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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 ~


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.


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

Summer in the South and a Big Ol’ Shady Porch, by Beverly Hicks Burch

summertime porch

Does anything say summer in the South like a big ol’ shady front porch? Add to that a bright sunny day and red, white and blue and you’ve just got an all American day.

We were glad to be able to finally recapture this half of the porch back. The barn swallows finally hatched (all five of them) and left the nest. Tall & Handsome took the nest down Saturday and washed the porch down.

You’d be amazed at how much poop baby birds can manufacture! The little rascals will have to find a new place to nest next year, but they seem very partial to our front porch. They keep flying into the porch, up to the corner to where the nest once was and it’s like “Oh, wow, it’s gone!” They hover a moment then perch on a ledge up next to the ceiling. If they had a face their expression would be stunned. I know they’re trying to figure out this new situation. Hopefully by next breeding season we’ll finally have our feeding stations set up in the back and they’ll find a more appropriate place to nest.

For now, we’ll just sit and rock out on the front porch and watch as the swallows settle their dilemma…it’s kind of like watching 45 year old kids who are still living at home and we’re ready for an empty nest…

We anticipate rocking and watching the leaves change when autumn rolls around…have I mentioned I love where I live?

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved


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Filed under Alabama, Central Alabama, Flags, Front Porches, Home, Photography, Picture of the Day, Summer in the South, Tall & Handsome, The South

Dappled Lane, by Beverly Hicks Burch

light and shadows c

My parents live on the same little mountain top in Alabama that I do. As a matter of fact we all moved up here several years ago because it reminded us of our roots back in East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains.

You know that old saying “you can take the boy out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the boy”? Well, it holds true for the mountains. If you have them in your heritage then you are pretty much guaranteed to be lured back to them time and time again, all of your life no matter where you may physically be.

Daddy and Momma have a couple of acres or so behind their house and the right side of the property runs along a steep bluff overlooking a valley and large ancient outcroppings of rock. This little path…almost an old country lane…runs along side of that bluff. Today I took a stroll down that path enjoying some of the last cool and comfortable weather before we get blasted with the sauna heat of summer.

It’s just a tiny speck of the beauty of this state and why I call Alabama…sweet home Alabama…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved


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Filed under Alabama, Central Alabama, Home, Nature, Photography, Picture of the Day, South, Sweet Home Alabama

Home for the Holidays: Some of My Favorite Things, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Today’s post will continue the Home for the Holidays spirit I started the other day. I shared the over all effect in the first post and then in another post shared some of the holiday quilts I’ve made over the years and use just for this time of the year.

Every time I pull out my decorations it’s like seeing old friends again. This year it was more so because some of my decorations have been packed up unused for years. As I pulled out each new found old friend I would go, “Ohhhh, hello old friend!!”

At one point Tall & Handsome asked, “Did I hear you say what I thought you said?”

I asked, “Well, what did you think I said?”

“Hello old friend.”

“Yep, you heard right then.”

He just chuckled…

Today I thought I’d share some of my favorite things…decorations and ornaments and such. In 1974 I started collecting a dated ornament for each year. I’ve also collected Christmas ornaments from places I’ve traveled to…Christmas ornaments and fabric are my favorite souvenirs. I figure they beat ceramic ashtrays and shot glasses any day!

I have the satin ballerina slippers from the Biltmore Estate, the teddy bear from Hershey, PA; and the bell tree from Faneuil Square in Boston.

Then of course there are my old friends from Hallmark. Each year marks a milestone in my life. The year my son was born, the year I moved one place or another, the year T & H and I married and so on… I guess you could say in a way my favorite things form a type of diary of my life.

So, just before Santa arrives…here are a few of my favorite things…

Some of my favorite things H

This marks the beginning of The Twelve Days of Christmas…A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Here Comes Santa B

From the Hallmark Here Comes Santa series – this is the first or second in the series which started in 1979

Here Comes Santa A

Third in the Hallmark Here Comes Santa Series

Here Comes Santa C

A baking Nutcracker and another in the Here Comes Santa series…this time a stagecoach

Here Comes Santa E

This is one of my favorite of the Here Comes Santa series…the Ice Cream Vendor

Here Comes Santa G

Another Here Comes Santa favorite – Santa and the handcar

Here Comes Santa F

This was the last in the Here Comes Santa series

Some of my favorite things A

A hot air balloon to remind T & H of New Mexico, a Southern Colonial that’s part of Hallmark’s Nostalgic Building series and one of the satin ballet slippers from the Biltmore Estate

Some of my favorite things B

Father Christmas (series) and a Schnauzer in a Stocking

Some of my favorite things E

A Woodpecker from the the Hallmark bird series and a blown glass lighthouse

Some of my favorite things K

My lovely Blue Jay

some of my favorite things O

On the left, the Bell Tree from Boston…and one of my Hallmark lighthouse ornaments

Some of my favorite things N

Of course no tree of mine would be complete without a snowman…or two…three

Some of my favorite things G

Father Christmas

Some of my favorite things I

God Bless America

my christmas bell B

This little bell has been on every tree of mine since I was a toddler.

the ONLY dishes allowed at Christmas

The daily dishes from Thanksgiving until my birthday…a yearly tradition

Guest bath

Snowmen just turn up everywhere Smile

the gift bearer

The gift bearer – the year Tall & Handsome moved to Alabama he placed this Godiva bear under my Christmas tree. In the bear’s back pouch was an engagement gift…a beautiful garnet and diamond pendant he had purchased in Santa Fe.

and just for fun…

tall and handsome when he was short and cute

Tall & Handsome when he was Short & Cute while living in Germany…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!! And God Bless us all…


© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved



Filed under Christmas, Christmas Decorations, Christmas Heritage, Collections, Hallmark Ornaments, Holiday Decorating, Holidays, Home, Memories, Nostalgia, Photography, Picture of the Day

Home For the Holidays, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Tall & Handsome and I both are hopeless when it comes to the holidays. The decorations, the music, the kitschy movies, the food, and the festivities.

I’m normally a “gonzo” Christmas decorator. All in good taste of course…

Well, the last few years T & H and I have had very little opportunity to partake in our shared love of Christmas gone wild… Many times our things were packed up and unavailable…we were living out of state…just a whole cornucopia of things stopping us.

Well, not this year!

Despite my warning him that his back would never heal, T & H insisted on decorating a few days ago…and we did.

It now looks like Christmas done “Bev lite”, but it still looks like Santa’s elves were busy spreading cheer and we are enjoying it!

I’ll share a few things with you including some of my dated ornaments I’ve been collecting since 1974. I also try and pick up a Christmas ornaments as a souvenir when ever I take a trip…just to have a reminder of that place and time.

And, so…Home for Christmas!

Tree in the living room

The tree in the living room

LR tree

Another view of the living room tree

Grandfather Clock at Christmas

The Grandfather Clock

Christmas greeters

Christmas Greeters

Fireplace at Christmas

The Fireplace

Bev and Frosty

When I was a toddler I began a love affair with all things snowmen…that’s my buddy Frosty on the ground…


Today’s Frosty


The stockings are hung…

Christams Magic

Christmas Magic

LR bookcases

Living Room Bookcases

Merry Christmas blocks

Merry Christmas blocks I made years ago…they reverse to Happy New Year

Sara Plain and Tall village

The Hallmark Sara Plain and Tall Village

santa and his reindeer

Santa and his Reindeer

santas train

Santa’s Train

for santa

For Santa

Character mugs

Holiday Character Mugs

Christmas Heritage snow globe

Christmas Heritage snow globe

Dining room tree

Dining Room Tree

Hallmark miniature tree

Miniature Hallmark Tree

hallmark carousal

Christmas Carousal

Tomorrow and the next day I’ll try and share some more…some of my favorite things…ornaments and Christmas quilts.

Merry Christmas to all…


© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved



Filed under Christmas, Christmas Decorations, Hallmark Ornaments, Holidays, Home, Photography, Picture of the Day, Seasonal

Sweet Home Alabama, by Beverly Hicks Burch

April Tornado Damage 2011

As you and your family celebrate the 4th this year, I ask you to keep my home State Alabama in your thoughts and prayers. This photo was taken not too far from my house…and the home remains in this condition today.

If you have been spared the devastation of the April storms that tore through Alabama and other storms this spring that hit towns with names like Joplin, MO and Ringgold, GA, then consider yourself among the very, very lucky this weekend.

I’m just grateful all I have to do is put a new roof on my house because of the storms…

There’s still a lot of recovery going on in Alabama and other states.

God bless you, Sweet Home, Alabama…

© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Alabama, Alabama Tornado Outbreak 4-27-2011, Birmingham, Birmingham AL, Home, Storms, Tornado, Weather

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

A Special Anniversary and Birthday, by Beverly Hicks Burch

This past week we celebrated a very special occasion in our family…the anniversary of welcoming Abbi into our family AND her second birthday.

Her Dad shares it just like it is…with heart. Please take the time to read their story, people. It will warm your heart on this Mother’s Day eve.

In the meantime, Abbi, baby girl, Aunt Bev loves you so much. You are a little treasure in my life…

Our Little Sugar Plum

© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved


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Filed under Abbi, Adoption, Family, Home, The Bridge to Abbi

Birmingham ranks as one of brainiest cities according to Forbes Magazine

Birmingham ranks as one of brainiest cities | Birmingham Business Journal.

This comes as no surprise to me, but it may to the rest of the country who think of most Southerners, especially those from Alabama as uneducated, red-neck hicks. Sorry folks. Time for a world view adjustment. And welcome to our well kept surprise 🙂

Birmingham…Alabama…you ROCK! There is no place like SWEET HOME ALABAMA…

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Filed under Alabama, Birmingham, Birmingham AL, Forbes Magazine, Home, News

And then I had Chowder…, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The day broke and I could see the aftermath of last night’s “winter weather event”. I was a little leery to peek out of my blinds this morning because I heard  sleet and freezing rain blowing up against my bedroom window all night into the wee hours of the morning…yes, we’re talking until about 4:30AM CST.

The day up on the mountain has been grey and cold. The street is “slushy” at best and the only vehicles I’ve seen have been ATVs and 4 wheel drives.

When Watson the Wonderkin and I ventured out we found a glazed, crunchy, cold, icy world. Wonderkin wasn’t quite sure where his “potty” went AND why just last Thursday someone got the great idea to get him groomed (and it went a little too far with a summer cut).

So for now my day will be spent with hot chowder, hot coffee, a fire in the fireplace and a view of a winter wonderland…


really - you're kidding right

You’re kidding, right?

i feel so exposed

I feel so exposed…

one cold schnauzer

That’s one cold Schnauzer

hummm fire yeah right

Yes, a fire would be nice…

honey is it grill time yet

Honey, where’s the burgers?


It was still coming down in tiny little flakes

from the back

Oops, who left the back door open?

watch out for the steps

My big steps and Watsons little steps

that's crunchy slippery snow

Ice breaking

now that's cold

Now that’s cold

don't think i'll be going anywhere anytime soon

Don’t think I’ll be going anywhere anytime soon…

up the street

Up the street

twigs and ice

Branches and Ice

the burden of cold

The burden of being cold…

lower driveway

Lower driveway – skating anyone?

more lower driveway

Top of the upper driveway

wintery crepe myrtle

Wintery Crepe Myrtle



© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved


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Filed under Alabama, Birmingham, Home, Photography, Snow, Snow in Alabama, Watson, Weather, Winter Weather