Over yonder in the graveyard Where the wild wild flowers grow Oh there laid my own true lover He's gone from me forever more
Fairer than the sweetest flowers Restless as a wildest wind Born with a love deep as the ocean This was the boy that I did win
I left him there back in the mountains To see the world riches to gain Oh when I returned no earthly treasure Could ease this heart so full of pain
There so high upon that mountain Beneath that little mound of clay Oh the boy that I returned to marry So still among the flowers lay
I'll go away and I will wander Lay aside my earthly gains And I'll not end as a man with riches Undone in sorrow I'll remain
Undone in sorrow I'll remain
(written by Ola Belle Reed)
Well I hope it was worth the wait-please let me know what you thought about the video.
p.s. If you missed the story behind the video-click here: My Name Is Cora Lee Mease.
Once we made the decision to hike back to the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church for the girls to sing-I started thinking about how I wanted them to look. Not that they're not adorable in their cut offs and racing shirts-but from the first time Ola Belle whispered in my ear I had a vision, a story in my head.
Girls would have worn dresses in the 20s and 30s. I'm positive the dresses we packed back in the mountains with us aren't from then-but they are old. The one Chatter wore (she's playing the guitar) was given to her by a fellow contra dancer. It was obviously handmade years ago-but we don't know who made it. The one Chitter is wearing-is a polyester number made by Granny in the early 70s. Somewhere there's a miniature version of it-Granny was into making matching outfits for her and me to wear.
Granny finds symbolism in everything-and I mean EVERY THING. When I was growing up-her symbolism got on my last nerve. I mean who would notice a certain flower had 5 petals and there were 5 of us? But as I've gotten older I find myself doing the same thing.
Since the JCCFS plays a huge roll in our lives-it seemed perfect to take along a piece of it in the form of a dress. And for certain it was moving to know Chitter wore a dress Granny sewed when she was younger than I am now.
The process of videoing the girls in the old church was chug full of interesting tidbits-and symbolism from start to finish. Even the fact that we got the video in one take still amazes me. Typically their singing is interrupted by either cutting up, arguing, or both!
I've made you wait long enough-tomorrow the video.
Daddy blamed my wanderlust all on Aunt Pearl. She's Mamma's baby sister. By the time Aunt Pearl came along all the other children Grandpa and Grandma Ammons had were grown and gone from home. Grandpa's health was such that they'd moved into Asheville to live out the rest of their years. So as strange as it seemed to the rest of the family, Aunt Pearl was a real life city girl. A real life city girl with her eyes set on even bigger cities.
They all said Aunt Pearl and me were cut from the same cloth, with a stubborn streak a mile wide. Daddy liked to say Aunt Pearl was spoiled rotten, and no child of his ever would be, but even he admitted I was more like her than he wished. Our similarities caused Aunt Pearl to take a special interest in me. On occasion we'd make the long trip to Asheville, for Daddy had promised Mamma when they first wed that he'd make sure she got to see her family as often as possible. On those trips, Aunt Pearl would tell me about all the things there was to see in this big wide world. She held me spell bound with tales of cities that were bigger than Asheville and people who lived an easier life with modern conveniences. In between those trips, Aunt Pearl sent me books, newspapers, and magazines. Daddy said it was her attempt to force me to put on airs so that she wouldn't be alone when she drowned from having her nose stuck straight up in a cloud burst.
Even though my mind often dreamed of what was beyond Cataloochee, my feet recognized the beauty and wealth we were surrounded by. Daddy said it was the finest place he'd ever seen, and it might have even been the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve were born into. Mamma said she didn't think so, but Daddy always winked and said, "You don't know for sure now do you?"
I first met Marshall Cook the summer I turned 13. His family had been lost to him in a house fire, and he come too Cataloochee to live with his Uncle and Aunt. From the beginning there was a powerful feeling between us, so much so that Mamma often put the question to Daddy "Wouldn't it be better for her to go to Asheville instead of ending up married to somebody who don't have nothing to his name?" Whenever Marshall and me were mentioned Daddy conveniently pushed his chair back and said he had work to do.
Marshall wasn't like none of the other boys, he understood it when I talked about seeing the world. Marshall had seen a fair amount of it hisself. His family had lived in 3 different states before the fire. Marshall's father had the wanderlust too. Marshall said he could see why a body would want to see the sights and hear the sounds outside these mountains, but he could save me the trouble by telling me I'd not find another place like Cataloochee no where. The one time he heard Daddy give his Garden of Eden speech, Marshall whole heartedly agreed with him. He gave me a kiss for good measure when no one was looking.
Those days were the happiest of my life. It seemed my dreams were just that-lovely dreams to dwell and think upon while I spent my real life time with Marshall. When our chores were done, we'd roam the woods together or sometimes we'd just sit out in the barn or on Mamma's back steps and talk.
Shortly after I turned 17, Aunt Pearl sent me a letter so exciting I could have swore I heard her voice leaping off the paper at me. She'd finally found her way to see the world and, better than that, she had found mine too. One of Asheville's most important men had got a job as an ambassador for the United States, and since him and his wife had 4 small children, they decided they'd need some help along the way-that's where me and Aunt Pearl came in. She'd already secured the job for us. All that was left was for me to meet them in Asheville in 2 weeks.
Daddy and Mamma didn't like my decision one bit, but they said they reckoned I was grown and could make my own way now. During those days before I left I spent every moment I could with Marshall. He never begrudged me going, never one time made me feel guilty or like I might be making the wrong choice. On the day I left, he told me, "Cora I'll be here waiting when you get that wanderlust out your system. I've done and seen enough of the world to know Cataloochee is the place for me. And when you get out there, you'll see that clear enough just like I did."
In the 2 years I was gone from my mountain home I saw things I'd a never of believed if I hadn't seen them with my own eyes. The family was nice to me and Aunt Pearl, and treated us as though we were kin. But Marshall was right. All the wondrous sights and sounds of the world could not compare with one sunrise at home.
I'd been gone a year and half when Mamma sent word to me that Marshall had died. I had traveled so far from home in more ways than just distance that I found it hard to believe. I found it easier to pretend it wasn't true.
When Mamma sent word they were leaving Cataloochee forever, that the government was forcing my Daddy off the land he loved, I knew I had to return.
As I crossed the last footlog to home I knew for a certainty I had lost everything I had only to find out what I needed most was in front of me all along.
Above is the story I've had running around in my head for weeks. I hope you enjoyed it-come back in a day or two and I'll show you the song that started it-the video that was filmed in the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church.
I've been in lots of old buildings-churches, cabins, houses, factories, etc. Sometimes I feel something inside them-even the ones that have been empty for years. Other times I don't feel a thing.
On the day we hiked to the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church, we were all glad when we reached our destination (if you missed the hike click here for the story). We were tired and ready for lunch. Three of the Blind Pig family were suffering from tacos that didn't sit right and a late night at the races (not me-the tacos didn't hurt me a bit).
Since I had never been to the church I was anxious to see the inside, to see if it really did have an amazing acoustical sound like Don said.
After we looked over the church, we ate lunch, and videoed the girls. Before we left we spent time in the cemetery reading stones and wondering about the people who called Cataloochee home.
Did I feel anything in the church? Yes. I felt a welcoming spirit as if those who once congregated in the Holy Hall were glad we were there. When I walked outside alone I fully expected to see a church yard full of smiling faces telling me I did good by coming.
I discovered the music of Ola Belle Reed about 6 months ago. How I missed her all my life-I'll never know. One afternoon when I picked the girls up from JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) they had a cd of Ola Belle's music. Their teacher, JD, had sent it home for them to listen to.
Curious about what music he wanted them to hear-I popped it in the cd player. From the first song I was mesmerized. More than that-I was totally connected. The music felt like home-it felt like me.
Ola Wave Campbell was born in Ashe County NC in 1916. During the tough depression years, Ola's large family moved north to Maryland where there was fertile land to farm and more work to be found.
There was musical talent on both sides of her parent's families. So it seemed only natural that Ola Belle would make music too. (you can read more about Ola Belle Reed's musical career by clicking here) Over the years, Ola Belle was honored by The Smithsonian, The Library of Congress and The University of Maryland for her musical contributions.
I tried to figure out why Ola Belle and her tunes comforted me in an uncanny sort of way-I mean I'd never heard of her before so what could it be? One of the first reasons that came to mind was the prominent guitar picking in most of her songs. Not all old time or bluegrass music feature flat top picking-and since I come from a family of guitar pickers the songs that do always standout to me.
There's an undertone of strength to her music. Even the songs about despair-have a strength to them-almost a rebellious defiant feel. But I'm not sure defiance is the right word-perhaps it's more a self awareness or knowledge that the world and all it holds resides in each of us if we'll only look.
When I think of those undertones being why I identify with her music I find myself asking: Am I a prideful rebellious person? Do I kick against the prick? And I have to answer yes. Not in a radical way of arguing with every authority I run across or having to win every argument I hear or even having to offer my opinion to people I come in contact with. It's more of a quiet fierce strength that lives deep inside me-and my people. Living with the knowledge that life is not only unfair-but sometimes down right mean. Knowing that the only life you have is the one you're given and it's your choice as to what you do with it.
I've read the words above-my thoughts on Ola Belle's music, more than a few times-and even though I truly feel that way-I must admit what I've written sounds silly.
The reason we love music is the way it makes us feel right? I can be so moved by Ola Belle's tunes that I connect the emotion I feel to some higher meaning of strength and survival-while you may give her a listen and think to yourself "Tipper is crazy-all I hear is a bunch of old songs."
After listening to J.D.'s cd for a week-I got my own cd of Ola Belle Reed-and as the weeks passed I drove around listening to it-letting her music tell me the story it was meant too. Besides the screen door slamming, barefeet, guitar picking on the porch, we will survive tale each song wove around my body-there was one more story that I kept coming back too. The one about the boy and the girl back in the mountains. Come back in a day or so and I'll tell you that story.
p.s. If you want to give Ola Belle Reed a listen here is a video from Youtube: My Epitaph.
Photos provided by Thomas and Roberta Polis.
I've had a sad story about a boy and girl running around in my head for months now-don't worry it's not true-at least as far as I know it's not true-but it could be I guess. Isn't that the amazing thing about stories-they seep into your consciousness and travel around under your skin-some stay a while and disappear while others stick around forever.
"I left him there back in the mountains To see the world riches to gain Oh when I returned no earthly treasure Could ease this heart so full of pain." Ola Belle Reed
A few of you have been asking me about the video we filmed in Little Cataloochee Baptist Church-it's almost finished-and that's the story that's been doing laps in my head.
(photo by Lonnie Dockery; words by Ola Belle Reed)
Another tease about the video that was filmed at Little Cataloochee Baptist Church in the Smoky Mountain National Park:
Over yonder in the graveyard Where the wild wild flowers grow Oh there they laid my own true lover He's gone from me forever more
I'm trying to hurry it up. I worked on it till the master (Paul) took over. Surely it won't be much longer before the video is finished.
p.s. If you don't know about the video-click on the words in orange: about the video at the top of the post.
The sights of Cataloochee were a true feast for my eyes-the history being the best thing on the plate-but coming in a close second were the trees-bushes-and other fauna.
We were only a few hundred yards from the car when I noticed this unusual plant-it's called Squaw Root. I had never seen it before-but it immediately made me think of Indian Smoke Pipe.
Like Indian Pipes/Ghost Flower, Squaw Root is a parasitic plant and is typically found in dry areas under oak trees where it feeds on their roots. Squaw Root grows up to 8 inches high.
The common name, Squaw Root, comes from the use of the plant. Indian women used it to relieve pain from childbirth as well as from menstrual cramps.
Funny that when I first seen the odd little plant it reminded me of Indian Pipes-and then to find out they both have common names that relate to Native Americans-and are both parasitic.
Does Squaw Root grow in your area?
On our recent trip to Cataloochee I fell in love with the old fences that surround both the graveyards we visited. So daintily lovely-yet strong enough to last through the years. The video of the girls is coming along nicely. I'm so excited I can't wait to share it with you. I will leave you with a nod at what's to come:
Fairer than the sweetest flowers Restless as a wildest wind Born with a love deep as the ocean This was the boy that I did win.
p.s. Go here to watch the video of the girls.
Yesterday morning the Blind Pig family was up bright and early-4:00 AM. Why so early? We had a special trip to make.
A few months ago, Don Casada, sent me a music clip of him singing in the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church (which is part of the Smoky Mountain National Park). He wanted me to hear the acoustical sound the old church has-Don also had a suggestion for me. He thought the church would be a perfect place for the Blind Pig bunch to record a song or two. The only problem being-you have to walk 2 miles each way to reach the church. With Pap's recent heart issues-walking that far was out of the question for him, but Chitter and Chatter were up for the hike and excited about singing in the church.
I assumed the girls would sing acapella, but from the beginning-Chatter was adamant she was going to take her guitar. She heeded none of our warnings about how hard it would be to carry a guitar that far.
In the coming weeks I'll have a real treat for you-a video of the girls doing an outstanding performance of an old ballad filmed inside the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church. I promise it'll be worth the wait. *UPDATE Go here to see the video we filmed in the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church of The Pressley Girls.