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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I Twice Belong to Thee

Wade Wilson and Marie Wilson

Wade and Marie Wilson - Pap's parents - My Papaw and Mamaw

 I've been thinking a lot about Papaw Wade over the last few weeks. Back when those first big camcorders came out-you know the kind that recorded on VHS tapes? My cousin's husband interviewed Papaw Wade about his life and filmed it.

As Paul was looking for old film footage and recordings of Pap he came across his copy of the interview and converted it to a DVD for me.

It had been 10 years or more since I watched the interview. I so enjoyed hearing Papaw Wade's voice again and I was impressed with how eloquently he spoke of his life.

Way back in 2008, the year I started blogging, I shared a song Pap wrote that was inspired by Papaw Wade. I thought I'd share it again today.

Papaw Wade was an old time Baptist Preacher. Pap once heard him tell a story about a lad who made a small boat during one of his sermons.

The lad placed the boat in a rushing stream to see if it would float. As the wind began to blow, the boat was taken from his reach. He frantically tried to rescue the boat, but to no avail.

The lad searched from shore to shore but never found the little boat. He grieved for the boat he had made. As time went swiftly by, he happened to see the boat in a store window. Oh how great the joy he felt. He would own the boat once more-no matter what the cost.

The lad and his boat stuck with Pap. He discussed it with his father and gathered all the details surrounding the story. The image of the lad losing what he made only to have to buy it back again inspired Pap to write the song I Twice Belong To Thee.

The first time I shared the video a Blind Pig Reader shared this comment:

"Maybe you know that story is called "Little Boat Twice Owned." I think the book by that name is still in print. I know it is available. It was a story often used to explain the gospel to children. And it's a sweet story too."

Papaw Wade died the year before The Deer Hunter and I were married. He had great wisdom to share-like the story of the lad and his boat, but he was also a real Appalachian character-you never knew what he was going to say or do next.
He wore overalls every day except Sunday and was famous for wearing his hat with the bill turned straight up. I'm planning on sharing part of his intereview with you in the coming months so be on the lookout for that.

I hope you enjoyed Pap's song, the wonderful 2-part harmony, and Paul's flat-top picking.


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Love Jerry

Love Letter From Pap 

Dear Louzine

Hope you are feeling well. Guess I am o.k. This fine wether is just about to give me spring fever. Seems every one gets a little lazy this time of year.

Louzine they put me on the second shift at work. I knew it was comming but I thought it would be another week or so. I have to go to work at 3 oclock and off at 11 oclock. I have to work sat. night. Looks like Sunday night is the only chance I will have to see you. If it is o.k. with you, and unless you send me word different I will be there about 4:30 Sunday evening. Then maybe we won't be out so late.

Darling I miss you lots. Sending this by Wayne, hope he gets it to you. Hope you can read this I am not much at spelling and writing. Don't eat supper before I come Sunday. We will eat out somewhere.

Love Jerry


Pap sent the letter above to Granny when they were first courting. Pap lived in the southern portion of Cherokee County and Granny lived in the western portion. With today's modern cars and roads that only equals about 20-25 minutes driving time, but in Pap and Granny's courting days the distance was farther in more ways than one.

A few months back I asked Granny when her family first got a telephone. She couldn't remember the exact year, but she did remember having to walk across the road to use the neighbor's phone to call Pap's mother and tell her to let Pap know she was sick and and that he shouldn't come out to see her one evening. Pap and Granny only dated a short 3 months before marrying so I'm guessing it was about 1963 when she borrowed the phone. 

Only one or two houses in the neighborhood having a telephone is a huge difference from today where everyone you know is walking around with one in their pocket. The difference almost boggles the mind.

Pap's Uncle Wayne and his wife Violet lived across the way from Granny's family. As often happens in large families, Pap and Wayne were closer in age than most uncles and nephews and since they grew up near each other they were more like cousins.

Back in the day Pap and Wayne drove wagons from the Harshaw Farm to Murphy, worked in the fields, swam and fished in the Hiwassee River and slipped off to play when they both knew better.

After they were grown and Wayne married Violet he introduced Pap to Granny.

Happy Valentines Day!!


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Inspiration From Days Gone By

Papaw Wade Earl Wilson
Papaw Wade and his dogs

Since I first started writing here on the Blind Pig one truth has proved itself over and over: you never know where questions will take you.

As will often happen, I already had the thought of wood meandering around my brain when GW Newton sent me the story about his Mother and lightered wood. Falling in love with his mother's fierce independent determination led me down a whole different road.

Somewhere along the dirt path that went from dead chestnut trees to rich pine I took a u-turn and went back along the way looking for rolling stores. Wouldn't you know, when I hitched a ride on the store truck I found a story or two by way of Pap. Seems he's always got a story for me no matter the subject.


Pap's family: Marie holding Henry, Wade, Carrie, Ray, and Pap in his overalls

Since most of the places Pap's family lived when he was a boy are within driving distance (if not walking) he's taken me to more than a few of them over the years. You may remember the place he lived on Cook Road-the place where he was scared in the moonlight.

The house had 3 rooms with a fireplace for heat and a wood cook stove. WWII had been over for a few years and things seemed to be picking up even here in Brasstown. Pap's father, Wade, was offered a job share cropping the old Brown place over on Pine Log.

In early summer they moved from Cook Road to an old house in Calley Cove that had 3 rooms too, but the rooms were larger. Even better the old cabin had a covered porch along the length of it. The house sat under a white oak as big as a wagon wheel. There was even a can house and a big barn. But the best part about the new place was that it was on the sunny side of the mountain, not in a dreary damp place like the house they'd just left.

The Brown place was less than a mile away, so Wade didn't have too far to travel back and forth. Things were going good for Pap's family. His father also did some farming for Pap's aunt and uncle, Ina and Bill Penland. Pap didn't say it, but I'm thinking his mother Marie liked being only a mile away from her sister Ina. And I know from the stories I've heard that a true bond of friendship was made during that time between the two sister's children.

The house in Calley Cove didn't have a fireplace nor a cookstove. The cookstove wasn't an issue since they were able to bring the one from Cook road with them. But as summer turned into fall the lack of a fireplace for extra heat became a problem. You'd think a cook stove would be enough to heat a little 3 room cabin, but I'm sure most of the heat went straight out the un-insulated walls.

Wade came up with the money to buy a woodstove-Pap thinks it was 26 dollars. He put in an order for Bennetts Rolling Store to bring him one as soon as they could. Finally the day arrived. Pap said it was an exciting time for them all. 

Now this is the part of the story that tugs at my heart.

When Wade went to meet the store truck he didn't have anything to haul the stove home on.

All these years later, who can say why. Maybe he didn't have an animal to pull a sled-maybe he didn't have a sled-maybe he didn't want to put someone else out by asking to borrow theirs.

Pap doesn't remember the why, but he remembers the how.

Wade directed the store man to help him put the stove on his back. The man didn't want to comply with the request, the driver warned Wade he'd hurt himself, warned him there was no way he could make it home. Now my Papaw Wade wasn't a large man, he wasn't much taller than me (I'm 5'5) and he couldn't have weighed much more than me either. 

Pap remembers how his Daddy started off for home with that stove on his back. He traveled a ways and then backed up to a bank so he could shift the load off. Pap remembers after his Daddy folded a coat and placed it on his shoulder he backed up to the bank and wrangled the stove to his back and started off again.

Pap remembers how after going a bit farther, his Daddy finally realized he'd bit off more than he could chew. After the stove was once again set on a bank, they went for a horse and sled that carried the load the rest of the way home.

I've pondered Papaw Wade trying to carry that stove a blue million times since Pap first told me the story. You'd think only a crazy person would try to carry a stove, but see I know Papaw Wade wasn't crazy, he was actually a very smart man. So why did he attempt such a herculean task?

Because his family needed a stove; because he had an independent spirit that made him want to take care of things on his own; because he didn't want to put someone else out by asking for their help; because he saw what needed to be done and went at it like fighting fire.

This story about Papaw Wade trying to carry a stove home to his family and GW Newton's story of his Mother figuring out how to get her own lightered wood splinters when she needed them inspire me. Both show the determination and goodness that can dwell within us humans.

In today's world there's no need for carrying stoves on your back nor crawling under the house for splinters, but there are still obstacles. There are still hard times in my Appalachia and there are still people rising above them for their families. And you know what? That's just as cool now as it was way back then.


p.s. This post was originally published right here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn in 2012. I've had Papaw Wade and his wood cutting on my mind the last few days and thought I'd share the post with you again.

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Sparking = Courting...which =s Dating

Pap didn't like it when i started courting

Tipper and Pap 1980 something

B verb (also spark with) Esp of a man; to woo, court; hence sparking = courting. Cf. talk.
1859 Taliaferro Fisher's River 118 I sparked her a little that night, and told her I was a-gwine wiz her to meetin' next Sunday. 1935 Sheppard Cabins in Laurel 172 When he comes and takes her to the church-house and calls on her with presents of candy and Victrola records, they have advanced to the sparkin' stage. 1936 LAMSAS sparking (Madison Co NC, Swain Co NC). 1939 Hall Coll. Cades Cove TN We was small, both of us. They got to deviling us about sparking, you know, and Will says, "Now, boys, that's got to be cut out, deviling them children. They don't know what sparking is." (Aaron Swanninger) 1958 Newton Dialect Vocab spark (Happy Valley TN); spark with (Walland TN, Millers Cove TN). 1963 Edwards Gravel 36 There was some fascination about talking on the phone; and many a good spell of light sparkin was done on that phone in my dad's store. 1963 Medford Mt People 51 While the women never would encroach on the "men's" side, young men, when "sparking," would sometimes venture over to the "women's side" of the church or public meeting-place. 1974 GSMNP-51:13 If I could just get to read that letter, why I'd know how to start. We called it sparking then. 1993 Weaver Scotch-Irish Speech 16 Also, expressions such as "sparking" (dating), "Courting" (dating with serious intent), and "talking" (contemplating marriage), very distinct in meaning in West Virginia, were used interchangeably in the Carolinas. 

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


The definition from the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English reminds me of a memory I wish I would have asked Pap about.

I was probably 13 or 14 when it happened.

The pastor of our church was going to be preaching a revival and several folks in the church decided they'd go over to the other church one night and visit in support of the pastor.

I have no memory of the church's name. It was located way up in the mountains in Suches GA. It seemed like it took forever to get there. I remember the cars in our group lined up going round and round the curves climbing higher all the while. 

The church was a really old one that hadn't been modernized over the years. I remember there were school desks sitting down near the front by the pulpit. Looking back I'm not sure if it's because they used that area for a Sunday school class or if that's just all the extra seating they had. 

I set in the back row with one of my friends. Right away we scoped out the kids that were our age and one especially attractive young man who put you in the mind of a young Johnny Cash-flipped back black hair and all. Pap always set in the front of the church with the other men no matter if we were at our home church or if we were out visiting somewhere. 

The church choir sang in a mighty way, they were really good. As soon as they were finished, the attractive young man came all the way to the back of the church and set down beside me.

After speaking a few words of welcome one of the pastors called for everyone to come to the altar and pray. Once the Amens had been said and folks begin to take to the benches I looked up to see Pap striding back through the church to where I was sitting. With not even a nod Pap took a seat on the other side of the attractive young man. 

I was too puzzled to be embarrassed. I knew better than to ever cause trouble in church and besides that we'd barely been there 20 or 30 minutes and I knew I hadn't done anything wrong. As I set there pondering I decided it had to be the attractive young man that caused Pap to sit beside me in church for the first time since I was little enough to sit in his lap. 

I meant to ask Pap why he came and set with us, but we were riding with a few other folks and I couldn't ask on the way home and in the way of life I quickly forgot about the handsome young man and Pap's unusual actions. It was sometime after Pap passed away that I remembered visiting the old church. If I had thought of it sooner I'd asked Pap how he knew the boy was trouble when that's the first time he ever laid eyes on him.

When I was growing up I rarely heard anyone talk about sparking or trying to spark. Since this is the month for love, I'll share some common Appalachian terms for dating with you one day next week. 


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Memories and Food

Memories connected to food

Each of us have memories that are connected to food. Typically those remembrances are directly related to our childhood, you know the things we ate around the family table like the chocolate gravy I told you about earlier this week.

A few years ago I shared my thoughts about memories which are connected to food you put up yourself. Here's a portion of that old post:

"Recently I watched the rain come down in sheets while I ate apples I dried back in the fall. As I munched my tasty apples, I realized there's another reason why things we put up are good. 

On a yucky dreary day my dried apples gave me sunshine; a slice of crystal clear Georgia sky; and the sounds of 4-wheelers and giggling girls. In other words my apples gave me a swirl of good memories from the day I dried them.

I've long realized we have memories and emotions tied to certain foods-like how we can taste a certain food and instantly be taken back to childhood. But I've never before thought of food in connection to the actual day it was made.

I'm positive the next jar of tomatoes I open I'll smell the hot summer sun shining on the green leaves and the next time I cook a jar of greenbeans for supper I'll think of the early summer days when we planted them together in Pap's big garden with friendly banter back and forth among us all."

I've kept pondering on the idea of food I put up being tied to the memory of the day I put it up.

I couldn't seem to care about none of my growing things after Pap died. But last fall as The Deer Hunter and I harvested the largest crop of apples we've ever grown I felt hopeful. Hopeful that all those apples would make some delicious applesauce for us, hopeful that I would dry apples from them for snacks and for a Christmas apple stack cake, hopeful because I knew Pap would be so proud of those apples.

So in some weird, maybe even silly way my canned applesauce became wrapped up in my grieving process for Pap. Now each jar I open reminds me of the hope and sunshine that came after the greatest rain of my life. 


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Wilson Holler

David Kaynor

JCCFS Dance Musician's Week - David Kaynor standing at mike; Chitter and Chatter at far right of photo

It was during the month of December that I told you about the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra playing the song Chitter wrote for Pap-Spider Web Canyon. I was so very excited (still am) that the orchestra played Spider Web Canyon that I failed to mention David had written a song about Pap too; actually David's song is about all of us and the place where we live Wilson Holler

The girls and I met David in 2012 during the John C. Campbell Folk School's Summer Dance Musician's Week. That was the first year Chatter and Chitter got to take the class and we really had no idea what to expect. We all wondered if the girls would be able to keep up in class and wondered what the teachers would be like. 

Turns out all our wondering and worries were for nothing. The girls loved the class. They gained tons of musical knowledge, made life long friendships with the teachers and the other students, and had a ball of fun while doing it!

Due to the great generosity of some anonymous people and the folk school itself, the girls have gotten to attend every Summer Dance Musician's Week since that first one. Over those years they've been able to strengthen their friendship with David. 

The week is always a whirlwind of class, music, and dancing during the daytime with dancing every night of the week as well. All the busyness doesn't leave much time for venturing off the folk school's campus. 

Early last Spring, David was teaching a different music class at the folk school and he had some extra time one afternoon. He came over to the house and ate with us and then was able to ride over to the Martins Creek Community Center where we had a gig. We invited David up on the stage and he played some harmony fiddle with Chitter on a few of our songs. David also got to meet Pap that night.

A month or so later as David thought about Pap's passing and our sorrow he was inspired to compose the fiddle tune Wilson Holler about our family and our home.

I hope you enjoyed David's composition and the great performance by the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra. 


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Appalachia Through My Eyes - The Girl can Crochet

My life in appalachia the girl can crotchet

Chitter made me the afghan in the photo for Christmas. I'm telling you the girl can crochet , well actually both girls can crochet. Chatter gifted me with a beautiful scarf she made out of the softest yarn.

Granny's mother Gazzie loved to crochet and she passed that love on to Granny. I've told you plenty of times before, Granny is crochet crazy. She spins out things faster than we can keep track of them or find a place to put them.

Granny taught the girls to crochet and they've stuck with it. Pap used to get so tickled at them. We'd go somewhere to perform and while we were waiting to go on stage they'd pull out whatever they were working on and start crocheting. He said "They really are like two little grannies."

Granny is always telling me I'll be sorry I never let her teach me to crochet and someday it'll be too late. Even though I never picked up the skill, I sure am glad the girls did. Three generations of crocheters is pretty cool if you ask me. And if you count my cousin Tina who is my age and learned from Granny Gazzie-that makes 4 generations which is even cooler.


Appalachia Through My Eyes - A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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From Brasstown to Vermont and Back

Spider Web Canyon composed by Katie Pressley in honor of her Grandfather Jerry 'Pap' Wilson

Pap helping Chitter tune before a show

My favorite Christmas gift arrived way back in October...but no one noticed it was here. The gift just sat quietly waiting for the right time to announce itself.

Like lots of folks Pap had a chair he claimed for his own and as his medical problems became more serious he sat in it more and more. Whenever you walked into the living-room you'd expect him to be sitting there in the green plaid recliner. The day he died Paul slept in his chair.

In the weeks and month's afterward I think we all looked at the chair and thought about Pap not being in it. Sometimes I gave it a pat when I'd walk behind it to go to the bathroom or get something for Granny from one of the back rooms. More than once I saw the girls give it a good sniff trying to catch a whiff of Pap's unique smell which was a mixture of Listerine, Vitalis, and coffee. 

One day when I came in from work Chitter told me she'd been inspired to compose a song about Pap. She said she was sitting in his chair and the tune just came to her. 

I love to read and after Pap's death I went through a spell of reading pioneer stories about the folks who packed up everything they owned and headed out west for a new start. After Chitter played her song for me I said "Now it might just be because I've been reading about the pioneers heading west but I swear that song makes me think of a western town in the 1800s." Chitter smiled and said "Well I was thinking about mine and Pap's favorite western when I wrote it."

I couldn't wait for her to play it for Paul. He liked the song as much as I did and advised Chitter to really think about what to name it-to let it sit for a while and then name it something she'd always find meaningful to her and maybe even be symbolic for Pap since she said he inspired it. 

A few weeks later Chitter said she'd come up with a name Spider Web Canyon. Pap and Chitter had a common love of westerns. Often they talked about the books Chitter was reading and about Pap's favorites that he'd read over the years. One of the last books they talked about was Zane Grey's Lost Wagon Train and Spider Web Canyon played an important role in the story.

Chitter taught Spider Web Canyon to David Kaynor who is one of her music mentors. If you think his name sounds familiar, I've written about him teaching the girls at John C. Campbell Folk School's Dance Musicians Class.

David lives in Massachusetts where he teaches music, calls dances, conducts the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra, and many other things. Over the years David has become a special friend to our family and has a strong bond of friendship with us. David got to meet Pap back in the Spring of the year and even joined us onstage at the Martins Creek Community Center.

David took Chitter's song and the story of Pap inspiring her back up north and taught it to the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra. They played it at a performance and David sent us a recording of the event, but Chitter failed to notice he had sent it. Between finals, her senior capstone project, and life she never saw the message that David had sent her back in October. 

I'm sort of glad Chitter didn't find the recording until December, hearing an amazing orchestra play the song that Chitter composed while sitting in Pap's chair was the best Christmas present ever.

Knowing I wanted everyone to experience the song I made a slide-show of photos from Pap's life to go along with the music for Granny and Paul. They just loved it. I'm not sure who's watched it more Paul or me, but we've about wore it out. 

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my favorite Christmas present and I hope you enjoyed the video-if you did please share it with your friends.


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