Category Archives: East Tennessee Heritage

I Love the Landscape Because It Is So Sincere. It Never Cheats Me.

“I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests. ~ Henry David Thoreau ~

from-townsend-to-cove-w

Taken between Townsend, TN and Cades Cove, TN

Most of you know me as the BamaSteelMagnolia. And, there is a reason for that. For most of my life I’ve lived in Sweet Home Alabama, a state I love from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.

I’ve gone to school here, married one guy from here (big mistake, but not because he was from Alabama), birthed a child here, divorced here, remarried a Tall & Handsome southwestern cowboy here and battle twice non-smoking lung cancer here. I’ve lived more decades than I care to share here in this state I am passionate about.

In other words, I’ve done a lot of living, losing, loving and everything in between in this place I call home – Alabama.

What you may not know: on a cold January morning I was born to two young people in an East Tennessee hospital as the Great Smoky Mountains stood silently in the background, an ever present sentinel in my early life and childhood.

cominghome-day-1-7-1954

I’m the little head peaking out in the crook of Momma’s arm. My gorgeous parents.

So, what does that mean and why am I telling you this?

Well, it’s been a rough week for me and my family as we’ve watched the Smokies and Gatlinburg burn.

I don’t care how long you’ve been gone, it’s not easy to watch the places of your childhood and childhood memories, and the places of your ancestry go up in smoke. It’s a helpless feeling. And, if you still have family living in those parts, the helpless feeling is compounded. I can’t even begin to tell you what I feel to know these fires were started by arsonists.

I spent about the first 12 years of my life in or around East Tennessee with the exception of a year or so when I was two. My daddy worked in the engineering department of an aircraft company in the Dallas area at that time. But, you just don’t take a mountain boy out of the mountains and put him on the flat plains of Texas, and, so, back to Tennessee we went.

We eventually ended up in the central Alabama area and I think it stuck for a couple of reasons. Daddy worked for an engineering company started by brothers who were University of Tennessee grads (where Daddy started his college career), the terrain is similar to East Tennessee – we all ended up living on this little mountain top in Alabama because it reminded us of our roots – and the people here in Alabama are 24K gold.

But, oh, the childhood memories I have of those times and places in East Tennessee.

Walks with my Papaw as he pointed out the name of each tree. Watching him have his faithful hunting dog do all kinds of tricks for cornbread. MaMaw and Papaw letting us dig up peanuts or pick some cotton from the garden. This gal from the burbs thought she was a real farm hand then.

Weekend trips to the mountains taking in the fall colors, wading in the cold mountain streams, picnics with the grandparents, and my Aunt Ruthie’s house in Kinzel Springs. You had to walk over a swinging foot bridge to get to her house. It sat backed up against the mountain and even in the summer time, that house never seemed hot. As a matter of fact, back then, those mountains always seemed like the coolest place on earth to be.

It was just a “hop, skip and a jump” over twisting, hairpin two lane mountain roads to Cherokee, NC where we could see a Cherokee chief. My paternal grandmother was originally from Western North Carolina and it was said she was part Cherokee. She looked the part, but we’ve never confirmed the ancestry.

My PaPaw worked at the Little River Lumber Company back in the day. He was a clerk in the company store. My cousins tell me there’s a picture of him in the train museum in Townsend. He was also the fill-in mail carrier for Cades Cove and Daddy went on that route a time or two with PaPaw.

That’s my roots on the “quiet side of the Smokies”, my Daddy’s side. My little Momma is a different story.

Several years ago I started the journey into genealogy and it’s a journey I’ve loved and wished I had started sooner. Once I jokingly told Momma she was a half-breed. She was startled at first and then I laughed and explained.

Tennessee is divided into West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee. Any good Tennessean knows that. Mom’s ancestry is Middle Tennessee/East Tennessee (on her mother’s side). Half and half.

And, it is that East Tennessee ancestry on Momma’s side that carries me back to Gatlinburg.

You see William Ogle and Martha Jane Huskey Ogle are my 5th great-grandparents. Martha Jane Huskey Ogle’s cabin was the first house built in what is now known as Gatlinburg. William and Martha had 7 children and I descend through two of their sons, William “Black Bill” Ogle and Isaac “Shucky” Ogle.

A few years back I went to Edgefield, SC to get a copy of William Ogle, the father’s will. That type of documentation is like the holy grail for a genealogist. The Ogle family was living in Edgefield and William went to Tennessee to prepare for the family to move. He laid up provisions and he cut and notched timbers to build a log cabin for his family. He went back to Edgefield to get his family for the move back to Tennessee, but before they could leave South Carolina, William fell ill and died.

Martha Jane didn’t go to Tennessee at first, but she eventually did and family members helped raise the cabin using the timbers William had prepared.

It was the first house built in White Oak Flats, a place that would become known as Gatlinburg. Over time other families moved in. You saw the formations of clans with names that pop up in my family tree. If you throw a rock into a crowd of locals there’s a good chance I’m distantly related to them – including a famous country songbird who shares a common ancestor with me named Henry Bohannon, my 5th great grand-father.

My family was founding fathers of an area I watched decimated by a historical fire this past week. I never thought I would live to see anything like this. I hope I never have to see anything like this again and I pray for more rain to come their way.

I listened and watched as I saw names like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Chimney Tops, Clingman’s Dome, Newfound Gap, Wear’s Valley and others threatened and burned. And, each time my heart broke.

For me, it’s not only pride in the pioneer spirit of my ancestors, but it’s also love of the location and area. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. When I go into the mountains, my heart sings and my spirit is refreshed. I feel at home.

Just like the people, this area is resilient. They survived the Great Depression and floods after floods before TVA. It will come back and they will come back. There will be regrowth and rebirth. Mountain folk are good strong people, just like the land around them. They have learned from the land. They need our continued support and prayers.

Thoreau said it best, “I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests.”

My birthplace is sincerely hurting right now, but it will be a beautiful landscape once again – and the people will be there with it – rejoicing.

© 2016 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Birth, Cades Cove, Central Alabama, Daddy, East Tennessee, East Tennessee Fire, East Tennessee Heritage, Family, Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg Fire, genealogy, Grief, Home, Memories, Momma, Mountains, Nature, Ogle, Photography, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day

The Wolves of Insignificance From the Door, by Beverly Hicks Burch

“Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.” ~ Saul Bellow ~

If Walls could Talk

I was going through my portable hard drive this morning and rediscovered this image. It’s one of my favorites…I love doors, they hold mysteries behind their closed portals in my opinion. I apologize if you have seen this previously, but I wanted an opportunity to share it with my newer readers.

About five years ago I had business that took me on a drive from my home in August, GA where we were living at that time to Savannah, GA. For any of you familiar with that drive, you know it’s not a particularly long one (two and half hour or so), but it’s not necessarily an easy one.

For most of the trip you are traveling back in time to the very old, very Deep South and doing so sans nice multi-lanes interstates. Yes, the way to the past is paved mostly with two lane roads. And, the time of year I took the trip, July, the weather was…well the In the Heat of the Night or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof hot. That would be hot, humid and sultry…just a typical Southern summer day.

On my drive back to Augusta, the sun was beginning the track low on the horizon making its way to sunset. I was hoping for a chance to capture some interesting photographs, but, nothing was catching my “fancy”…until I stopped at a four way stop sign in the middle of nowhere Georgia…

As I sat at the stop sign, I glanced to my left and there she sat, this quite, aged relic of the past. My photograph I’d been waiting for. She was sitting right at the edge of the road, just waiting for me.

Any good Southern girl could see the good “bones” she had: a huge overhanging eave that would offer much needed shade from the unforgiving Southern summer sun, and not one, but two double doors that had a one time lead out onto large porches. (The old remnants of where the porches and their supports had been are still visible.)

My first reaction was, “Oh, if those walls could talk!” My imagination was out of the gate and went wild. Had a “Big Daddy” lived there, or a “Scout”, a latter day Scarlett or even a Zelda.

But, then I thought why does it have to be people like that to be interesting? It could have been someone just like me…or my wonderful Papaw Hicks or one of his sisters like Aunt Ruthy who lived in a big old house on the side of a mountain in Kinzel Springs, TN in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Or My Momma’s people from Middle Tennessee. They were all wonderful, talented people who lead interesting lives and created memories for their families to pass down.

Those memories do keep the wolf of insignificance from the door…for those gone and those still here…we have a sense of who we are and where we come from.

I hope the families that lived in this wonderful old house were also keeping the wolves from the door…their families deserved it and so does this proud old relic still standing, quietly telling a memory of significance…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Doors, East Tennessee Heritage, Georgia, Hicks, Middle Tennessee Heritage, Old South, Old Southern Buildings, Photography, Picture of the Day, Travel

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 6–“Till Death Do Us Part…Well, Maybe” or The Wedding Ring Block, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 6 – “Till Death Do Us Part…Well, Maybe” or The Wedding Ring Block

And the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Mark 10:8 NASB

(*This post can also be seen at my quilt blog Around the Block with the BamaSteelMagnolia™ where I am blogging the whole project.)

Wedding Ring block

I started this chapter in February some time ago and it seemed a fitting month to start writing the latest chapter of The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries. The block for this chapter is called Wedding Ring. It is a single wedding ring and not the double wedding ring we know so well. The block is a simple 6 inch pieced block and it represents the fact that I don’t know many in life who have not been affected by a marriage in some way or another…including me.

Being a genealogist I can see how all the “begats” or unions/marriages in our ancestry make us who we are. When you stop and think about the numbers in the equation of “you” it becomes pretty staggering.

For instance, for each generation you go back the number doubles to how many sets of ancestors, or marriages if you will, it took to trickle down to create the final individual you. Look at it this way…you are the starting point on the road backwards into time and your ancestry. Take those sets and multiply them by two and you have how many people it took to create the one special individual called you.

It works this way; you had two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, 32 great-great-great-grandparents, 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents and 128 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents and so on. As mind boggling as 128 may seem, your heritage and ancestry doesn’t stop there and it continues to double for each generation back. There are so many life lessons just in the formula of who you are and how you were made, but that is for another story. One missing link in that chain and you would not have been you…as a matter of fact you probably wouldn’t have been, well, here on Earth at all.

I would ask you to reflect on the marriages in your life, including your own that have affected you and what they mean to you. I’m sure everyone has different recollections and feelings and experiences.

The most immediate marriage that has affected me all of my life and is actually responsible for me even being here is of course the marriage of my parents. My parents have something that is rare to find in this day and age. That’s a long lasting marriage. For you see, on Feb. 28, 2012 they celebrated 59 years of marriage.

Oakley Hicks and Juanita McGee Early 1950's

Daddy and Momma early 1950s

Momma and Daddy were high school sweethearts. They were 15 and 16 when they met at a church function being conducted by my Momma’s daddy. Yes, Mom was a PK…a Preacher’s Kid. She was the shy quite one with big brown “doe eyes” as Daddy calls them. Momma and Daddy were a couple all through high school, for four years, so for all practical purposes you could say they’ve been together for 63 years and that is the biggest portion of their life. When they laid eyes on each other, there was no one else as far as they were concerned…that was it.

Daddy started the University of Tennessee with intentions on becoming a mechanical engineer. But, Momma and Daddy also had secret plans…yes, in their own quiet non-conforming conforming way they were rebels with a cause. They had plans to get married and I don’t mean a big church wedding with the wedding party, flowers, music and weeping mother of the bride (and in this case weeping mother of the groom, too). Nope, no way, no how. Momma and Daddy were going to make Hicks history…or at least stuff that would go down in family history. For you see, the shy lovely quite preacher’s daughter and the tall good looking guy from the foothills of the Smokies eloped…all the way to Ringgold, GA!

Now, the plan was to get hitched and drive back home. Mom would go back and keep quiet and live at home and Daddy would go back home and live with his parents and continue going to college. The slight hiccup in their little plan happened when Mom told her next oldest sister, Korinne, what she had done and swore her to secrecy…which of course was the very last thing that actually happened. Before you knew it the cat was out of the bag, the cow was out of the barn and the camel’s nose was under the tent or in other words, it was like telling Western Union and everyone found out. As Ricky use to say to Lucy, “There was some `splaining to do.”

Well, of course everyone knows you can’t keep true love apart very long anyway and by the time the parents (my grandparents) had time to wrap their heads around the events Momma let it be known in no uncertain terms she was living where Daddy was. And that was that.

Everything went along pretty good in newlywed life until about three months later. At that time Mom came down with a raging case of flu. Made her sick as a dog. She just could not get well. That was the “Beverly” flu. Yep, eleven months after they married I was born…and Mom’s flu was cured.

Cominghome Day 1-7-1954

Daddy, Momma and Bev – Coming home day

I was an only child for about three and a half years. During that time we moved for a brief time to Texas where Daddy worked as an engineer in the aircraft industry for Chance-Vought Aircraft. I celebrated my second birthday in Fort Worth, Texas which has always left me with a soft spot for Texas and branded me Daddy’s “little Texas girl”. And, as I have always said, some of the most famous and infamous Texans were Tennesseans.

“Oh, really?!” I know you Texans are saying… yep. For instance: remember Davy Crockett…♪born on a mountain top in Tennessee…♪ and also famous for the Alamo. Then there’s Benjamin and Henry McCulloch who both fought in the Texas Revolution and became Texas Rangers; Mack Brown head coach at the University of Texas and oh, yeah some fellow named Sam Houston. I think you might have heard of him, too. Sam’s time in Tennessee included time as a governor of that great state and time spent teaching in the town of my birth…a long time before I was born or course Smile

Being the true East Tennessee mountain boy that Daddy is, the Plains of Texas didn’t do much to lift the Tennessee boy’s spirits and heart. In other words, he got sorely and mightily homesick, especially when those Nor’easters barreled into the Plains faster than a New York minute without any warning. It wasn’t too long before we were packed up and headed back to the lush green climes of Tennessee.

Over the next eight or nine years Momma had two more cases of “flu”. And, two more baby girls followed those cases of “flu”. Pamella was next in line, followed by Yvonne. For a little Hicks trivia here: Mom named her girls Faith, Hope and Charity…in that order. I always teased her and said if we had been born boys we would have been named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…

Momma and Daddy’s marriage has mirrored life in general…a road with ups and downs and bumps in the road. Almost every young couple starts out with the bare necessities and grows from there. Daddy was smart and savvy and his engineer career grew. We also moved several times following that career. We landed in Birmingham, AL (for the second and final time I might add) when I was 12 years old and the rest of that is history. That is why I proudly say, ♪…my home is in Alabama…♪ and one of my ringtones on my cell is Sweet Home Alabama…

My baby sister Yvonne, really Charity Yvonne, was born in Greeneville, TN when I was in the third grade. Mom’s delivery with her was fast. Like greased lightening…about 20 minutes. She barely had time to step off the elevator at the hospital before Yvon was born. When Momma & Daddy brought the baby home, they brought home another beautiful baby girl (Momma and Daddy had the reputation of popping out beautiful baby girls with long dark eyelashes and heads of thick dark hair. The nurses in the baby nurseries used us as baby dolls and hated to send us home. Back in those days they had about seven days to get attached to a baby before it went home.)

It seems like from the recollection of my child’s mind that it wasn’t too long after she was born that Yvon seemed to get sick and stay sick. So sick in fact that Mom had to take her all the way to Chattanooga for medical care and stay with family that lived down there. Papaw and Mamaw came to Greeneville to help Daddy take care of Pam and me.

I remember it as a tumultuous time. Yvonnie was sick. We didn’t quite know what was wrong and in the world at large, the Cuban missile was going on.

Over time Yvonne was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and for the last 50 years has lived at home. Do you know what the statistics are for marriages surviving for couples who have disabled children? They’re not very good. The divorce rate is very high and it’s usually the husband who takes his walking papers and goes on to create another worry-free life for himself.

It is a testament to my Daddy’s character that he is right where is started out 59 years ago, disabled child and all, and that is with my Momma and our family. As a matter of fact Daddy is pretty much the rock of the family and the three of us girls are Daddy’s girls. It is also like having a Jewish momma having him around, which is our way of saying he worries over us like a Jewish mom would…he just never learned to cook that chicken soup. Daddy’s remedy is to always take it to prayer…

I heard some place one time that marriage is a marathon not a sprint. My parents’ marriage would certainly qualify for the marathon…

Unfortunately, the first time around, I married a sprinter…

There is a lot I could write about my first marriage. My child is the issue of that marriage. And, sometimes I feel really badly because I feel I provided a poor example…a sprinter if you will as a role model for my child. I do not adhere to the current feel-good philosophy that divorce does not affect children. It does…no matter what their age. I think our society today reflects the side effects and ravages of decades of divorce. On the other hand I also believe that some parents can be toxic and I do not adhere to the theory that having a toxic parent around is better than having no parent around.

But, with that said, there are just times when divorce is unavoidable. Marrying that “marriage sprinter” is certainly one instance. Infidelity usually ends a marriage fairly fast or ends the chance for that marriage marathon partner. Another unavoidable instance is when you marry the type of person who ends up creating the “tragic love” scenario or as I wrote about a few years ago, the type of guy (or gal) that causes love to hurt.

If that is the case, I would beseech you to go back and read a blog I wrote a few years ago that addresses just that subject. Called When Love Hurts I address the rash of tragic stories in which women have chosen to stay and in the end unfortunately paid dearly for that relationship…sometimes with their lives.

The most recent example would be Susan Powell and her precious boys. Susan disappeared one cold December day in 2009 while her husband supposedly had taken their two very young sons camping in a blizzard. On Feb. 5th of this year her

husband blew up himself and those two precious boys as the police drew closer to lowering the hammer on him and his pedophile father. The coward and those poor children died in a burning inferno that should have never happened.

My love hurt story wasn’t like that, but it was traumatic just the same. Had I just opened my eyes and looked at the warning signs early on I could have saved myself sorrow and devastation years later. After 27 years of marriage my ex walked out because he was unfaithful. The summer he left I read my diary from the summer we started dating and as I did it was a real eye opener…he was the same back then…had cheated then and had not changed in 27 years. Leopards as they say do not change their spots. I just could not love him enough for him to change.

Bev & Momma on the Regrettable Day Nov. 1974

Bev & Mom – me as a young bride not paying attention to warning signs

And, unfortunately staying in a bad relationship hoping to make it functional only teaches children dysfunction. What did Susan Powell’s children learn in the end by her hanging on to a bad marriage? It cost her kids their lives. What a tragic shame… There is a saying…”The sins of a father (parent) are visited upon the children…” In other word the kids will learn from the father…from the parents. And, if you close your eyes to alcoholism, addiction, incest, abuse, violence and plunge ahead into that and choose that as a family center for your children…it will trickle down to them and affect them in one way or the other

For me realizing I could not love the ex enough to change who the core of him was, it was, well, the beginning of a new future, hope and moving forward…

So, even though I was scared to death when Gomez the Underwhelming abandoned me I began to have hope. Yes, I was disabled. Yes, he had wiped out the bank accounts. Yes, I had not worked outside the home full time in over 21 year. Yes, at one point he left me without health insurance. Yes, he assaulted me before he left and injured my back. Yes, I had hoped with everything in me that that he would have a change of heart and come home and things would go back to normal.

But, to have normal and a marriage that’s going in the same direction, you have to have two people who want the same thing. Without that, it’s just not going to happen and the only resulting by-product is going to be pain, sorrow, poor health, a bad example for the kids and low self esteem.

In the end the veil was lifted from my eyes and I was able to see there just might be someone out there who not only would help heal my broken heart, but became my marathon runner.

As the Rascal Flats song goes…God blessed the broken road that lead me straight to you…and that you is my Tall & Handsome…my southwestern cowboy.

Our story is unconventional at best. A sign of the times and a sign of what happens when a geek (me) comes into her geekdom and starts to revel in her life and gain self esteem once again. And a lonely, broken hearted southwestern cowboy who had given up on the hope of a loving nurturing relationship begins to hope again. You see we met playing an online MMORPG game. We emailed, talked and instant messaged for almost a year before we met face to face.

When I first laid eyes on my Tall & Handsome he was walking out of the Birmingham Airport. He had on tight blue jeans, a Western cut jacket and a Stetson. I got out of the Lead Sled (what I “affectionately” called my Park Avenue) and walked towards him. He walked toward me, smiled and said, “Hello, darling” and then kissed me under that cowboy hat in front of the Birmingham airport.

I felt 18 again! Wow! It was like living in a movie…a real chick flick. He really had me at “Hello, darling” and that kiss.

The kiss 12-30-03

The Kiss – my favorite of our wedding pictures

I have also learned words are cheap, but actions speak volumes and they do so loudly! Some of Gomez’ parting words were (referring to my illnesses and disabilities), “I didn’t want to take care of you, I hated taking care of you, but I did. So, there!”God help him when his karma comes rolling around.

I have never wanted to be a burden…to anyone. So, I was very up front from the beginning with T & H about the status of my health. The man did not tuck tail and run. He called me his wounded dove…

He knew I saw in him a heart that was larger than large…and he appreciated that.

I never felt secured and truly loved with a man I was married to for 27 years. I never felt “good enough”. I poured myself into him, body and soul. But my self confidence and self esteem was non-existent. There were episodes of suspect cheating from the beginning. He had developed hepatitis before we were married five years and I was so naïve back then I didn’t realize how hepatitis is contracted. Deep down inside though I knew something wasn’t right…

By the time T & H and I married, I felt loved, appreciated, confident and secure. I had found my muse. I wanted to create again. That is a huge gift any man can give to the woman he loves. My T & H does it effortlessly…

It has been the little things that some people would never notice. The time I lay dying in the back of an ambulance in Knoxville, TN my feet were bare. T & H dashed quickly into the house and grabbed a pair of sock and gently put them on my feet before the ambulance doors were closed. At the hospital ER, he refused to be separated from me and was by my side until I stabilized and was released.

When we moved from Alabama to Tennessee I was so sick I had to go through the ER first. When we got to Knoxville I was exhausted and slept quite a bit. I woke up one weekend afternoon to discover T & H had set up the deck furniture like a side walk café, bought flowers and grilled a luscious dinner. All I had to do was eat and enjoy him and the outdoors.

Another time when I was deathly sick and my stomach would hold absolutely nothing down, he cut up corn tortillas and made home-made lime-pepper tortillas chips and they were the only thing I could eat and not get sick.

Life may try to batter us, but we fight back together as a team.

We’ve taken care of a couple of bucket list items together. But, our greatest strength is being there for each other, understanding each other and appreciating each other. I love to see life through my T & H’s eyes. It is seeing life anew sometimes.

In the end, my greatest regret…our greatest regret? That we won’t have more years together and didn’t meet years earlier. If only fate had intervened when we were young…how many times have we had that conversation?

But, in the end, it is what it is…as much as we both hate that saying. We are thankful for what we have and for finding each other. It would have been awful to have never found each other. Neither of us can imagine a life without the other. I cannot imagine a day without his voice and his blue eyes and his sense of humor.

My Tall & Handsome and me at the Survivors Dinner in Savannah, GA (2011) celebrating 29 years cancer free non-smoking lung cancer (right lung) and 16 years cancer free non-smoking lung cancer (left lung)

And, in the end we resolve…`til death do us part…with the wedding ring block…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

**The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries is a writing and textile art project I started a few years ago. It’s based on a concept started by Mimi Dietrich and a book she wrote about diary quilts. I was so inspired by the book I started my own and decided to accompany each block with a chapter. Everyone has always said, “Bev, you need to write a book!” Well, here it is…at least part of it!”

If you’re interested in catching up, here are the beginning installments:

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries Begin

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 1 – Cupcake Block or Happy Birthday to Me

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 2: Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle or A House Divide Will Fall…

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 3 – Compass or Where in the World is Bev?

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 4 – Paw Print or To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 5 – How Green is My Thumb? or Grandmother’s Flower Garden Block

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Filed under Around the Block with The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM), Daddy, Divorce, East Tennessee Heritage, Family, genealogy, Gomez, Life, Marriage, Photography, Quilt Block, Quilts, Susan Powell, Tall & Handsome, The BamaSteelmagnolia(TM) Diaries, Wedding Ring Quilt block

Happy Birthday, Daddy, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Jonas & Boys

It just so happens that the last few days I have been doing a little research on my East Tennessee and Western North Carolina “roots”. This picture celebrates two really big reasons I have those roots I love so much…my Papaw Hicks and my Daddy.

Of course, my Papaw is the proud dad of the three strapping lads and two of the boys are my Uncle JH and Uncle Lee. My Daddy is the youngest lad in this picture and today just happens to be his birthday and I thought what a happy convergence of timing…birthdays and genealogy research.

It is through my Daddy I’m related to the Walker/Culbertson, Dunn, Henry, Shields lines of Blount County in East Tennessee. Through his Momma those roots spread out into Western North Carolina and include the Allman/Lunsford, Killian, Whitner lines.

As I’ve explained in some of my blogs, East Tennessee was one of the places in the US that was as the Good Book puts it, “a house divided against itself”. That meant during that nasty scuffle called the War Between the States or the Civil War or just “The Wawh” there were members from some families that fought on both sides. I’m sure that cause some uncomfortable family get togethers…

And, being independent minded mountain folk that we were, that also means I have search hard, I mean really hard, and high and low to find me a bonafide CSA relative…and that’s on both sides of the family…and folks, we’re really Southern…no kidding! Just asked my southwestern husband who still has to ask me to spell what I’m saying sometimes because he’s still learning Southern…but, my search for that soldier in grey has been, ummm, I’ll put it this way for polite society…not fruitful so far…

Well, I can now say, thanks to Daddy’s Momma’s Western North Carolina roots I have now entered our name into the glorified and honored rolls of those who had kin that served the CSA. So, Happy Birthday, Daddy. And, all this time we just thought Mamaw was Indian…

© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Allman Genealogy, Birthday, CSA family member, Daddy, Dunn, East Tennessee Heritage, Family, Fathers, genealogy, Hicks, Killian, Lunsford Genealogy, Photography, Picture of the Day, Shields Genealogy, Walker, Western North Carolina Heritage, Whitner

Old Cantilever Barn in Cades Cove, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Yes the barn will get up and walk at any minute now

One of my most favorite places on Earth is Cade’s Cove up in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. East Tennessee is where I was born and it is where my “roots” are. When I see mountains, my heart soars and sings and it’s why I built my house where I built it.

A few years ago Tall & Handsome and I spent a Memorial Day weekend wandering the roads up in the mountains and Cove. There’s a famous old Cantilever Barn in the Cove and a visit there just isn’t a visit without a stop at the barn and a stop into the past.

If you look close, it looks like someone else had the same idea…either that or the barn has grown a pair of feet with sneakers and it getting ready to get up and walk away!

© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

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God’s Green Earth, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Between Townsend and the Cove

In the foothills of the Smoky Mountains there is a little hamlet called Townsend, TN. It is part of my ancestral roots. My Daddy was born there and his daddy before him and so on and so on. The Hicks Family and the Walker family and the Dunn family were Blount County residents for generations. There were many Scot-Irish in the area and I strongly resemble that remark and that probably accounts for my love for all thing Scottish…well, except for haggis…

Even though I grew up and spent most of my life in my beloved Alabama when I think of “home” I also think back to the mountains of East Tennessee. Any chance I get to go back and meander through the cool, quiet, tranquil  places I visited as I child, I jump on it! Nothing is as exhilarating as driving up to the top of those smoky mountains and seeing that unique haze grazing the tops of the mountain summits for as far as the eye can see…and standing and breathing in vista after vista of rolling mountain top in the middle of August and feeling a cool breeze gently embrace your body, knowing in the back of you mind that miles away, in cities, mankind is broiling in August heat and gridlock.

My heart sings in those moments…

There’s another place nearby called Cade’s Cove. This cove is nestled in a valley between mountain bases and was also home to family from long ago. If you drive the loop around the cove you can see old barns, churches and homes, deer, wild turkey and a place that seems untouched by time. My daddy remembers my Papaw filling in as the mailman as the postal carrier in the Cove when the full time carrier had need for time off.

Three or four years ago Tall & Handsome and I spent some time one Memorial Day weekend up in that area. I was doing a little genealogy research and just enjoying God’s green Earth. It was a great time for us…

The picture above was taken between Townsend and Cades Cove. While so many in the US are suffering through wildfires, floods, storms and other travails, I thought it would be nice just to remind everyone how wonderful God’s green Earth can really be…especially in East Tennessee…back where I come from…

© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

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Darien Methodist Church, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Darrien Methodist Church

John Wesley at Darien Methodist Church

Thanks to John Wesley and the Scots, the Methodist flourished in this part of Georgia. As a matter of fact, John Wesley himself visited the Scots in Darien in 1737 and as a result had an indirect affect in helping this little church be built. It was the faith he built and stirred in the souls of those Scots and others that created the desire to have a place of worship.

The Methodist became quite famous for their “circuit riding preachers” in the South. As a matter of face they reached far and wide and my own ancestors in the foothills and mountains of East Tennessee were touched by those same circuit riding preachers. They say my Papaw was Methodist…I dare say because of a circuit rider…before he converted to another denomination.

Just a little side note for all of you doomsayer out there today…supposedly there is some little misguided man somewhere in the US that swears the Rapture will happen today May 21, 2011. I hate to disappoint, but the man doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It could happen, but it may not.

For those of you that don’t know the Good Book, this is what is says: “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”  I Thessalonians 5:2 NASB

What does that mean? As men, we don’t know the exact hour or the Lord’s return. It’s such an important consideration that it not just mentioned once in the Word, but several times. John Wesley would have known this, I’m quite sure…

For those of us who do know what the Good Book says, I would have hoped there would have been more clarity coming from us about all this nonsense going on. Shame on you, for you know better.

And, for those of you not so familiar with the Word, or just plain don’t care…let me ask you this. Rapture parties?! Really?! Would you be quite so insensitive with another faith, say Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and mock Mohammed, the Dali Lama, Buddha or Confucius? Would you be having Mohammed and the 72 Virgins parties, or the Dali Lama died parties, or Buddha belly parties? I think not…kinda crass, huh? Just saying…

© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Bible Verse, Churches, Darien GA, Darien Methodist Church, East Tennessee Heritage, Georgia, Grandparents, History, I Thess 5:2, Jesus, John Wesley, Old South, Old Southern Buildings, Photography, Picture of the Day, Religion, Sunday with Tall & Handsome, The Rapture, The South, Travel, USA

The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM) Diaries – Chapter 2: Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle…or a House Divided Will Fall..

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries – Chapter 2:

Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle…or a House Divided Will Fall…

By Beverly Hicks Burch

In her book A Quilter’s Diary: Written in Stitches, author Mimi Dietrich includes a section on “heritage”. Many of you would not be surprised to know I was drawn to that section. After all, genealogy is another passion of mine. I don’t know if we, as Southerners, are imprinted at birth to have a burning desire to know all our “begets”. I think yes…and sometimes, I think no…

I find it amazing to talk to younger people who have absolutely no interest whatsoever to know anything thing about those who came before them, or what and who makes them who they are. Actually I find it unthinkable, because what these young lions don’t understand is one day, God willing, they will be one of these “begets”…an ancestor if you will…and they will be just as forgotten if their descendents have the same attitude they do.

My heritage is about as Southern as it gets…as Southern as grits, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, pecan pie, mint juleps, magnolias and azaleas; AND you know how much I love that heritage. My Daddy’s people were from East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Momma’s people were from East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee. (Tennessee is divided into East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. If you’re from Tennessee, you understand all about that.)

Some of those ancestors in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina were mountain people. I’ve always felt that explains my affinity for the mountains. I recently wrote about that love and a surprising family discovery in a blog called, No Place Like Home…In More Ways Than One.

Given the choice, I will head for the mountains any day instead of the beach. Beach = torture. Well…maybe not all of the time… But, just let me ask you, “Do you know what happens if sand gets into my Bernina?!”

 

This is no joke, but I have actually taken my Bernina and holed up in a log cabin in the Smoky Mountains for about a week. Guess what I was doing? Nope, it wasn’t designing a new model of a stock car for NASCAR. That cabin, a cozy fire, my Bernina and piecing quilt blocks till my heart was content…that’s my definition of heaven on Earth. I can just see me lugging my Bernina down to the sandy shore…

My heritage is also Scots-Irish, English, German, Native American and a spattering of other nationalities that probably add up to a cell or two in my over all DNA and make-up. But, there is something else…something many Southerners may not even realize or may not want to “own up to” in their own heritage…and my diary blocks tell that story…

My diary blocks in this chapter are the Southern Belle block…and the Yankee Puzzle block. Whooaaa, wait a minute, I’m sure you’re saying…Yankee Puzzle?! Yep, that’s right…Bev is not ingesting funny mushrooms…you read it right.

You see, when you do genealogy, you discover some very interesting facts and situations. This die-hard, GRITS (Girl Raised In The South) has Southern ancestors that fought for the Union! I’m sure right now there is a collective gasp in some places, heads hung low in others and some heads shaking in disbelief that [1] this happened and [2] I would admit it.

You see after having traveled over this big beautiful USA, reading and watching media of all sorts, I have learned there are some decided impressions or stereotypes of antebellum Southerners. The most common are that most Southerners personally owned thousands of slaves, all Southerners were for “The Wawah” (War), Southerners were as dumb as pet rocks and the remainder of the Southern population was dirt poor, stayed barefoot and ate things like possum and entrails. Oh, and we can’t all do a “Rebel Yell”.

Well, if any of those were Jeopardy answers, the question would be, “What are some biased, idiotic, uninformed notions of antebellum Southern people?”

Not all Southerners owned slaves (yet pundits fail to teach or even mention Native Americans and free African Americans owned slaved during that period). Actually only about 4.8% of Southern whites owned slaves. In New Orleans alone 28% of free African Americans owned slaves before the War. US Federal Census records from the time are replete with information of slave holders of the day, both white and black. This is not to justify anything…this is just providing historical background.

As a result, not all Southerners necessarily sought War or wanted to go to war. Many dreaded sending sons to a War they didn’t have a stake in, others had moral trepidations with slavery, still other didn’t like the fact that Big Government was forcing some things down States throats (they believed in state’s rights) and that was unconstitutional…sound familiar?

We were a country sorely divided…it was a time in this country when we found out as a nation that “…if a house is divided (split into factions and rebelling) against itself), that house will not be able to last.” Mark 3:25 Amplified Bible Abraham Lincoln used that very Scripture in his famous “House Divided” speech. Yet, the country press on towards war…people on both sides had convictions they believed in…

Back in the hills, mountains and valleys of East Tennessee there was many a concerned and worried home. When the war did come, that part of Tennessee was torn asunder…homes were divided…families were divided. Some fought for the Confederate and some fought for the Union even within the same family.

My great-great-great grandfather Henry Ogle of Sevier County, Tennessee was one of those. He served in the Union Army.

Henry Ogle Civil War Pension Index

Henry Ogle’s Civil War Pension Index Card

Yet, a couple of hundred miles to the west, in Middle Tennessee there seemed to be an unusual story that developed…

Family lore says my great-great grandfather George Washington Shaffer did something unusual. His brother was just about to be married and was also about to be conscripted into the Confederate Army. George volunteered in his brother’s stead. He went on and served in fighting around Nashville and Murphfreesboro…some of the worse battles in the War. George became sick and was hospitalized for some time.

Once George was well, he could have gone home back to Lawrence County, Tennessee, but he didn’t. He walked all the way to Mississippi and joined the Union force there and fought with the Union. Yep, George fought for both sides.

These stories aren’t exceptions to the rule. In Alabama there is an independent minded little county called Winston. During the Civil War, they seceded from the state of Alabama and became known as “the Free State of Winston”.

Then, of course, there were those that came South after the War…some were called carpetbaggers. I always said my marriage to Gomez the ex went south when I started digging around in his family history and discovered his paternal ancestors were carpetbaggers. I guess he thought his ancestors spontaneously and miraculously sprung from the red clay of Alabama after God flung a lightening bolt to the ground.

And then, there’s the reverse of that…imagine my surprise when I started digging around in the roots of my Southwestern cowboy and I found out his roots are as Southern as mine! Tickled me pink…no wonder he’s such a sweetheart…

So, there it is…why I’ve included the Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle blocks in my diary quilt. They are both part of my heritage…one in a really big way and one in a smaller, surprising way. But, they are part of what makes me who and what I am.

Southern Belle

Southern Belle Block

Yankee Puzzle

Yankee Puzzle Block

These blocks are both 6 inch machine pieced blocks. Once again I used the red, white and blue color scheme…kinda fitting. All pieces for the blocks were cut with the rotary cutter and they went together super fast…I’m having a blast with these little blocks…

So, on to Chapter 3 and what’s next in The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries…

(If you haven’t yet read the Introduction or Chapter 1 of the BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries, it not too late. You can find them here:

Introduction

Chapter 1 – Cupcake or Happy Birthday to me…)

© 2009 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM) Diaries – Chapter 1: Cupcake…or Happy Birthday to Me…, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries – Chapter 1

Cupcake…or Happy Birthday to Me…

By Beverly Hicks Burch

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On an early January morning, I entered this world as the first born daughter of a young East Tennessee couple. I had been, at first, what Momma thought was a bad case of flu. (That probably should have been Momma and Daddy’s first inclination I was going to be their “why” child…)

My arrival was on the second day of the New Year. Now, in the little East Tennessee town where I was born, back then being born the first baby of the New Year was a big deal. It came with a certain “15 minutes of fame” mantle which included a package of goodies. I missed Day One by a few scant hours…

Of course being the baby born on the second day meant you got to lay in the crib next to the winner…and that’s about as good as it got. As a result, the course for my personal motto was set at that tender age. That motto is, “A day late and a dollar short…” Kinda been the story of my life many times. The fact I was also born on a Saturday just reinforces my plight because we all know “Saturday’s child works hard for his living…”

Momma and Daddy were childhood and high school sweethearts. She was 15 and he was 16 when they first laid eyes on each other…at a church meeting as they were called back then. She was the pastor’s daughter…a PK…a shy and quiet one. Once they laid eyes on each other, that was pretty much it…it was over for other contenders…male or female.

Mom was smitten by the tall, handsome kid with shiny black hair, dove gray eyes, velvety long eye lashes, the brain of a whiz kid, hands and feet of a giant (my son would later inherit those) and a smooth baritone voice he would use to serenade her under her bedroom window.

Daddy was Momma’s rock star. I have to admit he was a hunky young thing…I can’t tell you what it’s like to be in the third grade and all you friends have giddy crushes on you Dad! Many of my schoolgirl friends thought Daddy looked like Elvis.

Oakley Hicks ROTC Picture

Daddy’s ROTC Picture

That perception of Daddy pretty much followed me all my life…sometimes even to my place of employment. Back about 1977 or 1978 I happened to work for one of the largest banks in Birmingham, AL. One day they floated me for a day to the branch just a few blocks from Daddy’s office.

Around lunch time I happened to look up and see Daddy loping across the lobby in those big long strides of his (I needed to take two or three to his one). He had that look of determined, focused concentration he has when he’s got a task on his mind…it’s like tunnel vision…”I’m going from point A to point B in a direct straight line”…it’s an engineer thing…

I couldn’t help but grin when I looked up and saw Daddy…and that’s who I saw…Daddy. (I will always see Daddy just like no matter how old I am he will always see his little girl, or as he calls me “his little Texas girl because I had my second birthday in Fort Worth”.)

Beverly Faith Hicks  2 Jan 1956

The Little Texas Girl – I still have that table

Ok…back to the bank and the 1970’s…Daddy looked over, saw me, grinned, threw up his hand and waved and kept going in that direct straight line to a teller in an adjacent teller station, took care of his banking, turned to walk out, grinned, waved at me and left.

The minute he was gone some young thing (a fellow teller) came running over to me all giddy and flushed and asked, “Who was that man that was flirting with you?!” I thought she was going to swoon…

My eyes had to have popped out of my head at the speed of light and were about the size of half dollars. I reared back, puffed my chest out like a puffer fish, looked at the giddy little “gold digger” and stated surely and firmly, “That was no MAN, that was my Daddy…and he was a wife at home…my Momma.” Yep, us Southern gals watch out for our own…

Oakley Christmas 1975

The Daddy that came to the bank…

Her mouth flung open and I could have sworn I saw teeth falling out of her gaping mouth. As she was picking them up off the floor she mumbled something like, “Your father?! That can’t be! He doesn’t look old enough to have a daughter you age.” (I was barely past the age of “majority” myself! Give me a break sister bimbo!)

Of course Momma was easy on Daddy’s eyes. Momma was a dark haired beauty. To hear Daddy tell the story her big ol’ doe eyes (that’s big brown eyes in Daddy-speak) caught his attention and heart real fast. Momma was a tiny little thing and smart as a whip even though she was quiet. Like all steel magnolias Momma has a hidden iron will and strength that has seen her through difficult times and her man admires and loves that…and she can be feisty, too.

Juanita Ima-jean McGee (Hicks)

The Girl with the Big Ol’ Doe Eyes…

So, Momma and Daddy were an item all through high school…till both of them graduated…a little over four years. Yes, I said four years.

The fact that Momma’s two sisters adored Daddy like a brother and her pastor father was very fond of and approved of Daddy were all certainly in Daddy’s favor. Even if they hadn’t, I don’t think it would have matter…Daddy was the one for Momma. Momma exhibited the perfect example of the song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” a long time before the Supreme’s even thought about singing it…

When you look at my parents you probably think totally down the line traditional, but they would surprise you! There has been a time or two when Momma and Daddy have bucked the system and done things their way as Frank would say.

Yep, they surprised everyone when they eloped! They had planned on keeping it a secret for a while and Momma was going to continue to live with her folks while Daddy continued his studies at the University of Tennessee in engineering. But some how one of Mom’s younger sisters found out the big secret and being the typical little sister couldn’t keep a secret. The cat was out of the bag and once it was there was no keeping the newlyweds apart.

Oakley Hicks and Juanita McGee Early 1950's

The Way They Were…

Well, you guessed it…about three months later Momma came down with that really bad case of the flu. It just wouldn’t go away and she finally went to the doctor. The doctor let her know pretty fast the flu was going to last about another nine months…you got it…it was me…poor Momma was pretty sick.

Cominghome Day 1-7-1954

Coming Home Day – Yep, that little head is me

I look back over the years and realize some things were set from the beginning. The fact that his girls would be Daddy’s girls was a given. Momma always told me how Daddy was when I was an infant.

When I came home from the hospital my bassinette had to sit by his side of the bed. Momma said if I sneezed, coughed or grunted Daddy was Johnny on the spot to make sure all was right. There would be no choking to death, smothering or SIDS on his watch. He would even take late night and early morning feeding shifts to give Mom time for rest. Over the years we have kidded Daddy about being our “Jewish mother”…our six foot “Jewish mother” worrying over us and protecting us…

Oakley & girls

Daddy and his girls…guess who’s wearing braids?

I thought of all of this recently as I celebrated yet another birthday and marveled at the time passed. Momma and Daddy had called and wished me a Happy Birthday and sung Happy Birthday long distance. Of course Daddy’s special lyric is “Happy birthday little Texas girl…”

It just can’t be possible that so many years have passed since those very first birthdays, yet they have. That point was made plainly clear New Year’s Day. Tall & Handsome and I had gone out to run a few errands and pick up some ingredients for the Chinese dishes for my birthday dinner the next day.

I also needed to pick up some hair spray and other items so I ran into a beauty supply store. As I started to pay I noticed my discount card needed to be renewed. During the renewal process the clerk asked me if I was a certain age or older (keep in mind this age is a loooong way from 60 or any of those other ages people label as “senior”). What?! Me?! I thought… I looked at her slyly and pondered my answer.

Ok, now’s the time to decided whether I will be in denial or take advantage of saving money. Humm…let’s weigh this…vanity…saving money… Logic won. I looked at her and said, “You’re not going to believe this, but tomorrow is my birthday and I will be that exact age.”

She looked back at me and said, “That’s good enough.”

Darn. Did I just get my first senior discount?

Veritas Vos Liberabit – the truth shall set you free

So, in honor of that liberating moment, my birthday and the beginning of my journey I picked the Cupcake block as my first dairy block for The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries.

Cupcake

The Cupcake Block – BamaSteelMagnolia(TM) Style

This block is a six inch appliqué block. I used the freezer paper appliqué method. It really went together quickly and I’m excited about future blocks. The challenge to myself was to see how much of my stash I could use. I’ve already fudged…I bought some fabric on my recent trip to Arizona to use in the diary blocks…it is a journey, right? That’s called justification…

Some fabrics in this block did come from my stash. The “icing” fabric was used in a project for my beloved Aunt LaRue, one of Momma’s sisters. (I had made her napkins with the fabric.) The “cupcake” and candle are fabric I had and have long forgotten their place of origin, but I remember the flame fabric was purchased at Connecting Threads.

It appears this quilt is developing in a red, white and blue color scheme (with accent colors thrown in)…one of my favorites. Blue is one of my favorite colors, and red is the color of garnet my birthstone…which I just happen to love.

Check in to see what Chapter two brings…

© 2009 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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No Place Like Home…In More Ways Than One, by Beverly Hicks Burch

No Place Like Home…in More Ways

Than One

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Why are we so stupid when we’re young? We spend wasted time…days, months even years pursuing the hubris of youth. Time is spent on things that in the grander scheme of life mean absolutely nothing in the long run. We can never, never ever get back that lost time and all of the experiences we let pass us by even though they were so close to us we could have reached out and touched them with our fingertips.

I realize in many situations we were just unaware or even caught up in the daily struggle to survive in an ever increasingly hostile world. Other times we were just foolish. We get hung up on bad hair days, the right pair of shoes, the smallest of slights or arriving at the finish line with the most “stuff” or toys.

Recently as I sat on my bed one morning and looked out the window of my hotel my eyes drank in and feasted upon the towering mountains and vistas of North Carolina. Even though autumn colors were past their prime for the area and some trees were already shivering bare in winter temperatures and snow flurries, it was still stunning…even breathtaking. Some trees still stubbornly held onto their fall wardrobe and as that pattern repeated as mountain yields to yet another silent giant, the effect of scattered patches of color resemble a patchwork quilt once crafted out of need by the mountain women of the area.

Heritage. Legacy. I always feel that when I am in the mountains. Little did I know when I was younger what my heritage and legacy truly was. I’ve never been secretive of the fact I was born in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. My earliest and formative memories are from the area. Even though from the age of 12 on ward I grew up in and lived in my beloved Alabama, East Tennessee was “back home” or as Kenney Chesney puts it…“back where I come from”. (Kenney, by the way is an East Tennessee home boy.)

The mountains are my roots. They run deep and can not be torn away from me. When I first met Tall & Handsome, I called myself an East Tennessee mountain gal. I’ve often speculated the feeling I have for the mountains runs through my veins carried by my Scots – Irish ancestry. (Of course there’s a little German and it’s said Native American thrown in the mix.) One of my most favorite respites has been to return to the area and hole up in a cabin on the “quiet side of the Smokies”…in sleepy little Townsend, the little burg where my Daddy was born.

Recently as I continued to transcribe the census records from that area for 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 I was reminded of my roots and ancestral home. I also learned a few new tidbits. I knew my Papaw…my paternal grandfather, Jonas Hicks, had worked for the Little River Lumber Company…a local saw mill. One census record enumerated his occupation as “Retail – grocery salesman”. That explains the picture of him standing behind the counter in an old “general store”. Papaw worked at the company store…the lumber company store. I knew Papaw had been considered a master carpenter by many, skills I guess he learned from working around that lumber yard. In other census records his occupation was listed a “labor” at the lumber yard or saw mill.

Papaw was like a mountain Renaissance Man…he was a man of many skills, talents and even trades. He could play the fiddle, clog (that’s dancing kids), was a carpenter and was the substitute mail carrier for Cade’s Cove. Cade’s Cove is a secluded little valley nestled in the Smokies. There are days in the Cove when you can still see that infamous “smoke” rising from the surrounding mountains. It’s almost mystical to experience and fills the mind and imagination of by-gone days and lives.

Decades ago…and still today…there was one way in…and one way out of the Cove. Years ago that was by horse and wagon. You can still see the wagon wheel ruts left on long ago traveled routes. Today there is a loop maintained by the US National Park System that carries you around and through the Cove. You pass by and through old home places, historical cemeteries and churches. An old cantilever barn is a favorite landmark for visitors. Recently I found out there was a young lad who caught his first glimpse of the Cove while accompanying my grandfather on his mail route. That young lad was my dad…

Cantilever Barn in Cade's Cove

The Old Cantilever Barn in Cade’s Cove

As I was perusing the aforementioned census records, I noticed the name “Townsend” popped up as a family surname name with a group of people who were originally from Pennsylvania. As unthinkable as it is for a Southern gal, it seemed Townsend got its current name from a “carpet bag” family. When I mentioned my findings to my parents, they confirmed my supposition. I don’t know if the Townsend family stayed after the lumber business crashed, but the name stuck…

My family is musical…on both sides. As I mentioned Papaw was a fiddler, an ace clogger and he sang. Apples don’t fall far from the tree as they say and as a result, his boys picked up musical talents. Daddy and his brother J. H. or Jay as Daddy called him were both part of the music program at church. Music was a big part of their church life. (Another tangent story is about the pastor of that church…my maternal grandfather. Yes, Daddy married the preacher’s daughter. And, that my friends, is a story for a different time.)

Alcoa Church of God Music Group

Alcoa Church of God Music Group – I’m related to 5 or 6 people in this picture. My grandfather, the pastor in the 1st person on the left in the back row; my maternal aunt is the 3rd person from the left in the back row; my paternal uncle JH Hicks is in the back row holding the long neck guitar and I believe his wife is on the left. My daddy Oakley Hicks is in the front row holding the steel guitar and my mother’s brother is sitting on the edge of the stage on the right wearing the headphones.

I vaguely remember Uncle Jay playing the guitar and singing. Daddy on the other hand is a different story. Since I was “knee high to a grasshopper” I have heard my Daddy play the steel guitar, regular guitar, pick a few songs on the piano and sing in that smooth, perfect baritone of his. There are times when I hear my Daddy sing that I am almost brought to tears…I just can’t bare to think of a time when I will not be able hear him sing again…

daddy-ca-1950s

Daddy – Oakley Hicks ca 1950’s

young-jh-hicks

Young JH Hicks

So, where did all that talent come from? We can give some of the credit to Papaw. I never really considered Mamaw “musical”. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if Versie (Mamaw to us kids and Mom to her boys) could even “carry a tune in a bucket”. But, read on…

Versie was a one of a kind. She had grown up hard in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She was born in Hanging Dog in Cherokee County, a county named for the local tribe of Native Americans and an area surrounded by the Smokies, the Blue Ridge Mountains and water…it was a place of green and blue and abundant beauty, but a hard life nonetheless. Her family had drifted down into the area years before from other Western North Carolina counties.

Mamaw was the next to youngest child of nine born to George Washington Allman and Lucinda Lunsford. From what I have heard through “family lore”, it was a tumultuous relationship. It seems that George may have had a little “side” business…called moonshine, or at least running the “mountain dew” for the moonshiners. He also may have had an eye for the ladies. Some descriptions have him as a “red-headed Irishman”

george-washington-allman1

George Washington Allman

They say Lucinda was a hard woman…difficult even. But, I guess she had to be raising nine kids on her own. Some say she drove George off with her hard ways, other just say George left. Whatever the reason, the end result was the same…Lucinda was left with nine kids to raise, practically on her own. Mamaw was a young girl when George left. In later years George ended up in LaFollette, Tennessee in Campbell County with a new “wife” and daughter and some notoriety…which usually seem to center around women and `shine.

Mamaw looked as if she had been born on the reservation there in Western NC. Long jet black hair, dark eyes and high cheek bones and a nose that screamed “Native American” ancestry rounded out her physical features. Even as she aged…and at the time of her death at age 85 her head was still peppered with jet black hair…she never totally grayed. He boys lovingly and kiddingly called her “squaw”. She looked that much like a Native American…and she was formidable!

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Versie Allman Hicks Dec. 1968 – Mamaw was 2 months shy of her 66th birthday here

Mamaw’s will and fortitude was like concrete…and steel. Concrete surrounded that stubborn head of hers. In Versie’s mind, cloths were never truly clean unless they were pounded with a rock at the local creek or river…she just didn’t trust those new fangled contraptions called washing machines. She could be found on occasion raking the yard in high heel shoes…in her book, the hard way was the best way.

Daddy tells a story from his childhood. One day Mamaw had tasked Daddy and one of his brothers, Uncle Jay if I remember correctly to cut some wood. She had given them a cross cut saw…one of those saws with handles at both ends for two people to use at once. Papaw came home and saw the boys struggling with a saw so dull it wouldn’t cut butter. Smart man that he was, he sharpened that puppy up for the boys and in no time they were burning through wood like greased lightening.

Well, of course Mamaw noticed the new, efficient manner in which her boys were working…fast, speedy, efficient and noticeably more productive…and yes, a tad easier! (Cutting wood could never be called “easy”.) There was a reckoning coming…Papaw heard about it first!

“Jonas, did you sharpen that saw for the boys?”

“Well, yes, Versie, that saw was duller than a table knife. Now they can really cut wood with it.”

“Well, Jonas, I guess I’ll just have to whip those boys now.” Typical Mamaw logic! I don’t recall if they really did get a walloping for the sharpened saw or not…

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Jonas and his Boys – Daddy is the little scutterhead in the front

As she aged, she didn’t become any less formidable…in mind set or appearance. Once, when he was about four years old, my son rode up from Birmingham to East Tennessee with Daddy to visit Mamaw. When they returned I asked Jared what he thought of Mamaw. He reply was classic “out of the mouths of babes”.

“Well, Mom, she reminded me of one of those Presidents.”

I had never heard Versie described as Presidential! My mind did flip flops as I tried to figure this one out and not trounce on the little one’s opinion…so, when in doubt…just ask…

“What do you mean, honey?”

“You know Mom…one of those Presidents up on that mountain.”

Internally, my mind collapsed into a fit of laughter and mirth…Jared was telling me his great-grandmother reminded him of a President on Mount Rushmore! Cragged and wrinkled…and formidable, especially to a four year old. No, Versie and Estee were not acquainted…

Where and how Mamaw got this exotic, dark look is a mystery. Family lore says she inherited the Native American blood from her mother, Lucinda. One picture I’ve seen of Lucinda reveals a woman with lighter hair than my grandmother and an almost “Germanic” appearance…Daddy has mentioned his maternal grandmother and his memory of her is with dark hair.

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Lucinda Lunsford Allman & 2 Daughters – Lucinda is seated

Even though I’ve enumerated Lucinda and her family on some census records, there is a lot I don’t know about her and the Lunsford side of my family. Unfortunately, Mamaw died before I realized the value and started pursuing family history and heritage. I just assumed they were hardscrabble mountain people…well, you know what they say about assuming…

You see, as you research and dig and record census records, your family files and data base begins to grow and incorporate quite a few names and families…did I say thousands of names…yes, thousands? My files hold the history for 5,000+ people. (That’s apiece on both my families and Tall & Handsome’s families.) I had recorded many of my grandmother’s kin…and often wondered who and what they had been in their life.

Well, recently I had the coincidental fortune to discover the life story of one such kin folk.

I had been in Asheville, NC with Tall & Handsome. As he is want to do, he brings me reading material…he knows I hate an idle mind. T & H had brought me a local event and history magazine related to Asheville and the surrounding area.

After I got home, one day I was flipping through the magazine when an article caught my eye. The article was about an upcoming bluegrass festival in Asheville. The event was called “The Bascom Lamar ‘Minstrel of the Appalachian’ Lunsford Festival”. Humm…the name seemed vaguely familiar…Lunsford had been my great-grandmother’s maiden name and the given names “Bascom Lamar” rang a distant bell. So, being the curious gal that I am, I opened up my family file, searched it a bit and…bingo!…there it was…the name Bascom Lamar Lunsford in my family file.

Being the research hound that I am, I went into motion, trying to learn what I could about this distant kin who had a festival that carried his name. I was surprised to say the least.

You see, Bascom Lamar Lunsford was a “rock” star of his time. He was born on the campus of Mars Hill College in Madison County, NC. His father had been a teacher at the college. At a young age Bascom picked up musical instruments and the rest is history as they say.

Oh, music wasn’t Bascom’s only mark and legacy on the mountain community…or the state of North Carolina. He went on to college (what is now Duke University), became a lawyer, the reading clerk of the NC House of Representatives, teacher, fruit tree salesman, “revenuer”, writer, musician and more. He even once played mountain music for the King and Queen of England at the request of the US President at the time. He was a very busy man…

He wrote the song “Good Ol’ Mountain Dew”…a song about that aforementioned elixir of the mountains…moonshine. Legend has it Bascom wrote the song after defending a client who was on trial for the production of that famous beverage. Bascom made the bold move of entering a sample of his client’s product into evidence for the judge to taste. The case against his client was dismissed after the judge sample the moonshine and said anyone who made “dew” that good didn’t belong in jail. Those words gave birth to the famous song which was used in the first add campaign for the soft drink Mountain Dew.

Bascom’s biggest legacy was preserving the music of the people of the South and Appalachia. Because of Bascom, the Smithsonian has the largest collection of the folk music of the area. Bascom became known as the “Minstrel of Appalachia”. In 1928 Bascom was asked to perform at the Asheville Rhododendron Festival…long considered the first festival of its kind…the granddaddy of bluegrass music festivals. The Festival continued for many years under that name. In 1967, the name of the festival was changed to the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Music Festival. October 2008 marked the festival’s 41st anniversary.

It’s not often you run across such delightful surprises like finding Bascom and his legacy. All too often we fritter away the memories and history of our elder folk and it’s lost for ever. We get caught up in that daily struggle I mentioned before. Unfortunately for us, we don’t realize we are frittering away our history…our legacy and what makes us…us.

I wish I had known more about that side of my family. Did my grandmother even realize Bascom was her third cousin? Did she have pride in his notoriety? Was anyone else musical in the family?

For me, this little discovery just goes a little further in explaining why I am who I am and why I seem drawn to some things. I never really understood until now why a suburban raised gal like me had this strange pull toward bluegrass music. I guess it’s in the blood…

Folks, the 2008 holiday season is upon us…knocking at our door. I don’t think I can admonish you enough…take the time this year to really talk to the older members of your family and get to know your family history. You just don’t know what little gems you will discover…after all…there’s no place like home…

© 2008 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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