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. 


p.s. Mark Davidson will be speaking in Bryson City, NC this Thursday night at 6:30 for the monthly meeting of the Swain County Genealogy and Historical Society. The meeting will be held at the Swain County Business Education and Training Center. If you live close enough, go out and hear him-I know you'll be glad you did!

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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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Christmas without Pap

Christmas without Pap

For weeks my annoying brain has kept reminding me this would be the first Christmas in my entire life without Pap. 

I started dreading the holiday season something fierce way back in the summer. 

At Thanksgiving we made it fine even though I felt like we all tip-toed around and made double sure not to talk about Pap-or maybe that was just me that was tip-toeing because I was afraid of the wall of grief that I expected to cover us all.

I knew Christmas would be harder than Thanksgiving. How could we possibly have Christmas without Pap? I mean who'd use their pocket-knife to open all of their gifts; who'd bless the food and remind us how lucky we were to be blessed with one another as well as the hope of eternal life; who'd tease the girls and listen to the boys banter with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face?

I despaired over finding out that Christmas without Pap just wasn't Christmas at all.

Have you ever dreaded something like a shot in the arm or a trip to the dentist or having stitches removed only to discover the event you'd built up in your mind wasn't nearly as bad as you had it made out to be?

When Chitter was about nine years old she needed a shot in the arm. She cried and fussed when the doctor told us and when the nurse came back in to give the shot we had to set her on the counter and hold her. Right when the nurse inserted the needle Chitter reached out and pinched her, I guess she was going to make sure the nurse suffered a little too. Chitter then quickly started laughing hysterically because she realized the shot wasn't such a big deal after all. 

That's what I found out about Christmas. Even without Pap it is still wonderful because he was right: We have one another and are so blessed in so many ways. And while I didn't notice anyone using a pocket knife to open their gifts, there was plenty of teasing, bantering, smiling, and joyful exuberance over the real reason for the season from a family who loves each other in a mighty way-just like Pap taught us to. 

Drop back by tomorrow and I'll share my favorite gift with you. It came from way up north in Vermont and was made by folks I've never met nor seen.


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Christmas Holly

Christmas Holly

Holly trees and their bright red berries have long been associated with Christmas. From songs to decorations-holly is all over Christmas. The woods surrounding my mountain holler are chock full of holly trees.

For years The Deer Hunter has told me the biggest holly tree he's ever seen is up the creek in the Tom Cove. I've always meant to get him to take me to see it, but somehow we never seem to get around to it or don't think of it when were out and about in the woods in that area. I wonder if it's still there.

A few years ago I told you about three of my favorite holly trees:

There are three holly trees on my road that never fail to catch my eye during the holiday season. Each tree is only a hop skip and a jump from the other. In fact as I write this I do believe you could draw a diagonal line between the three and it would be fairly straight. 

The first tree is in the yard of the first house on my road a big white farm house, by far the oldest house on my road. I've known the folks who live there my entire life. First the elder couple, then their grandson, and now their great grandson. As I think upon where the holly trees grow, I wonder if the first tree was left by chance or if Clarence and Ruby, the elder couple, loved the red berries as much as I do and made sure the tree grew unhindered.

The second holly tree is just up the road, but out in the pasture. A little set of woods that breaks up the large pasture is home to that very large holly tree.

The third holly tree is a little further up the road around the curve. It's not as large as the first two trees and it grows just outside the fence-all close up to the barb wire like it wishes it was in the pasture too.

Two of those three holly trees have disappeared since I first told you about them and there are new folks living in the old white farmhouse-folks I've never met, but hope to someday.

The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English talks about he holly and she holly.

he holly noun The male of the American holly tree (Ilex opaca), which bears no berries. Cf she holly

1957 Parris My Mts 248 Guess you didn't know there was he-holly and she-holly. Well, there is. Only she-holly has berries. 1964 Reynolds Born of Mts 84 In North Carolina even the holly is given sex, there being a He Holly and a She Holly, for how else could the last-named have berries, the other having none. 1995 Montgomery Coll. (Cardwell, Ledford, Norris, Oliver).

I never heard about he holly and she holly when I was growing up, but I remember Pap tromping through the woods to find holly branches dotted with red for Granny to decorate her house with. Sometimes he let me ride on his back as he made the trip up the creek other times Paul and I were left to scamper along behind in his boot prints. 


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Shooting Contests in Appalachia

Turkey Shoot

Do they ever have turkey shoots where you live? Every once in a while I hear about one happening around here. Pap told me back in the day turkey shoots were beyond common. 

A turkey shoot isn't really a turkey shoot-you don't shoot at a real turkey. Its a shooting contest to see who is the best shot. Participants shoot at a target from a set distance and the best shot wins a turkey.

The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has this entry for turkey shoot:

turkey shoot noun A Marksmanship competition, the winner of which is awarded a turkey as a prize. 1972 Cooper NC Mt Folklore 36 Beef and turkey shoots and rooster fights were great recreational events. 1997 Montgomery Coll. = turkey (and ham) shoots were common...beef shoots were usually conducted with rifles, while modern turkey shoots usually are conducted with shot guns. The rules and methods of scoring are also different (Ellis).

Pap School Pic


When Pap was a boy, one of his friends, Kenny Fleming, was the best shot around. Papaw Wade (Pap's daddy) heard there was going to be a turkey shoot over at Chester Dockery's place and he sent Pap and Kenny to enter it.

Pap was about 13 and Kenny was about 16 years old. Pap and Kenny's families both lived in Pine Log. Pap and Kenny walked through the gap of the mountain and on down the way till they reached Chester's house in Smyrna.

Now there were some serious shooters that entered the turkey shoot at Chester's. Pap said once Kenny starting shooting they kept narrowing the target down smaller and smaller trying to find something Kenny couldn't hit. They went from shooting at 22 hulls to shooting at straight pins.

Kenny won the turkey shoot, but in those days there wasn't a turkey in the whole area. Pap said the best he could remember Kenny went home with a rooster. 

Pap said Chester held turkey shoots most every weekend in those days. I asked him if Kenny ever went again, Pap said "No Kenny was too bashful to go back." 


p.s. On Saturday November 19 the Fontana Regional Library will be hosting the first “Read Local” book signing in Bryson City  at the Marianna Black Library from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. More than a dozen authors and researches with Bryson City/Swain County roots or connections will be offering their books for sale with a portion of the proceeds going towards construction of a new Marianna Black Library. Both Jim and Don Casada will be featured at the event-so go out and see them if you can!

p.s.s.  The Pressley Girls  will be playing this Saturday November 19, 2016 @ 1:30 p.m. - Marble Elementary Fall Festival in Marble, NC.

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