You'll Catch Cold or You'll Take the Weed?

  You might catch cold or take the weed

A few weeks ago I received the following comment:

I came across your blog while trying to find information on a saying that a friend and I were discussing. His family is Scottish and lived in Eastern Tennessee. The term that his grandmothers used when one should not play outside in the cold and dampness was, "You'll take the weed".  Do you have any information on this particular saying? I am trying to find more about the origins and whether it was a common saying. Thanks for you help!

Fawn Horner


I have never heard anyone use the word weed in the manner Fawn described. I checked one of my favorite sources, the Online Etymology Dictionary, and this is the only definition that came remotely close:

weedy (adj.) Look up weedy at
early 15c., from weed + -y (2). In old slang, in reference to horses, "not of good blood or strength, scraggy, worthless for breeding or racing," from 1800; hence, of persons, "thin and weakly" (1852).

The definition made me wonder if describing a horse that was doing poorly could have morphed into describing a person who might be doing poorly or who might become sick from being out in the cold and damp air.

Granny is always worrying about someone taking cold-even herself. She has rules to prevent taking cold like don't wash your hair if you're going to have to go outside later in the day-you should only wash it after you're in for the night; always wear a coat with a hat or toboggan if it's windy; if you've been sick recently then by all means when you do go outside you better bundle up good or you might take cold or worse yet-a backset; and you must take all precautions against getting wet in the rain.

All my life I've laughed at Granny's dire warnings of taking cold, but sometimes I hear her exact admonitions come straight out of my mouth.

Several years back I used the photo at the top of this post to tell you this:

Chitter couldn't stand it, as soon as the tractor pulled out of Pap's garden she had to shed her shoes and get in it. The other girl-she was mad because I told her she couldn't do the same.

Chatter was recovering from a recent illness and I wouldn't let her go barefoot in that cold turned ground in the cool evening air because I could hear Granny in my head warning me not to.

If you've got any warnings from your mother or granny I hope you'll share them. And if you're familiar with the word weed being used as Fawn described please leave a comment and tell us about it. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Sunday April 30, 2017 @ 11:00 a.m. Hayesville Church of the Nazarene - Hayesville NC

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Robin's Plantain

Robin's Plantain growing in WNC

I discovered a wildflower I've never seen, or at least never noticed, in my backyard last week. At first glance I thought it was Fleabane, but a closer inspection showed the petals were a lovely lavender color instead of white.

Fleabane growing in western nc
I grabbed my Wildflowers & Plant Communities book and discovered I was right in the first place, the plant is a member of the fleabane family. I didn't realize fleabane can range from white to the pale lavender of the plant I found.

Robin's Plantain is one of the common names that belongs to the plant. All fleabane is said to ward off fleas but I've never tried using the plant for anything.

The lovely grouping of wildflowers sprung up at the edge of the backyard near Wilma, our beloved beagle's grave.

Wilma was the dog we had before Ruby Sue. She's been gone nearly 15 years now. She was a true beagle and lived to chase rabbits. One evening when no one was at home the coyotes waited on her while she ran her favorite rabbit trail out the ridge from the house. I took her to the vet but there was nothing he could do, she died before morning. 

Wilma would never eat if someone was watching her. You could lay a steak beside her and she'd just sit patiently until you left before she picked it up. After the coyotes got her we were all so upset and even Pap said he ought to lay in wait till they came back down that trail. 

Funny how a group of wildflowers can take you down a road of remembering. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Sunday April 30, 2017 @ 11:00 a.m. Hayesville Church of the Nazarene - Hayesville NC

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Two Jaybirds

Jay bird word usage in appalachia

Jaybird noun A blue jay, used in various similes.
1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 107 He’s as antic as a jay bird when he takes the notion. 1940 Hauns Hawk’s Done 7 There’s always the jay birds trying to take a bath in the water bucket. 1952 Brown NC Folklore 1,431 As happy as a jaybird … As naked as a picked jaybird … As naked as a jaybird’s ass … As saucy as a jaybird … Git along about as well as a jaybird does with a sparrer hawk … As spry as a jaybird in wild cherry time. 1956 Hall Coll. Del Rio TN As naked as a jay bird. (Wilford Metcalf) 1962 Dykeman Tall Woman 95 Mark’s always speaking of her eyes too; and the way she clings to him, the way she’s so quick to walk, and talks already like a jaybird chattering-well, he thinks she’s mighty nigh perfection itself.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I live with two jaybirds. Even though they're sillier than any jaybird I ever did see-I wouldn't trade them for the world and all it holds.


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Sudnay April 30, 2017 @ 11:00 a.m. Hayesville Church of the Nazarene - Hayesville NC

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Lettuce and Onions

Killed salad

killed salad, kilt salad noun A salad made by pouring boiling grease over lettuce or other greens. Same as wilted salad. 

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Each Spring The Deer Hunter and I look forward to the first kill lettuce of the season. Various names are used for the traditional Appalachian dish: killed lettuce, kilt lettuce, wilted lettuce, lettuce and onions, lettuce, killed salad.

Just like different families call the dish by different names-it's also cooked a little different by folks too. Today I'll share 2 of the most common recipes with you. Both recipes are the same in regards to serving. Kill Lettuce should be served immediately after making.

The dish uses fresh leaf lettuce from the garden-or even branch lettuce that grows wild along the creek and branch banks.

The way Granny taught me: Begin by picking and washing your leaves of lettuce-making sure to dry off as much water as possible. Sometimes I wash mine early in the morning and leave it drying on a towel on the counter.

Next-cut up several green onions and mix with torn lettuce in a bowl-adding salt and pepper to taste.

Pour hot bacon or salt pork (Pap and Granny call it streaked meat) grease over the lettuce onion mixture. Be prepared for lots of hissing and popping when the grease hits the lettuce. Stir and serve quickly. It doesn't take much grease-a little bit goes a long way. I've found hot olive oil works well too.


Miss Cindy's family made Kill Lettuce by a different recipe-but one that is also common throughout Appalachia:

I learned from Dad how to make wilted/killed lettuce.

Cook a few slices of bacon and crumble it in a bowl on top of the torn lettuce and cut green onions (cut onions including the tops). Add salt and pepper. Heat the remaining bacon grease and pour it on the greens then add vinegar or lemon juice to the hot pan and swirl it then pour it on the greens. Toss the bowl contents to mix and eat immediately...with cornbread. The lettuce is so fragile that it doesn't take much grease to wilt it and the lemon/vinegar is hot so it helps to wilt it as well.


Our favorite way to eat kill lettuce is with cornbread and soup beans (pinto beans). The other day we had it with hamburgers-it was pretty good that way too, actually it ain't bad with a piece of light bread.

Ever kill your lettuce?


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Walking My Lord Up Calvary's Hill

Walking my Lord up Calvary's Hill
Photo by Trevis Hicks

We learned a new song for Easter, but didn't get it put up on youtube in time for me to share it with you last Sunday. Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper had a super hit with Walking My Lord Up Calvary's Hill back in the day. Over the years a lot of other folks have performed the song too, including bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent. 

Ruby Mae Barber Moody penned Walking My Lord Up Calvary's Hill along with many other gospel songs including the very popular southern gospel song My Real Home.

We've taken to playing on Granny's back porch lately. She likes it because she can hear us from her chair where she sits crotcheting. If we get to talking or stop playing for some other reason she'll come to the door and say "I'm coming out here to see what the hold up is."

Hope you enjoyed the late Easter song!


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Overheard in Appalachia

"I didn't know you liked pretzels."

"Yeah I like them. How could you not they're salty sticks."



Overheard: snippets of conversation I overhear in Southern Appalachia

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Empty Houses

Empty houses

"There were several old house sites above our old home on Wiggins Creek. My mother could remember when an Indian family lived in one of them. I can remember stacks of stones used as foundations and rotting log sills and joists still in place. Strangely enough there were no chimleys attached.

One old homesite was below our house. It was the old Tom Southards Place. It had a chimley but only a small one that you could run a stovepipe into. The unique thing about that place was an outdoor stove about 20 feet from the house. The house was almost gone but the outdoor stove was still in good shape. It had two eyes like woodstoves have and a little chimley in the back. We couldn't play around the house for fear of stepping on nails but we built fires in the stove and tried cooking.

Just above our old house on the middle fork was a small house built of logs and chinked with concrete. It has stone pillars supporting it, huge stone steps in front and a big stone fireplace on the end. There were yellow bells flanking the steps and a row of daffodils in front of that. The house was finished inside entirely with tongue and grooved wormy chestnut. It had nice six over six windows with hidden counterweights so you didn't have prop them open with a stick. It even had locks on the windows. It had a bathroom but no fixtures. It had a sink in the kitchen but no water to it and no drain leading out. It had cabinets built of the same wormy chestnut. The window and door facings were made of wormy chestnut as were all the baseboards, crown and corner moldings.

The house was built in the early to mid '40s. I don't know who built it or what they intended to do with it (I never thought to ask my daddy) but I do know somebody had a lot of money in it. The strangest thing about the house was that nobody ever lived there. Somebody might have stayed there for a night or two because the fireplace had been used. Maybe coon or bear hunters warmed themselves there but nobody ever "lived" there. A house with nobody in it is has no cause to stand  and will soon yield to the elements. In the mid 80's Ray Dehart got permission to tear house down.

When we divided up my father's property sometime in the 1990's, the surveyor discovered that the house had actually been on daddy's place. It was long gone by then. My brother Harold now owns the footprint where the sad little house once waited for a family to make it a home."

~ Ed Ammons - June 2016



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How We Built Our Greenhouse

Starting tomatoes in the greenhouse from sow true seed

The Deer Hunter built our greenhouse back in 2011 and we're still loving it. It's so handy to have it in our backyard. Prior to having our own greenhouse I used one down the road a ways. It was nice to have somewhere to start my seedlings, but looking back it was a good thing when I wasn't able to use that one anymore and we had to bite the bullet and build our own. 

How to build a greenhouse
We decided a greenhouse 20 feet long would be plenty big enough for what we needed. First The Deer Hunter went looking through the scrap wood pile and found enough lumber to make the base/sides.

Building a greenhouse with pvc pipe
He had already bought 13 pieces of 3/4 X 20 foot pvc pipe, four- 4 X 4 posts, seven sheets 1/2 inch osb, and a roll of six mil clear plastic (we bought the wrong plastic-read the rest of the post to see why). 

He attached 11 of the pieces to the 2 sides. He added 2 pieces of pvc down the length of the piece that would make the hoop to add additional support.

How to build a cheap greenhouse
Next we raised it up. It took all four of us to get it into position, then we held it while The Deer Hunter made sure it was square and attached it to the ground with re-bar.

Easy to build greenhouse
He then framed in the ends securing them to the ground with 4 X 4 posts. He put a door in one end and a framed opening for an exhaust fan in the other. When he got to this point he decided to bring each end in two feet to make an over hang on each end which would help protect the wood framing.

Dyi greenhouse
After that-it was time for the plastic. We draped it over the hoops leaving about two feet extra on each side. He attached the plastic on each end with metal roofing screws-screwing it directly to the pvc.

With the help of the girls-and Ruby Sue-we buried the plastic on each side. After he built and installed the door, we had a greenhouse of our very own for a little less than two days work and 250 bucks.

In the following year we had a couple of hail storms that damaged the greenhouse plastic and a strong wind finished the plastic off. Turns out we didn't buy the right kind of plastic in the first place. 


Build a greenhouse at home

The Deer Hunter said we should look at having to recover the greenhouse as a learning experience and as a chance to change things we wished we'd done differently the first go around.

Pvc greenhouse
The second go around we bought plastic specifically made for greenhouses. Once the hail damaged the first type of plastic we used it began to give way at all the pressure points. After studying on the issue for a while The Deer Hunter came up with the idea of using foam pipe insulation to cover the pipe/wood areas that came in direct contact with the plastic. The pipe insulation will also help protect our spring seedlings as it seals off some of the air gaps too.

We've not had any other hiccups with our greenhouse and after 6 years of use I'm still loving it!


p.s. Yesterday I took Granny over to Pap's grave so we could put fresh flowers on it. It wasn't even raining at our house, but by the time we drove the short distance it was coming a down pour at the graveyard. We set in the car until it quit and as I was helping Granny walk to the grave Chitter said "Look-a rainbow!" The rainbow looked like it was right over Pap and Granny's house. I'd like to send a big THANK YOU out to each of you for letting me share Pap's death story and for sharing your comfort and wisdom with me. 

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The Day Pap Died

Pap's rainbow

Rainbow over Pap's house after his funeral

It was a little before 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday April 19, 2016 when Granny called and told me I better come Pap was in a bad way. I told her I'd be right there. I was disoriented because of the time and because of a dream I was having that was so real that I couldn't seem to break free from it. I was dreaming about Pap and his best friend L.C. who died the previous year. In my dream L.C. and Pap were laughing and having a big time just like they always did.

I hurriedly splashed water on my face, brushed my teeth and threw some clothes on. I told The Deer Hunter I'd let him know if I needed him and ran down the hill. As I rushed down the road in the darkness I thought to myself "L.C. you can't have him yet." Silly, ridiculous, and slightly crazy I know, but that's exactly what I thought.

Pap was thrashing around trying to get away from the awful pain he was feeling. I administered the meds the hospice folks had taught me how to use, but nothing seemed to help. Granny said he'd been up since midnight, but wouldn't let her call me until it got real bad. 

Pap cried out to God "Why won't you let me die Lord? Please have mercy on me even though I'm so unworthy." 

Granny paced and I gave him more medicine once the allotted time rolled around, but nothing helped. Pap kept changing positions from standing to sitting. He said laying down only made it worse although he continued to thrash and throw himself backwards in a desperate attempt to evade the pain. He was eating nitroglycerin pills like they were candy. He was shaking and thrashing so that he kept asking me to put them under his tongue. His lips and mouth were ice cold.

Pap cried out to God again saying "I'd curse you like Job's wife so you'd strike me down if I wasn't so afraid of your might. Please have mercy on me."

The minutes seemed to crawl and time seemed to stand still as the helplessness of not being able to comfort Pap surrounded Granny and me. You might asked why in the world didn't we call someone-an ambulance or the hospice folks? We didn't call because Pap had decided months before he was done with prolonging his life. He knew death would soon receive him and he made his own personal decision that it would receive him from the comfort of his own home instead of in a hospital room among strangers. Pap had signed all the necessary papers to prevent a resuscitation initiated by any medical person or even by his own family. I didn't even know such a thing existed until my experience with Pap. It is often referred to as a DNR.

Gradually as the medications begin to take affect Pap begin to feel a little better and was able to at least get a breath as the intense pain abated slightly. He went ahead and took his morning medications in the hopes that might continue the improving trend he seemed to be on. Thinking I would take his mind off the pain I said "You'll never believe who I was dreaming about when Granny called." I told him what I had been dreaming and he said "Well Tip I wouldn't leave you for nothing if it weren't for this pain, but I'd gladly go along with L.C. to escape this torment and I'd go right now." 

His comment about L.C. made me wish I hadn't told him about the dream. I was so afraid of losing Pap. 

He continued to improve and decided he was going to put his pants on. Pap was a fiercely private person. I believe his worst fear was that he'd end up in a sick bed dependent on someone to take care of his every need. I said "I wouldn't start stirring around too much maybe you ought to wait a little longer before you try to put your clothes on. He said "Oh don't you worry I'm going to go so slow nothing won't happen."

Pap got his pants on and in the next little while he'd managed to get his long john shirt and his flannel shirt on over his undershirt. He was feeling better all the time-not good, but better. It was getting close to 6:00 a.m. I texted The Deer Hunter and told him I thought maybe the worst was over and that I was planning to go on to work. He said okay and that he was about to leave for work himself. 

Granny laid down on the couch to get some rest and I sat watching Pap debating whether I should leave or not. 

I said "Could you drink a cup of coffee?" He said "Yes I think I could." I got him a cup and then set back down for a few minutes.

As he stood by the heater warming he said "Tipper I think I'm alright you can go on to work but go in there and get me a candy bar out of that drawer before you go. I said "What kind?" He said "A three musketeers." 

I walked into the kitchen with something bugging me, I figured out later it was the fact that Granny doesn't buy three musketeers. Before I even pulled the drawer out of the old metal cabinet Granny keeps her candy in I heard a horrible crash. I ran back into the living room and there lay Pap between the stove and the bottom of the day bed. He was already gone. He never even looked at me. Not one time. Granny started hollering and all I could do was cry "My dear old Daddy is gone. He's gone."

I might have felt a pulse one slow beat and that was all. I think he was dead before he even hit the floor. I called Paul not knowing he was in the shower and left some panicked rambling message. I called Steve and can't even remember if he answered or if I left a message for him. I called The Deer Hunter and said "Daddy died oh Daddy died." He said "Oh no! Oh no! I just opened the gate. Let me tell Brian and I'll be right there." 

Paul burst through the door wanting to do something. I said "It's too late he's gone." Paul said "Call somebody!" I said "He didn't want us to call nobody and he's gone anyway." 

I laid on Pap's chest and sobbed. I've never felt so sad in all my life. I cried and sobbed until The Deer Hunter came and pulled me off of him. Steve and his wife Kim rushed in but there was nothing left to do but call the funeral home and we didn't even know how to do that. 

Steve called 911 and asked them what to do. They said a deputy and a medic had to come to declare the death then the funeral home could come. 

We set and cried. Steve worried about Pap laying in the floor and wanted to move him but finally settled for putting a pillow under his head. Granny and I told the rest of them that he prayed to die, that God answered his prayer. It suddenly occurred to me, not only did God answer his crying plea for mercy He let Pap put his clothes on before he took him.

When the EMS folks arrived it was a gentleman and a lady. The gent took over the job of documenting everything that had happened and completed the necessary paper work. The lady set by me on the couch and talked quietly with the rest of us. After a moment of silence she said "I feel a lot love in this room. You're a lucky family. He was a lucky man. All the calls I go on don't have that feeling of love, actually most of them don't. You're lucky. Even though its sad you have much to be thankful for."

The deputy came next and since Pap had already told us he wanted his funeral conducted by Ivie Funeral Home they were called. In the mean time someone did call hospice and Pap's nurse Shawn came out. She said she had to be the one who officially declared Pap dead and by that time it was after 8:00 a.m. She said we should have called her first but it was okay not to worry. 

The next step was moving Pap's car so the funeral home could get close to the door. The keys were no where to be found. We looked everywhere including in Pap's pockets but finally gave up on the keys and left the car where it was. Later in the day when we went to the funeral home the keys were with his clothes. I guess they had been in his pocket but when he fell backwards they came out somehow and became tangled inside the three layer of shirts he had on.

Who knew the funeral home process took so long? By the time we left there my teeth were chattering even though I wasn't cold and I thought my head was going to explode from the headache I had. We split up, I can't really remember why but I went with the ones who were going to pick out the place for Pap's grave at church. I could go no further than a picnic table at the edge of the parking area. I laid on top of it and said any place they picked would be fine with me. 

Once we got back home I laid on the day bed while people brought food and The Deer Hunter and the girls mowed the yard. The chaplain from hospice came, he had visited with Pap and Granny on several occasions. He told us the price for great love is great grief. 

Just before we left the house to go to the funeral I told The Deer Hunter to wait I forgot something. I jumped out of the car and ran to my closest flower bed. I picked a handful of lavender snow drops to put in Pap's hand. I don't know what made me think of getting the flowers, but I think Pap would have liked knowing they came from my yard and that his Tipper put them in his casket. Granny made sure he was holding his favorite Marine hat too. 

Tons of people came to the funeral as I knew they would. The church parking lot was over flowing with cars parked up and down the highway in the grass. Pap was known far and wide from his many days of coaching baseball, singing and picking the guitar, teaching Sunday school, delivering oil, and building houses. The Deer Hunter always said "If your Daddy and me went to New York City I guarantee he'd run into somebody he knew in the first 15 minutes of being there." 

John Ivie could not have been nicer to us during the whole ordeal. Once he found out Pap was a Marine he arranged for Military Rites at the graveside. Granny rode across the road to the grave leaving Paul, Steve, and me to walk together. With arms entwined we held each other up and shared a smile when we heard a man playing Amazing Grace on bagpipes. The song was lonesome and beautiful all at the same time, the reason we smiled was we wondered what Pap would have said about the man's kilt. We have no idea who asked him to play, but sure are thankful they did. 

Pap's pastor of many years, Paul Ray Morgan, conducted the graveside service. He said Pap had recently told him "The Lord's waited on me my whole life now I'm just waiting on him." Two sharp dressed Marine's folded the flag a top Pap's casket and presented it to Granny. It made me wish Pap could have seen them. 

After we were home my nephew Mark took the picture of the rainbow over Pap's house. 

The rainbow seemed like a sign that everything had worked out just like Pap wanted it to and that we would be alright until we meet him again on the other shore in the shallow water where he told Granny he'd be waiting. 


p.s. To read Pap's obituary go here: Jerry Marshall Wilson 1937 - 2016

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This Day Last Year


Pap - April 2016

I've been studying about this day last year-April 18, 2016-the day before Pap died. It was a Monday like most any other Monday with the only difference being I left work after lunch to take Granny up to Hayesville to see the eye doctor. There wasn't anything wrong, it was just her yearly check-up.

The exam went great. Granny's eyes hadn't changed from the previous year and she didn't need new glasses. I actually saw the doctor that day too.

Back in January of 2016 when Pap had his second heart attack my left eye was so red and irritated one of the emergency room nurses at the VA even asked me if it was okay. Granny said she'd had enough of seeing my red eye and that I was going to go with her the next time she went to her eye doctor. I swear Granny made that April appointment before Pap even got put out into a room. 

Between January and April my eye cleared itself up and a quick eye exam showed I needed glasses, but the doctor said my eyes weren't bad enough to switch from my walmart readers to a prescription strength just yet.

Feeling good about our eyes Granny and I headed for Brasstown. Once we were home I followed her into the house to see what Pap was up to. He was sitting in his chair watching tv. We talked about Granny's eyes and my eyes, the weather and the coming garden season. Pap also talked about how he had been feeling better. He said "I probably shouldn't even mention it, but I've had a pretty good stretch of days."

I headed home to make supper with a light heart, never thinking my world would change forever by morning. 

I can hardly believe Pap's been gone a year. I never thought I could make it without him, but I have made it, just like he told me I could.

Grief is a funny thing. I was so heart broken after he first died I could barely make it through the day then seemingly overnight my grief turned to a weird detachment of sorts. I found myself wondering if he really existed? Was he real or was he some hero we all dreamed up to make ourselves feel better? 

My weird questioning doubt always brought to mind a story I'd heard a blue million times about my older brother Steve. One day he ran in from playing to ask Pap and Granny if he was real or if he was just a toy. I'd start thinking of Steve being so curious that he wanted to know if he was a real boy and that would cause me to think of stories about Paul, about me, and about all the grandkids and then I'd know for certain Pap was real for without him there'd have been no stories to tell. 

After Pap died I was so afraid of dreaming of him that I kept myself from doing so until I began to worry I'd never dream of him. Of course I finally did and it was real and comforting. Since then I've dreamed about Pap several times but its all of the silly variety. One night I dreamed we were down in Hanging Dog on the lake when the water was down and Pap was driving The Deer Hunter's big brown Chevy truck he had when we were first married. Pap was a determined man in that dream-he was trying his best to drive that truck straight up a red clay bank with me holding on for dear life and begging him to stop. As he shifted into second gear for another go at the bank he told me to hush and before I knew it he had Nadine (that was the truck's name) out of the lake bed and back up on level ground.

The girls dream about him often. I can usually tell because they'll be teary-eyed of the morning. Chitter told me about one of her Pap dreams the other day. While she was in tears about it I actually found it funny. She dreamed she was talking to Pap down at his house, but she knew he was dead and hated to have to tell him he was a ghost. She said "I just kept staring at him and he asked me why I was staring at him and I just couldn't tell him he was a ghost." 

If you've not had enough of my memories of Pap's passing come back by tomorrow and I'll share the rest with you. If that sort of thing isn't your cup of tea I totally understand, but I feel like I need to tell Pap's death story for those who've told me they want to hear it.


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