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.

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