Tag Archives: Hicks

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


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

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

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


Filed under Blount County Tennessee, Cades Cove, Dunn, East Tennessee, East Tennessee Heritage, Family, Hicks, Home, Mountains, My Tennesse Heritage, Nature, Photography, Picture of the Day, South, Tennessee, TN, Townsend, Walker

Encounters, by Beverly Hicks Burch


By Beverly Hicks Burch

I am a suburbanite. I am a child of the burbs. So, what the heck is it with me and critters lately?! Mind you, I’m not talking about your run of the mill, mediocre, pedestrian house pets. Oh, no…

Don’t get me wrong. I dig animals…most of them at least. I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for a snake. Nope, no way, no how. Never met one I liked. Nor a mouse or a rat either. Over the years as a child of the burbs, I’ve managed to avoid some ugly encounters with some undesirable critters.

This doesn’t make Bev a neophyte or a total animal innocent…no sir-ee… My paternal grandparents had a farm and as a result, I was familiar with the standard farm animals…cows, pigs, horses, chickens, etc. As a matter of fact, one year Papaw let my sister Pam and I help him tend one of his prized pigs. We helped feed him and would visit said porker with glee. We even named that pig, although his name escapes me now…probably from trauma.

Cowgirl Bev circa 1970You see, our favorite little piglet ended up on the Christmas dinner table that year. Pam and I boo hoo-ed our way all through dinner and refused to partake in the cannibalizing of our former buddy. Papaw vowed never to raise a pig again or name the livestock that would feed his family. He was a man of his word…my Papaw was a good man…and he loved us girls. I did develop a special fondness for horses from those years. I guess after dogs…or along with dogs, horses are my next favorite animal…they are noble animals.

I’ve done the zoo thing…many times over. When my son was young, I would take him every year on his birthday to the Birmingham Zoo…just Mom (me) and him…and then lunch and ice cream. Then one year we had the opportunity to go to the National Zoo in Washington D. C. and saw the famous pandas. It was literally a zoo around the panda exhibit…there was barely elbow room for a grasshopper. I hate crowds, especially when they ruin the view…

When my son was about three, I took him to the Bronx Zoo in New York. Boy, there was an experience. After the admission, you kept paying…and paying…and paying…and well, you get the idea.

Then, there were the moose, and the lobster in Maine. I’m probably one of the ten people on Planet Earth that dislikes lobster. The fact that I was unable to crack the shell and Gomez said he would do it and in the process that sucker went flying out of his hands, landed on the floor, rolled over to the next table and landed at the feet of the next dinners probably doesn’t help.

Bev in North Dakota circa 1987South Dakota brought the bison…also known as the American Buffalo. Let me tell you something…those ma-moos are gi-normous, and there are no chicken wings on those puppies. Back in 1987 on the way home from a field assignment in Duluth, MN I took a sight seeing diversion west through North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming before turning south to Alabama. We were winding our way through a state or national park in South Dakota where buffalo are allowed to roam free…on a really big range.

Well, wouldn’t you know it…it was just my luck…we came upon one big ol’ bull and I mean it was obvious it was a bull. This big ol’ galoot was as big as my minivan. Faster than Bat Masterson on the draw, Gomez pulled up right next to that big ol’ bull…on my side, mind you…and told me to “take a picture”. What?!

I turned and looked and him and then turned and looked at the bison grazing and chewing his cud. Chewing Bull was about 18 inches away. I was wedged between a beast and an idiot. My seven year old son was sitting in the back seat of the van. What’s a mom to do?

I turned to (real name redacted to protect the stupid) Gomez and said, “Did you not read the sign back there that said ‘Do not approach bison or attempt to feed because they are dangerous and may CHARGE’? Don’t you think we’re a little close? I could literally reach out and touch this thing…we’re so close I can smell him! It’s revolting!” (Gagging sounds accompanied.)

He said, “Yeah, I saw it, but that doesn’t mean us…we’re in a van. That’s probably for people walking. Just take the pictures. Hurry up. We’ll be ok.”

“Gomez, this is disgusting. I can smell this thing. There are thousands of flies all over it. I can hear it chewing its cud. It has mats all over it…full of heaven knows what…and he keeps eyeballing me…”

Gomez had this unique ability…he could laugh like that cartoon dog on Deputy Dawg…you know the one with the sneaky laugh….our son pointed that out when he was very young. Anyway, the whole time I was sitting there, trying to take pictures, trying to keep from barfing and praying we didn’t get charged and rammed…Gomez is sitting in the driver’s seat laughing like the Deputy Dawg cartoon dog. Nice…

Then there were the iguanas. Back in 1998, Gomez was on another field assignment. This time in the US Virgin Islands. My Aunt LaRue and I went down for an extended stay. We were based out of St. Croix, but, we wanted to go one weekend over to St. Thomas.

Down in the Virgin Islands iguanas run free and are as common as our innocuous, sweet bunny rabbits. I’m sorry iguana lovers, but the two are not in the same league in my ball park. And the iguanas down there are not a few inches long…they are a few feet long.

Well, the year we went down it was extremely hot. You know that kind of hot…the kind of hot that makes you want to rip your clothes off and stand in front of the freezer…push the kids and dog out of the kiddie pool…inject crushed ice into your veins…anything to cool off. The pain of it is that down there central A/C isn’t that common and there isn’t a lot of abundant natural fresh water. They were also in the middle of a drought because tropical systems had not been coming through as they had in past seasons.

After a very busy, hot day sightseeing on St. Thomas and of course shopping, at one of the scenic pull-overs Aunt LaRue and I decided to sit in the car while Gomez got out and took some pictures. The area surrounding the pull-over was really grown up with tropical growth…things that just made me want to start itching all over. As we were sitting there enjoying the view from our air conditioned comfort I suddenly saw the tropical growth eerily start to move. I knew that just wasn’t right…there wasn’t a breeze to beg anywhere.

I kept an eye on the moving greenery when suddenly there emerged a Godzilla-sized iguana. That thing must have been feasting on a Lilliputian sized village in the undergrowth because he had not missed a meal! He was eyeballing Gomez’ naked shorts clad legs and headed right for him. I started pounding on the windshield and calling his name, but he couldn’t hear me. As a last resort, I sat down on the horn.

Gomez spun around kind of irritated. He saw me and my Aunt frantically gesturing at Godzilla. He glanced over and their eyes met. I’ve never seen anyone get chicken flesh so fast. The man was already pasty skinned, but he became an additional 15 shades of white. I thought he was going to plunge over the cliff and into the Atlantic at first, but he made a fast retreat into the car. That ended his picture taking venture that afternoon…poetic justice for the little bison incident don’t ya think?

Given all of that, I would have never guessed I would have experienced what I have the last couple of years since I moved back to the place I was born…East Tennessee.

Now mind you, I’m not living up on top of Mount LeConte or Clingmans Dome. Nope, I’m “citified”…not too far from downtown Knoxville itself. Closer in town than even I have lived anywhere. So, what I’m about to tell you absolutely blows my mind…

I was pleasantly surprised to discover shortly after arriving that I had a couple of bunnies living in my back yard. It reminded me of my house on the mountain in Alabama and the bunnies there. I usually could catch sight of one in the flash of my headlights hopping away from the upper driveway when I came home from work in the evenings.

Mama Dove Nesting in Alabama - Circa 2001An avid birdfeeder, Tall & Handsome and I have thoroughly enjoyed the variety of feathered friends at our feeders. I’ve even had dove take up residence in a potted plant on a porch or my deck, nest and then raise babies. They would usually come back every year to the same spot. But, what I wasn’t prepared for was living next door to a dang crowing chicken in the middle of the city!

Little Miss Undead ChickenYes, Mr. Chicken Hung Phooey invaded my space one time too many…one crow too many…one dead chicken hanging on the fence impersonation too many. But, was that enough? NO!

I guess the neighbors gave up on the twine on the foot thing for the chickens. I discovered that early one morning when I got up to let Watson out. It was just at daybreak and I looked outside to make sure there wasn’t any birds or squirrels or bunnies for him to go chasing after before I opened the door. I promise…I really did. The coast was clear. I unlocked the door, uttered the magic Watson words “Go do you business” and he was off in a blur.

Of course, I was still half asleep…I am not a morning person…but, what happened next was surreal. Watson had taken off in a blur for a purpose. All of a sudden I saw this snowy white object, with wings rise about three or four feet off the ground…with Watson in hot pursuit.

Now, given the dawn’s early light, the stupor of my stunned sleepy mind, my first thought was less than coherent. It was something like, “Watson, you are so in trouble if you don’t leave that angel alone!!” Then, I heard “cluck, cluck, cluck”. I realized it was that dang chicken from next door. So, for the next five minutes I watched Watson and Mr. Chicken Hung Phooey go back and forth…and back and forth…and back and forth in the back yard. It was like watching a shooting gallery. That’s how I found out the neighbors weren’t using twine to keep the chicken at home anymore…that and the fact he kept inviting himself to my garage sale

Of course I’ll never forget the squirrel encounter and it’s a given Tall and Handsome won’t either. As a matter of fact, he probably revisits that squirrel in his nightmares…

It all started late last spring (2006). I noticed a distinctive odor wafting up from downstairs. I mentioned it to Tall & Handsome and he thought maybe the cat box was in need of a quick change. That done T & H felt sure the problem would be resolved. I wasn’t so sure. The scent had not seemed like “odor de cat” as much as I would have like to have pointed a finger at the resident feline. Nope, to me the scent ominously carried the scent of death.

I shared my hunch with T & H, but I could tell he thought I’d been farming funny mushrooms. It didn’t take too many days before he had to strongly agree with me. You just can’t mistake that smell. Well, he went off on a mission…to discover the origin of the offending order.

What he found would rival any CSI crime scene…it was a rotting corpse…with its own infestation of maggots! Once again thanks to our slum lord…um, landlady who is too cheap to put a cover over the dryer vent we had a bonafide mess on our hands.

A squirrel had crawled into the dryer vent…all the way from the outside wall of the house and had just about made into the basement and to the dryer via the vent and duct. Unfortunately he got stuck and couldn’t turn around and get back outside. As a result, he was entombed in the dryer vent. No telling how many loads of clothes helped the process along before we knew what we had in the vent!

Poor T & H, it was a disgusting mess to clean up…a real hazmat zone. It left us both mumbling and grumbling, “How can so much go wrong and be wrong with this place? And where in the name of heaven are these critters coming from?” We were beginning to wonder if we had the animal version of the Amityville horror house.

The best was yet to come…

The most baffling encounter has also turn into a costly encounter…one I’m a little familiar with from working claims in insurance.

Shortly after Tall and Handsome started working at his new job, I happened to look out the French doors one day. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. There was some critter making itself at home around MY stuff. He acted right at home on my deck…the only thing he needed was one of those drinks with the little umbrellas in them to look more at home. I expected him to get a broom and sweep up.

Am I Cute or What?What stumped me though, I didn’t know what “he” was and that made me feel just downright…creepy. I was alone and my big He-man was out of state. All I had for protection was a cranky cat and a 15 pound wonderkin I sometimes call Sugar-cube…AKA Watson. I can see it now, “Sic him, Sugar-cube.” How scared would you be?

At first I thought my squatter was a cat that fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, but, the fur and the ears didn’t match to be a cat…unless he needed a serious conditioning job. Then I speculated on the possibility it might be a beaver with a bad case of tail envy. Why? Well, it had a nub of a tail instead of one of those nice big, wide flat, flappy tails. I decided he wasn’t big enough to be a beaver, but he was as big as the cat, Winfield, and would probably snap Watson’s neck. What the heck was he?

Well, I told T & H and we postulated and when he got to come in for a weekend he got to meet our squatter. Our postulating had been right. Guess what? It was Punxsutawney Phil or a relative thereof…yep, a groundhog. Come to find out, evidently that’s pretty common around these parts…now they tell me…what’s next a mongoose?

The proverbial icing on this cake was finding out that ye olde groundhog encounter had a price tag. Seems the industrious critter had been hanging out underneath my car…and stayed very busy. He had totally chewed and gnawed away the wiring harness of the electrical system of my car.

Cost of a wiring harness: $400

Cost of a disappearing ground hog: priceless

Cost of a dead squirrel in your dryer vent: stench and maggots

Cost of cleaning up a CSI squirrel scene: priceless

Cost of a sleepless early morning because of crowing chicken: agony

Cost of a fried chicken: priceless

Folks, I am way tired of these encounters…I think I’ll get a pet rock…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Burch.

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Chickens, dogs, Hicks, Humor, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee

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.


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

Family Plots, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Family Plots

By Beverly Hicks Burch

This past weekend I did something I’ve wanted to do since I moved back to East Tennessee two years ago, and that is document some of the grave sites of my ancestors for my genealogy files. Sounds morbid, doesn’t it? Well, it really isn’t. Gravemarkers, headstones or tombstones as some call them are legitimate documentation for the date of birth and date of death for the person in question. They can also contain various other inscriptions such as military, Masonry and dedications.

It just so happened the weekend I chose to go was Memorial Day weekend. Tall & Handsome had a three day weekend and we decided to be adventurous and you, my friends, will hear all about it…this is just the first of my blogs on the weekend. I actually had so much fun that I over did it and I’ve had to rest up to write…darn ol’ autoimmune disorders…but, I digress…

Anyway, after grabbing Mapquest and taking a new route to Grandview Cemetery in Maryville…I was use to coming in from Birmingham, we finally arrived at a road I was familiar with and I was able to guide T & H to the cemetery from there. It was kind of ironic, but within about a mile and a half I could show Tall and Handsome the hospital where I was born and the cemetery where my paternal grandparents are buried. It just goes to show you…birth and death are truly the beginning and ending of life and go hand in hand…it is the natural continuum. It made me think of the old saying “when someone dies, somewhere a baby is born”.

Well, when we arrived at the cemetery, there was, and I will put this delicately, a rush at the cemetery. You see, there was one small detail I had forgotten. In the South, Memorial Day weekend, especially the Sunday before Memorial Day is considered Decoration Day. This is a really big deal…almost as big as tailgating and NASCAR…or, at least it use to be, and it still is with the older folk.

When I lived in my first house we had some precious neighbors, Herman and Lola Lovelady. I was 23 when I moved into that house and they were already in their early 60’s. They were “from up home”…which for them was Winston County, Alabama. Herman and Lola had raised two daughters who had become nurses, married and started families of their own. One daughter stayed in Alabama, and one moved to Atlanta where her husband was an editor on a newspaper and then they later moved to Waco, TX where he was an also an editor.

The Loveladys had a passel of grandkids, but they did one thing, they adopted me and my family as their own and they became my surrogate grandparents. Every year in May, the Loveladys went “up home” for Decoration…and it was a BIG deal…there were pictures. Tables were set up after church, a spread was set (that means there was food), then people sat around and talked…they might even play horse shoes…but, graves were decorated, too…it was kind of a reunion. I always regretted that I never was able to go with them.

This past Sunday when we arrived at Grandview, it was evident some “decorating” had been going on and was still going on. I’d never seen so many people in a cemetery without a funeral going on. I wanted to run to the nearest florist and buy flowers, because I had arrived flowerless. But, I arrived with a digital camera, and stories to tell and a captive husband to listen…not bad in a pinch, huh?

My first order of business was to document my dad’s older brother’s place of rest. Uncle Jay was resting in a tomb…a mausoleum and I had never visited. We pulled up and the first thing I noticed was that it was HOT. (This is one Southern gal that hates…hates…hates hot weather…there, I’ve said it.) We started walking the aisles of vaults…and there were many. Thankfully, they were covered and there was some shade.

After much walking around a bit, I started noticing an…ummm… strangely sweet odor. I asked T & H if he noticed it, and he said, “Honey, it’s just probably the flowers.” Well, ok, but, most of the flowers were artificial. I think he was trying to keep me from freaking out, but I do believe it was the scent of death. I couldn’t stay there much longer. Fortunately, we found our objective on the last aisle, snapped a pic and moved on. I think I want to be buried where I can be exposed to sun and rain and fresh air. My dad called later that evening to see how our outing had gone. I mentioned my experience around the mausoleums to him. (I should interject here that I get my sense humor from Daddy…dry…ironic…etc. and I will say right now, if your reading Mom, stop! Because if you are I can hear you now…you’ll say, “Bev!!” Just skip to the next paragraph.) I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth when he said, “Honey, I noticed the same thing the last time I was up there. I just figured they’d just laid a new one in somewhere.” Like I said…I want to be buried in the sun and fresh air and rain…

From there we drove down to the front of the cemetery and walked around a bazillion times hunting my Papaw and Mamaw Hicks’ grave sites…and, of course, I was looking for an above ground marker. No luck. We decided to drive back down the road, make a pit stop and I called my dad and clarified my info with him. When we drove back to the cemetery and parked, I got out of the Jeep, looked up and the very first thing I saw was Mamaw’s grave. I burst out laughing and I told T & H that was so typical Mamaw…she loved making things hard on folk. We snapped our pictures, paid our respects and moved on to our next objective…Townsend.

On the drive to Townsend, I begin to reflect on burial and death customs humans have and have developed over centuries. Of course, we’re all familiar with the Egyptians and their elaborate royal tombs, the Pyramids and their burial method, mummification. Mummification has actually been found in countries all over the globe and is not exclusive to Egypt.

I thought of the custom in India that forced windows to burn on funeral pyres with a dead spouse, a similar custom that would seal wives and concubines up in tombs in Egypt, Native American traditions that abandoned widows when the clan moved on. Kind of makes you stop and think about our current day custom of leaving insurance money to a spouse after death…darn progression…what were we thinking…women…wake up and smell the coffee! I personally hate being burned at funerals.

During the Victorian era, death was approached with a much different attitude than we have nowadays. There was a certain length or period of mourning, mourning clothes, and elaborate funerals to fit your status in life…far more elaborate than we see today. It wasn’t uncommon for people to photograph their departed loved ones in their coffins and family would take time sitting up through the night with the corpse…the body usually rested at home until the service and burial. Mirrors were covered, clocks were stopped at the time of a family member’s death, there were coffins alarms…just in case some one was buried by accident and some cemeteries were designed like parks. One rather unusual practice (at least to me), was the taking of hair from the deceased and weaving the hair into jewelry…usually a brooch to be worn in remembrance of the loved one.

I thought of a quilt I saw a few years ago. It commemorated the Mexican “Dia de los Muertos”…Day of the Dead. When I first saw the quilt, I thought it was rather morbid and garish…it was full of skeletons and other morbid and graphic images. But, after reading about the inspiration, I understood the quilt was pretty accurate.

The Day of the Dead is a holiday that is observed in the first two days of November in Mexico. Its origins are in a Mesoamerican native Aztec festival presided over by Mictecacihuatl, the “Lady of the Dead”. The festival is now held to coincide with All Hallows Eve (or Halloween as we know it).

dayofthedead-skeletonpeople-021.jpgToday, modern Mexicans know it as a time for families…a time to celebrate the dead and their children. The dead are invited back into family homes. Families meet in cemeteries, spruce them up, decorate the graves with flowers, religious amulets, food, alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, have picnics and special food and activities. Kind of sounds like Southern Decoration Day doesn’t it?

Well, my pondering ended when we arrived in Townsend, a tiny little mountain town up the road from Maryville. My dad was born in Townsend. Most of my paternal ancestors were rooted there…their names well known…Walker, Hicks, Dunn to name a few. Townsend has a sign when you first drive into town…”Welcome to the peaceful side of the Smokies.” I hope it stays that way. I fear it won’t. Townsend was the setting for the TV show Christy starring Kellie Martin back in the 1990’s.

It didn’t take long to find the cemetery we were looking for…Myers Cemetery. It’s right off the main drag. Turn right at Weems and it’s across from the visitor center. It’s just a tiny country cemetery.

I found my great-grandparents and my great-great-grandparents, my great-grandfather’s brother and his wife and my grand aunt’s first husband’s grave…he was a Rough Rider…that was a new discovery!

So, I may not have gone Decorating this past weekend…bearing flowers and what-not, but, I did go with memories and appreciation and a desire to pass on and document the lives they lived. I hope we can all pass that desire on to the next generations. I know that matters and counts…





© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Right Reserved.

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All rights reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Allman, Boone, Death & Burial Customs, Dunn, Family, genealogy, Hicks, Lovelady, Maryville, Mexican Day of the Dead, Spanish American Veteran, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee, TN, 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

Oh Henry…Rachel that Is, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Autumn in TennesseeImagine you’re speeding down an interstate. You’re traveling at 55, 65 or 70 mph on you way to work, vacation or some other desired destination. You’ve had a pretty smooth trip so far, a little bump here and there. Along the way you’ve had to use a road map or atlas to help you find your way or direction. Then, just as the trip appears to have smoothed out, right smack dab in the middle of the road you hit a big, huge brick wall. Your vehicle would most surely suffer damage and you would suffer injury to body and soul. And most decidedly, your trip would be stopped dead in its track.

If you’re a genealogist, amateur or professional, you know there are genealogical “brick walls” and they can stop your genealogical trip and research dead in its track for years…at least on one line of research at a time. I would venture to say most of us who dig into our roots have experienced this some time or another. And, if you haven’t, consider yourself blessed indeed, for the genealogy fairies have truly smiled on you!

I’ve dealt with this frustrating phenomenon at least three times, but the one I’d like to discuss here is one near and dear to me…and the one I’ve been searching for the longest. My brick wall is the elusive mountain girl named Rachel…Rachel Henry.

Rachel was born in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee, probably in Sevier or Blount County on 7 September 1830. When Rachel was born, the US Census Bureau didn’t enumerate the name of every member or person living in a household at the time a census was enumerated. Only the head of the household was enumerated by name…and that was usually a male. The bold move to list by name every member in the household on the census wasn’t made until the 1850 US Federal Census. As a result, there is no record of Rachel in a family on a census in 1830 or 1840.

By 1850, I find two references to a “Rachel Henry” in the east Tennessee area that would fit the general profile of my mountain girl. Both girls were born about the same time…and are found just one county apart. One Rachel can be found living in the Sevier County home of one Alexa. Bollinger, 88 and his family. For the time, Mr. Bollinger seemed to be a man of means because his worth was enumerated as $1,000. Was Rachel a servant…a friend or relative in this family? The other Rachel can be found on the Blount County census living in a home with what appears to be a widowed mother, Nancy, and several siblings. Living on either side are two more families that share the Henry surname, and one house down a Thomas family.

So, from the time of her birth until the time she married Abraham Hicks on 6 October 1859 in Blount County, Tennessee my Rachel’s life is a glaring mystery. I know nothing about her parentage and her life before Abraham. It’s almost as if Rachel was a wood nymph who walked out of the blue haze of the Smoky Mountains and started a life among mortals.

Whether Rachel sacrificed an ethereal life for a life of ease or a life of hardship is unknown, but I do know this much…Rachel’s son, Hughes T. (Thomas) Hicks was my great-grandfather and that makes Rachel my great-great- grandmother. Like Alice in Wonderland, Rachel’s story gets “curiouser” and “curiouser” in the circumstance of her first-born’s coming into this world. For you see, Hughes was born 3 October 1856 in Blount County, Tennessee. Yes, you did indeed read that right…1856…three full years before Rachel and Abraham Hicks were married.

Humm, you say…a hint of Appalachian scandal? Well, I’m not so sure, and yes, there has been conjecture galore I’m sure in the last 150 years plus since the said event. There are a few blanks I can fill in…and a few of the assumptions that were made over the years I can dispel.

First, when I started researching my paternal line, the Hicks family, I recalled hearing something about an adoption some generations ago…it was my granddaddy’s father I was told. I had no idea where that would lead me or stop my research…I was blissfully new. I managed to trace my roots back to my great-grandfather, Hughes Hicks, and was having a grand ol’ time doing it. And then, I came to his parents…whoa…it was not only head scratching time…it was brick wall time. The marriage of Rachel and Abraham and birth date of Hughes was the obvious place…the origin of the mystery…would no one claim Rachel because of this? Was it a scandal?

I discovered that Abraham had been married before Rachel and at first I was crest fallen. Had my great-great grandmother been a “scarlet woman” who had a child out of wedlock with a married man? My knack for the tedious hung in and with more digging I discover Abraham’s previous wife was Elizabeth Pence Blair. Abraham and Elizabeth married in 1832 and together had eight children. Some people believed that Hughes was Abraham and Elizabeth’s child, but this isn’t true because Elizabeth died 29 July 1854 of what may have been cholera, and that was almost two years before Hughes was born. So, Hughes’ birth was long after the death of Elizabeth, Abraham’s first wife…no foul there, as the kids say today.

A cousin once interviewed someone who said Hughes father was “one of those McMahan boys from Sevierville”. Is that or was that based on fact? Who knows? That statement was made years after the fact, but I can conjecture. Here are some ideas I have, but to date, that’s all they are…ideas and me just trying to fill in the blanks.

Rachel may not have been born a Henry. She could have very well have been previously been married before Abraham Hicks and Henry was her widowed name and Hughes could have been born to a previous husband. If that’s the case, then I still have a brick wall and Hughes’ biological paternal parentage is still a mystery.

The mountains and its folk were isolated from the rest of the world. That’s hard to imagine today. I can get in my car and be in the mountains in less than an hour…we can connect to the people who live and work there now by phone, and internet in a matter of seconds. In the 1800’s, it was a different story…it could take hours to go a few miles. The communities that were nestle in the nook and crannies and valleys of those mountains sometimes had to struggle to live. They didn’t have the amenities and luxuries of life we do today. We freak out if our cell phone signal drops…back then, once they DID get it, a whole community had to share one phone line. Churches were few and far in between. Many communities had to make do with a riding circuit preacher who made a route and came through ever so often to hold services and perform weddings, christenings and what not. It wasn’t unheard of for some couples to set up house “common law” style and make it official when the Reverend came through. I often wondered if this was the case of Rachel and Abraham and if Hughes was Abraham’s biological son. People had certain naming habits and patterns back then. Hughes’ middle name was Thomas…Abraham’s father’s name was Thomas. Was that a coincident?

Abraham and Rachel Henry Hicks had several more children. They were: (1) Adam born 1860 in Blount County, Tennessee; (2) Andrew Hicks, born 1863 in Blount County, Tennessee; (3) Tennessee Hicks, born 1865 in Blount Co., Tennessee; (4) Susan Hicks, born 1868 in Blount County, Tennessee; (5) Meshach Hicks, born 14 Feb 1869 in Blount County, Tennessee and possibly (6) Mason Hicks and (7) Nancy Hicks.

Whatever the circumstance, Abraham gave a mountain girl named Rachel and a toddler named Hughes a life. And as a result two of the most wonderful men who ever lived were born…my granddaddy, Jonas and my daddy, Oakley…and I’m alive and was born as a result of an act of kindness, and what I like to think of as an act of love. Right now, if I were to do a DNA test, I don’t know if the results would reveal a true Hicks link…or a Henry link…but I do know this…I am who I am…and it started in those mountains in east Tennessee…

Someday before I die, I hope to scale that brick wall and find what’s behind…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All rights reserved.

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Filed under genealogy, Henry, Hicks, Hobbies