#SoCS – 5/26/18 – Appalachia: Memorial Day

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It’s Memorial Day weekend and that’s an important holiday in Appalachia. It’s a holiday that honors lost loved ones, whether they were lost in war or died of natural causes, in this region of the U.S. In Appalachia, it’s a weekend where families reunite, have large meals together, and decorate the graves of their deceased relatives with flowers. Across Appalachia, Memorial Day is most often called Decoration Day.

When I was growing up, and even now, the family would congregate where most of the relatives were buried. In my case, that was at my grandparent’s home in Magoffin County, Kentucky. Every nuclear family within the extended family would bring beautiful flowers to decorate each grave. Often, that would involve going to three or four cemeteries.

Memorial Day at the cemetery was also a social occasion. Families who seldom saw each other would have a chance to talk and catch up while decorating the graves.

After decorating the graves, everyone would go to my grandmother’s house for a large meal and a visit with each other afterward. It was one of the most important family holidays of the year.

We still honor our lost loved ones in Appalachia in much the same way. Families are smaller. There are fewer large family meals. Instead of meals in grandma’s kitchen, they are often prepared on the grill. You will still find people hunting flowers a few days before the Memorial Day weekend to decorate gravesites. They will still enjoy visiting with family and friends in the cemeteries. It’s getting more difficult to find children who know what “Decoration Day” really means and who it honors.

Appalachia: Pearl Harbor – #100WW

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The news ran up and down Burning Fork and Birch Branch roads in Magoffin County, Kentucky faster than the water in the creeks. The family ran into the house to turn on the radio, their only means of communication with the outside world. The address by the President of the United States was playing. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and the U.S. had entered World War II.

The young man from Michigan enlisted in the Navy. He was to be sent to Kentucky where his fate would intertwine with that Appalachian family because of this Great War.

100 words

Picture credit to @Bikurgurl

Turrets – #writephoto

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How did he ever convince her to visit this God forsaken castle in Turkey, of all places, Rebecca wondered to herself as she and Patrick stumbled down the crumbling, stone steps in the portion of the medieval castle that was still standing.

This trip to Europe had been filled with difficulties. Patrick was determined to make this one last stop in Turkey and she saw no reason, cultural or otherwise, for it. The ruins weren’t particularly noteworthy. The tour group was small. The surrounding area contained little of historical significance. It was also completely off their tour route. She didn’t understand why they were there and Patrick seemed unable and unwilling to explain. He’d hardly even spoken to her as they toured the ruins.

He was walking far ahead of her down the steps when she felt herself stumble. There was nothing to grab onto. She started to tumble down the stairs and landed at the bottom. The remaining two people behind her rushed to her, but she assured them she was fine. They wandered off.

She wasn’t fine. She’d turned her ankle and as she tried to get up, she found she couldn’t put her weight on it. By then, the two other tour group members were gone and she was alone. She called out for Patrick, but after waiting a few minutes, it was clear he didn’t know yet that she’d been left behind.

Rebecca suddenly heard a woman laugh, an evil-sounding laugh. She looked up and on the stair rail stood a creature. A female-looking creature with piercing blue eyes and a long black robe. Rebecca started scooting across the floor away from it.

The creature spoke and said, “My name is Ramona and I am the Dark Fairy.” Then it just tapped its toe on the stair rail.

”I’d make you my pet, but it would be more fun to make that man you’re with my pet.”

Rebecca finally found her voice and said, “What are you talking about?”

”Don’t you know anything? Dark fairies make humans their pets and the humans do our biding.”

Rebecca felt herself jerked up, her ankle painless, and the Dark Fairy fluttered beside her.

”Now get up. We’re going after that gentleman friend of yours. He’s been trying to do you harm.”

#SoCS – 5/19/18 – Stories of #Appalachia – The Postman and the Dog

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Up until I was in my 20s, my uncle lived deep into the Birch Branch hollow  (pronounced “holler” in the eastern Kentucky dialect). He lived in a cabin and with him lived his female Doberman Pinscher, Gertrude. For awhile, he also had a male Doberman Pinscher named Sue, after Roger Miller’s song, “A Boy Named Sue.”

But this story is about Gertrude. My uncle was a postal service worker in Magoffin County, Kentucky. He delivered mail and Gertrude accompanied him. Mail carriers in rural areas tend to drive slowly between stops and my uncle certainly did. One reason he drove slowly is because of where Gertrude rode in/on the station wagon that he drove. She rode on top of it. My uncle and Gertrude were something of a legend in Magoffin County because this was quite a sight to passers-by.

My uncle passed away in 1974 and left poor Gertrude behind. She was old then and very bonded to him. She lived the last years of her life on my cousin’s porch, in a cushy dog house, undoubtedly grieving for my uncle. She was bonded and there was little to do for her although my cousin certainly tried.

A man and his dog.

Stories of #Appalachia – Birch Branch Today

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My grandfather’s farm, in Magoffin County, KY, USA, located in the heart of Appalachia, is no more now in 2018. It was located at the intersection of the small dirt road, Birch Branch, and a county road that was only a little more well-traveled, Burning Fork. My grandparents have been gone now for many years and the farm sold off. I only have one reason now to go back to Birch Branch and that is a much-loved cousin who still lives in the area. I guess a second reason is to gaze longingly at what used to be the farm and wish for things that used to be. I feel less and less able to do that and more likely just to remember it in my heart and mind.

Today, unless you can remember Birch Branch and my grandfather’s farm in what used to be lovely eastern Kentucky, you wouldn’t recognize it. The road is the same, dirt and some gravel. But where my grandfather’s and great uncle’s farms were beside it, now there is a trailer park. Not a well-maintained trailer park, but trailers with neglected little children running around in dirt yards and dogs tied out in the heat on chains. Usually, there are men sitting on the steps of the trailers, during the day when they should be working. There are no jobs. The unemployment rate in the county is upwards of 33 percent. They either don’t think of it or don’t have the means to travel to find a job like generations before them did.

You’ve heard of the opioid problem in the U.S.? You’re looking at it when you view what is now where my grandfather’s farm used to be. Instead of working, these men are taking pain pills. OxyContin, Percocet, Hydrocodone, any of the codeine or morphine=based drugs they can get. Most of them aren’t just temporarily high because of some sort of problem. They are the long-term addicted. If they ever had job skills, they lost them long ago. Generations of men just like them lost them long ago. It is the cycle of poverty and drug abuse.

Such things had never been heard of when my grandfather farmed this land. If you couldn’t find a job around home, you joined the military or you left home and worked away. You didn’t give up and sit on the steps of a trailer stoned out of your mind day after day after day. I find these people and this lifestyle disgusting.

The creek is still there, filled with trash. I can still envision the part of the land that was my great-uncle’s. He had a beautiful collie dog named Lassie who I played with as a child in the green pasture land. The horrible drug trailers populate that land now.

Some of you may think that the loss of coal mining is responsible for this problem. Not so. Magoffin County is not a coal mining county. The loss of self-respect and the availability of drugs is responsible for the problem. When I visit, I want to scream at these people to get in their cars and find a job. It wouldn’t help.

Politicians can discuss the opioid problem, but until they can find jobs for these people, the opioid problem will remain. It may, right now, be too late. I hate to sound cynical about an area that I loved so much, but I don’t expect this social and cultural problem to be solved in my lifetime. Magoffin County, KY is certainly not the only county in an area as big as Appalachia to have exactly the same problem.

#Avenue – #writephoto

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Against her own will, she takes a different route than usual for her morning walk. It is bright and sunny outside. One of the first sunny days after a brutal winter. It seems that the weather has jumped from the dead of winter right into summer. It even seems hot. She vows to cut her morning walk a little short.

Then she sees a tree-lined avenue to her right. Its beauty astounds her. Her feet take her toward the avenue and she spots park benches all along the way. She craves the shade-lined portion of the avenue. She sits on one of the benches. Recently, she hasn’t enjoyed the sun. She feels the sun reveals too much about her. The tired face, the slumped posture, the aging. Those are private things. She doesn’t want anyone to look too closely. They might figure her out.

Beyond the shade is the wondrous sunny part of the avenue. It’s lined with cherry-blossoms. The scent wafts toward her and is sweet. People are meandering along the sunny avenue admiring the cherry trees. She doesn’t feel she has a right to the cherry blossoms, to the sunny portion of the avenue. That is for the young, the people with life ahead of them. Those who still have hopes and dreams. Not someone like her. Someone whose hopes and dreams have been stolen away.

She sits and enjoys the shade for a while. She pulls herself up and starts for home. That’s where she belongs. Behind the draperies. Where the sun doesn’t shine.

Thanks to Sue Vincent

Stories of Appalachia: Birch Branch

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There is a little creek that runs up a hollow (pronounced “holler” in eastern Kentucky) called Birch Branch. Now in case you don’t know what a holler is, I’ll tell you. It is the very narrow valley between two mountains. I’m not sure if that term is specific to Appalachia, but that’s the only place I’ve ever heard it used. Birch Branch is the creek that was beside the farms and houses where my family, for many generations back, lived and thrived. The name came from the Native Americans. I assume it was named because of the slight river birch trees that grow by the creek.

I didn’t live there. I grew up in northeastern Kentucky which is still Appalachia, but it isn’t the heart of the region. Birch Branch and the area around it, which is in Magoffin County, Kentucky, is in the heart of Appalachia.

When I was growing up, we used to visit my grandparents and other relatives in and around Birch Branch very frequently. That area was originally where my maternal grandmother’s people lived and, when I was a girl, most of them still lived there. My mother, dad, and I were often there every weekend. I developed an understanding of Appalachia and its people because I am one of its people. My mother grew up there. I have deep Appalachian roots through her that extend back to the Revolutionary War.

Back to Birch Branch. It was a beautiful place back in those days. Heavily wooded. Mountainous. A few homes miles apart. The road was dirt and gravel. My grandfather and grandmother married and bought a house on that road in 1901 along with a beautiful farm. They raised eight children in that farmhouse, including my mother.

By the time I came along, they had moved to another farm house on what they called the main road, an intersecting road with Birch Branch. All of my childhood, my cousins and I would play up and down the Birch Branch road and in that creek. We heard stories of what had happened there in the past. One story was that one of my great-grandfather’s wives had gotten angry with him and thrown herself into the creek. I’ll have to tell you that it would be very hard to drown yourself in that creek since the water level is usually low. That story is part of the family legend.

One particularly poignant memory for me is a trip I took up Birch Branch with my grandfather in his cart pulled by his mules. We went to his family’s homeplace, which was farther on from Birch Branch. I remember that, even as a child, the beauty of that place struck me. Green, lush, pure, clean. Not like it is today. The remains of the log cabin in which my grandfather had grown up were in the wonderous meadow to which he took me. I’ll never forget that special day. Circa 1960s.

Birch Branch is part of my heritage. Stay tuned for Part 2. Birch Branch today.

#Core – #MothersDay

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On this Mother’s Day, I find myself thinking about my mother and what her passing meant to me. She’s been gone for eighteen years now. My dad died when I was comparatively young – only 30. I had my mother for many years after he passed away. After she died, I felt a keen since of mortality at my core. There was no one left older than me. That meant I would, at some point, be next. You really feel that when both parents are gone as they were in my case after my mother died.

When your mother dies, you feel quite alone. Even though I was closer to my father than to my mother, I felt more alone after she died. You never quite get over losing your parents and I think I can safely say, your mother. I think that may be because your mother nurtured you before you were born and immediately thereafter.

Mother’s Day also revers the maternal bonds as well as being a celebration of Mothers. I don’t know a lot about maternal bonds. My mother did her best, even though she was plagued by serious illness all of her life or the portion of her life in which I knew her. We didn’t have the strong bonds many daughter’s and mother’s have.

I hope every Mother out there has a wonderful Mother’s Day today and that you get to spend it with your children!

#weekendcoffeeshare – 5/12/18

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Good morning! Please pull up a chair here on my patio for #weekendcoffeeshare. I’m so glad to see all of you. On the bar, you’ll find a selection of coffees and teas. I hope one of them will strike your fancy this morning. The guy from the local bakery delivered two dozen scones since he knew I was having guests. Please help yourself!

First, I’m anxious to read your #weekendcoffeeshare posts. I’d love to know what all of you are doing and how your week has been. How is your writing coming along? Life in general?

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’ve spent the weekend doing many things. I’ve used this week to try to wrap up some writing projects. I’ve been pretty successful with completing them. I knew that, beginning yesterday, my time would be taken up by other things.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about those “other things.” I have been wanting and looking for a Cardigan Welsh Corgi puppy for 10 months now. I wanted one from a specific breeder, or at least one that had her blood lines. Finally, the little fellow came home with me yesterday! His name is Tucker and you can see his picture above. It’s hard to take a picture of a nine-month old puppy because they are constantly on the move. For his young age, he is doing amazingly well when you consider that he was just taken from his littermates and mother. This is such a good breed for a family dog that I’m just overwhelmed that I have the privilege of having this young fellow. He will be such a wonderful companion. At this age, a lot of training is required, so I’ll be busy!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about our very strange weather. Two weeks ago, it still felt like the dead of winter here in the Ohio Valley. I live on a mountain only forty miles south of the river. We had about three days of spring and now it is full-blown summer. Yesterday was 90F degrees here!

Thanks so much for having coffee with me this morning. I have to get back to the puppy!

 

Thanks to  electricali. for hosting #weekendcoffeeshare!

#Fallen – #writephoto

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As she sat and looked out her window, at 50 years of age, she thought of that 19-year old girl she used to be. She didn’t have many regrets about the things she had done. Perhaps this was one of them. She imagined a conversation between herself now and then and how the years had given her wisdom.

”You were only nineteen. You’d had one relationship in your life. How did you get involved with a married man?”

”Don’t judge me, old woman. I had fallen into such a deep depression after the way my previous relationship ended that I just needed some attention. He wasn’t that much older than me. I thought he was serious about our relationship.”

”A married man is never serious, young lady. That mistake on your part affected you for the rest of your life. Can’t you see that?”

”Yes, I see that. It made it easy to step over that line, but what am I supposed to do about it now, old woman? You don’t understand.”

”Nothing. There is nothing you can do but vow to do better. You can also try to learn to live with the regret. It’s difficult.”

The older woman thought about her mental conversation and smiled. There were things in her life that she certainly regretted but not many. Young people didn’t realize that older people were still young on the inside. Mostly, what she regretted were the things she had not yet done. If her body would hold out for her, she intended to remedy that.

Thank you, Sue Vincent, #writephoto