We Mountain People

Mountain people

Jerry and Pap - Life long friends

"We mountain people are the product of our history and the beliefs and outlook of our foreparents. We are a traditional people, and in our rural setting we valued the things of the past. More than most people, we avoided mainstream life and thus became self-reliant. We sought freedom from entanglements and cherished solitude. All of this was both our strength and our undoing."

~Appalachian Values -Loyal Jones

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Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing TODAY Saturday March 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Martins Creek Community Center.

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Late Spring Snow of March 17, 1936

Today's guest post was written by Charles Fletcher.

Blizzard March 17 1936 Haywood County NC

Henson Cove area of Haywood County NC - March 1993 Blizzard

THE LATE SPRING SNOW OF MARCH 17,1936 written by Charles Fletcher

March 17, 1936 -- One of the worst snowstorms of the century swept across Asheville and Western North Carolina. Snowdrifts up to 8 feet high buried parked cars in the city and caused hazardous driving through the area.

I was thirteen years old, and my younger brother, T.J., was eleven at the time of the late spring snow of March 17th, 1936. We went to the new school called Beaverdam Elementary School which was about one-half mile away from where we lived. Our house was located on a hill above a graveyard, and as might be expected, it was referred to as “Graveyard Hill”.

On March 15th at noon the snow was coming down very hard, so the school closed at noon and sent everyone home. The snow continued very hard from Friday until Sunday night.

My dad was working in the paper mill at Canton, and the mill’s supervisors asked all the employees who were working to stay and not go home. They wanted to be sure that they would have someone to keep the mill running and not have to shut it down.

Like most of the people who lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina, my family were always prepared for the unexpected problems that come up every now and then. They always had plenty of food that they preserved in the summer and plenty of firewood on hand to keep the house warm and the cook-stove hot so they could cook three meals every day.

Although we didn’t have the things that children and adults have nowadays to keep themselves entertained, we managed very well with the things we had. We read, told stories, and played games, and Mom would read us Bible stories.

On Monday morning we asked Mom if we could go back to school. We would have to walk the half-mile to school because we lived less than the two-mile distance from the school which would qualify us to ride the school bus. After Mom made sure we had enough clothes on so we wouldn’t freeze, she let us leave for school if we promised that if the snow was too deep we would come back home.

The snow was up higher than our heads on the route we normally took to school, so we walked the ridges where the wind had blown off the snow. When we came down off the ridges, we walked on the sides of the road where the snow had been blown back to the high side of the road.

Burt Robinson’s house was the closest house to the school, and he was the janitor and caretaker for the school. When we got near the school, we could see black smoke coming from the coal-fired furnace that heated the water that circulated through pipes to heat the school rooms. We knew that Burt was at the school.

When we reached the school, we headed straight to the boiler-room where Bert spent most of his time during the school day. He had his candy store in the boiler-room. Students could come in and buy an all-day sugar daddy for a penny.

When we entered the boiler-room, Burt asked what we were doing at school. He told us that there wouldn’t be any classes for the better part of a week and that we should go on back home before it started snowing again.

When we got back to our house, Dad was home. He had walked the ridges where the snow had blown off just like my younger brother and I had done.

This spring snow set back farming for the year and did lots of damage to trees. There was also at least one death that was known about when a man who was our neighbor (name withheld) lost his life from what was called “cold sleepiness”. In cold sleepiness the body temperature gets low, and the mind tells a person to go to sleep. Once asleep, the person freezes to death.

I am now 95 years old, and I have seen many big snow storms, but I will never forget the spring snow of March 17, 1936.

Charles Fletcher

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Now that was a big snow! I hope you enjoyed Charles's snowy memories as much as I did.

Tipper

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March is...

March in Appalachia is

"March is a pair of bluebirds checking out the nesting site they used last year and the year before - the same one which was used by parents and grandparents before them.

It's red and salmon blooms on flowering quince at an old home place.

It's the growl of a roto-tiller, the smell of freshly-turned soil, and thoughts of creamed corn with thick slices of tomatoes.

March is a walk up Bradley Fork with sunshine on your back and wind blown snowflakes peppering your face."

~Don Casada 2016

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Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Friday March 10 at 5:30 p.m. at Ranger's Elementary's Gospel Bluegrass & Barbecue. Tickets are on sale now $7.00 prepaid at the door they will be $10.00. Starts at 5:00 p.m.

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The Gunter Cabin

The Gunter Cabin Fontana NC

The Gunter Cabin - Fontana Village NC

Welch Cove Pioneers:
The Gunter Family

Jessie Gunter was born in the Stecoah Valley to Hiram and Bettie Gunter. He and seven siblings grew up helping work their small farm. When Nancy Catherine Richardson arrived from South Carolina to teach at the Stecoah School, she and Jessie became smitten and decided to marry.

In 1875, Jessie and Catherine traveled with their four children to Welch Cove where Jessie's brother Cyrene lived. The brothers constructed a cabin for Jessie's growing family that has since been hailed as some of the finest carpentry in all the Smokies. The walls were made from large tulip poplar trunks, split and joined with half dovetail notches. Cherry and poplar puncheons, slabs of wood flattened on one side, comprised flooring across squared joists. A staircase was built to reach the upper floor and white oak shingles were hewn for roofing. The fact that the cabin has survived so long stands as a testament to the quality of the brothers' work. 

Sadly, the family only enjoyed the cabin for a short time. A great blizzard assailed the area in the winter of 1884. Two of the Gunter children, 10 year old Bettie and 14 year old Hiram, fell gravely ill. In the absence of a doctor, both children succumbed to their illness and passed away as the blizzard raged outside.

Jessie, refusing to bury his boy and girl in a "green wood coffin," used the only dry lumber available: his puncheon floors. In a coffin wide enough for both children, they were laid to rest in what would become the Welch Cove Cemetery. Catherine battled depression for four years after this horrific loss until she, too, passed away in her sleep in 1888. Jessie fashioned her coffin in the same way as the first before leaving the cabin floorless and returning to Stecoah Valley. 

~Excerpt from Fontana Village Plaque that hangs in the restored Gunter Cabin.

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Last week some folks at work had to go to Fontana Village for a few classes and that got me to thinking about the Gunter Cabin and the sad sad story of Jesse and Catherine. I wonder if the people who moved in after Jesse left replaced the floor...and if they knew why it was missing.

I went to elementary school with a girl who's last name was Gunter I wish I could go back in time and tell her to ask her grandmother or grandfather if they knew of Jesse Gunter. 

If you've never been to the Stecoah and Fontana Village area of Graham County NC you need to go-a beautiful place indeed.

Tipper

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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

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.

Tipper

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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Shotgun Wedding

Today's guestpost was written by Keith Jones.

North georgia mountains appalachia

Shotgun Wedding written by Keith Jones

When my Dad Grover Jones was a boy, my granddaddy Jones and the family lived way out in the country. It was the middle of the depression, so they got by just about any way they could. They didn’t own their own farm, but were sharecroppers. Quite a few folks, black and white, lived in the general vicinity, but no one lived within sight of their house. The R.E.A. hadn’t yet strung electricity into their part of the country, so nights were lit by lanterns, flashlights, and firelight. Folks went to bed early.

One night the family was all in bed…Daddy and Momma Jones in the main bedroom, with their numerous daughters and preteen Grover, the only boy in the family, scattered around the rest of the house. Something woke Daddy Jones about 10 or 11 at night. He thought he heard several quiet voices out in the yard, but when he pulled back the edge of the roller shade to look out, he really couldn’t see anything. It sounded like several people in the yard, but he just couldn’t tell.

There was not a lot of crime in their part of the world, but certainly crime was rampant during the depression, so Daddy Jones was not going to take any chances that a gang of bad men was coming to rob their meager possessions. He slipped into the room where Grover slept and shook him awake.

“Here, son, you take this and stand behind that door over there while I see who it is coming up toward the porch.” He put the “Long Tom” 12-guage shotgun into Grover’s hands, then slipped across the front room toward the door. As he did so, they heard the front steps squeak, and a loud knock came on the door.

“Who’s there?”

No answer, just a shuffling sound as several people moved back from the door.

“Who’s there!!!???”

Finally, Daddy Jones cracked the door open and peeked out. On the porch was a crowd of Black people. In those Jim Crow days, segregation was not as strict in the country as it was in some towns, but it was highly unusual for anyone to come to someone else’s home after dark, and doubly unusual for Blacks to approach a white family’s house at night.

With no flashlight and no lamp lit, it was hard to recognize anyone. Finally, Daddy Jones asked (rather more loudly than he normally would have,) “What do you folks want?”

An older gentleman took a half step toward the door.

“Is you the Mister Jones that’s the preacher?”

“Yes,” said Daddy Jones. “I’m a preacher, but mostly I farm and do a little blacksmithing and carpentering. That still doesn’t tell me what you want. Is somebody dead or something?”

From the back of the crowd, a lady said, “Hummph! If’n he don’ do right, somebody fixin’ to be!”

The man at the front of the crowd reached back and pulled a frightened young lady up onto the porch.

“Preacher, this here’s my oldest daughter. And that…” Someone shoved a young man from behind, causing him to stumble up the steps beside the young lady.

“That is the young scoundrel I caught in the hayloft with her tonight! We’s here for you to marry ‘em.”

About this time, Grover noticed that he was outgunned. A couple of men—one old and one young—were also carrying shotguns.

“Grover, light the lamp.” Daddy Jones went back to the bedroom, pulled his overalls on, and slipped into the coat of his Sunday suit. There in the front room, the young couple said their vows, with Grover and Momma Jones as witnesses, plus two or three of the crowd, who stepped in to see that the couple were “married proper.”

Satisfied, the bride’s grandpa and brother shouldered their shotguns. Her momma, crying by now with the emotion of the moment, leaned on the stern daddy who had led the procession. The bride held to the arm of the bewildered-looking groom as the whole group moved slowly across the clean-swept clay of Momma Jones’ front yard. Grover and his dad watched the family until they disappeared down the starlit dirt lane.

And that was the end of the story…except for how I heard it. Decades later, we happened to be in the city that had grown up from the small town that was nearest to the sharecrop farm where all this happened. Dad picked up a newspaper and glanced through it to see if there was any news of people he’d grown up with or known as a child. Of course, he checked the obituaries first “…to make sure I’m not dead!” as he always explained to me. And there it was, on the social events page that faced the obituaries across the fold of the newspaper…a 30th wedding anniversary announcement, with a picture of a handsome Black couple, listing their many children and grandchildren. “What do you know?!” said Dad. And that’s how I learned about the real shotgun wedding.

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I hope you enjoyed Keith's guestpost as much as I did! It made me think of several things:

  • How Granny and Pap celebrated their 50th Anniversary last April...even though they courted less than 3 months before marrying.
  • How Granny and Pap ran off to just across the Georgia line and got married at a preacher's house without telling Granny Gazzie .
  • How Granny Gazzie gave Pap a stern talking to about taking her daughter off and marrying her without her parents knowlege and about how he better honor those vows and her daughter or she'd be coming after him. I'm betting it only took Granny Gazzie a few months to figure out her daughter marrying Pap was the best thing that ever happened to her daughter.

Tipper

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The Best Black Walnut Cracker in Haywood County

John parris writes about black walnuts haywood county nc

The Champion Walnut-Cracker ~ Dutch Cove written by John Parris

The old man sat in a split-bottomed, straight-backed chair cracking out walnuts with a hammer on a locust stump in the front of his woodshed.

"The preacher down at Morning Star calls me the champion walnut-cracker of Haywood County," he said. "That's what he told me. And I don't guess anybody else does crack as many walnuts." George Smathers grinned and his eyes twinkled.

"There's one thing for a fact," he said. "You won't find a walnut-cracker as old as me. I'm just nine months away from being a hundred years old, the oldest man that ever lived in the Dutch Cove."

"Got in the walnut-crackin' business about seven or eight years ago so I'd have me a little extra spendin' money. The womenfolks around here and down at Canton take all I can crack out. they put 'em in their Christmas cakes. There's nothin' finer than a walnut cake."

"I generally sell about forty pounds of walnut meat a year. I cracked out fifty pounds last fall. I figure on knockin' out forty or fifty pounds this year. Got $3.75 cents a pound last year, but I'm goin' to get $4 this year or not sell'em at all, just throw 'em away. 

"I don't figure that's too high, what with all the work that goes into it. You have to get out and go huntin' all over this country for walnuts. Then you've got to hull'em. Then you've got to dry'em. And then you've got to crack 'em. If it wasn't for havin' somethin' to pass off my time, I wouldn't bother with 'em."

(Excerpt from the book Mountain Cooking written by John Parris 1978)

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The Deer Hunter grew up in the Dutch Cove where George Smathers lived. He doesn't remember The Champion Walnut-Cracker, but he did go to Morning Star Elementary School and he has great memories of roaming the fields in the cove with his dog and with his best friend Eric who lived just down the road a ways. 

Tipper

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Picking Blackberries and the CD Winners!

Today's guest post was written by Charles Fletcher.

Canton NC early 1900s

Blackberry Cobbler written by Charles Fletcher

There are many ways to make a cobbler with peaches, apples, pears, blueberries, and even figs but none of these can take the place of the old standby, blackberry cobbler. And to enjoy it the most, you must pick the blackberries yourself.

One of the many chores that my brother, TJ, and I had during the summer months when not in school was picking blackberries. We picked them not only for our table but also to sell to the “city folks.” They would pay us ten cents (10¢) a gallon for our berries.

One summer day we were up early, long before daybreak, and we headed to the mountain where the berries were big and plentiful along the edge of the woods. On this day we were going on the side of Pressley Mountain, Grandpa Pressley owned one side and the Patton’s owned the other side. Although the Patton’s were wealthy, they would take half of your berries if you picked any on their side of the mountain.

We always traveled on grandpa’s side but sometimes we did venture onto the Patton side because their berries were never picked. By noon we had our buckets full of big juicy berries. We had about five gallons total. That meant four gallons for sale and one gallon for our favorite cobbler.

It so happened that my little white dog had come along with us to the berry fields. This was okay with us until something strange happened. Without warning, our dog began to run around in circles, barking and crying like he was going mad. This scared the living daylights out of TJ and me. We didn’t know what was happening, so we both climbed up a tree where we would be safe from the dog in case he had gone mad. After running around in circles and making a lot of noise he stopped and seemed to be back to normal. We came down from the tree, got our buckets of berries, and went on our way.

We were not far from the main road. Taking it would be a lot easier walk home than climbing back up the mountain. We never gave any thought about being on the Patton side of the mountain. Soon we were down onto the road and on our way home.

Suddenly two of the Patton boys appeared; where they came from we didn’t know. They were near twenty years old, and we were not yet in our teens.

They told me and my brother that we had picked the berries from their mother’s property and that half of the berries belonged to them. They made us go to their house and took us into the kitchen. There, a woman was working over a hot, wood burning stove. The boys said, “Look here. We have some berries for you to can.”

“I don’t have time for canning them,” she said. Then she gave us permission to leave.

We were on the road again to take four gallons of berries to town to sell for forty cents. Then it happened again. Our dog began another one of his fits. He was running all over the road.

It was very rare to see a car pass by on this road, but one just did happen to come by. Our dog ran in front of the car and it hit him. This killed him instantly.

TJ, my brother said, “Guess the dog is better off”. We had lost our little dog but we didn’t have to be afraid of the “mad dog” anymore.

Years later, I was told that these fits were caused by the dog having worms in its stomach.

TJ and I had earned twenty cents each, and the whole family had a big blackberry cobbler to eat that night at supper time.

Charles Fletcher

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Hope you enjoyed Charles's guest post as much as I did. Now if only we could find some blackberries at that price today!

Charles has written several books about growing up in the mountains of western North Carolina. If you'd like to purchase any of Charles Fletcher's books-they are available at many of your local book stores-or you can contact him directly at ccfletch9@yahoo.com

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The winners of the Christmas in July cds are:

Marilyn Ally who said: Hi! I have following your posts for quite awhile I enjoy the posts cause you're down to earth , and full of info. Am new to the Mts but my heart has always belonged to the quite life style, that only these Mts can bring.

Pamela Danner who said: Wow, it does seem like your having Christmas in July, and your spreading the Holiday Cheer! Sounds like you will having a very tasty winter! Thanks for the chance to win some lovely holiday music! Pam scrap-n-sewgranny.blogspot.com

Dolores who said: I am so glad that Pap is getting around more by himself. Prayers are being answered. The girls on the radio - Yipee Yeah! You found time to relax after all this work, WOW! I would have crashed. I would love to own some country Christmas songs.

Marilyn, Pamela, and Dolores you can email your mailing address to me at tipper@blindpigandtheacorn.com or if you leave it in a comment here-I'll get it that way but will not publish it.

Tipper 

p.s. Shared from WKRK: Mike Westendorf from Milwaukee will be performing in the Share The Hope concert at Murphy First Baptist Church at 6:30 pm this Friday [July 24] along with The Pressley Girls, a very talented duo from Brasstown. The event is co-sponsored by your local radio stations to help raise awareness and funds for Christian Love Ministries, an addiction treatment facility. Join us on Friday for the concert. 

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Daddy's Stetson

Today's guest post was written by Ed Ammons.

My daddys stetson hat

Daddy's Stetson written by Ed Ammons

Daddy had a gray felt Stetson hat. It was probably was the most expensive piece of apparel he ever owned. Daddy didn’t buy it though. It was a gift and it was used. Daddy’s sister had married into a family of “means”. She often gifted our family with items that were outgrown or unwanted, mainly clothes and books. Never money that I know of, but that doesn’t mean the hat had no connection with money.

Daddy was proud of that hat and wore it only on special occasions and always to church. He would take it off as he entered the door and carry it with him to wherever he wanted to sit. At Hightower the men usually sat on the left side. Daddy tried to get the first pew (the “pews” were actually homemade benches with straight backs) at the end next to the middle aisle. He would sit down first and the hat would sit beside him. There were nails in the wall at the back to hang coats and hats and such, but Daddy never hung his Stetson there. It always sat beside him. You are thinking, “why guard it so closely, it’s a church!”

Yes, Daddy was proud of his chapeau, but pride never entered the church doors. That Stetson served another purpose. When all the singing, shouting, preaching and praying had begun, the hat came into its own. Daddy would pick it up, turn it over and put something in it. Then he would cross over to the “women’s” side and hand it to whoever was sitting next to the aisle on the first pew. Then he would return to his seat to wait. The hat would make its way across and back and across and back again and again until it reached the back of the building, then someone would carry it over to the men’s side where it repeated the process in reverse until it made its way back to the front where Daddy was seated.

Along the way it collected a few pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. And fewer dollars. We were poor people back then and very little cash money was available. The adults would distribute whatever they could afford among their children before service so everyone could give. The best the church could expect to collect was enough to pay the light bill and give the preacher a little gas money.

When Daddy got his Stetson back he would take it up to the pulpit, sit it on a shelf in the back and return to his seat. Only then could I go sit beside my Daddy.

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I hope you enjoyed Ed's memories of his daddy and his hat as much as I did!

Tipper

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Newman's Ridge

Compatriots in north georgia mountains

Alex Lewis Stewart, the second of 16 children, was born in 1891, near the top of Newman's Ridge in a tiny one-room log cabin which his father Joe Stewart had built a few years earlier. So remote was this locale during Alex's growing-up years that roads were nonexistent, and the Stewart homeplace could not even be reached by wagon. There were numerous families living near them on the ridge, trying desperately to survive from the woods and from steep corn patches and garden spots.

Today these families and their descendants are all gone from Newman's Ridge, and gone too are the huts and cabins where they lived. A half-standing chimney of unhewn stones, a few gnarled apple trees, and the trace of an occasional rail fence are all there is to indicate that people ever lived there. The little hillside fields, once so laboriously cleared of trees, are becoming forested once again. The Stewarts and their compatriots came into the forest primeval, confronting and conquering the untamed wilderness; then they moved on, but not until Alex spent a romantic and memorable boyhood there.  

Excerpt from Alex Stewart Portrait of a Pioneer by John Rice Irwin

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Interesting paragraphs from Irwin's book. While I liked it all, it was one word that made me want to share it: compatriots

Pap uses the word compatriots to describe friends and close acquaintances. 

Tipper

*Source: Alex Stewart Portrait of a Pioneer by John Rice Irwin. 

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