Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Plans in Beloved

My hometown of Beloved, Kentucky is all wound up as folks get ready for tomorrow and out world famous Thanksgiving Day Parade an' Turkey Fry.  As usual the town Elders (Bob an' Roy Elder - they do all the plannin'for the parade) have asked me to bring my 8 trained squirrels, my little red wagon with the 8 hamster wheels welded to the tongue of the wagon in which my little squirrels run an' pull me through town as Santy
Claus.  Alls I have to do is put some leftover candy corn on a fly rod, hold it out in front of them dang tree rats an' they take off pullin' me any direction I move the candy corn.

I named the squirrels special since they pull me as Santy.  They are named Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet and Cupid,' Fluffy.  I had one I was trainin' to be Rudolph but the dang thing didn't
take to the foam clown nose an' run off with a fox squirrel from up on Buttons Poppin Holler.

The turkey fry will be as wonderful as always.  Of course, in honor of my Cousin Peanut there will be a Turkey Fry Flyin' Contest.  Each contestant will be given a quart of moonshine to inject in their 12 pound
turkey.  They are placed in an empty pot to honor the first turkey of Peanut's that went a flyin' out of the hot grease when they tried to fry it (it had over 2 gallons of moonshine in it an' went into orbit!  But that is another story)  The turkey carcasses may be decorated but no extra moonshine can be injected.  The FAA put a stop to fully injected turkeys a couple years back.  They are lit in the pot an' the one flyin' the furthest wins.

Cousin Peanut has a demonstration after we all eat tomorrow.  He had a 16 pounder injected with a full gallon of shine.  A harness is on the bird - sort of like a dog harness up in Alaska.  The other end has sort
of a para-sail that my Cousin Peanut will be attached to.  He is hopin' to be launched way up into the upper atmosphere where he will release the turkey and float gracefully like "eiderdown" as he put it back to
the town where he will be greeted as the hero he is.

'Course you know there is some bad blood 'tween me an' Peanut since the first accidental turkey launch.  I brought the squirrels an' the Santy suit down to be the highlight of the parade.  The ol' back end of the
coat drug the ground all through downtown Beloved - all 1/4 mile of the parade route.  Folks laughed an' said it looked like Santy had done dirtied his diaper... needed some Depends. Then Peanut not only causes his
turkey to go into orbit (accidental, might I add) but ol' NASA had to award him all them medals.  Sheesh.

I suspect somethin' might go wrong with the harnessed turkey Peanut will be attached to.  Bound to be a mishap, I reckon.

I'll let y'all know more after the events of tomorrow.  In the meanwhile, Happy Thanksgivin' to you an' yours from me, the youngins an' Oh My Darlin'.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Up Above

              the clouds
the Sun...              

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Note of Thanks

Dear Cousins,
This humble mountain boy wants to thank you for sojourning here with me as I write.  This experiment in my storytelling blog continues to be a good thing in many ways.  Foremost it is a venue for my dreaming of that place which I love - the hills of Appalachia... the hills and hollers of Eastern Kentucky in particular.

If you haven't noticed, the hills are being stripped bare very quickly right now.  The wind and rain steadily pull the glorious colors from the trees.  the squirrels and birds are plucking a bounty from the branches in the form of acorns, berries, hazelnuts, hickory nuts and the treasure for man and wild critters, black walnuts.

I see old men and women out in the fields with gunny sacks gathering the walnuts, most still in their husk.  Hap Collins has a big ol' pile in his gravel drive. He runs over the nuts each time he comes or goes, thus knockin' off the hand staining husk.  Eventually he will gather the walnuts up and help his wife shell them for her famous walnut coffee cake as well as a few fruitcakes that will be laced with bourbon (bought from P. Poovey who still makes small quantities of "red likker" from a 200 year old recipe that he alleges came straight from Elijah Craig of Georgetown, Kentucky... the father and inventor of Kentucky bourbon.  Dr. Poovey as he likes to be called still cuts the oak for barrel staves, makes the small barrels he uses  the age the white likker into red likker and hand chars each barrel with charcoal as the recipe calls for.)

There still are a few gardens holding on.  Most have gourds, squash and punkins laying in the field till ready.  A few will hide sweet and Irish taters in the ground, just waiting to be uncovered like tuberous treasures.  The heavy frosts of the last week have killed all the tomato vines as well as what lettuce might be left.

It will soon become bleak in the mountains for many.  It is a wonderful time, however.  A man can walk the hills and rest on a stump for a while just to see Mom Nature in her sweet rest.  Sit long enough and the woods mice will run out and dance right on the tops of your boots.  I know, the have danced thus for me.

So, again my thanks, dear cousins.

I remain,

Friday, October 21, 2005

Fall Dances in the Streets

It is wet and rainy tonight.  The wind has been cutting into my sweatshirt as I walked a bit in the dark.  The distant towns create a glow on a navy blue horizon and hint at civility.  The promise of fall is stronger than it has been.  It is a reality that goes beyond the warmth of harvest colors like brown, yellow, red and orange.

Tonight there is a willfulness in the air.  A secret anger in the weather as if Fall is spiteful at being left so late in the year.  It challenges the frailty of men and laughs in the wind as I hunch shoulders and cover my head with my hood.  Tonight fall is a bully, pushing its way into time and my life.  It dares me to try to keep warm and mocks my efforts.  It sits and taunts, makes fun and laughs at my thoughts and what I have to say.

It belittles me and makes me feel small and worthless.  It is a Fall that seeks to control, to drive me away, to drive me into a warm place.

When I am inside it will laugh and race up the hills and familiar haunts it has known so well from countless Falls loosed on the hills of home.  Fall will swirl wet and dead leaves round like whirlpools of worthlessness.  It will claim victory for the visiting team and crow in the moonlight a victory that it has claimed year after year, season after season.

Too soon it will be hushed like a cur dog, however.  Too soon it will be crushed by the real giant - Winter.  Winter will step into the valleys and claim present and place from meager Fall.  It will tell Fall it is a mere transition, just a passing of time from Summer in all the green glory to Winter with pristine snowy whites and crisp frozen venues.

Fall dances in the streets tonight, but not for long, not for long.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Cotton Candy Foggy Morning

Sometimes I just need to share a sight or observation.  I hope you don't mind my wanderin's this morning.

This week is the first week that I am really seeing fall's welcome approach.  Bein' a mountain boy I look for the change of color and noticed it a while ago in sugar maples, crabapples an' a few oaks.  They just hinted that it was fall, but with harvest in full swing most folks didn't notice much.

This week was different.  Oh My Darlin' an' I had to scrape a hint of frost off windshields yesterday mornin'.  We pulled another ol' quilt out a couple nights ago an' snuggled a bit deeper into our down pillows.

Tthe colors on the hillsides are not bashful now and are beginnin' to be show offs as they prepare for fall.

This is a season of plenty in the hills.  Farmers an' regular folks are puttin' up canned goods, dryin' apples for fried pies this winter, dryin' beans so folks will have shuck beans on the coldest nights to warm their bellies an' hearts.  Some of the fellers around an' about are startin' their huntin' season, ready to fill their freezers for the cold winter ahead.

What I will remember most, however, about this fall is a sight I want to share...  I was goin' up a road the other day real early.  Only a few folks were even steppin' out into the foggy dawn when I came down a hill into a little spot where several creeks come together in a field.  There are a few trees, mostly walnut but a few sumac that are already bright red.

When I looked into the field the fog was thick an' had such substance.  It was almost like the good Lord had poured cotton candy into that field an' was usin' them trees to wrap the cotton candy around.  The fog just hung tight to the trees like it was somethin' sweet, a treat for the eyes if not the belly.

The sweet grasses were like Velcro, holdin' on also to keep the thick mist right there in that meadow.  A couple timid does wandered through an' I spied them as they would lift their heads with ears like radar sets movin', ever movin' an' lookin' for danger.

No danger there, though.  I wanted to stop an' walk into that misty meadow, feel the thick dampness in my nose an' lungs.  Choke out the automobile air an' suck in the scent of sweet grasses, the dampness an' musky scent of deer an' feel the wet mist wrap around me like cotton candy.

I was jealous of them trees, dear cousins.  Oh, to stand there and let the dawn dress me, to swath me in robes of clouds.  How lucky they are, how blessed.

I then awoke from my daydream an' went on about my mornin's tasks.  Happier (if that is possible) for the seein'.  Pleased at the secret I spied.

I wonder how many folks passed the same sight an' didn't even look away from the road to see that pleasant vista?  How many thought if was wonderful an' how many were displeased by the drive in the fog?

The beauty was in my eyes that frosty dawn.  It asked me to tell you, "oh, stop an' looky, stop an' see".

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Cold Weather

Cold weather tonight.
Frost on the grapevines
Just tickled the windowpane.

Snuggle deep
Down into your quilt
Sink into your feather-bed

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Inez Poovey

I hate to write an' tell y'all bad things in this letter.  I usually try to lift your little ol' hearts with the warmth an' humor of my home town of Beloved, Kentucky.  I have spent several hours today after church meetin' an' quite a while on Saturday mornin' at the Henny Penny cornered in a booth with Inez Poovey tryin' to eat my ham an' biscuits with three eggs over easy while she carried on with wailin' an' gnashin' of teeth.

Now, if you remember who is kin to who, y'all will remember that Inez is Birdie Sue Poovey's Aunt, that is to say she is Percival Poovey's sister.  I do remember folks sayin' Inez is older than Percy.  He is 67 but Inez claims to be somewhere in her 50s.  I think that's a road she has been lost on for a right smart while, if you get the meanin' of that.

Anyways, Inez is a spinster woman.  She never got married but devoted her life to the Carnegie Library in downtown Beloved.  Years ago she told Percival, her brother she was havin' a hard time readin' the books in the library an' he suggested she needed glasses.  He first tried a couple bottles of his Dr. Ironbeard's Tincture of Papyrus.  (yes, I may have given away a family secret.  Percival Poovey is none other than the world famous Dr. Ironbeard, purveyor of potent potables an' medicine man to the Crown Heads of Europe.  'Least that's what his medicine wagon says on the side)

Well, Inez never did get no relief with the Tincture, so she talked about gettin' glasses. Her brother saw a big outlay of cash comin' in someone's direction, so he thought fast.  He got him a couple of them little ol' coke bottles, broke the bottoms off an' used his stone wheel to smooth the edges.  He mounted the bottle bottoms in an ol' pair of sun-glass frames - you know, them little plastic ones youngin's wear at the beach an took 'em over to Inez.

When he got to the library he also turned on all the lights.  Seems Inez never turned 'em on before.  She was afraid the electric waves would alter her genetic makeup an' change her into some alien thing or a were-librarian or some such.  When Percival put them glasses on her, an' suggested some librarians looked over the tops of their glasses to actually read, Inez was just plum beside herself.  She could see!

Well, when she looked over the tops of them glasses she could read because the lights were finally on, but her sorry ol' brother weren't gonna tell her that.

So, for years she has bumbled around town, knockin' into folks an' solid objects while tryin' to see through them coke bottle glasses.

About a year ago a brand spankin' new McDonald's came into Manchester, the county seat of Clay County.  Inez took to drivin' over to McDonald's an' gettin' one of them Happy Meals.  Since she was so short anyways, an' wore them children's sunglasses, the folks in McDonald's felt sorry for her an' sold kid's meals to her.

She would sit an' eat her Happy Meal, play with the toy inside the box an' go home to add the toy to her ever growin' collection.  Ever' Saturday afternoon she would drive slowly in her big ol' 1957 Chevy BelAire convertible - the one with the metal whiskers on each side to keep Inez from goin' over too far to either side, all the way to Manchester an' to the McDonald's.

Last April she decided to sit outside an' enjoy the spring air.  She sat on a bench an' ate quietly, as was her habit.  After a while, she noticed a quiet gentleman sittin' on the other end of the bench.  She smiled an' glanced at him through her glasses.  He didn't move away, so she took that as a good sign.

All through April an' into May she sat in the sun an' ate on that bench ever Saturday afternoon.  Y'all won't believe this, but that quiet gentleman joined her time after time.  She took to talkin' to him, tellin' him her life story eventually.  She told him things no one else knew of her, her hopes, dreams, ambitions to be a world class yodeler an' all such things.  He always listened politely an' eventually the conversations got more serious.  He was there ever' time Inez showed up, just waitin' for her.

A woman could have her head turned with that kind of quiet, gentlemanly attention.

Then, when Inez got serious, started talkin' about a future with the feller, he clammed up.  Wouldn't say a word about Inez's new dress, her dye job on her hair, or even how nice the day was.  When she talked of marriage he was silent, unwillin' to make any kind of commitment.

Finally, it was more than Inez could take.  She went one more time to McDonald's, bought her a Happy Meal an' went out to the bench.  There HE was, sittin' quiet like, just waitin' for her.

Inez couldn't take it anymore.  She lit into him an' told him he was not the man for her.  He was too quiet.  A woman needs a little conversation, not just comfort.  She plain ol' read him the riot act.  After she finished, he just sat there, not knowin' what to say, she reckoned.  Inez left, swearin' never to return to McDonald's, for it was no longer a happy place for her.

That's where I came in.  I was there in the Henny Penny eatin' an' sort of flirtin' with Bessie Bowlin', the prettiest gal in Beloved, when Inez came in.  She cornered me, tellin' me the whole story.  Somehow, as I tried to console her, I ended up promisin' to go over on Saturday afternoon an' have a talk with her gentleman friend... if he would show up.  She felt that as heartbroken as he had to be, he would surely be there.

So, I drove over to Manchester an through the McDonald's lookin' for her bench an' her gentleman friend.  She had given me a good description, or as good as it got with Inez, considerin' her bottle bottom glasses.  I drove through the parkin' lot twice before I spied the bench behind some rhodedendrons's in the front.

I parked an' got out, already goin' over what I would say.  I got me a coke an' went out front to find this feller who broke Inez's heart.  I walked to the' was sure taken aback when I got there.

No, they weren't no other woman.  Inez's gentleman friend was sittin' there on the end of the bench.  I knew him from her description.  I actually had seen him many times before.  Her description was pretty dang good, considerin'.

You see, sittin at the end of that bench was a life size fiberglass Ronald McDonald, made right into the bench for youngin's to come an' sit beside for photos an' all.  Sure enough, Inez had described hime well, "red headed, a little pale skinned, like he didn't get out much.  Maybe he drinks a little, his nose had the bright red appearance of a closet drinker.  He has lost weight cause his clothes are Lord love him, he has the biggest feet I ever did see on a man."

I sat for a few minutes thinkin'.  I looked over to Ronald, but he had little to say.  I could see why Inez took to him.  Celebrity is attractive.

I am the one who had to go back an' tell her she was a courtin' a fiberglass statue.  She didn't believe me at first, so I suggested she look over the rim of her bottle bottom glasses at the place-mat I brought home.  There on the place mat was Ronald in all his redhead glory.

Inez demanded I take her over to Manchester an' show her the statue, which I did.  She was just all torn up.  Said she would never trust a man with her feelin's again.

I didn't know she actually did the first time.  Well, she went home to grieve an' I went by a cousin of mine's home for a visit.  I stopped by Cap Hollen's for a cup of coffee an some punkin pie from his wife, Ruthie.  We talked for a while an' Cap agreed with me... first thing he was gonna do on Monday was to move that scarecrow further into his field.

Y'see, Inez walks righ past that field ever' day on her way to work.  We're hopin' she don't notice the scarecrow if it is in the middle of his truck patch.  She don't need no more romance just now.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Race for Color

The leaves on the hills
Above the old cabin
At the starting gate
Waiting for the gun.

Which will be the first
To show some color
Glory in the changing
Coming of fall?

Maple, Oak or dogwood
Sourwood too
Each wishing some color
Orange, yellow or red

Friday, September 30, 2005

Change of Weather

Fall is sneakin' in,
Real quiet like.
Not windy an' blowin' or
Leaves a droppin' fast.

No sir, Fall ain't
Comin' like that.
Real gentle like
Tryin' to be nice.

Just you wait,
You'll see I'm right.
One night the windows
Will be closed 'fore bed.

They'll be a quilt
Folded at the foot
Of an already blanketed bed
Just in case.

Fall's comin', y'all.
Mark my word, now.
Wrappin' round things
Hunkerin' down in the hollers.

Don't be invitin'
Fall home , now.
They's too much to do.
Cannin' needin' done.

Fall will have a chance.
Just let it be.
Don't be wishin' for
Cold weather just yet.

Too much to be done.

Fallen Apples

There is something about
Windfall apples.
It is as if
God plucked them
Just at the point
They are sweetest.
Then He reminds us
That all life is frail
By leaving the bruises
The worms and the bad spots.
Daring folks to stop
Pick up an apple
Look past the corruption
And taste and see...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Wanted: Those who love a lonely job

It has been said, by someone more important than I, someone who knows the world better and who says things others remember so well, that writing is a lonely job.  It is more than lonely, it is thankless most times.

I do not know why writers write.  Why poets po (small pun), why storytellers tell anymore than I know why the wind tastes sweeter at the top of a mountain, surrounded by honeysuckle, mountain laurel and sourwood, by vistas that make the eyes ache at the seeing of them. 

Perhaps it is a wicked muse that haunts them, that filles their sleeping and their waking with the same dreams they must take up pen and put on paper.  That muse not letting them rest till they change and tweak and twitch words and lines till they seem to fit like a puzzle or a glove upon the hand of the writer's soul.  Or perhaps it is just till they are the flavor the muse seeks...hungers for and dines upon.

Of course that muse is never sated, never full and always seeking the next taste.

Perhaps it is the fleeting chance of fame... nope, that cannot be it, for I would have stopped by now, knowing that fame will never arrive by mail or delivered to my door.  I do not believe fame knows my zipcode.

Perhaps it is the need to say things that rest on the tongue, on the mind that will not let the writer stop and sleep.  Perhaps it is a hope that something one says will touch a heart, change a mind.  Perhaps the teller of tales will keep the memory of a time, a place alove and not lost.  Perhaps, dear cousin, the folks who stood in that time and place will not be forgotten, but immortalized by the memories and tapping of the writer's computer.  Perhaps the love and life they gave will rest in the minds of the reader.

Therefore, dear reader, I write.  I must at times, I do at others.  It is a play pretty one rolls in their minds and plays with when the mind is idle.

Sometimes, however it is good to know that someone is on the other side of the writer's mirror, looking back. 

So, Let me know if you are there.  Unlike the comic on the well lit stage, I cannot hear you breathing in the darkness.  Speak up, leave a message to mark your passing as you read.  Let me know that you stopped by and sat for a while.  Pat the old pooch on the head and say, "good boy".

It'll make my tail wag, I betcha.

Stephen the Storyteller

Friday, September 23, 2005

Just One More Bite

Old man lay in bed, stuck in a nursin' home.
All alone, no one left but him
To talk 'bout old days, remember Mama and Pap.
Laugh over family doin's or mourn
Those gone before.
Eyes rimmed with white and sightless
All the meat gone from his bones.
Withered hand moves ever, ever seeking
Maybe searchin' for a tool.
Lookin' for somethin' to do.
Neighbor stops in, from the room next door,
Just to pause an' talk.
Says her howdy, wheels her chair close
Asks how he has been
If the world is treatin' him right.
Old man turns his head t'ward her
Smiles a toothless smile,
Yes, he's doin' mighty fine
Then asks, how 'bout her,
Has she heard news from home?
Indeed, she has, she shares it now,
Of folks he never knew,
Stories of great grandkids an' her kin.
He closes his eyes an smiles a while,
Thinkin, listenin'.
When she is done, he thanks her then
An' asks a favor too.
If she were home, an' was able now
If she had folks a' comin' in
Just what would she be cookin'?

Old woman grinned a knowin' grin.
They played this game before.
For folks stuck in a nursin' home
It was familiar fare
To talk of food an' the way it once had been.
If folks stopped by, I reckon then
I'd have to start right early.
Peelin' spuds an' roots an' all.
I reckon I'd need a little help.
So, don't lay there long, get out your knife
An' start now peelin'.
I reckon I'd put some Irish taters on to boil,
An' ad just a bit o' milk,
Makes them taters smooth an white
An' gives a sweeter taste.
While we're peelin' add some sweet taters,
I'll make sweet tater cassarole.
Fry a hen, real good an' crisp
Now, thinkin, maybe two.
Soak some good ol' country ham.
Make coffee for red eye gravy.
An' you just know I better have
Cream gravy for them spuds.
Crack some pecans, shell 'em out
For on top the cassarole.
Now, let me think, I know they's more
More I better do.
Yessir, better go to the back
Gather in some things,
Sweet peas to shelly out,
An apron full o' string beans.
A pan of lettuce for to wilt,
Green onions over there.
Grab a few head of cabbage, sweet.
I'll need to fry us some,
Melt a big ol' spoon o' bacon grease
Chop up that head an' throw 'er in.
We'll watch an' cook 'er down.
Add radishes, carrots, cucumber
Oh what a feast
I know we're gonna have.

Old woman sat an' talked,
In her mind she cooked many things.
She toiled with love o'er every dish,
She fussed an' fretted there.
She knew how to cook, knew it was good

Sunday, September 18, 2005

September Song

I think often of the hills of home and long to be there,
Where the twilight is just the setting of a scene
For the eternal song of the hills,
Sung by the bats - high and unheard by folks,
Tree frogs join in their high chorus
Along with cicadas, crickets
And dozens of little ol' singin' things.
The hooty owl gives chase to the tune with a baritone "whoooo".
The bass is sung by the thunder rollin' through the hills an' hollers of home.
The listener is just plain mountain folks...
Folks who knew to stay and listen.
I yearn to hear that nightly concert,
Sung the same night after night like a siren,
Callin' to those who have the hills in their blood.
Callin' like a lover to me.
Callin' my name as if it has known me forever...
For it has, it truly has.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Tears in Beloved

I won't go into the details of my Uncle Bert's death here and now, just know a dear person I loved went home.

I stayed at his home with family for many hours after his passing before leaving to stay at a cousin's home for a few days.  I'll share more about all that later.  Now I want to tell you of the journey in between.

On Tuesday I really needed some time to recover.  It is a traumatic thing to see a loved one die.  It is a blessed thing also, but it has such an impact on me each time I have been there... and as a pastor I was there more often than most folks.  Being with my Uncle was a moment that will change me more than most, I suspect.

I made my apologies to my cousin and left for Clay County - over to Double Creek, Little Creek and Gilbert's Creek where my family has lived for over 155 years.  My Great Great Great Grandpa and his brother were surveyors and between them they owned over 40,000 acres of the hills from 1804 on.  They would go across Cumberland Gap and sell land they had surveyed and claimed to folks.  They then took them to their property and helped them homestead.  The brother was John Gilbert - a State Senator for Kentucky and pretty well known in the hills.  If you have ever been in the Daniel Boone National forest in eastern KY then most likely you have been on family land taken by the government with little or no compensation.

First I went to the hillside where my Grandparents, Stephen and Myrtle Hollen lay.  Later I traveled to the head of Double Creek and met an old man whose name was a Wagers and was a distant cousin of mine.  He led me to the place where Jimmer Gray lived - another person in my stories - from "The Devil, The Dumbbull and Jimmer Gray"  a true story I tell.  I saw where my Grandma's family settled in 1844 and then went up to the fork of Big Double Creek  to wander  for a while.

I drove past Little Creek and the home where my Daddy was born.  I saw where the old apple orchard once stood.  My Grandma and Grandpa had a son they buried in that orchard 2 days after his birth.  Grandma named him Stephen, after my Grandpa.  He would have been my Uncle.  I am the 3rd Stephen Hollen, you see.

I went way back on an old road just past the park on Double Creek.  I drove slowly, way deep into the hollers and found a meadow full of wild flowers.  I pulled in and turned off the car to just sit and think for a while.

As I sat there the air was filled with hummingbirds.  Dozens of them flew through the meadow to feast on nectar of a thousand kind of wildflowers... cone flowers, black eyed Susans, Queen Anne's lace, purple loosestrife.  Their buzz filled the air.  If you sit quiet you can hear it and will recognize it as theirs.  The flowers were azure, butter yellow, purple and blue and tiny bright yellow flowers that hurt the eye to see they were so beautiful.

Like a host of dive bombers, the hummingbirds flew through a thousand dragonflies.  I have never seen so many dragonflies in my entire life.  It was like a flying circus as they played on the winds and flew all around me in the meadow.

Then other movement caught my eye.  Quietly, gently, not as dazzling were butterflies, black, yellow, blue and white.  They flew low from flower to puddle and back again.  As they flew they danced.  They danced a dance of frantic, season-ending love.  They danced a dance that has stepped to the rhythm of the seasons for all of creation.

I listened to the crickets, the tree-frogs and dozens, no hundreds of tiny musicians as they added their harmonies to the song of the hills.  They sang and danced just for me, dear cousins.  They sang of a Balm in Gilead; of a promise of more than this life.  They sang of the hills that call to those it loves.  They sang to me.  They danced a dance of healing for me.  It was as if the Creator called them from cleft and corner, from crevice and cave, from twig and vine to give me a gift me that day. 

With tears in my eyes I said, "Thank you" for this precious gift.  I sat for hours and perhaps I dozed.  As I thought to leave I saw a movement in the far end of the meadow.  Thinking it was a deer, I paused.  It was not a deer, cousins.  I was not sure what had wandered into my meadow.

I knew that elk had been released in that area, but had never seen one till that day.  I sat and watched a cow elk pace through the tall sweet grasses and part them like a sleek ocean liner parts the waters of the sea.  It was the "Amen" to a hymn of praise for the glory of the hills of my home.

I sat within a mile or so of where my ancestors had lived, toiled and died.  Just a piece from where my Daddy was born, where Aunts and Uncles laughed and loved.  I sat just down the creek from the best years of my childhood and it was like honey out of a rock.  From that meadow a balm of healing was poured.

I wish I could take you there, dear cousins.  I would that you had been at my side so I could grab your hand and say, "looky, looky there...and there, do y'all see it?  Wait, there is more, over there, cousin, see, do you see?"

I have no doubt I was lead home, to be with Uncle Bert, to be home, to pause and be refreshed.

I have traveled a lot recently, not been home as much as I want.  I am off to Delaware on Monday again and I needed that.  I needed that.  I needed to be there for my Uncle Bert and I am honored that I was called to his side.  I am blessed that I found that meadow and the balm of peace it held.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Junebug's Tattoo

Junebug Burns was one of the first to get to the cattle barn at the fairgrounds.  Carney folks had started arriving midweek and the midway was setup as Junebug's truck pulled into the gates of the grounds with ol' Sneezer in the cattle trailer.  Sneezer was the only animal in the trailer an' filled it from side to side.  Junebug just knew he was goin' to do well this year.  His last had to be his best.

As he unloaded his gear he headed into the back of the cattle barn.  The stalls an' such in the back had bigger bars for the big steers an' bulls.  Some of them big ol' Angus an' Bramas could lean on a lightweight gate an' bend it sure enough.  The small stall next to the great big stall reserved for Sneezer was Junebug's home for the next week.  Cot, mattress, clothes trunk an' tack box all went into the stall.  When it was organized to Junebug's liking, he took one more look around to make sure it would meet the critical eye of Mr. Jim Mosley, the 4H advisor for the cattle barn. 

Mr. Mosely was a former Marine an' ran the barn like a boot camp barracks.  "Keep it clean, beds made, tack put away, clothes stored an' the poop scooped up." was Mr. Mosley's mantra.  Junebug had started the rumor two years ago that Mr. Mosely had them words tattooed on his backside.  Joey Hoskins had the misfortune to believe Junebug enough that he asked Mr. Mosely about the alleged tattoo.  After Joey Hoskins was dressed down like a new recruit, Drill Sergent Mosley came lookin' for Junebug to chew on him for a while.  There was never a plug of burley tobaccer that was chewed any harder than that boy.  4Hers learned that you just didn't spread rumors about the cattle barn advisor.

In private Mr. Mosely shared the story with several of his buddies an' they all had a good laugh.  Uncle Billy Gilbert offered to pay for it if Jim Mosley would offer up his backside to the tattoo needle.  Jim Mosley graciously declined.  He did, however have his wife write the words back yonder with a fine point magic marker.  Late one night he walked into Junebug's stall where he lay reading, dropped his drawers an' showed the magic words in all their glory.  He never said a word an' walked away proudly afterward.  Junebug just sat in teenage awe...not daring to laugh or make a sound.  He felt it was some kind of "rite of passage" for Mr. Mosley to share that moment with him.

When all was ready in his stall, Junebug made the over-sized stall ready for Sneezer.  Fresh water in the big bucket, the portable manger hangin' from the side rail full of hay an' a few oats to make Sneezer feel welcome.  The dirt floor was well covered with straw, an' a grain shovel an' pitchfork stood at attention outside the stall, ready for the whims of nature to fall...ahem.  Nearby was a wheelbarrow ready to haul any "whims" outside to the compost pile.

With the gentle hand of a farm boy who loved his animals an' the quiet voice of a practiced handler, Junebug backed Sneezer out of the cattle trailer.  Cattle don't take much to walkin' backwards, so it was a testament to the trust Sneezer had that he slowly walked back an' out of the trailer with no hesitation.  'Course, Junebug had worked with the bull hundreds an' thousands of times over the last several years.  The pair paused an' Junebug patted Sneezer on the nose.  Sneezer responded by lickin' out an' almost slappin' the boy's face with his big warm tongue.  Junebug laughed an' put his face to the bull's as they stood for only a moment.  They then walked through the door of the barn an' into the stall.

After about an hour of brushing an' combing, Junebug was satisfied.  It was several days till the cattle judgin' an' the bulls were very last, so there was no real need to have the bull combed an' fluffed quite yet.  Junebug reminded Sneezer that there would be plenty of company an' they both had to look real good this year.

Before he left the barn he took out the wooden sign his Daddy had routed out for him on a solid piece of cherry wood an' hung it over the gate of the stall.  It said, "Thanks to the Farmers and Mercantile Bank for buying my Champion Steer last year."  Junebug had also showed a steer the previous year along with a Jersey heifer.  The steer had given Junebug a Champion ribbon an' had provided a nice amount of cash to go toward his college funds.  Sneezer had come in as a Champion last year as a two year old but did not win Grand Champion.  Junebug had not auctioned off Sneezer as a two year old since he wanted to enter him as a three year old - the last year that Junebug an' Sneezer would be eligible.  After this year Junebug would be off to college an' Sneezer would be out to pasture to sire dozens of offspring in the hills an' hollers around Beloved.

A quick trip through the produce barn told him Miss Hazel hadn't put out her entry yet.  There was a tradition that had to be kept.  One or two of Miss Hazel's prize tomaters always came up missin' each year after the judgin'.  Junebug an' Uncle Billy Gilbert would celebrate Miss Hazel's victory an' toast to her success with a little salt an' a wonderful, sinful red globe in hand.  Junebug Burns figured Miss Hazel deserved this for all the chasin' of Uncle Billy she did each year.  Since Aunt Del had died, Miss Hazel had made it her life's goal to end up with Billy Gilbert.  'Course, the fact she called him "Bill" instead of "Billy" told most folks she didn't know a thing about him an was about as likely to get him as a fish was to get fleas.

Down at the end of the midway was a big tent, worn lookin' if folks got too close in the day, but full of mystery at night as the barker would call to the crowd to come see Zambina the Gorilla Lady.  Zambina had become a pal of Junebug's an' he looked forward to talkin' with her over hot black coffee early one mornin' before the "rubes" showed up.  Junebug liked it that Zambina called folks "rubes" an' shared stories of the road, circuses an' countless county fairs with him.  She had showed him all the secrets of the "Gorilla Lady" show several years ago when he was a young pup.  He had looked on with wide eyes as each secret was revealed to him.  True to his promise, sworn on the shrunken head of a monkey, Junebug had never revealed the secrets to even his best friend.  Zambina was a late riser since she had late night shows, so he went on by an' down the way.

The roll of money in his pocket called to him.  The promise of food an' games an' fun seemed just a flip of a switch away.  Come dark tomorrow night an' this quiet patch of dust an' grass would become incandescent magic.  The sights an' sounds would pull at the wallets of even the most stingy.  Junebug was lookin' for the tattoo tent.  His Daddy had told him he could get one small tattoo.  Although he wasn't a Marine an' probably didn't deserve it, he had considered "semper fi" to honor Mr. Mosley.  Instead he would follow Eddie Carpenter's lead an' get a simple cross tattooed just to the side of his hipbone where it could be hidden by jeans or underwear.

It was goin' to be a good year at the fair.  Junebug just knew it.  After findin' the tattoo tent, he went back to the middle of the fairgrounds, picked out a bench an' sat down with his Case knife to whittle an' wait for friends.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Junebug's Last Fair

Junebug Burns was finally on his way with his last entry as a 4Her for the Clay County Fair.  He had an Angus bull named Sneezer that most 'round Beloved, Kentucky thought was the finest bull ever raised in the hills of Kentucky.  Junebug named it Sneezer when it was a calf because it would sniff at things an' then just sneeze up a fit, sort of like it was allergic to the whole world.  No one ever believed that calf would grow to win a prize as a year old bull much less be the amazin' animal that it was.

Sneezer was loaded into the cattle trailer an' was pushin' against the side with powerful shoulders.  Junebug could hear the metal of the trailer groanin'.  He grinned and knocked on the side of the trailer, whisperin' for Sneezer to stop that an' be on good behavior.  That bull was like a big ol' puppy dog with Junebug.  Folks said Junebug could probably teach it to dance if he took a mind to.  With just that one whisper ol' Sneezer relaxed an' stood still.  It was like he was a waitin' to get to the fair an show off in front of all them folks.

In the back of the pickup was a cot, a duffel full of clothes, two hat boxes with Stetson straw hats, a trunk of gear an' several buckets an' bags full of this an' that.  Most 4Hers lived at the fair for the week.  Junebug was sure goin' to be there an' enjoy his last fair.  He had shavin' cream to use when someone fell asleep as well as a new whoopee cushion ordered from the back of a Superman comic book.  It was goin' to be a great week.

The wallet in his pocket was full of cash this year.  Junebug had saved for a year so he would have the money to do whatever he wanted to do this year.  He was goin' to go out with a bang.  Him an' Sneezer would have the best year ever.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Comes the Fair

A County Fair isn't something that springs up overnight in the hills of Eastern Kentucky.  It is more like a covey of quails, sneakin' through the back roads an' wanderin' in when folks are asleep or lookin' the other way.  Maybe it is the gypsy nature of Carney folks that causes this quiet entrance.  Not like a circus with all the fanfare, parades an' carryin' on.  Piece by piece, truck by truck they come from all directions to settle into the fairgrounds close the Beloved, Kentucky.

At night you can hear the heavy grumble of diesel trucks as they pull the Tilt-A Whirl or maybe a Merry-Go-Round into the gates, free an' open to the public for anyone to watch.  Shame is no one stops to see the wonder of a fair bein' born.  Listen close an' hear the old pickup pullin' Collin's Famous Racing Pigs.  As it turns a corner the pigs are jostled from their rest and squeal their indignation.  They are stars and athletes after all.  They need their sleep.

At night folks can hear the rustling clank of chains as machinery is tightened an' moved to place.  Stop if y'all will an' see a Ferris Wheel borned right before your eyes in a matter of hours.  First it is just a flatbed platform, waiting for birth an' then with the help of strong men it rises from that bed to the blue Appalachian sky, just waitin' to take youngin's up an' show them the glory of the surroundin' hills.  If they take time to look, that is.  Most likely they will only have eyes for their darlin's an' never see the hills filled with holly, rhododendron, sassafras, hickory an' red oak trees just up yonder.

The Carney folks get in early, set up their village of tents an' travel trailers.  They become a village within our village of Beloved.  Soon enough the Fair Board an'; all the volunteers will descend on the fairgrounds an' begin the magic.  Folks from round here will begin to come with baked goods, baskets of the best of the harvest an' a whole rainbow of displays.

Soon enough the 4H youngin's an' their families will pull in with cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, poultry an' rabbits.  The barns will fill with the laughter of families separated by just a generation or two come together to watch their brood compete just as their Mamas an Daddies, Aunts an' Uncles did years back.  Some folks will stay in the same barms with their livestock that their Great Grandpas built, that their Grandparents showed sheep or cattle in.  They bring cots an' clothes in trunks to settle in for the glorious week of County Fair.

You come too, they'll make room for you.

Friday, July 22, 2005

4th of July Report

Well Cousins,
I have to tell you that the 4th of July in my hometown of Beloved was quite a big deal again this year.

Main Street was just loaded with buntings.  Annie Pankey, owner of Pankey's Hankies (the antique and lace goods store in town) got hold of a catalog from a flag company an' used her business to get the wholesale price on buntings.  Folks all up an' down Main Street kicked in an' bout them things to decorate storefronts, homes an buildings along the way.  Y'all have never seen anything as wonderful as red, white an' blue buntings movin' gentle like in the breeze down a busy street in some little ol' town like Beloved.

The Carnegie Library an' Pappy Yokum Masonic Lodge #149 ordered the great big ol' buntings for their buildin's right in the center of town next to Founder's Square.  The Square was decorated an' even the gazebo like buildin' that houses the still sleepin' form of Sleepy Jean had buntings all around.  All that hammerin' an' carryin' on actually made Sleepy Jean roll over to one side for a week or two.  Imagine that, after sleepin' for all those years undisturbed, she actually rolled over... course Sleepy Jean is another story.

You may have heard me tell the story of my Cousin Peanut's fried turkey a couple years back.  Seems he injected a small tom he shot with a quart of cajun sauce and 2 gallons of the best moonshine that the hills of Appalachia ever produced.  When that thing hit the hot peanut oil in the fryer, it took off,  going interstellar almost and ended up feedin' them American boys what was livin' on that Russian Space station a fine turkey dinner complete with little plastic flags attached to each wing...but that ain't the point of my story.

Since it is customary to do fireworks on the 4th of July, the town Elders - that's John and Fred Elder who are the only folks who will come to the 4th of July plannin' meetin's, the Elders decided that usin' the basic idea of injectin' chickens, Cornish hens or turkeys with moonshine an' then firin' 'em off fit right in.

They was a Cornish hen race for the youngin's - ages 5 to 12.  They each was given a one pound Cornish hen and four ounces of moonshine to inject into the tail of the bird.  They was allowed to decorate it anyway they wanted as long as they didn't add more than the four ounces of shine and 1 additional ounce of decorations.  They placed the birds in a trough made of gutter pipe with an open end an' aimed them dang birds no more than 12 degrees in the air.  Longest flight wins.

Johnny Ray Sizemore added little bat wings to his an' painted it black in honor of his favorite comic book hero an' won!  Believe it or not his bird went 17 miles before sputterin' out.  Charlie Jenkins got honorable mention 'cause that dang coyote got a-hold of his bird before folks found it and measured.  It may have went 16.4 miles or the coyote might have found it an' carried it that far before it was ate... no one knows so they gave him the benefit of the doubt.

For the adults they was a limit of a 7 pound turkey with no decorations an' 12 ounces of moonshine.  The FAA put that limitation on due the the plain fact that last year's races messed up the flights of folks goin' in an' out of Lexington, Kentucky's airport.  The winner was Birdie Sue Poovey who saw her bird go 4 miles into the air before explodin' in a show of outer space oyster dressin' filled with sparklers on little ol' hankie parachutes that floated down just a twinklin' like fallin' stars.  'Course her daddy is Percival Poovey, "Purveyor of Potent Potables"... that is to say, he makes the moonshine.  We suspect he did up a special batch just for her.  So she is "Flyin' Shine Turkey Queen" this year.  We had a little ol' turkey crown made up with real Saworski crystals an' everthin'.  The back end of the turkey fits on her head an' the tail hangs down on her forehead like some jewel.  Man, was she somethin' to see.

We fried turkeys all day, but did not allow any to be injected with moonshine.  FAA rules an' all, you know.

The night ended with fryin' hens filled with fireworks an' injected with just a few ounces of moonshine shot off about a mile or so into the  air.  The fireworks an' moonshine burnin' would cook them fryin' hens as they came down, explodin' them into nicely broasted legs, thighs, wings and perfectly split breasts done to perfection.  Folks who had been there before brought sheets, butterfly nets an' the occasional bow an' arrow to try to snag a piece as it fell to earth in the fading light.

Dozens of youngin's ran around through the crowd chasin' each other like youngin's do.  A few couple sat an' gazed deep into each other's eyes an' missed the whole display.  Older folks sat an' talked quietly while they watched, rememberin' the way it used to be an' all.

It was a good 4th of July in Beloved.  I can't wait till Sheep Dip Days.  Now, that is one great festival!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Come go with me
Let's run away now.
Follow me to the hills
I'll take you to my secret place.

Run away now
Don't think.
Don't wait for the world
To talk sense into your head.

Follow me, come
I'll show you magical places
Where whipperwills call
So mournful you'll cry.

Walk deep into the hills
Step slow in the shadows.
Far under the tall hickory
Neath the giant oak.

Just walk away
Away from the rush.
Away from the hurry
The busy that robs the soul.

Stop an' listen a bit
Close your eyes.
Open your ears and wait
There, can you hear?

Do you see, smell taste
Oh, it is good.
It is clean an' new an' callin'
Can't you hear?

Won't you hear
Please just listen.
Don't be wooed
By the hustle an' rush.

Stop, don't run
Don't run back.
Them hills need you
Much as you need them.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sky Dance

I was in my favorite place for the last few days - Kentucky, riding
with some of my reps.  About 11:30 on Wednesday we stopped at a hospital
to make a call on a pediatrician.  As we were going toward the door my
cell phone rang and I stopped to take the call while the rep went on in.

As I was standing at the side of the parking lot and talking I was
scanning the sky and looking at the wonderful blue background for the high
white clouds when I noticed a bird flying.

At first I thought it might be a smaller bird that was very close, but
I realized it was riding the thermals...circling and flying higher as I
watched.  I hung up and stood in that spot and watched the show of a
lifetime.  It was a red tail hawk (It eventually flew right over me and I
could tell) and was enjoying the clear sky like a kid at an amusement

It would soar and catch a thermal to ride to the heights.  When one
would give out I could see it keep wings spread but slowly fall to lower
spaces.  then suddenly it would begin that familiar circling as a
wingtip caught another thermal.  Up and up it would go again, over and over
it did this.  If you imagine the sky above me like a horizontal clock,
I first noticed the hawk at about 11:00 on the horizontal plane.

For ten minutes it rode the winds as it made a slow circle all around
me.  It rode up in circles then would soar till another was found.  When
it was almost overhead I looked up and saw the patterns on its belly
and under wings and knew it was a red tail.

When I had watched for almost fifteen the hawk was in the sky behind
the hospital building.  I moved several times to keep it in sight but it
finally was fully behind the building.  I almost ran to the other end
of the small country hospital only to catch a glimpse of the hawk
soaring away...searching for another thermal to lift it up into the heights.

I thought of the connections my family has to the Cherokee, Choctaw and
Powhatan tribes and realized how precious those distant ancestors would
have thought that sight.  No wonder many Native Americans felt the hawk
and eagle were sacred.

I hoped at first the lady I was with that day would come out so I could
show her.  After several minutes I hoped she would remain inside so I
could stay as long as possible and see this amazing sight...and she did.

I suspect thousands could have stopped and seen the same sight if they
had looked up.  I wondered as we rode on to our next appointment...who
shared that sight with me?  Did anyone bother to take time from their
day and look to the heavens, did they look into the blue sky and just
scan the clouds that day just to "see" the world around them?

My guess is they did not.  Most heads were probably down, grounded in
the grind of that moment.  I feel blessed that I was privy to the joy of
that one lone red tail hawk as it danced the air for me.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Daddy's Dulcimer


Back in about 1989 I purchased a McSpadden dulcimer for my Dad.  He had
had an old electric guitar for years and plunked around on it.  Daddy
admitted to everyone that he was a terrible guitar player.  Never took
lessons, just sat and plunked and sang to his old dog he called "Red
Dog".  I thought the dulcimer would be easier for him and it was something
that would tie him to out mountain roots back in the hills and hollers
of eastern Kentucky.

He played the dulcimer some, not as much as I would like.  He still
loved to plunk on that old guitar.  Daddy and Mama lived on Cherokee Lake  - around
Bean Station, TN from 1976 till about 1996 when they moved to the Dayton
area to be closer to me and my brother.  When he was living by the lake
he would gather goose feathers and play his dulcimer with them.

My Daddy died last year on May 15 of lung cancer.  He was 79 and had
been smoking since he was 8 or 9,  We found out on April 4 he had cancer
and he lasted only 41 days.  My Mama gave some of his things away
pretty quickly - his clothes mostly.  She gave me my Grandpa's pistol he
used as a guard at the Bluegrass Depot in Lexington, KY since I am named
after my Grandpa.  Here and there she would come across something and
give it to me or my brother.
I didn't say much about the dulcimer, but I let my brother know
privately if something happened to Mama I wanted our Dad's dulcimer. (I bought
my brother one last year about the time my Daddy died, so he does have
one)  Mama played the dulcimer a little sometimes and I didn't want to
ask her for something she might want to keep.

I was over there last week visiting and my Mama brought the dulcimer
out and handed it to me as I was leaving.  She said she
wanted to make sure I got it, had been meaning to give it to me but it was
hard to part with things sometimes.  After a hug and some tears on both
our cheeks I went home.

When I was home and alone I opened the case and pulled out the walnut
dulcimer.  Under it were 3 goose feathers trimmed by my Daddy so he could
play with them.  I had changed the strings 2 years ago and the old ones
were still in there, wound up.  He had written on a piece of paper how
to tune the dulcimer by ear.  Mama gave me his 4 dulcimer music books

I got out my tuner and started to tune it.  I noticed something on the
fretboard and had to put my glasses on to see.  Daddy had used an ink
pen and written the number 7 at the seventh fret, an 11 on the eleventh and 13 on the
thirteenth in ink!  I was mortified at first, then laughed to myself.  Daddy
was plain and simple.  He didn't have fancy mother of pearl dots or
anything, so he marked the frets himself.

I love that dulcimer better than meat loves salt, cousins.  I tuned it
d-a-a-d, I like the soulful sound it makes tuned like that and played
for over an hour...My Old Kentucky Home, Farther Along, Amazing Grace,
Tennessee Waltz (the lullaby my Daddy sung to me as a baby.)

I am glad it has his numbers printed on the fretboard.  It is
him...just like him to do that.

I have it now right beside my treasured dulcimers, one Bob Mize made
for me out of wormy chestnut, the Homer Ledford with the swan head.
(these are both treasures by the finest dulcimer makers of this day, though
Bob Mize died 2 years ago)  If I had to give one up, it wouldn't be
that old McSpadden for it is truely a treasure.

It is one of those things you keep, things you treasure.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Double Creek

If you could drive back about 30 or 40 years an' turn off Route 66 near Peabody you would go up Double Creek.  After a while your car would pass a big hole of water.  This hole was where I spent my time on hot summer days, swimmin' with my little brother an' my cousin.  It may not seem real big or real deep, but it was just enough for three young boys.  We would jump from the low water bridge that crossed over the far end of the hole an' slither around the banks like mudpuppies, lurk underwater as if we were catfish just waitin' for a crawdaddy to come sneakin' along.  The water would be cold an' sweet as we played.

Later we would dry off on the towels we brought with us.  Youngin's were never allowed to take good towels out of the house.  These were towels that came in boxes of laundry powder an' had been used for so long they were thin as bedsheets.  Now, I don't reckon they did much dryin 'back then, but we didn't really care.  Them towels were draped over out necks as we walked an' sometimes ran back to home.  Maybe they would be rolled up into rat-tails an' used to slap the bare legs of my little brother or occasionally even me when them other boys was feelin' braver than they should.  One lick on my leg - tanned dark as tobacco by the many days in the sun an' I was after them all the way back.  I would hit 'em a lick an' run an' hit 'em another lick.  By the time they was home the red welts made their legs look like patchwork quilts.

That hole of water was also the baptizin' hole for folks on Double Creek.  There wasn't no official church there.  Just a circuit ridin' preacher that stopped by the Double Creek School once a month on his circuit.  My Aunt Mag, Aunt Bess an' Uncle Bill all were baptized in that hole of water.

Since we was Baptist there was not as much hurry to get folks baptized.  Some churches down home, like Booger Holler Holiness Church felt that folks had to be baptized to get saved an' they hauled a feller off right away after church to the creek an' our little swimmin' hole.  They would gather round an' the preacher, Brother Woodrow Budder would wade in in a white shirt, black pants an' black tie to wait for the new Christians to step into the water.  I found out back then that the preacher kept an old pair of pants, shirt an' tie at their church to change into just for the baptizin'.  We hid that preacher's tie once when we knew he might be doin' some baptizin'.  Jimmy Lipps was feelin' plenty of conviction an everyone just knew a good ol' "hellfire an' damnation" sermon would get him out of his seat an' down the aisle.  Brother Woodrow was fit to be tied when he realized his tie was missin'.  It weren't proper to baptize in an open neck shirt so he wore his good one an' put the end of it in a samwich bag to keep it dry.

When Jimmy got saved they all headed down to the creek.  Folks was waitin' an' when they passed the Baptist folks we all got in our cars an' trucks an' headed down too.  Women stopped long enough to get pies, cakes, deviled eggs, green beans, dumplin's, soup beans, baked ham, biscuits, raised rolls an' all the fried chicken they had in baskets so as to have a dinner on the ground when the baptizin' was over.  Even though we was different in some things, we all celebrated at the renewal of one come home an' from the paths of sin.

While folks got things ready for Jimmy's baptizin' the women from up an' down the creek was busy.  There were some ol' planks that were laid up under a tree like a tepee so they wouldn't rot.  They was left there just for such occasions.  Some of the older boys placed the planks on concrete blocks left there an' made rough tables for the food to be spread out on.  The young girls would spread blankets an' tablecloths out on the grass an help put out the dishes an' flatware.

Over to one side the men an' a few women that played any sort of instrument, guitar, banjo, fiddle, dobro, mandolin an' dulcimer would be tunin' up an' talkin' over what songs they would play an' in what order.  Someone would confer with the baptismal candidate to see if they was some special requests an' what to play when they went down under the waters.  Jimmy asked for "In the Garden", his Mama's favorite hymn as the one to be played as he was baptized.

Finally time was right an' all the preparations were done.  The food smelled wonderful an' we all suspected that it was more planning than providence that caused such a spread to be laid out.  As I said, folks knew Jimmy was ready to depart from his sinful ways.

Brother Woodrow was a large man.  He was about 5'9" an weighed about as much as a young heifer.  When he walked into the creek he floated a bit till he got his feet planted in the mud an' turned around.  Jimmy started down into the waiting arms of his pastor who had a hankie in one hand to put over the baptismal candidate's nose so no creek water would get in an' drown a person.

About the time Jimmy was half way into the creek a big ol' snappin' turtle determined to stick his head up right behind Brother Woodrow.  Mrs. Ledford screamed an' pointed.  Brother Woodrow turned an' saw that turtle head right even with his chest an' he took off like a crazy man.  He jumped plumb up straight into the air an' back down again, splashin' all gathered at the edge of the creek with more water than you could shake a stick at.  He commenced to swim as fast as he could an' that snappin' turtle got real interested in Brother Woodrow's head.  It came at him an' was winnin' the race.

Now, I don't know when a baptizin' was so excitin'  I had been waitin' to sneak a deviled egg, but when I head the commotion, I ran to see what was goin' on.  There it was, Brother Woodrow swimmin' to beat the band an' that snappin' turtle just a glidin' out after him.

When it got close it opened its mount an that ol' neck reached out about ten feet it seemed.  When it got to Brother Woodrow's head it clamped down an' Brother Woodrow let out a scream.  He kept on swimmin' an the snappin' turtle started pullin' in the other direction.  We was all lookin' for blood in the water!  Yet there weren't nary a drop.

Then the impossible happened.  Brother Woodrow's scalp lifted away from the top of his head an' the turtle renewed its efforts till that preacher's hair came right off into that turtle's mouth.  Women fainted an' Sister Hazel Nutt Budder, Brother Woodrow's wife turned an' walked away red as a beet.  Men went into the water to save Brother Woodrow an' perhaps staunch his bleedin' scalp.

When they pulled him in he was exhausted.  He laid on the bank with a dish towel wrapped around his head for a long time.  When he caught his breath he turned white as a sheet an' reached under the towel to feel his head.  As he felt around the towel slipped off an' we all gasped.  Brother Woodrow Budder was as bald as a frog!  He had some sticky tape on his head that must have been holdin' his wig on.  More women fainted an' the men turned away in shame.

You see, it ain't fittin' for a man to have that much vanity.  Brother Woodrow was so ashamed he got on his knees an' confessed his sin of pride right there.  He asked forgiveness an' asked to be re-baptized right along with Jimmy.  Some of the men of the Booger Holler Holiness Church did the honors an' Brother Woodrow came up a shoutin' an carryin' on like he had seen the gates of pearl.

From that day on, Brother Woodrow Budder preached every service as bald as can be, never ashamed of the little bit of hair that was his.

Now that was a baptizin'!!

Monday, May 30, 2005


I'm a travelin' man
And I love to roam.
I have me a house
But its not my home.
I roam the hills
Goin' here and there.
Not carin' much
When folks stop,
Look an' stare.

Cause I'm a travelin' man.

I walked the hills
One dark lonely night
Heard a noise
Gave me a fright.
It was a squall
Like a voice o' the dead.
Screamin' angry
Woke folks out of bed.
Peeked around
What did I see?
A big ol' coon
Grinnin' at me.

Cause I'm a travelin' man.
A ramblin' man
A raggedy shaggedy taggedy man
That's what I am.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Would I Know You?

Would I know you if I saw you
As we passed along the street?
Would we glance once and again
Thinking we knew that face?
Then would old memories return
As we stopped to ponder or wait?
Or would we go on, shrugging
Thinking it was just a passing
Just a glance that led the mind astray?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Wheezer Jenkins

Don't know if I ever told y'all about Wheezer Jenkins.  She is the only British subject livin' in Beloved, Kentucky.  Wheezer is a short an' very proper lady with platinum hair cut right short an' them glasses folks wear after they have cataracts - you know the ones...look like she is lookin' through auto headlights.  Wheezer's real name is Lydia.  Her Mama named her after that song "Lydia the Tattooed Lady".  Now Wheezer don't have no tattoos, she was just named after that song.

Wheezer married Billy Joe Jenkins, the yodeling champion of the continental United States when he was a visitin' her hometown of Brighton, England years back.  There is this big ol' theater sort of thing there, used to be the king's stables or such an' was turned into a theater.  Billy Joe felt right at home there an' gave the performance or his life.  It was certain there would be plenty of ladies sittin' an' waitin' for him at the stage door when he finished.  Lydia was sitting right there an' caught his eye.  The rest is history as they say in the news.

When Billy Joe returned to the states he brought Lydia with him an' they lived pretty happily for years.  Billy Joe continued to go round the country with his tour bus and his band, "Billy Joe Jenkins and the Yodellin' Mountain Boys".  It was good times an' Lydia travelled with him for many many happy weeks, months an' years.  Billy Joe came out with seventeen 45 rpm records an' two albums.  Several of his singles made it to the top ten on the country and western hit list.  At one point in time Billy Joe had a pair of hand made cowboy boots made for him in San Antonio, Texas out of gila monster hide an' rattlesnake skin spellin' out "Yodelin' Billy Joe" right there on the boots.

Everyone in Beloved, Kentucky knew that true love was in the Jenkins home.  Lydia just was plumb crazy about Billy Joe an' he thought the moon rose an' set on Lydia.  they tried for years to have youngin's but it just never happened.  Lydia even went over to a witchy woman name of Lucinda Nutt.  Lucinda Nutt was the widow of Henry Kay Nutt, famous moonshiner an' ne'er do well who made shine for years up on Rattlesnake Ridge.  Henry Kay thought no one would ever be brave enough to go up on Rattlesnake Ridge lookin' for moonshine stills.  He was wrong an' got kilt for it.

Anyway, Lydia went over to Lucinda Nutt an' even got a potion to get her in the family way.  It didn't never work.  That was the one sadness in the life of Billy Joe Jenkins an' Lydia.

Billy Joe gave Lydia the nickname of Wheezer when he found out she could play the Welsh knee accordion.  It was somethin' like a cross between a squeezebox an' bagpipes.  The instrument was attached to each knee with braided horsehair belts.  Each knee belt had shiny silver buckles that just flashed in the light as the instrument was played.

One day Billy Joe was yodelin' an' practicin' some new tunes.  Lydia got out her Welsh knee accordion an' commenced to playin'.  Billy Joe was just taken by the sweet music comin' from out of that thing an' just shut up an let Lydia play.  When she was done, Billy Joe said, "you're a regular Wheezer with that thing."  The pet name stuck an' everyone in Beloved, Kentucky started callin' Lydia "Wheezer".

Sunday, May 15, 2005


I don't often post personal journal entries, but today is an exception.  It has been 1 year since my Daddy died.

I am not fond of all the phrases folks use..."passed, passed away, left us".  Call it what you want, try to make it sound better, but it is the same.  Pappy died a year ago.  For the past 6 weeks I seemed to relive the days all over.  Remembering on this day I shaved him with his electric razor, on another day he insisted on doing it by himself.

I remember the ache of seeing him weaken, unable to do the simple things.  Having to use a child's "sipper" cup so he could take a drink.  I still have that cup in my dresser.  I think of him and his dignity each time I see it.  I remember holding his hand that last time, placing his hand on his old dog and knowing he moved, knowing he felt that dog one more time.

One morning my Mom called early - before 6:00 am.  Daddy had tried to get out of bed and into his wheelchair by himself.  He didn't want to sleep in the hospital bed.  He fell to the floor beside the bed - a short distance, and could not get up,  she was unable to lift him.  I drove as quickly as I could and found them sitting together...him on the floor and my Mom with her legs behind him so he would not fall over.

It was all I could do to get him up.  That was the worst day of my life till then.  I don't know why it hurt me so bad to see him like that, unable to even get back in bed.  I knew I was going to lose him, but that day made it real.

I didn't get there before he died.  I wanted to get a little treasure box for all of us to put things in and I talked to the nurse.  She said he was resting and didn't expect him to get worse for a while.  Less than half an hour later he was gone.

I don't know that it would have been different if I were there.  I guess I wanted to tell him I loved him one more time.  He wasn't one to tell you that.  Most of the time he said, "Same here".  As he was dying he told us over and over that he loved us.  Never said it first, but always responded, "I love you too".

And he did.

I miss you Jimmie Hollen.  I love and respect you.

Your son

Spring has sprung

Beloved, Kentucky is right wonderful this time of year.  It is spring an' the hills are alive with newness.  Farmers are plantin' now, past the middle of May an' no frost will happen this late.  Fields are bein' plowed an' folks already are out in the woods an' along the creeks gatherin' spring greens.

Along 'bout any streem a feller will find "creasys" or cress - watercress.  Women gather it an' make "kilt" salad with bacon grease, vinegar an' a little sugar cooked hot an' poured over the cress to "kill" it or wilt it.  In the woods they find lambs quarter, ramps an' maybe some Queen Anne's Lace to make lace cookies.

There are young lambs an' pigs in many barnyards.  Chicks an' ducks are makin' noise, announcin' to the world they have arrived.  Birds are a nestin' an' the world just feels good.

'Course, the main way folks know it is spring is passin' the Bel-Aire Mountain Movies, the drive in just outside of Beloved.  Folks know its spring 'cause the owner, Bertie Combs has taken down the sign he keeps up all winter...

It says:  When Spring has sprung an' grass has riz... This is where the movies is!

When that sign comes down, folks round 'bout Beloved know that spring is here to stay.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Wade In

Wade down into the water
Wade deep
Wade Deep
Feel the mud 'tween your toes
Wade deep
Wade Deep

Swim with the Mudpups
Crawl 'round with a Crawldaddy
Dunk your head
And laugh right loud

Wade deep
Wade Deep.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Goin' Home

Old mailbox is hangdog on
A locust wood post.
Mouth open waitin'
For a letter or card.

Windows are bright eyed
Glancin' out
Peepin' around
Hopin' for company.

Wood smoke curls
From top the chimbley
Sendin' out tendrils
Seekin' the lost.

Heart of the mountain calls
Cries to the wanderer
"Where you been
Where you been so long?"

Water skipper pauses
As it dances and skates
Wonders when
Wonders where y'all are.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Lights of Home

A soft down home drawl
Makes the weary soul smile
As it calls from a front porch
"Y'all step in an' rest for a while."

The heart cries out, "Almost Home!"
Urging the traveler on
But that welcoming smile
An' empty rocker say "Come on up".

"So, Where y'all from?
Who's your folks?
Been away from the hills long?
How long ye gonna stay?"

Sweet hospitality soothes
Warms the travel worn heart.
Gentle questions loose the tongue
Takes the mind off urgency.

Minutes pass to 'most an hour
Sun climbs high o'er the hill.
Tea, thick an' sweet
Quenches an' washes dust away.

'Fore long it's time to go
Not without regret.
Paper poke stuffed full of grub
An' hugs around the neck.

Stranger's chance upon the road
Now friends left behind.
Never a stranger in the hills
Oft' a cousin y'all find.

Dusty road seems shorter now
Feet lift quick an' high
As they dance the country road
Heart ain't weary now.

Yet the heart still urges on
"Not home yet" it cries.
Eyes look out for landmarks
Memories unbidden rise.

Slowly, slowly walk the dusty lane
Step careful up the hill.
Pause an' rest upon the ridge
What joy... the lights of home.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


Hillbilly boy walkin' down a path
A thread held in his hand
Other end of the thread
Was tied to a Junebug
Flyin' circles at the end of its leash

Friday, March 04, 2005


Dear Cousin,
I wish I could take you now into the mountains around my hometown of Beloved.  It is a different world in the mountains this time of year.

The undergrowth has all died down and there's  no sign of the thick green of summer you'll see later in the year as honeysuckle, wait-a-minute vines, briars an' brambles, jack in the pulpit, mayapples an' hundreds of wildflowers wrassle for space under the tall trees on each hillside.

Instead you'll walk under the tall sleeping giants of the mountains; pin oak, shag bark hickory, giant poplar.  Maybe you'll even see a few lodge pole pines the pine bark beetles forgot about in their lust for food.  All around there are signs of the life that will be invisible in just a couple months.  The tracks of whitetail deer wander along the upper shoulder of the hills, just below the ridge so they can travel without bein' seen.  Here an' there are deer droppin's lookin' more like Milk Duds than anything else (Tis true!)  Old tom turkey droppin's will have that familiar j curve to them. That tells you they are in the neighborhood.  Maybe y'all will find a couple turkey feathers or see where a buck had rubbed his antlers slick, shiny white an' pointed like daggers, ready for the battles over the ladies of the herd.  Here an' there are still scrapes where bucks left their callin' cards back during the rut as they marked their territory.

The heart of the mountains - the very rocks peer out this time of year from the rich black soil.  Folks seldom see the rocks on the hillsides in summer 'less it is in a dry branch kept clean by the occasional run off of rain waters.  They are covered with mosses and lichens an' look older than life itself.  Listen real hard an' they whisper secrets that only mountainfolk can hear.

Find a dry spot an' sit a while, cousin.  Sit still long enough an' the woods forget you're there.  Things come out of hidin' - deer, turkey a cluckin' an' purrin' as they scrap around through the leaves lookin' for a meal.  Squirrels - both gray an' fox squirrel start jumpin' from branch to branch doin' a winter wake up for snack trips.  If you are real quiet a woods mouse might come out an' chase its darlin' for a while.  They might even jump an' run over your brogans as they pitch a little mousy woo.

Don't dare to walk to the ridge 'less you want your heart broken worser than any sweetheart ever broke it.  If you walk up that ridge you will look out over the hills an' see them unclothed.  They are bare of the cover that hides the majesty of the Appalachias.  You will see them in their plain and rugged glory.  It will suck the wind right out of you an' you will stand speechless, breathless in the glory of what God wrought.  It will get aholt of your mountain spirit an' tell you to stay right there, frozen like the very rocks.

That's what the rocks whisper to you..."Stay with us.  Go to the top an' looky at what we see.  See it an' stay.  We have room for you.  You-uns stay with us."

You'll want to go back down to town later to warm up.  That restaurant right in town is Grandma's House Restaurant.  Notice how they fixed it up with real kitchen tables an' all the homey touches?   Them oilcloths on the tables makes it right easy to clean up.  Get a big ol' mug of scaldin' black coffee an just sit a while.  My Daddy always liked it scaldin' like that but in a thin china cup.  He liked to feel the heat of the china as he held the slick cup.  Said it felt better to the hand an' as it was goin' down.

Ask some of them ladies about the little ol' roomin' house they turned into a bed an' breakfast.  It's just down the street.  Each room has a big ol' iron frame with a feather bed so thick an' high that they have foot stools by each bed to help you climb in.  They is 3 quilts on each bed made by local women's groups.  Each room has a theme quilt an all the quilts in each room is that pattern.  Ask about the Log Cabin quilt room or if you are brave...the Drunkards Walk quilt room - folks sometimes make fun if you stay there, but it is a favorite.  I am partial to the Crazy Quilt room 'cause they is a quilt made by my Aunt Mag on that bed.  The bed is one they bought from Uncle Jimmy's youngin's that was in our family for many generations.

Some folks say the woods is dead this time of year.  Go up into the hills an' looky for yourself.  Ain't nothin' dead about the mountains this time of year.  Mama Nature is just restin'...waitin' to hit the world at a dead run any day now with shoots an' blooms an' bursts of glory.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Unfinished Dreams

I have dreamed unfinished dreams
Awakened before they were complete.
Walked toward an unseen place
But wandered lost in the fog.

I have climbed part way
To the top of the hills.
Stopped just shy of the peaks
Then sat and admired the beauty.

Yet I am not fully satisfied
I ache and hunger still.
My heart yearns and tugs
Toward unkept promises.

These days I lay long in bed,
Dozing and waiting now
For the dream to suddenly appear
The fog to quickly lift.

And I will walk to the end of the path,
Past the unseen curves to the end.
I will wake and smile knowingly
For I have seen the end.

With boots tied well I climb to the top
Anxious to reach the peak.
With wild grins I will look out
And see the valleys way below.

I am the keeper of unfinished dreams
The walker of unfollowed paths.
I have kept them in my heart
Waiting for today.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Old dogs are always weary
Pups are filled with joy.
Farm dogs are ever hungry
As if seldom fed.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Little Stream

The little ol' stream
Out behind the house
Burps and gurgles
Like molasses
As it pours from an ol' stone jug.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Snakes Alive

You know, I got me a cousin Verbina who is dead afraid of snakes.  She don't like them no way no how.  She don't even like them fancy snake boots or one of them rattlesnake heads displayed in a bubble of glass for a paperweight.  I reckon she is adverse to snakes of any type.

I didn't really know Verbina had this adversity for the longest time.  I had been around her at family gatherin's, weddin's, funerals an' suppers on the ground an' had never heard it come up.  Actually, I found out sort of accidental an' without plannin' to find out a family secret.

Several years ago they was a jim dandy cabbage harvest back home in my hometown of Beloved, Kentucky.  For some reason the plantin' had been just right accordin' to the Farmer's Almanac, the weather had favored truck patches filled with cabbage plants an' Mama Nature had gently watered the hollers of home with rain all through the summer.  Folks had record breakin' cabbage plants as well as a bumper crop of corn, taters, tomaters an' enough green beans to put up for the next three years.

I had stopped by to see Verbina an' her husband William Joseph on my way down home.  Verbina was the only one in the whole country down there that called him William Joseph.  All the rest of us called him Billy Joe.  Verbina was like that.  She always kept a Toni hair permanent in her hair an' kept it frizzed up an’ all.  She read all the Hollywood magazines an' mail ordered from Sears an' Roebuck for fancy dresses an' all.  Verbina even wore denim dungarees in the garden when no one was around.  Course, she when to the Methodist Church an' them Methodists didn't church - that is kick out- women folks for wearin' pants an' all.

As we was talkin', Billy Joe mentioned to me they was wantin' to make some sour kraut in crocks an' didn't know how to do it.  They asked if I had a recipe an' I told them my Daddy had taught me an' I just did it by feel with pinches an' sprinkles.  I offered to come by Saturday an' help them put up some crocks of kraut if they would split the proceeds.  Of course Verbina jumped at the offer.  My Daddy had put up some of the best kraut ever tasted there in Beloved an' had won many County Fair blue ribbons over the years against Sister Hazel Budder, Annie Pankey an' even the school teacher, Miss Birdie Sue Poovey who took Home Economics in college over to Berea.

Saturday came an' we was up to our ears in cabbage.  We chopped, sliced an' shredded it till we was wore out.  That is when my expertise took over as we started layerin' the chopped cabbage in the crocks.  I would put a layer in to a certain depth an' then sprinkle in the salt till it looked an' felt right.  We did layer after layer this way till each crock was full up.  Last thing we did with each was to cover the top with a big ol' plate an' put a big rock on each plate.  Verbina scrubbed each rock for a long time before she pronounced each clean enough to sit on them plates.  The plates an' rocks were to keep the cabbage pushed down when the water starts to come out of the chopped leaves.

Verbina called to William Joseph to come help us take the crocks into her root cellar over in the hillside.  We carried crock after crock - some up to fifty-gallon crocks full of chopped cabbage waitin' to be reborn into wonderful kraut in a month or two.  I couldn't wait for my first mouthful of the savory stuff.  When it was done workin' we would eat a bit an' can it for long term keepin'.

As me an' Billy Joe stood in the cool root cellar we looked around at all the shelves filled recently with summer's harvest.  Billy Joe stared at a corner for a long time an' pointed.  "Looky there, cousin.  Over on that post in that corner."  I looked an' hangin' on that post was a shed skin from a big ol' black snake.  I started over to get it but Billy Joe stopped me an' told me to wait.

Verbina had gone back for one last crock - about a two gallon one.  She strolled in an' placed that crock back close to that corner on a low shelf an' stood up.

"Verbina, what is that?" Billy Joe asked innocently.

"It is that last crock, Willam Joseph.  What do you think it is?"

"No, Verbina, darlin'.  I cain't see past you, but what is that on that post yonder behind you?"

Verbina turned around an' searched in the dim light till her eyes lit on that shed black snakeskin.  It took about three seconds for her to make out what it was before she let out a beller that woke up the dead.  I swear that some of them mason jars cracked from the volume that woman let out of her lungs.

Billy Joe had the sense to move out the way an' was tryin' to pull me over by the shirtsleeve when Verbina turned an' began her escape.  He didn't pull fast enough or my feet didn't move as fast as Verbina's.  Whatever the reason, she knocked me down like I was a leaf in the wind.  She climbed out of that root cellar an' started a puttin' one foot in front of the other in a desperate attempt to get as far from that snake skin as she could.

Verbina knocked over both dogs as she ran.  The chickens had gathered an' was eatin' the scraps we had thrown out till Verbina went through them like a tornado in Kansas.  She left chickens a flyin' an' a squawkin' in her wake as she made for parts unknown.  Her right shoe came off as she ran yet she still did not stop, even as she ran over the rough gravel in their lane.

They is a little pond in front an' to the left of the short lane to Verbina an' William Joseph's home.  Verbina made for that pond with the instinct of a goose flyin' home after a long winter down south.  She jumped into the johnboat in that pond an' pushed off to the middle of the pond.  Verbina never sat down.  She held the paddle like a warrior woman from an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, ready to beat the life out of any snake that came close to her in that johnboat.

No matter how Billy Joe an' I coaxed, she would not come in from that boat.  Billy Joe told me to never let Verbina know he did that on purpose.  It would be the end of their marriage for sure.  Finally he said, "what was it, darlin'?"  She hollered in a shaky voice that it was a snake.  He acted shocked an' went back to the root cellar with me as if he was a lookin' for the snake.

We put our heads together an' determined for the good of their marriage that he would drag that shed skin out into the yard an' commence to beatin' on it.  He grabbed a tobaccer stick an' wrapped the skin around it an' went a runnin' out into the yard.  He threw the skin down an' bellered an' carried on as he beat it with the tobaccer stick.  Finally he stopped.

"Darlin...Ver?  Don't move, darlin'.  I have kilt it, but I am goin' to walk the dead carcass back to the back field to throw it into that ol' sinkhole.  You stay right there an' I'll get rid of this ol' thing."

I stood an' watched with a little awe.  A few minutes later William Joseph came back an' gently coaxed his bride in from the pond.  He helped her out of the johnboat like she was royalty stepping off a majestic boat an' she hugged him tight.  Over her shoulder he winked at me an' I could tell he hoped I would keep silent.

Verbina turned an’ said, "Well, cousin...I reckon you must be worn out.  Why don't you go on home now so I can thank my hero this evenin'?"

I went on home an' pondered this event for the longest time.  Over the next few years I found out that Billy Joe had a stash of shed snakeskins he would get into now an' again.  He would place them where Verbina would find them just so he could play the hero and receive her grateful thanks.  I ain't gonna spoil a marriage.  I sure ain't gonna tell an' even though I told y'all... it better remain out secret.

Well, we finally canned all that kraut an' had 237 quarts of kraut even after we sat one day an' filled our craws full before we canned it.

Life is good down home in my hometown of Beloved.  A little odd at times, but good.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Winter Cold

The winter wind is cold as it races unhindered through the hollers of home.
On the sides of the hills old cabins seem to lean into the wind.
Foundation stones reach down into the dirt to better grip on the mountain
The Wind launches itself at these signs of life.
Smoke pushes from the chimney like a baby tryin' to be borned.
Wind don't seem like it wants it to escape from the chimney.
Wind howls in anger down the dry stacked stones.
Screams at the folks sittin' close to a coal grate tryin' to keep warm.

Old logs, chestnut, oak an' hickory feel the fury and groan
As they hold house an' home together against Wind's wrath.
Windows rattle a bit, like old soldiers rattlin' swords.
All know they’re just tin soldiers, their rattle means little to the Wind.
They are at best delights for the folks within.

In the coal grate the Fire burns merrily, unconcerned.
It has but a small space to move, dance and flicker.
"Turn me loose, turn me loose and I'll show you the elemental master" it chuckles.
Even the wind knows that its anger would just be a free ride
If the fire escaped that happy little prison of a firebox.

Wind tries to push up the hills an' deep into the woods.
Trees old as history, young as the summer sway, mockin' the wind.
Some laugh joyfully, thankful for movement in an otherwise motionless eternity.
A few up on the craggy summits laugh like madmen.
They feel the full brunt of the wind, have let it shape them an' they reach to embrace it.
It is welcome to them on the tall mountains, holdin' tight to rocks.
They almost seem to launch themselves into the very air itself.

Wind don't get far up them hills.
It swirls around, looks for another holler, another valley.
The wind has slowed, aged.

Soon its short life will whisper to a stop.

Then Cold will stretch and remind the hills an' hollers it is still in charge.