Feb 16, 2011


From Wikipedia, about Elkhorn City, Kentucky, hometown of country singer, Patty Loveless: "On October 16, 1882, the post office was renamed Praise for 'Camp Praise-the-Lord', a tent colony that was established by evangelist George O. Barnes for a revival there in August 1881."

I find that fascinating, and for some time, I've been considering a periodic Tidbit post like this, apropos of nothing. It could be one way to offset any excess of attention to poetry. But is it interesting to anyone else?

I've driven around several times in those mountains traversed by Interstate 81, so I must have been close to Elkhorn City.

In Wytheville, Virginia, I just crossed I-81 on I-77 while driving to and from Florida. I find it easy to romanticize the Blue Ridge in spring, summer, and fall,, including bluegrass music and rural living. Winter is another matter. In southbound snow flurries and, a month later, a northbound threat of icing, I just wanted the damned mountains to end.

It was a comment by some female country singer, possibly Loretta Lynn, that first made me re-think my idealization of that area. She, or her song, said the days were shortened a lot in the hollers--you're that deep down; it's that skinny in there. If there's any sun, it's on a mountaintop, and who can live there? Maybe the owner of a coal mine, with his a private, heated road upward?

One time in south-central Kentucky, a little west of I-75, I asked a gas station guy about a two-lane route I'd planned to take into the mountains and on to the coal country of Hazard and Harlan in eastern Kentucky, Loretta Lynn country.

"Is that road just too full of curves? I don't want to spend a whole day going 50 miles."

"Oh," he said of my road marked narrow and grey on the map, "I wouldn't go that way. If you break down, you don't who's gonna stop. Or why."

It was the kind of advice I was used to hearing about pockets of danger in urban blight. So, as I processed the unexpected info over days and weeks, I decided to call it justice: there are vicious people everywhere and the inevitable fear of the Other. And how about the way we all groove on fear, the dirty little secret that makes local TV news stations happy.

Yes, yes, I already knew all that, but the gas station guy gave it new life, made it palpable. In one of the areas I'd nominated to myself for the title of Paradise, or at least a Praise tent camp of my own making, not everybody was Doc Watson or Earl Scruggs. A native of the place had said so. For all I know, Doc and Earl are mean too, and that guy would be the first to tell me so.

But I'll go back. In southwest Virginia, even in winter, there are sloped pastures among the mountains, and they're dotted with cattle, including a lot of Black Angus. A few years ago on that stretch, I hit a pothole and lost a hubcap. I need to go fetch it, and that could take a awhile.



Ken Mac said...

love that winter view. Frankly, I dread summer!

Banjo52 said...

It is nice there, but notice, Ken, the road is dry . . . All year everywhere should be spring and fall.

Barbaro said...

That last paragraph is almost a poem. Evokes Frost, of course, but much more.

That comment about sun-less hollows fascinates me. I stayed at a campground near Pittsburgh once that I don't think had EVER seen sun--picnic tables more moss than wood, every inch of concrete slick, dew and fog lingering all afternoon. On the other hand, in the "real" wilderness of western NC and eastern TN, leaves are dry underfoot mere hours after rain, and you can always find a warm, dry rock if you look carefully.

Banjo52 said...

Barbaro, thank you! I'm still not sure what the piece is trying to do or be, but that came to me at some late point. And I really did lose the hubcap, which I didn't realize till I was home, 500 miles later.

I'm glad somebody else is taken with that lack of sun biz. It was years ago that I heard the comment, yet it's stayed with me as a detail, esp. when I drive thru that kind of country.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

This has that Ozark Winter Bones vibe happening; "fear" being the lowest common denominator. Then again, the Ozarks has Branson and Virginia has Dollywood. Lip smackin civil if you ask me.

Did you ask me?

Banjo52 said...

PA, always asking! I'm a little surprised I didn't think of Winter's Bone. Is "civil" a good thing? Both places conjure images of Las Vegas for me. I haven't been to either place, but I found Gatlinburg, TN too Vegas-y to please.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Way behind on my reading here. Yes, Winter Bones came to mind, too.

(and yes, Gatlinburg is to glitzy!).

Don't you think someone always come along?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Whoops, some one stole my identity in my comment here! OK, not really, but I do think my brain was missing from action. My apologies for the inert writing.

1. Winter's Bone.
2. too, as in too glitzy.
3. always come along? Oh my.
Someone should come along and shoot my butt on this one.

OK, back to proofing before posting. And hopefully, back to thinking before proofing.

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, you're being a little harsh on yourself, aren't you? We all do it, and I can preach all I want against going too fast, but we all do that too.

Lovers' Lane