandwiches or butterfly pork from the Clark County Pork Producers.  At lunch I would snag an ear of fresh corn on the cob covered with butter, salt and pepper.  Dessert would be home made strawberry ice cream one day and maybe the thin crisp county fair waffles all covered with powdered sugar.  For supper I would go into the Methodist Church Ladies Missionary Group tent and have their sit down chicken dinner.

I’d have to have a job, so I would bring back the sideshows and I would be the barker.  I would be resplendent in a striped jacket with a straw hat and bamboo cane.  There I would stand on a big wooden box all painted up in primary colors as I called out;

 “Ste-ep right this way folks, come one come all and see the greatest show ever to grace this county fair.  Perhaps the most amazing accumulation of oddities, talent and unexplainable phenomenon the world has ever seen.  Come see Johnny the dog eared boy, the chicken with 3 legs, the dinky doo.  Come right this way, sir and bring the little lady to see the world’s largest, yes I said the world’s largest bull, the horse faced man, see Zambina, the missing link as she changes from beautiful modern woman to gorilla.  Yes, folks, I said Zambina the gorilla woman, fresh from her tour of New Orleans French Quarter.

Here it is folks. This is the real thing.  Never before and never again will you see anything like this.  Step right up now and see the bearded lady, the world’s largest rat.  We have it here folks, all right here in your little town for this week only.  Don’t go home and wonder.  Don’t walk by only to dream years from now about what you missed by passing this wonderful show by.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Fried catfish piled high
Crisp on a white dinner plate.
Tea sweet and thick
Thick enough you can cut a hunk
Eat your tea like candy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Bean Pickin' Time

Go down any road in the hills around my hometown of Beloved right about now and look around. Walk up any holler and you'll see the same scene repeated over and over again.

Early in the morning, while it is still cool, go lookin'. Over to the side of the creek or up the holler you'll see Sister Hazel Budder or maybe Irene Collins, dressed in long pants and a long sleeved shirt come out from the farmhouse and head for the garden. Sister Hazel's head might be covered with a straw hat or Irene's with a bonnet. Here and yonder you might find an older woman in a long dress. There ain't nothin' in this world that would get her to put on a pair of pants. As she wades through the garden the hem of her dress gets wet with dew.

They each head into the neat rows of the garden. When they get to the rows of beans they stop. They look up and down the rows quietly before they begin. Each surveys the fruition of their hard work. They think back over the spring and the many days dedicated to planting, weeding, watering and tending row after row of beans.

Wherever you see the scene repeated you will see the same pause. Then each will bend and push aside the thick cover of leaves to expose beans, pole beans, bush beans, Kentucky wonder, blue lake, purple snaps, half runners, string beans, trail of tears, old homesteads, Italian flat and the favorite of hill folks, greasy beans.

Folks start early to avoid the heat. As they bend over the rows of beans their hands never stop, pulling handfuls at a time, throwin' the handfuls into a galvanized bucket till it is full.

That first bucket goes into the house quickly to be broken and put on to boil. A big piece of ham, maybe a ham hock or some jowl bacon goes in with a little bit of chopped onion. The big pot is allowed to boil before it is turned down to a simmer.

With that each kitchen door opens and each woman heads to the garden to pick bucket after bucket of beans. They are spread out on clean sheets or tablecloths as each bucket is emptied. Not one bean is missed.

The rest of the day is spent on the porch or maybe in the kitchen. An old apron becomes the workspace and quick hands break up dozens and hundreds of beans. Big washbasins fill with the broken harvest.

Soon enough everyone in the family joins in as jars are boiled and lids are scalded. The beans are washed and put into waiting jars. The kitchen is a beehive of activity as pressure cookers are filled with new jars of beans.

All day for several days they repeat the drill, filling jar after jar. Row after row gives up beans and no one stops till each and every bean is broken, every jar filled, every lid turned and tightened.

Finally the furious pace stops. The last jar comes out of the pressure cooker. Each is turned upside down to cool so a good seal is assured as the contents cool off.

Folks can sit a little longer on the porch. They listen to the familiar pop of jar lids sealing. Someone counts each one till each and every jar has called out the "all is well".

Them pots of beans simmerin' on the stove tasted right good each night. Heads bow over full plates as farm families thank the good Lord for His bounty. Weary bodies are filled and restored with the harvest.

Tired feet lift off the floor and push under ancient quilts. Worn hands pull quilts up over weary bodies. There are long moments of silence as tired families have the satisfaction of remembering hundreds of quarts of beans canned. Each Mason jar is lined in rows, standing at attention, waiting for the winter. That is prepared contentment.

As folks drift off to sleep, someone always has the thought. A voice always speaks up with the same thought...

"We start pickin' tomatoes next week."

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Beloved, Kentucky

Imagine a little mountain community nestled between the ancient hills of Appalachia. It is a community that was settled around a good year round spring and one of the largest salt licks in eastern Kentucky. Folks reckon that's why folks came to the valley and settled the little town called Beloved.

It ain't much, as towns go. There are only eight or ten streets in the whole town. Main Street never got busy enough to have a stop light. Folks don't hardly need the stop signs on some of the side streets.

Downtown consists of about twelve buildings. The biggest building is the grocery store. Down the street is Founder's Square. That is where the springs are. They still flow year round. There is a dug well close to the springs. That well is full of the sweetest water a feller will find anywhere. In the Square is a white enclosed gazebo sort of building that contains the body of Sleepy Jean Sizemore. Some folks say she is in there sleepin' since 1911. Most say she fell into a coma and died and her body is just preserved some way. If you get to know the family, they might take you in and let you get a glimpse of her body an' y'all can judge for yourself.

There is a Carnegie Library in town right down past the Phineas Nutt Masonic Lodge. The lodge is made from beautiful Tennessee sandstone brought from the Cumberland Plateau and worked by hand by some of the Masonic brothers back in the late 1800s. Men sit on benches outside of the Carnegie Library daily and whittle. They talk softly to themselves and tell tales and lie to each other only to swear each story is the "gospel truth". When school is out a group of youngin's gather often to hear the stories and watch as the old men carefully whittle.

Annie Pankey has a small shop not much further down the street. She calls it "Pankey's Hankies" and sells antiques, quilts and old lace good.

Outside the town are a few small homes, well kept and regularly painted. In that neck of the woods 'bout everything gets painted on a regular basis if it ain't movin' or breathin'. In the heat of the day folks can be seen gatherin' on the front porches or under shade trees to cool off.

Follow the main road out of town and you'll end right back up on Route 66. The main road is merely a loop off and back onto the big road. Keep on going up along the Red Bird River and you'll come to Beverly and the Red Bird Mission Hospital.

Go off some of the side roads and you'll find yourself windin' your way up Booger Holler Road or maybe Arnett's Fork, Old Punky Creek or Gilbert's Branch. Up on Booger Holler is Booger Holler Holiness Church where Brother Woodrow Budder is preacher. Folks around them parts say that Booger is a Cherokee word for a Medicine Man and Booger Holler is where a Cherokee Medicine Man lived. Other folks say it is called Booger Holler because Big Jim Arnett and Dick Gray had a spook callin' contest up near there.

The hills are full and a thousand shades of green during the summer. Springtime is the sweetest to the eye. The hills are full of dogwood, redbud, sourwood trees filled with blooms and a favorite stoppin' point for any honeybee anywhere near. The greens are tentative and slow to start. The flowering trees are not bashful and burst out in bloom like they was shoutin', "looky. looky, look at me."

Folks live at a slower pace in and around Beloved. Its sort of like they know that God took a slice of Eden and nestled it in them hills. They never forget to stop an' enjoy what they got.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Summertime Memories

It is so easy for me to close my eyes and go back to those summer memories. Somehow about 40 years fall off and I am 11 and it is July in the hills of Kentucky.

Double Creek is where my Grandma moved after my Grandpa (my namesake Steve Hollen) died. I should say she moved back to Double Creek because that is where she was born. My Uncle Bert built his Mama a house right across the creek from the Arnett homestead. I was told my Great Great Grandpa built the log cabin back after the Yanks and Rebs kept coming by and taking anything that wasn't tied down.

The creek that ran through the little valley was the center of my day. My brother and I waded into the creek early each morning and wandered up and down about 2 miles of Arnett's Fork on Double Creek as we played.

Crawdads were a favorite catch for us as we bent over shallow pools filled with sand and small rock for our prey to hide under. Our hands wrapped around rocks as we cornered them or waited patiently as they would scoot backward into our waiting grasp. Our girl cousins were often chased by one or both of us. Hands full of crawdads. We didn't care that their claws dug deep into our tender palms as long as we could terrorize a sweet mountain girl.

Down where Arnett's Fork and Big Double Creek split off was out swimmin' hole. It was the deepest spot on the creek. It was also the most distant from Grandma's house at over a mile away. That wasn't much of a problem since everyone along that creek was kin. We waved as we walked the dusty road. Cousins, Aunts and Uncles waved back and sometimes called us in for a cold Coke or maybe some blackberry cobbler with sweet cream poured on top.

The family names up in the Arnett cemetery and along that creek were like a genealogy lesson...Hollen/Holland, Arnett, Gilbert. Smith, Bowling. All settlers in the early 1800s. All family on one side or the other.

The swimmin' hole was also the place where folks were baptized when the circuit ridin' preacher held services in the one room school house on Double Creek. He came once a month, preached, had dinner with folks and in the afternoon would baptize any folks that got saved in the last month or two.

My brother, my cousin J.M. and I practiced baptizin' each other many times in that swimmin' hole. Sometimes it was solemn and sometimes we would just grab someone and dunk 'em quick and hard.

As we would walk home the yellow dust from the road would cover our feet like magic shoes. We would run, fleet at the whitetail deer that would often stand on the hillsides. They would pause under the shade of a sweet gum or sourwood and watch as we raced home.

A quick stop at the creek to wash off the dust and we would run into the ol' cabin to see Aunt Bess, Aunt Mag and Uncle Bill or to Grandma's house to change and get ready for supper. Dependin' on where we landed we might put our feet under the table at Grandma's home or Aunt Sally's or Aunt Mag and Aunt Bess's table. I loved sittin' down to eat with all of them. They loved me and I always knew it and felt

Supper might be fried chicken, mashed or fried taters, slow cooked green beans with a big ol' chunk of ham, plenty o' tomaters, green onions, fresh slaw and maybe even fried poke or maybe wilted mountain greens with chopped green onions and covered with a dressing of vinegar, bacon grease and a little sugar to cut the "whang" of the vinegar. Cathead biscuits (with real churned butter and sorghum or even home made muscadine grape jelly) would be our bread. If there was time to bake we might be surprised with butter rolls - sweet and filled with sugar, cinnamon and swimmin' in a buttery sweet sauce.

Cousin, I close my eyes and I float down that creek even now, back through 40 years to a simpler time. Jump in here , enjoy the cool creek water and let's float back down the creek together.

Aunt Mag and Aunt Bess won't mind me bringin' friends home for supper. I do it all the time. They'll be proud to see y'all.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Neighbor Beater Tomatoes

Now, I just don't know how folks are where you might be from, but in Beloved, Kentucky, folks are serious about their tomatoes. Tomatoes, or tomaters or just plain ol' 'maters they may be, but raisin' them wonderful red fruits is a passion in Beloved.

Uncle Billy Gilbert always worked hard to try to be the first to have ripe tomatoes. He would start seeds inside with mason jars over the seedlin's. Them seedlin's would be transplanted out to cold frames as soon as the weather got passable and then into a garden when chance of frost passed.

Other folks had theories, secrets and special seeds saved from one year to the next. No one talked much about how they did it...if they won.

Whichever lucky citizen was the first with a ripe tomatoe would show up with the lovely fruit in downtown Beloved with a smile and the prize to be shown off to all who would stop to look.

In Beloved word would get 'round and everyone would stop to look.

Cousin Peanut tried year after year to be the first with a "mater" but his tendency to forget his garden made him an unlikely candidate for the glory that would be heaped upon the victor. Folks felt bad every year when Cousin Peanut would show up to see the winning tomatoe. He would stand and stare for the longest time. Sister Hazel Budder, the preacher's wife and Cousin Peanut's sister knew when he left he would shed a quiet tear. Cousin Peanut was almost always an "also ran" in about anything he ever tried.

'Cept that one year.

Folks started early with their seedlin's under glass as usual. Uncle Billy Gilbert actually showed Cousin Peanut how to start a little ol' "mason jar greenhouse". Cousin Peanut put out his seedlin's ahead of a lot of folks. Then promptly went back to his old ways of not tendin' the garden much. His Daddy, Vergie was bad sick and his Mama, Mz. Chappell wasn't much better.

That was why Uncle Billy called a nephew of his that worked at the agricultural school at University of Kentucky. He told that nephew, Johnny Gilbert, what he wanted to do...asked if they was tomatoes growin' in the greenhouse and if Johnny would help. Of course Johnny said yes and the famous "Mater Caper" was hatched.

A few nights later Johnny showed up in Beloved. After dark him and Uncle Billy snuck over to Booger Holler where the Chappells lived, dug up Peanut's sorry ol' scraggly tomatoe vines and replaced them with beautiful vines laden with little green fruit.

Cousin Peanut made a haphazard inspection of the garden a day or two later on his way to the little ol' shack out back an' was amazed that his vines were covered with baby tomatoes! He went everywhere braggin' about them little green marbles!

Then promptly forgot them again.

A week or so later, Johnny made another trip and took a secret ride with Uncle Billy over to Booger Holler. Tomatoe vines were traded and transplanted again. Cousin Peanut found that his vines had grown and his tomatoe crop was even better. My oh my how that boy did crow! Even though Vergie couldn't get out to the garden, Cousin Peanut told him about every little tomater! As Vergie an' Mz. Chappell sat in the house together, they would smile and beam at the sudden success of their wayward boy.

The secret gardening trips continued for weeks.

Then Vergie got the pneumonia and Peanut forgot about his tomatoe plants. Vergie didn't last long before he gave it up an' died. He was to be buried in the Chappell graveyard up on the mountain under a sycamore tree overlookin' the little farm he loved.

When Uncle Billy heard that Vergie had died he drove his truck over to the Peabody Post Office an' called Johnny. The night before the funeral Johnny an' Uncle Billy made one more night time raid on Cousin Peanut's garden.

The funeral was held at Booger Holler Holiness Church. Brother Woodrow Budder preached a funeral sermon to beat the band. Folks expected no less, seein' as how Vergie was Brother Woodrow's Daddy-in-Law.

Vergie's casket was carried up the side of the mountain by six strong mountain men. The crowd stood quiet like as final prayers were said and Vergie's boy Chester read the 23rd Psalm. It was a lovely service and the day was glorious up on that hillside. The sun warmed the bodies if not the hearts of the folks gathered to say goodbye one last time.

As folks walked together down the hill they visited and talked quietly. When they got to the bottom of the hill each an' every man jack of 'em stopped an' didn't go another step.

Finally, the Chappell family came down. Mz. Chappell was holdin' on to a couple of her youngin's an' a snifflin' an' such. She was the first to walk through the crowd. She asked what everyone was a doin'. They all pointed to Cousin Peanut's weedy ol' garden patch.

"Peanut, come here, son." Mz. Chappell called.

Peanut made his way through the crowd and looked into his garden. There in the weeds was one beautiful tomatoe vine, curled perfectly around itself an' up a wood stake.

Hangin' from that vine was not one, but two beautiful, perfectly round, red-ripe tomatoes. Peanut reverently picked each and held them in the air for all to see. The crowd sighed "aaahhh" in unison as Cousin Peanut grinned. Everyone knew what this meant. Cousin Peanut had not just the first, but the first AND second ripe tomatoe in Beloved. He had braggin' rights for a year!

Folks offered right then and there to take Peanut to town. Someone found a basket full of biscuits in their car and emptied out the biscuits so Cousin Peanut would have a proper way to display his prize.

Folks left quickly, followin' the truck that carried the champion an' his fruits to the braggin' bench in downtown Beloved. Uncle Billy helped Mz. Chappell an' some of the ladies of the church carry in the bowls of food that friends an' family would gather to eat later.

As he went out for a big ol' bowl of potatoe salad, Mz. Chappell followed him out.

"They ain't no more, Mz. Chappell. This here is the rest of it." Uncle Billy said.

"I ain't here for carryin' no food. I know what you did."

Uncle Billy looked up the mountain, "I don't reckon I know what you are talkin' about."

"We both do. I seen you an' your nephew in that garden late at night more than once. Do you think it is right, Billy? It is cheatin', after all." she said quietly.

Uncle Billy grinned a little, "Nah, ain't no more cheatin' than all the other tricks we all try. They came out of his garden an' he ain't the one that claimed they was the first. I don't believe the good Lord is gonna bar the door or pull the latch string in from Heaven's gate for this one."

Mz. Chappell smiled, snickered and slapped Uncle Billy, "I almost shot you'uns the first time I seen you out there."

"Wouldn't 'a been the first time I was shot at." he said with his orneriest grin.

Cousin Peanut sat on that bench for days showin' off them tomatoes. No one ever knew how good they tasted. He left 'em in that basket till they was right rotten.

His picture ran in the Manchester Enterprise.

Funny thing was, when Cousin Peanut talks about that year, it ain't never the year his Daddy died. It is always the year he had the first tomatoes.

Sure Is

It is a wonderment
It bobs and floats
Jerked under by joy
Only to reappear
Floating calm
For just a bit.

It is cotton candy,
Tasty and sweet
Melt in your mouth
Sticky faced life.
So wispy
So very good.

It is a treasure
Knowing you are.
Rolling "I am"
In your hand.
Pearl of great price
Jewels of existing.

It is a wonderment

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Annie Pankey's New Youngin'

Well, Cousins,
Y'all may know Annie Pankey. She runs "Pankey's Hankies" downtown in Beloved. It is a shop filled with antique lace, quilts, linens and cloth goods as well as the occasional antique. If you ever been in, you know Annie Pankey is sometimes different than other folks.

She moved back here about ten years ago when she retired from bein' a lawyer up in New York. Annie started out in Clay County, went to Berea College and made good as a fine New York lawyer.

In the last year or so she started readin' about that "in vitro" fertilization and started hankerin' to have a youngin' of her own. She read up on all that "in vitro" stuff an' went to them Doctors over to Lexington to the University of Kentucky Hospital. She told them she wanted her a baby an' wanted them to pump her full of hormones an' all an' "in vitro" her.

Well, we don't talk about that sort of stuff back home. I don't know where she got such talk.

They laughed at first, but when she started talkin' her lawyer talk and accused them of age discrimination, well...they gave up first.

So,them Doctors did what she wanted an' Annie found herself with child. There was a lot of talk went on in the churches an' businesses of Beloved, I'll tell you for sure. Annie walked proudly among us, tellin' anyone who would listen that she had been "in vitro"'ed an wasn't livin' in sin or such as that. Folks finally settled down an' even got real excited for her. Not many 75 year old women have youngin's in Beloved. I only know of one or two myself.

The day came an' Annie had her youngin'. It was a baby boy - 8 pounds an' 6 ounces, 21 inches long with the prettiest black hair an' deep blue eyes. It looked like Annie's Daddy, Judge Ancil Pankey, one of the finest men to ever live in Beloved, Kentucky. Annie did real well for a woman of advanced years. She said it was turnip juice an' clean livin'.

After she came home, the women of Booger Holler Holiness Church came to pay a call on Annie an' to see the baby. She came to the door an' told them the baby was asleep an'
they had to leave. They figured she was just nervous, bein' a new mother an' all. Honest, they was worried that her health might be poor. She was 75, y'know.

A few days later, Sister Hazel Nutt Budder, the preacher's wife stopped with Evelyn Collins who brought cheese grits an' some broasted chicken from over to the Henney Penny Restaurant. Don't you know the same thing happened. Annie didn't even open the door all the way an' told them the baby was sleepin' an' shut the door.

On Friday of that week, Sister Hazel an' three women from the Womans Missionary League stopped by. They were not goin' to take "no" for an answer.

When Annie came to the door, she told 'em the baby was a sleepin' an' started to close the door. Sister Hazel was ready for her an' put her foot in the door. It was real lucky Sister Hazel had her steel toe Hush Puppie walkin' shoes on, cause Annie 'bout crushed her toes as she closed the door.

Sister Hazel asked why Annie wouldn't let anyone see that baby. Folks were sayin it was ugly or somethin'. Annie said it weren't ugly, it was just asleep. Sister Hazel said they would tiptoe in an' just look.

"No, y'all can't" Annie said.

"But why, Annie? We'll be real quiet like." promised Sister Hazel. The other women shook their heads in agreement.

"Y'all can't see him cause he is' I don't remember where I put him!"

Ain't age a curse?

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Daddy Song

Heartache of heartaches,
My Daddy is gone.
My soul cries out to him
But no answer is heard.

He has cast off his frailty
Like an old worn shirt.
Yet I cling to the hollow,
Afraid to let go.

His spirit left this place,
Fled to the mountains of home.
Walked one more walk
Neath the sweet sourwood blooms.

Washed his feet again
In the clear creeks up the holler
Ran like he did as a youngin'
Up the road to the homeplace.

Like a young deer his spirit
Jumps and leaps and runs free.
Clear eyes look at a cabin
Gone now for fifty years.

There, through the twilight
He sees the lights of home.
His loved ones wait, patient
Smiling at spirit found freedom.

My Daddy turns and sees us
Wants to say goodbye.
He waves like he always does
Then walks back up the holler.

His steps are easy now
There is strength anew.
He runs towards the lights of home
Turns once more, smiles.

"I'll be waitin'" he says
And grins his grin.
His eyes have a twinkle
Like he knows somethin' we don't

Sunday, May 16, 2004


Ghost of love
Stands beside me
Whispers memories in my ear.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Springtime in Beloved

Y'all may find it hard to believe, but Spring just came bustin' in to my hometown of Beloved, Kentucky in the past few weeks. Winter wasn't much snow to speak of, but it was dreary.

If you go through town you'll see dogwoods blooming white, pale pink and a deep pink just like the cheeks of a blushin' country gal. The magnolias have bloomed and a few are droppin' petals already. Underneath each magnolia there is a carpet of petals like cotton candy snow.

On the hillsides surrounding the holler Beloved sits in, a feller can see redbuds bloomin' and wild dogwoods darin' the other trees to come out to play. When we have a frost in the mountains you can look out early in the mornin' and see a line markin' where the frost ends on the hill. It is like each hilltop is sprinkled with sugar.

Down at the one end of Main Street you can find "Precious Smoked Meats". Folks drive by just to smell the wonderful smells of apple, hickory or maybe some pecan wood smoke comin' from the barbeque pit. Wakin' up an' walkin' down there to get a fresh biscuit and country ham sandwich with a cup of coffee is a treat you can't miss. Seein' the wood smoke rise up to meet the mist comin' down the hillside makes a grown man want to swear he will never leave this magical little town.

Annie Pankey owns "Pankey's Hankies". She sells antiques, linens and old time lace goods. Annie ain't quite right sometimes, so most folks just smile when they see a plastic jack o'lantern filled with daffodils sittin' in her window.

Over to the Henny Penny farmers gather early for breakfast and to talk about plantin', rain an' politics. Plantin' and the weather is usually the more important topic. Most folks 'round here have learned that politics and politicians are 'bout all the same and as necessary as the mange on a dog.

The day is bright today and songbirds are on every tree right now. It is a day to stop and think to yourself, "This is the day the Lord has made. I reckon I'll rejoice an' be glad in it."

Yes sir, He makes 'em all mighty fine here in Beloved. When you come, stop by an' stay for a while with us. I'll fluff the feather bed an' put on a couple nice quilts just in case.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Just a Question

Ever wonder where them little minnows are goin’ or what they are doin’ when they swim so very fast in the creek over by home? Have y’all sat down lately and let your feet hang close to the water as you watch the water skippers dart from place to place or seen a crawdad, dark as mud, creepin’ from rock to rock? Has your vision gone fuzzy an’ your mind drift off while watchin’ them go about their lives, not knowin’ you are sittin’ just over their world?

I didn’t think so. I was watchin’ you an’ just knew you hadn’t taken time to sit by a creek in a while. You have that hurried look about your sorry self. Sort o’ like you are too important to sit on a dusty bridge. Too uppity to just stare at an ol’ muddy creek. I reckon y’all think it matters to the world that you are off to a job where you peck at a machine, stack papers or shelve books or call folks for one reason or another.

Wonder when the last time was you took your darlin’ by the hand an’ walked quiet like through the mountains? Ever called in to that job an’ said you needed to get away and let your spirit lead as you wander through the hills of home? No? Have y’all ever sat in one place in the wood for so long even the squirrels forget you was there an’ went about their day huntin’ an’ diggin’ an climbin’?

I had a feelin’ you would say “no”.

Cousin, what you need is a liberation of the mind. A freedom of your spirit. First thing you got to do is stop an’ go outside for a bit. Shut up an listen.

If you are quiet long enough I reckon you will hear the hills callin’ your name. If you ever lived there, or your Mama or Daddy, or even your Grandpa three times removed, the hills know your name. They whisper it all day, every day, hopin’ you will stop just for once and listen. It is like a lover’s voice. I bet y’all have thought you heard your name floatin’ on an evenin’ breeze. Probably wondered who was a callin’ you.

Now, you’ll be askin’ how the hills know to call. It is the sweet earth, the rocks – slate an’ shale, sandstone deep in the earth with your family name etched deep on each rock. Your initials are carved into the hearts of the trees yonder on the hillsides. Your secret name is hidden in the tight buds of a magnolia deep in a holler that held your family homestead. That apple tree gone fallow now, standin’ in the shadow of a long forgotten chimney still bears a sweet apple waitin’ for you to pluck it, taste its sweetness.

Them hills know you, dear cousin. There is a thread tied from your heart to that holler where your spirit wants to stand. The deer waits and watches for you. The Red Tail Hawk soars over, checkin’ for you day by day. The Barn Owl cries “who, who” but knows who…it is you. The birds sing in hopes of your homecoming. The doves cry a sad song because you are not there.

Go, go as fast as you can. Do not stop till you are there. Run to the hills, fall to your knees and dig your hands into the rich earth at the feet of them worn out ol’ hills. Stomp your feet in your worn out brogans an’ dance in the tall sweet grass grown up ‘round the stones that are the foundation of that homestead, the foundation of your soul. If you dare, dance naked in the twilight. Throw your clothes in every direction as you spin the soft mist around you like cotton candy as it falls to the valley floor. Dance naked to the tune of a thousand tree frogs clingin’ to the sourwood, sassafras an’ cedars an’ be reborn to the mountains.

Dip your feet into the cold creek as branches flow from mountaintops, the very waters dancin’ at your homecoming! Sit on a bridge an’ let your vision go fuzzy an’ your mind wander. Watch them minnows an’ they will show you their secret…

They aren’t goin’ anywhere, they are spellin’ out your name.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


Nothin' sweeter
Than sourwood honey
Stirred into butter
Spread right thick
On a Martha White biscuit.

Nothin' brighter
Than the stars
Just a shinin'
Down on the mountains
Through a deep velvety night.

Nothin' clearer
Than well water
Drawn cold from the deeps
From the heart of the hills
Sipped from an icy tin dipper.

Nothin' better
Than the smilin' blue eyes
Thick auburn hair
A soft mountain drawl
Irish beauty hidden
In a hillbilly girl.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Hen Scratchings

Dusty barnyard
Chickens scratchin'
In the dirt.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Quick One

Up yonder in the holler
In the sudden snow
Spring sneaks
A peak.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Night Sweats

I ain't afraid of the wind.
Blowin' at the roof,
Pushin' on the door,
Whisperin' at the cracks.

I ain't afraid of the dark.
Washin' o'er the house,
Standin' round my bed,
Wrappin' over me.

I ain't afraid of noises.
Creakin' in my ear,
Cryin' at the night,
Scratchin' to get in.

I ain't afraid.
I'm sure not scared,
Not worried,
Or concerned a bit.

I just like
To cover my head
Scrunch up tight
So, that's the end of it!

Saturday, March 13, 2004

First Dance

I can still remember the first time I ever laid eyes on her. She was probably the prettiest girl I had ever seen in my entire life. I saw her across the room...not too very far away. Close enough to hear her voice and see the crowd around her.

Those first few moments are still impressed in my memory these many years later. Funny how we remember when we first see a beautiful girl.

Everybody wanted to spend time with her. I had to wait my turn. When there was finally a moment for me and her to get to know each other, I just didn't know what to say. I stood there like a big goon and looked into her eyes.

I melted when she looked at me. As she looked at me I think I could see myself in the depths of her eyes. We looked at each other awkwardly for just a moment. That was all it took. I was in love, cousin. I was head over heels in love from right then on.

Now, I know you won't believe it, but before I spoke a word to her I did something bold. I took her into my arms and hugged her. I stepped back, looked at her and hugged her tight again.

Then we danced. Yes, we danced right then and there. Before a word was said I held this wonderful, beautiful girl in my arms, her head on my chest so close I am sure she could hear my heart beating so fast. Surely she heard as I held my breath, wondering if she would, could love me as much as I aready loved her?

Round the room we danced. It was as if the world stopped and we waltzed in eternity for just that moment. No one mattered but her just them. No one was there but us. She and I were cheek to cheek and I did not want the moment to end.

Finally I stopped. A little embarrassed, I grinned and looked around. Yeah, folks were smiling indulgent smiles. They recognized a guy bowled over by a beautiful girl.

I decided I better say something, anything. We had just met. What to say first. I looked at her and she just watched me for ever so long...waitin, I suppose.

Finally I opened my awkward mouth and spoke to her for the first time. And yes, I told her I loved her right then.

I remember it even today.

I looked deep into her eyes. Again I saw myself deep in the reflections of her wonderful eyes. And I told her...

"Daddy loves you, sweet little girl. I love you and will tell you that for the rest of my life."

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Come Home, Come Home

I am achin' for a peek at a hillside with some daffodils pushin' through the litter of old leaves - oak, maple and larch. Planted there by a forgotten mountain woman to brighten up the yard outside a common cabin. Maybe a redbud sort of hintin' that it plans to burst forth in bloom 'fore you know it.

Down a holler there is a sorry ol' dog just waitin' to lay on a porch just in time for me or you to pass. He'll raise his head to watch me as if to say, "where y'all been for so long?" Folks are sittin' on them porches even now, practicin' for warmer weather...comin' out with coats on to breathe deep the mountain air and clear the dusty winter from their lungs.

Cousin, if you listen close an' be right quiet you'll hear the sound of an axe splittin' some kindlin' up by the creek an' the soft steady currr, ruck, ruck cluck of a couple chickens as they peck at the warming earth. There, did you hear that? That was the sound of an ol' wood screen door slappin' at the door jam as someone goes out the back door to wander to the barn an' look over tractors ready for plowin'.

Look to the sky an' see the birds already comin' home to the hills, bellies full from their winter vacations. They are carryin' on somethin' awful, meetin' an' greetin' ol' friends an' neighbors.

Smell deep an' you'll catch the hint of coal fires an' hickory burnin' slow in fire grates. Maybe, if you're right lucky your ol' nose will catch a hint of chicken fryin' or beans simmerin' slow from over to Beloved. I reckon that Grandma's House Restaurant is plum' full 'bout now an' ever' time the door opens the smell of home sneaks out to tease an' call you home.

Look in the creek as you dream an see them crawdaddys snappin' out Morse code, spellin' your secret mountain name. The minners swim this way an' that, don't look too awful long cause they'll hypnotize you an' you'll never want to leave.

Now, I reckon your poor ol' shoes are covered with that yeller mud from down home. don't kick it off or rub the sides of 'em in the high grass. Be right careful and when y'all get home let that mud dry. Take it off them shoes real careful like an' put it in a little ol' bottle. Put it away in a special place.

When you get homesick for the hills an hollers, take that bottle out an' smell that sweet earth. Roll it around in your hands and close your eyes. Hold it tight, cousins 'cause it is in your blood already. Blood to earth, them mountains call you home. Blood to earth, you hear the secret songs of the sassafras as it waves in the wind, high on the hillside. Blood to earth, you hear the heart of the mountain cry out to your heart.

Come home, come home, come home

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Grandma's House Restaurant

I don’t reckon you have heard, but me and my cousin Peanut went into business together back in the fall. It ain’t much, but if you drive into the middle of town and stop at what used to be Lucinda Pigg’s old house – you know the one, white with all the gingerbread trim all over and the big ol’ wrap around porch – anyway, stop in there and see us.

Y’see, we have started up a restaurant we call “Grandma’s House”. It is home cookin’ at it’s finest. We started talkin’ about it back last year an’ just went for it when the realtor, Joshua White, put the ol’ Pigg place up for sale. Lots o’ folks laugh at that name an' think we made it up, but Mrs. Pigg’s Grandma gave the land that Oneida Institute was built on.

When you come in the door a music box plays a few lines of “Over the river and through the woods”. We searched and searched to find old dinette sets from the 50s for folks to sit at. There is three rooms with three or four dinettes in each room. ‘Course, we have a counter for one at a time an’ folks wantin’ to get in an’ out fast. Family pictures line the walls an’ in the winter we have a wood cookin’ stove goin’ all the time for a little warmth an’ for heatin’ the coffee pot till someone wants a little more coffee. Most days there is a big ol’ pot of beans simmerin’ there an' you can dip your own an' grab some cornbread.

We hired Emma Sams, May Stevens and Elizabeth Collins to wait on folks. They wear dresses an’ aprons just like our Grandmas used to wear. They have nets on their ol’ heads an’ Emma chomps on her gum cause she thinks waitresses should do that. They say stuff like, “Tell Grandma what y’all want” an’ all. Yep, it sure is corny, but folks seem to like it right well.

Sister Sally Arnett does all the cookin’ along with Miss Bess. It is family style. You order your main dish separate an’ the rest comes to your table in big bowls for sharin’. You can always get soup beans an’ cornbread. Most days you can get fried baloney or fried ham sandwiches as well.

Monday is meat loaf or chicken an’ dumplin’s night, Tuesday is fried chicken or pot roast, Wednesday is steak fry night’. Bout all of Beloved is in Grandma’s House before or after church an’ choir practice on Wednesday night. Thursday is fried chicken, chicken pot pie, country ham or fried pork chops. Friday night is all you can eat fish fry. There is the best fried walleye or lake perch you ever eat that night with hand rolled hush puppies an’ hand chopped slaw. Saturday all day we have fried baloney AND fried green tomater sandwiches. Miss Bess slices Parmesan cheese right thin on the top just before it is done fryin’. Put that on some home made bread an’ your tongue will ‘bout beat your face to death getting’ to that! They will have burgoo on the wood stove you can dish up yourself an’ biscuits right there in the hot box. Real butter an’ molasses make that a real meal.

Sunday begins on Saturday for Uncle Jimmy Arnett as he starts the barbecue pit an’ keeps it smokin’ with apple, cherry an’ hickory wood all weekend. He smokes some beef brisket, pork loin, chicken halves an’ plenty of ribs long an’ slow. He has hand ground pork sausage from Uncle Billy Gilbert he smokes a little before Miss Bess fries it for Sunday Brunch – along with eggs any style, sausage gravy, biscuits so light they tie strings to them to keep ‘em off the ceiling an’ on your plate. Grits, bacon, red eye gravy, hot fruit an’ a ton of other stuff that will make you groan when you see it comin’ to your table.

Family style means green beans cooked slow with ham, pinto beans, greens, stewed tomaters, fried okra, mashed, fried, boiled new, home fried or baked potatoes, three or four types of corn, includin’ corn on the cob all year round. Your choice of breads, jams, jellies, molasses an’ always real butter.

When you push away from the table, we want you to know you been to Grandma’s House” to eat. Y’all come an’ bring an appetite. Tell May I sent you an’ she’ll give you one of her mason jars with the best sweet tea in the south…on the house.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Fly Away Home

Dusty road along a creek,
Chewed up dog layin’ on a porch,
Tin roof bright in the summer sun
Ancient logs daubed with mud.

Poplar plank porch worn smooth,
Sanded by passin’ of a thousand feet,
Th’ rockin’ of a hundred chairs
Tappin’ of a thousand toes.

Old man sittin’ there rockin’,
Shoulders planed down by toil,
Face sandblasted by a hard-scrabble life.
Yet eyes clear ‘neath craggy brow.

Call comes, “Fly away, Fly away home".
To green isles, rocky hills,
Ancestral shores as craggy as th’ ol’ man’s brow.
Callin’ him to his ancestral islands.

Icy blue eyes look backward through generations,
Back through tales of fairies and selkies.
Back to buried memories of ancestral hearths and peat fires,
Smokey memories, the sweet incense of a hidden history.

That ancient memory calls him home,
To a place he has never been,
To a people he has never known.
“Come home, Come home, Fly away home.”

Old eyes close and weep,
He sees a place his feet have never walked,
Hears songs his ears have never heard.
Old heart yearns for a home unknown.

Come away, come away, come away home,
Leprechauns laugh and beckon,
Red haired lasses wink and smile.
Rocks and rills cry out his name.

Old heart yearns as he rocks and slows, sighs,
His spirit reaches out,
His mind leaps across oceans,
Feet tap to the songs of pipes.

Old head nods, worn face smiles,
Rockin’ chair slows, stops.
Tired heart yearns…and stops.
Spirit rises, soars, flies away home.

Chewed up dog looks up,
Whines and watches his master go.
Old head drops, ears lift, listens.
Listens for pipes an’ a call, “Home dog, home.”

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Farm Wanted

Dream with me of a little old farm somewhere in Kentucky, maybe Tennessee - just to satisfy my bride. It's not real big, maybe 50 or 60 acres, mostly. There, see it there...a house tucked into the head of a holler.

Don't think I am putting on airs over the house. It ain't anything big. Just make sure it has a porch full of rockin' chairs. For Oh My Darlin's sake wrap that porch around the house. She would like that real good. At the end of the porch put a porch swing for me to sit in and study the hills across a creek. That would be a good location to watch the occasional car heading up the holler. Good place to sit and wave to neighbors.

Inside I ain't fussy about, make it warm and comfortable, put a wood stove in the parlor to keep me warm as I grow old. I reckon a big old kitchen would be nice with windows facing a branch running out the holler to the creek.

Land the barn back up the holler a bit. Room for a mule I can ride through the hills of home. A place to putter and make brooms. A cool place for my old dog to lay in the heat of the day. Scatter a couple of sheds and smokehouses around full of mountain treasures...canned goods, crocks of kraut and country hams hanging, full of sweet smoky smells.

On the hillside find me some sourwood so the air will be filled with the heavy sweet scent and the bees will work the hillside all through the sweet spring. Lay in some dogwood, redbud and deeper in rhododendron to bloom in the hidden damp crannies of the slopes.

Make sure the summer grass is full of lightening bugs ready to dance in the twilight and entertain the youngin's. A right smart bunch of crickets to sing me to sleep and some of them treefrogs to remind us all is well with the world.

Find me some good hearted neighbors. Honest, hard working to stop and visit now and again. A preacher to come to Sunday dinner. A little white church on a hill with stained glass sending God's light in dozens of colors on those who worship inside.

Make it close to my hometown of Beloved, if you will. My heart is there already, in love with the odd and quirky folks who fill my life and my heart.