Veterans - I Thank You For Your Service

Veterans day oteen nc

The good doctors at the VA Hospital in Oteen took good care of Pap's medical needs over the years. Whether you're going for a doctor's appointment in the outpatient area or visiting the inpatient floors going to a large VA Hospital is always a humbling experience.

By far the majority of patients at the Oteen VA are elderly men. There are some women sprinkled in and some younger vets too, but mostly it's old men. I was always struck by their voices. Some grown shaky with age; some so strong and vibrant it was easy to visualize them in their soldier boy uniforms standing at attention.

It's funny how the different branches of service seek each other out and sort of eerie how they seem to know if their neighbor in the waiting room is a leather neck, a ground pounder, or fly boy.

Due to Pap's health, I've been at the VA in Oteen for extended periods of time over the years. As I sat in the waiting rooms I would listen to snatches of conversation as families and friends talked of their loved one who were sick.

I also listened in as the Vets talked one with another. You could always hear a man or woman asking the others where they were stationed and what year they served. The answers always brought about talk of rations or meals, of memorable Sergeants, and trips to distant lands. Often the good folks who work at the VA joined in the conversation as many of them are Vets who are still serving, now taking care of those they used to stand beside in the chow line.

After every visit we made to the VA there were always folks who stood out in my mind over the days and weeks that followed. Like the gentleman from Franklin who was discharged at the same time Pap was. We all joked about how we were going in the same direction once we left Asheville for home.

There was the patient in the bed across the way who looked so frail and weak I wonder how long he made it, but knew his wife and daughter would be there to comfort him and each other no matter what happened.

There was the young tattooed janitor who entertained Pap and me with his out going personality and obvious gift for gab. He was in awe of Pap because he was a Marine. He told us he'd never get over having his childhood dreams of wearing Marine dress blues crushed by type two diabetes.

One Vet stands out in my mind from several years back.

He was a tall gangly old man who could barely walk. His daughter helped him shuffle along with a walker. Once he got seated in the chair by Pap they began to compare stories of service. The old man told Pap he was at Normandy and that all four of his siblings had served too. Even his two sisters had been nurses in the war. He said they all come back home except both the sisters' husbands.

What gifts of service the man and his family gave! What sticks out in my mind till this day is the way he talked to Pap about it. He talked like it was just yesterday or last week; like he and his siblings were all still young; like they were recently home after having marched off to war for the good of me.

At Oteen I looked at the old veterans and thought "They made it." Every one of them came back home and the loved ones who hovered around them in hopes that their pain would be lessened is evidence that most of them went on to have a good lives.

My wish for all those who are serving now is that they come home and live long lives surrounded by family and friends who love them and that someday they become the old Vets at the VA talking about their past service with their comrades.

To ALL Veterans young and old - I THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.


p.s. Since Pap was my favorite Veteran it seems only fitting that I would giveaway one of his cds as part of my Thankful November. Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win the last cd Pap made Shepherd of My Soul. Giveaway ends Tuesday November 14. To purchase your own copy go here.

p.s.s. The winner of The Pressley Girls cds is...Gloria Strother who said:  "I enjoy Blind Pig so much! I would love to have the girls' CD!" Gloria send your mailing address to me at and I'll send you some music! If you're interested in picking up your own copy of The Pressley Girls' cd go here

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Molasses Making

Molasses making in haywood county nc

Molasses making in Haywood County NC

molasses boiling, molasses making, molasses stir off noun A social work activity, sometimes lasting all day, at which the juice of sorghum cane is squeezed and slowly boiled, producing a thick syrup that became a principal sweetener for traditional mountain food. The syrup was sometimes fashioned into candy, esp by young couples, by pulling stretches or "ropes" of it until they cooled into sticks, and eaten. 1922 Tenn Civil War Ques 18 [School] amed to run 3 mos but stoped through fodder pulling and molasses making. 1939 Campbell Play-Party 18 Clearings, log-rollings, house-raisings, corn-shuckings, bean stringings, apple peelings, 'lasses stir-offs, and quiltings, though said to be not as common as they once were, still survive. 1945 O'Dell Old Mills 4 Molasses making were gala occasions. Neighbors often helped with the tedious task. After all was finished, the last run was allowed to boil until it was ready for candy. While it cooled, all hands were washed in the nearby stream, greased thoroughly, and then each Jack chose his Jill for the candy-pulling. 1966 Frome Strangers 240 He remembered how the farmers never hired hands for wheat threshing, but would help each other; how the boys and girls shucked corn together and had a time telling tales and singing, as they did at spelling bees and "'lasses boilings." 1982 Maples Memories 12 I still got to see the "lassie making" though. We kids would be on our way from school, and Uncle Burt Ogle would be making molasses. We would see the old mule going round and round, grinding out the juice of the sugar cane, as one of the men would feed the mill. 

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


It's the time of the year for molasses making. Pap always called molasses sorghum syrup or just plain syrup so that's what I think of it as. Pap's father, my Papaw Wade, was known for his sorghum syrup making skills. Pap told me stories about Papaw Wade going around the territory to help others with their syrup after he had finished his own. 

After I was married and started growing a garden I told Pap I wanted to grow cane and that he could teach me to make syrup. I still remember the way he laughed as he said "Why Tipper you ain't go nowhere to grow cane. It takes a whole lot to make syrup and you can't grow it on the the side of the mountain. 


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Words Of Life

Pap and brothers
Ray, Henry, Pap 

Paul is still trying his best to get Pap's original music out there to the world. We're both disappointed that we haven't made much progress on our dvd idea of highlighting the most popular videos on our youtube channel and getting Pap's old friends to introduce them. Life keeps getting in the way, I'm sure you know how that is. The dvd is still a dream we want to complete, we just need to force ourselves to get started.  

Paul recently uploaded a video made to highlight one of Pap's older songs Words of Life. I'll let him tell you about it. 

"In 1973, Pap and his two brothers made their first album: Words of Life. The title cut was written by Pap. It features him on high harmony, his brother Ray on lead vocal, and youngest brother Henry on electric guitar (a beautiful Gretch that you can see in some of the photos in the video). The steel player and bass player did a fine job, but I do not know who they were. The steel player could be the one in the photo at 1:51, but I have no way of knowing that.

Pap told me once that the snare drum player on the album was just a hung man who "hung around the studio," someone he never met before or after.

Terry Pappas made this video. While the music plays, various photos and articles down through the years are shown. Not all of the lyrics appear during the song, only key words from the song.

Some of the photos are just notices about performances and some are articles covering awards they won or highlighting their musical career. Words of Life also became the title of several radio broadcasts they had down through the years on different stations. There are even a few photos of my uncle Henry in a bunker in Vietnam with some old guitar he had rounded up so he could keep his playing going during the war. Apparently one of the tuning knobs must have been missing. He served as a forward observer for the 1st Calvary.

Also appearing in some of the photos: Perry Stalcup on bass, Robert Hampton on dobro, Rev. Leander Chastain, Fred Williams, Aiden Martin, Johnny Mason, former NC Senator Robert Carpenter and his wife, David Brose from the John C Campbell Folk School, Douglass Day, Pap's sister Carrie and father Wade, other unidentified musicians, my first cousin Brian Wilson (infant), and me."

I hope you enjoyed the video as much as we do!


 p.s. More than a few of the photos in the video were taken at the folk school. There's only two more days to enter the JCCFS Fall Festival Ticket giveaway. Go enter if you haven't!

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Cash on the Barrelhead

Today's guest post was written by Paul Wilson.

Cash on the Barrelhead

Paul - Murphy, NC - July 2017

In one of our Youtube uploads a few weeks ago, I sang an original song about how Pap sang songs for me when I was little. Cash on the Barrelhead is one of the songs that I would often ask him to sing for me. He would sometimes try to get out of singing it because he didn't know all of the words. He sang the song in G major, which is three frets higher than I sing it here, in E major. Singing it in G would make it much easier to pick, especially the little intro, but I cannot sing the song that high.

This song is one of the few solo songs ever put out by the great Louvin Brothers while they were still recording as a duet. According to Wikipedia, it was released in 1956.

Ira sang the song in D major, which interestingly is two frets lower than where I sing it in the video. I think he clearly made that choice for the sake of the music (rather than for the vocal). The original recording features excellent mandolin picking by him as well as great steel work from Don Helms (Hank Williams, Sr.'s steel player), and the great Paul Yandell on electric guitar.

According to Wikipedia, it has been recorded by many other artists, including Dolly Parton, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Leftover Salmon, Bobby Lord, Ronnie Sessions, Rhonda Vincent, and Allison Krauss. Charlie Louvin also recorded the song a couple of times in his solo career. In the version I've heard, he sings the song comfortably in F, one fret higher than this video.

There are many versions of this song on YouTube featuring full bluegrass band accompaniment. I wanted to do this with a single guitar, similarly to how Pap did it for me when I was a kid. I added the pauses and extra beats in B and other places to give me extra time to think of the words. I apologize for my appearance. I had just gotten home from a tennis tournament.

This song always stirred my imagination particularly because I knew that Pap had personally experienced many things similar to those described in the song. As a young man, he did a lot of hitchhiking and navigating through situations where he had very little money. To me, this song shows how life can sometimes be unsympathetic when you don't have $.

The lyrics are below. I updated "six gun" to "9 mil" to make it more in line with present day. By the way, if you're wondering why I'm playing this Ibanez guitar, it's because this guitar may be given away in the coming months here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn. 

Cash on the Barrelhead

Got in a little trouble at the county seat.
Lawd, they threw me in the jailhouse for loafing on the street.
When the judge heard the verdict, I was a guilty man.
He said, "$45, or 30 days in the can."

"That'll be cash on the barrelhead, son.
You can take your choice. You're 21.
No money down, no credit plan.
No time to chase you. I'm a busy man."

Found her telephone number on a laundry slip.
Had a good, hardy jailer, 9 mil on his hip.
He let me call long distance. She said, "Number please."
No sooner than I told her, she shouted out at me:

"That'll be cash on the barrelhead son.
Not part, not half, but the entire sum.
No money down, no credit plan.
For a little bird tells me, you're a ramblin' man."

30 days in the jailhouse. 4 days on the road.
I was getting mighty hungry. My feet a heavy load.
Saw a Greyhound comin'. Stuck up my thumb.
Just as I was being seated, the driver caught my arm.

"He said that'll be cash on the barrelhead, son.
This old grey dog gets paid to run.
When the engine stops, Lawd the wheels won't roll.
Give me cash on the barrelhead, I'll take you down the road.
Give me cash on the barrelhead, I'll take you down the road"


I hope you enjoyed Paul's guest post and his picking and singing as much as I did! I can remember Pap singing the song to Paul when we were little so that makes the whole thing seem extra special. Yet when I watched the video for the first time after Paul uploaded it, it wasn't Pap that I thought of it was Uncle Henry. I've never once thought Paul looked like Uncle Henry in any way shape or form, but something about his mannerisms and expressions in this video is Uncle Henry to a T. 

Today would have been Pap's birthday. It seems fitting that Paul wrote the guest post and sung the song even though we sure didn't plan for it to be published on his birthday-that's just how it worked out. 


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Pap loves music

Since I first started the Blind Pig and The Acorn we've put so many videos on Youtube that sometimes I forget which songs we've filmed and uploaded. Receiving comment notifications from Youtube is a daily occurrence. Folks are still finding the videos we've put up over the years and thankfully they still seem to be enjoying them. 

Every once in a while I'll get a comment on a song that I'd forgotten we put up. When that happens I always go watch the video. I guess as Pap used to say I see the video anew, almost like I've never seen it before even though I'm the person who put it on Youtube.

It's been almost a year since Ron left this comment on the Roy Acuff song Branded. A video we uploaded in 2010.

Love it!! I believe that is my first listen for that song by anyone. I've been listening to Acuff since a boy in the 1940's and can't remember that one. Beautiful harmonizing by dad and son. thanks, Ron.

After reading Ron's comment I jumped over and watched the video. Does it sound silly that I was totally blown away? I mean just wow. Pap and Paul's harmony will give you chills; Paul's lead has a longing that makes you want it to all be okay for the old boy; and the music ain't half bad either. 

See what you think:


Our music hasn't ever been about trying to make a living nor even make much money from it. Oh don't get me wrong we'd sure sign up for the money if it was knocking on the door but that hasn't ever happened.

The music we made and make is about something more. What? I don't know. I've tried to study on it. Of course there's the pure enjoyment of making music, of being together as a family, but truthfully we enjoy many other activities and we could sit around and watch tv together as a family or do any other number of things that would be easier than picking a guitar. I don't know if our music comes from a need, if it's a creative outlet, or maybe it's just a habit that keeps getting passed on to the next generation. 

The things that I love about this video:

  • the smirk of smile on Mark's face at the beginning-it makes me wish I remembered what that was about
  • Pap's signature guitar runs
  • harmony so sweet it might make your ears melt
  • Paul's flat-top picking that somehow makes the words seem even more lonesome and sad
  • the way Paul looks at Pap as though looking at him will make the harmony easier on them both
  • the way Paul sings In three years my sentence will be over the gates will swing open for me just after his guitar break
  • the way Mark nails his mandolin break and then looks like it was nothing
  • the way Pap really gives it his all on the last chorus and lets his tenor go even higher
  • Pap's last pick of the strings


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Yellow Flowers and Yellow Throats

Jerry Pap Wilson

Do you dream at night? I've met folks who say they rarely dream and folks who say they never dream. I'm a dreamer born from a family of dreamers.

Pap and Granny both had and have vivid dreams. The sort of dreams you share with one another because you just can't get them out of your mind. The girls are continuing our tradition of dreams. There's hardly a morning that I don't hear them discussing their head movies. Granny would be upset if she knew they were telling them before breakfast-something she never does for fear they'll come true. When she used to caution me about telling dreams before breakfast I'd say "But what if I want them to come true?" She never answered my question.

One night last week I dreamed I was on a farm for a special day of eating and visiting. Actually it was Blind Pig reader Sam Ensley's farm, yet in the way of dreams the man looked nothing like Sam and truthfully I don't even know if Sam has a farm.

There were children about everywhere and many of them had been taking turns riding Sam's horses. As we gathered to eat, the children, especially one little girl, showed me the flowers they had picked from the yard. Many were weeds and I was amazed as the children told me the uses of each bloom how one might help when you had a cold and another when you had a bad case of poison oak. 

Sam and the other men unsaddled the horses to put them back in the pasture. As I stood on the porch with the children I was alarmed when Sam sent the horses running down the little two lane highway. I need not have worried because Sam's horses were special-quick as a wink they jumped the fence and put themselves back in the pasture. 

Relived the horses were fine I turned my attention back to the children's table where I was going to sit and eat my dinner with them. It was then that I noticed Sam and all the children had yellow throats. Not yellow like jaundice, but yellow like the brightest spring daffodils or the cheeriest dandelion you ever saw. The last part of the dream I recall is thinking to myself "No wonder the children know so much about blooms, they must be part flowers themselves."

I was off work the day following my colorful dream of flowers, children, running horses, and yellow throats. I had promised to spend the day helping Granny do whatever she wanted me to do around the house. First on her list was to visit Pap's grave.

Every year just before Memorial Day the cemetery is cleaned up in preparation for a new season of decoration days and homecomings. My brother Steve removed all the flowers on Pap's grave to prevent them from being thrown away and then he took some of them back once the graveyard had been cleaned. Granny had re-done the arrangement that fits over the headstone and was anxious to get it back on the grave.

We had just turned onto the road that leads to the cemetery when Granny said "You know Charlotte's little granddaughter? She told Paul that she put some yellow flowers on your Daddy's grave because there wasn't none on it. Paul told her thank you and that we had just moved the flowers while they cleaned up the cemetery." 

I've only seen Charlotte's granddaughter one time that I know of and probably couldn't pick her out from a group of girls if I tried, but somehow she and her yellow flowers ended up in my dream even before I knew of her kind deed. Maybe Pap was trying to tell me there's lots of goodness left in this ole world even though he's gone from it and I miss him so that sometimes I think I can't bear it or maybe I was reminding my ownself of the goodness of folks like Sam Ensley and a little girl I don't even know who lives down the road. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing at Unicoi State Park this Saturday June 17 at 8:00 p.m. 

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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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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 interview 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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