Category Archives: North Carolina

You Don’t Say, by Beverly Hicks Burch

You Don’t Say

By Beverly Hicks Burch

I am a hard sell. I don’t know if it’s the Scotch-Irish in me, or a touch of Cherokee. It could even be the frugal German. Better yet, a throw back to the East Tennessee Mountain roots that run deep through my veins. They were hardy, independent, self-reliant stock. My paternal grandmother never did totally trust that confounded contraption called a washing machine. Even though she could have afforded the best machine on the market, she truly believed clothes were only clean if you took them down to the local creek and beat them with a rock.

Versie Allman Hicks was born in Cherokee County, North Carolina in 1903. She was that mix of Irish, German and yes, they say Cherokee that floats in my DNA…she certainly looked the part of Native American. Once when my son was very young, pre-school age, he rode with my dad from Birmingham up to Maryville, Tennessee to visit Mamaw. When they got home, I asked him what he thought of her. He thought a moment and replied, “She reminded me of one of those Presidents.”

What? I had heard a lot of words used to describe Mamaw, but Presidential was not one of them.

So, I asked him, “What do you mean, baby?”

“You know, Mom, her face looks like one of those Presidents up on that mountain. She has a bunch of lines on her face and her nose looks like a President’s nose.” Evidently he was talking about Mount Rushmore. Humm…you don’t say…out of the mouths of babes. Mamaw was not acquainted with Estee Lauder or Clinique, bless her heart but she could pick beans, shuck corn and make blackberry jam.

Mom, as her boys called her and Mamaw as the some of grandkids called her was a formidable force. There’s an old southern saying…“a head as thick as a pine knot”…well, that means a really thick-headed or hard-headed person and that describes Mamaw to a “T”…and on occasion the rest of the Hicks descendents that sprang from her womb. Yep, that would include me.

I’m that way about ads…resistant…I absolutely despise most ads. When the VCR was invented…Hallelujah! I could fast forward through the commercials. Even better yet TiVo…oh, my gosh! How cool is that?! If I’m very, very careful I almost never, ever have to watch a commercial…did I mention ever? (And do not get me started on telemarketers!) It’s kinda funny because at one time Tall & Handsome owned his own ad agency.

So what got me thinking about this? Well this morning, I had the misfortune of hearing one of my all time least favorite commercials. It goes something like this:

“Hi, I’m real man So-in-so. (He’s a famous sports guy.) If you’ve tried other weight loss programs and found they don’t work for you, this one will. And you can eat like a real man. It worked for me. My wife says I’m not as disgusting to her anymore.” (Names of the stupid and idiotic have been changed…just because they need to be.)

That commercial makes my teeth itch. If I was as big as an Amish barn and had to be buried in a baby grand piano I would still avoid that “nutrition” program. Here’s why. It doesn’t do much for people’s heart, soul, psyche, personality and general overall better development of humanity. They’re not addressing the inner self. If that man lost “x” number of pounds and his wife still finds him disgusting AND he’s getting up on national TV bragging about that, he’s got bigger problems with his wife and he doesn’t realize the stupid program is just using him and his famous name. That’s sad.

Beyond that it points to something else. We are a nation who has lost its kindness. Instead of his wife saying, “Wow, great job! I’m so proud of your accomplishment” it was, “You’re not as disgusting to me as you use to be, but you’re still disgusting.”

Yeah, yeah , yeah, I know it was just an ad, but it’s representative of our national mentality at times. We’re enthralled with shows called Jackass and shock jocks like Don Imus and Howard Stern. Look where Imus’ mouth got him into…in the middle of a whole lot of trouble…just because he was trying to be funny and entertaining. Did he have the right to say it? Well, yeah he did…Freedom of Speech. Should he have said it? Heck no!! He took away from the accomplishments of two groups of beautiful young ladies…the Rutgers Basketball Team and unfortunately the Lady Vols Basketball Team, the University of Tennessee team who won the tournament and kinda got lost in the fray and became an afterthought of the Imus debacle. Does anyone outside of Knoxville remember they won the title? I would hope so, but thanks to Don Imus and his unkind, thoughtless words, the main memory of the game is his ugly words and the aftermath.

Just this morning there was a report on the news about a death in Greely, CO. Two teens, an 18 year old and a 19 year old bought a car, cut the top off the car and drove the car off into a watery pit. The 18 year old died while someone was taping the “event”. The “shock” of pulling of an event like this cost a kid his life. That’s more important than being a kind, caring human being in our society. Better to die being a Jackass than say volunteering time at a local animal shelter, a rape crisis center, Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan’s Purse or any other worthy cause or charity.

Kindness is a rare commodity in our world today. That’s sad. When I look around and see coeds laying dead in woods, a wrestler killing his family in cold blood, men killing their unborn infants, children and the mother of their children, missing children and abducted children…I want to scream, “Stop the inhumanities!” Kindness is not a weakness, but it is perceived that way by many today. It can be strength. Sadly, if you treat someone kind, they may think you have a hidden motive.

Jonas, Versie and J. H. HicksRemember my grandmother? Well, after a rough start in her life, she did eventually know kindness in her life…his name was Jonas Jenkins Hicks, a tall, lean, quite man who saw something worthy in her and married her. Papaw had evidently been considered quite a catch in his day and had been engaged a time or two before he settled down and married Mamaw. He was a few years older and came from good family stock in East Tennessee. His Mama’s people had been the Walker family of Blount County. That was cache back then.

Papaw was smart although he didn’t have a lot of formal education like a lot of other mountain folk of the time. He was musical, clogged (that’s dancing kids) and was a carpenter. On occasion he carried mail in Cades Cove. My Papaw was like God to me…oh, I know he had faults…he was a man, but he was wonderful and he was kind and caring and made this little girl feel special (and helped me learn my multiplication table). He use to take me for walks and tell me about the trees and sights that surrounded his place. Nothing was grander than a walk with Papaw. With his carpenter skills he made me cradles for my dolls and other toys kids nowadays would probably turn their nose up at.

Papaw put up with Mamaw’s piccadilos…I don’t know that I ever heard him raise his voice to her or anyone for that matter. They had five children, three boys who survived to adulthood. My daddy was one of them. I guess you could say, in a round about way, I’m here because of kindness.

To show you the kind of man my Papaw was…even though they had some rough years…they lived through the Great Depression, my Papaw did something “special” for my grandmother. I don’t even know the story behind the reason he did it other than he and the boys went together and saved and got her a set of silver-plate flatware. Even though it wasn’t sterling silver, it was still a big deal and a special thing for a mountain born man and his boys to do for the woman of the house. Probably by then they had moved down from the little mountain town of Townsend, Tennessee into the “big” city of Maryville. But, it was still a really big purchase for a mountain woman. I’m sure my Papaw knew what he was doing…Mamaw, well, I’m sure she was grateful in her Versie way…and then she went on to enjoy in Versie fashion. A few of the larger soup spoons she used to dig in the garden and a few of the pieces look as if they have been cleaned with Mamaw’s all time favorite, super-duper cleaner…Comet!

I inherited that set of silver-plate…and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. A few years ago I was at an antique and flea market and there was a silver dealer set up. She had an identical set to Mamaw’s. It had been sitting in an old store somewhere and had never bought and never been used. There was a certificate with it and everything. I was ecstatic. Needless to say I picked it up…for a bargain and expanded the set my sweet, kind Papaw started for Mamaw…you don’t say…

My Tall & Handsome is a kind man…he can be one of the kindest men I’ve known. I kid him sometimes about being a little formal, but, he is kind and has a huge big heart. Every morning, before I even open my eyes, he has a fresh glass of iced tea and a hot cup of coffee waiting on the nightstand by the side of my bed. He is a pleasure to wake up to and share a cup of coffee with before seeing him off each morning. He’s the kind of man you would walk on hot coals for…yes, kindness will instill that kind of loyalty a lot faster that a brow beating and fista cuffs…any real man…real person will know that and should know that…you don’t say…

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:1

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Allman, Birmingham, Cades Cove, Cherokee Co., Don Imus, Family, genealogy, Hicks, History, Humor, Kindness, Lady Vols Basketball, Life, Maryville, NC, North Carolina, Rutgers Basketball, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee, Townsend, Walker

It Was Memorial…by Beverly Hicks Burch

Cape Cod, MA 1989

It Was Memorial…

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Before the ravages of ill health wrapped its icy fingers around my body and started wrecking havoc, one thing I really enjoyed doing on a more routine basis was travel. I still enjoy traveling, I just don’t do it as often. I have to pace myself when I travel now and sometimes there is a price to pay for the fun and adventure. I may have a bad flare up and I may have to be confined to the bed for a few days…but, I consider it an even payoff.

I’ve often thought of words to describe myself. Mom used one once that surprised me. In January 1988, my paternal grandmother, Versie Allman Hicks died. Mamaw was one of a kind. She had been born in Cherokee Co., NC and it was said her heritage was mostly Native American…Cherokee. She certainly looked the part. Mamaw had long jet black hair that at age 85, when she died was just beginning to become salt and pepper. Her features looked like classical “Indian”. Her three boys lovingly called their mom “squaw”…and they inherited her black hair.

In doing family research and genealogy, I have learned Versie also had a good dose of Irish and German thrown in…the names Allman, Whitner and Killian are in her ancestry. I tell you that to let you know she was as thick-headed as a pine knot…that’s East Tennessean or mountain for hard-headed and/or stubborn. Her boys had their favorite Versie stories…she never quite believed a washing machine really got clothes as clean as taking them down to the local creek…she’d rake leaves in high heels…she hated to fly, so she’d take the bus from Maryville, TN to Birmingham, AL and it would take HOURS twice or more than it would to drive the distance. Daddy would brew a pot of coffee and Mamaw would bring out her jar of instant (JFG if I remember correctly) and put about three spoonfuls in a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Daddy always said she liked her coffee strong enough to stand a spoon up in it, shellac wood with it or grow hair on your chest with it. I guess you can call that multi-purpose coffee.

I tell you all of that as background. When Versie died, she died during one of the worst snow and ice storms in the South in a LONG time. She was not leaving this world quietly or without aplomb and notice.

My dad was still a project manager in engineering then, and was on the job site in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. When he got word that she wasn’t doing well and the end was near, he tried to fly from Florida to Knoxville, but the weather was so bad in the South he couldn’t get a flight. He eventually got a flight to Knoxville…via Philadelphia! He was separated from his luggage in the process.

Well, of course, those of us on the home front in Birmingham were going to get there to support him! Here’s how it is with Southern women…we love and support our husbands and usually we’re Daddy’s girls. (Yeah, I own up to that one.) So, we loaded up the van. It was me, Gomez (the ex), my son, my mother and my youngest sister who is disabled, and we headed out for East Tennessee…at the speed of about 15 mph. We were literally driving on what seemed like a glacier…a sheet of ice. I was a nervous wreck because there were accidents everywhere…and cars and trucks off the road. I was sitting in the back of the van, mumbling and I was saying something like, “This is just like Versie, dieing during one of the worst storms of the decade. I sure hope we don’t end up as blood spots on the road under a big truck…”

My mom (who would walk on hot coals for my dad, as I would Tall & Handsome) said, “Bev, I thought this would be nothing to you. You’re so adventurous.” Huh?

“Why do you say that, Momma?”

“Because you like to travel.”

“But, Mom, that’s different than dieing as a blood spots a glacier!”

“Silly girl.”

Ok, maybe she didn’t say the silly girl part…but, she did say the adventurous part…because I like to travel. I had never thought of it that way.

I have seen some pretty neat and amazing things…things off the beaten path…those are the kinds of things I like to see. Gomez had a knack for getting lost in every ghetto in any city we went to…hopefully, I’ll be spared that now. That got scary a few times…

Carlsbad Caverns were magnificent and one place in New Mexico I’ve been that hubby hasn’t been…imagine that, he’s a native New Mexican! I’ll never forget my trip to Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Tall and Handsome treated me to VIP treatment at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta…a lifelong dream. I saw so many beautiful wonders on that trip…the gold of the aspens and cottonwoods in the Jimez Mountains on the way to Santa Fe. The wonderful food and the magic of getting engaged in the land of enchantment…

One goal I’ve had is to visit all 50 states and as much of Canada as I can. I’m about eight or nine states short of that goal, and I’ve seen Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Quebec in Canada. One area I fell in love with is New England.

During Memorial Day weekend 1989, I had a uniquely special, uniquely American and uniquely Norman Rockwell experience. My family had been staying in Rumford, Maine. The ex was on a job assignment. I had decided the weekend would be a good time to take a little trip and explore, so I planned a trip to Cape Cod. It wasn’t a long drive from where we were staying at the time.

We headed out that weekend, driving from Maine to Massachusetts. After we drove through Boston, I suggested we get off the interstate and drive the rest of the way up the scenic route to the Cape. Little did I realize that one suggestion would indelibly mark a living color Norman Rockwell postcard scene in my memory for the rest of my life.

The route up the coast is peppered with quaint little New England towns. Most of them are several hundred years old and many of them are centered around a rotary…that’s a type of traffic configuration that’s confusing a best and bizarre at least. (A historical note here: on a tour in Washington DC, the tour guide mentioned the traffic rotary and said they were designed to confuse troops and troop movement! Ooo-Kay!) One little town on the Mass. Coast is Plymouth…yes that Plymouth…and I did get to see Plymouth Rock.

As we came to one little town, there was a hold up. Of course Gomez grumbled…he was never one to stop and smell the roses. This hold up couldn’t be avoided, and I’m glad it couldn’t. We were in a little New England town (I don’t even remember the name) and they were having their annual Memorial Day celebration. There were high school bands, the Shriners, and the Vets…proud old gents, mostly World War II veterans decked out in uniforms and there was red, white and blue everywhere. American flags fluttered in the warm May air. It felt like if I would have turned around I would have seen Norman Rockwell at his easel, painting the whole scene for the rest of the world to see. I felt privileged to have been able to have witnessed such a pure example of Americana…and I was truly proud to be an American that afternoon.

We went on to Cape Cod that weekend. I visited lighthouses…one of my passions, explored a cranberry bog, tasted cranberry chutney, experienced the beaches of the Cape and learned a little bit of the history of the Cape, and one of my favorite pictures of my son and I together was taken that weekend on the Cape. All in all…it was Memorial…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Allman, Family, genealogy, Gomez, Hicks, Killian, Life, North Carolina, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee, Travel, Whitner