Tag Archives: heritage

And then, the Other Side

No, not them, but you get the idea.

My grandparents on my mother’s father’s side were a bit different than the other set, though they both lived in Kentucky and were not very far apart. Part of them was associated with Ravenna, Kentucky, which I was told, was in the opening scenes of “The Flim-Flam Man” movie. I never really watched it, but did see the opening scenes once just so I could say I did. I thought it was Ravina until today when I looked it up on Google. I guess my memories just weren’t that accurate.

That side of the family was a bit rougher, believe it or not. My grandfather’s father was kind of mean and I never really cared for him much.  I was told that, when he was little, he stole money from his mother’s dresser.  The servant saw him and told her.  He got in trouble and finished that off by shooting the servant in the head.  I don’t know if he killed her, but he was sent away to live with another relative for quite awhile.  The servant was African American.  It pains me to know they were treated like that back then and it was tolerated by so many.

Okay the pieces of slate rock were much smaller and jumbled together, but you get the idea!

My only memory of Pop is of him using his cane to trip me down the stairs when I was little. Their home was on top of a smaller mountain with a less steep grade going to it. The path was covered by slate rock, which I found fascinating to pick up and throw it with a spin, watching it break apart when it hit.

The only other solid memory I have is finding an old razor blade on the porch, picking it up, and seeing if it was sharp by running it lightly across my finger. It was and I cut myself fairly badly in the process. I don’t remember if I got a tetanus shot here, either, but I would’ve understood that one more than the cats from the last post.

Besides tripping down the steps, Pop (that’s what we called them, Pop and Mom), supposedly, met one of the members of Jesse James’ gang, James Younger. According to information on the gang from http://www.kansasheritage.org/research/james.txt the following is known of James younger:

Younger, James Henry
Rode with Quantrill, and went to KY with him on his last raid.
He was surrendered there by Capt. Henry Porter to Capt. Young, US
Army, at Samuel’s Depot, Nelson County, KY, on 26 July 1865. Was
wounded on the Northfield, MN, robbery attempt,and captured. Sent
to prison in MN. Requested a parole 13 October 1902. It was
refused. He committted suicide at the Reardon Hotel in St. Paul,
MN, 19 October 1902. [SIC]

That entire reading on the gang members at that site is fairly fascinating. Any way, the story goes that James tossed a silver dollar in the air and shot it and my great-grandfather got to keep it (he was very young at the time). I never saw it and never heard any more about it, so that may or may not be true, but it’s a decent story.

Indian arrowheads

I remember their home being greener than Granny and Poppy’s home area, but that may have just been the way I saw things. Pop wasn’t a farmer; in fact, I would have to ask to find out what he did at all. I do know that when he passed on, Mom, his wife, moved into a trailer next door to some close relatives. I enjoyed visiting her because we could walk down an actual road or two and, sometimes, we would find arrowheads from the old Indian days. I liked Mom, she was a very nice, quiet person and she liked me. I remember when she got very sick at the end, we were in the bedroom of the relative’s house. Mom had been put to bed there and looked pretty miserable. She was not awake. Everyone was so sad and crying and they all left, and I found myself there alone. I do remember looking at Mom and feeling sorry for her. I said, “Mom, if you need to go, we understand and will all be okay.” She passed that day or the next. I don’t know if I helped her feel okay to leave, but I choose to think so.

After, she passed on; we didn’t go to that part of Kentucky much if at all. We did go to Levi Jackson State Park for vacations for years to come, but that, my friends, is another story.


Thank God I’m a Country Boy (sorry John)

The station wagon pulled slowly up the steep mountain road. It didn’t seem slow to me. To me, sitting in the back passenger side of the car looking out the window at the mountainside inches off the curb, we were a speed wagon sailing along pulling the family camper and just waiting to hit a bump and fly off the road killing us and becoming the next 20 second spot on the news and at the bottom of the mountain.

I see Rails! Can’t be our road.

After what seemed like hours, we finally arrived at our destination. We were at Granny’s and Poppy’s, my mother’s grandparent’s home in Kentucky. My mother was a born and raised Kentucky girl. She would tell us stories of what it was like growing up in an old southern town. She moved to Anderson around her high school age, met Dad, got married, and moved to California with him in the army.

However, it was Kentucky she told the stories about and I, for one, loved hearing them. Not only that, but we got to visit her family for quite a while. This was because they all married so young, her mother at fifteen and, I imagine, her grandmother did the same. I got to know all four of my great-grandparents on my mother’s side until I turned sixteen.

not them, of course. I couldn’t find a single picture. But, similar.

I didn’t realize until older what a wonderful opportunity that was. Had I truly known, I would have spent more time talking to them than running around the clay dirt, briar-filled woods near one set’s home. I could draw both houses, even now, on paper, outlining the rooms and some of the furniture.  I remember the big, fluffy down beds I slept in and the differences between my northern home and my southern heritage.

Now, think darker and more primitive and home-made.

The parents of my mother’s mother were the most interesting by far. They lived high in the mountains on a fairly large patch of mostly-unusable ground.
Poppy grew tobacco and did it by hand. I mean he had a hand plow hitched to a couple of horses and he guided them around his ground. The horses would run, mostly free, when not being used to plow. I believe he had fences up, but they were covering a rather large amount of ground, so I never saw much other than the main gate.

This is more like it.

They lived away from everyone; when you were at their house, it was apocalyptic in appearance; the world was gone. You could not hear any other cars except ours and I don’t ever remember hearing or seeing a plane fly overhead. It was deathly quiet all the time. The grownups would sit around the front yard and talk. I would, usually, get into some type of problem or trouble.

They had a great deal of cats and kittens on the property. Most of them lived under the house, which was a four room hand-built house sat on posts about a foot off the ground. I assume this was for dampness and rain water. Regardless, the cats were there for mousing purposes, I assume, and weren’t meant to be held.

I grew up with civilized cats whose soul use in life was to purr and rub against your legs. I caught one of these country “devils” once and the picture I still have in my head is of a tornado thrashing and tearing against my arms. Mom had to wash and clean and put on Mercurochrome for quite a bit. I don’t remember if I had to get a tetanus shot or not. That probably means no.

Sis and I would also run down the hillsides, through brush and such. At one time I could not stop running and galloped, full steam, through a patch of blackberry bushes. It was time for the Mercurochrome again. If I wasn’t cutting myself to ribbons, I was sliding down the red clay hills by their house. Mom never complained about this and always managed to get the stains out of our jeans; she was a miracle worker at that.

I tried to be good and sit and listen to the adults. Biggest problem was that Poppy would talk and his mouth never seemed to open and all I ever heard come out was garbage that couldn’t even be set to words. Everyone else seemed to understand him (or were pretending). So, I would get bored. I would read sometimes, but, mostly, I just played.

There were two things that stood out most during my trips there. First, was the water. Granny would walk each day with a gallon bucket down to the well (spring) to get water. I went with her once. We walked about three fourths of a mile and into the woods until we came to a square piece of board that was five or six feet on a side. In the center of this board was a hole she uncovered. Then she tied the bucket to a rope and lowered it into the hole where it filled with the most wonderful tasting water I have yet to drink. Now, we can mention here that the water had local bacteria in it. These bacteria did not bother Granny and Poppy, but I wasn’t either of them. I would get so sick the next day or so that Dad (and, probably, Mom) would forbid us to drink it next time. I loved the sweet taste of it so much; however, that I would brave the drink and suffer the sick.

The second thing that really stood out, strangely enough, was going to the bathroom. Their bathroom was an outhouse, which lurked (yes, lurked) about 100 feet from the house, on the far side of a grassy, weedy field. The outhouse smelled bad for obvious reasons, but that wasn’t the remembering part. The part that drilled itself into my little brain then was that there were wasps in the daytime that might or might not be inside the small area with you, and at night it was so dark (they did not have electricity) that I never went to the outhouse after early evening. We did not spend the night often, but I do remember sleeping in the feather down mattress once. Bedtime was early there. Since they had no electricity and didn’t use candles a lot, it got dark really quick.

They also kept their clocks about two hours faster than the world around them, so when it was nine or nine thirty for our beds it was closer to seven thirty for real. They worked fine in their own little time zone. I just went by what I was told.

This entire post was written due to my reading of another post (see here – it may be moved by now and was entitled “Southern Cuisine”), which discussed southern heritage. In it, Joe talked, mainly, about the food. I would not want to leave that out due to the fact that, for poor people who lived by themselves a lot, Granny could set out a meal to put any one up North to shame.

The table for the six of us was so stuffed full that you could barely put your plates on the table. I remember biscuits and butter and honey, but, most of all, I remember the blackberry cobbler. Seeds and all, it was glorious. It was made from the very blackberries that hung on the very vines I had run through and gotten all cut up in. Somehow, this made the cobbler that much better. I believe we drank tea. I am not sure why Mother got so upset about the water, because I am certain it was the same water in the tea.

I didn’t do quite as much at my mother’s father’s parent’s house, so I won’t go into all that here; however, I did do things there, too.

Thanks for taking the short trip down memory lane with me. My background is diverse, but I will never lose the part of me that is pure southern.



Philosophy is all about being curious, asking basic questions. And it can be fun!

North Noir


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