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Thursday, October 22, 2009


air bellows gap road

It's been another blessed day such that everyone I saw in the course of the day is someone I love. Meaning people I know, have known awhile, like very much, appreciate who they are, and love the soul in each one of them. I woke this morning to Richard Joines coming in the door. I sleep on the floor just inside the door. I saw Richard and jumped up right away. I'd called him the evening before and asked him to come to see Jr. They are cousins by Jr's mother Loretta Joines. Richard's dad was fiddler Howard Joines. Richard is a bluegrass mandolin, guitar and bass player.
He's grown up like Jr has and can't play like he used to, but the way I see it he's still as much a mandolin picker just like Jr is still a banjo picker. It's only their fingers that won't do it any more. If their fingers would work right, they could still do it like they one time could.

I'd thought many times to call Richard and didn't get it done. Last night it came to me and it was a reasonable hour, so I called before I let it go again. So glad I did. Jr was sleeping lightly. I spoke and asked if he was awake. He moved his head and opened his eyes a bit and said he was. Richard walked around the bed to get over by where Jr's head was, and I said to Jr down by his ear as clearly as I could,'This is Richard Joines.' He looked at me like he didn't get it. I said, 'Richard Joines.' He got it. He looked up at Richard, threw his arms wide open and said 'Richard' with a huge smile on his face and a beam in his eyes. He took Richard and they embraced. I felt an upwelling of love in the heart seeing the love between them that covered their entire lives, the ups, the downs, perhaps Jr's closest living kin, and Richard down to just a few living too, of their own generation.

Richard Joines and his wife Frances are two people who live by the integrity of the heart as much as Jr does, though in their own ways. Richard keeps beagles, loves beagles, there's always a beagle on his ballcap. I remember some years ago we were talking about dogs, and he was telling me how he sees that a dog that is bred for chasing rabbits is having it's life's fulfillment when it's chasing a rabbit. And a fox dog is feeling its own fulfillment running a fox. Bird dogs feel their fulfillment getting birds. He's hunted with them so much and so many years, he came to see that when a beagle is chasing a rabbit, it's fulfilling it's life's purpose within, in its own being.

I recall that when he was telling me this I was especially struck by the insight in it. There it is, obvious as it can be, but how many people see it? Richard saw it. It told me Richard is a thinker whose mind looks into things and sees much that other people miss. And like can be said of many of the people of these mountains, don't try pulling something on him and think he's not going to get it. He'll get it before you do. I don't believe anyone who knows Richard would contradict that.

My friend Carole and friends of hers from Cincinatti bought some adjoining land in the Stratford area and had 3 houses put up. Richard was the one hired to do the bulldozing for the house places. Carole watched him and determined he's an artist. She said she enjoyed watching Richard sculpt the ground with his bulldozer as seeing a sculptor work with a hammer and chisel. Jr was a bulldozer operator too, and they worked together many years. They made an awful lot of music together over the years.

Richard said to me of Jr that he was gifted, everything he did, he did well. He was indeed gifted. Jr had a brilliant mind that if he had wanted to direct it into academics could have a PhD in something like molecular biology, or if he wanted to be corporate, he'd be a good CEO. He has a brilliant mind. In the country where all the work is physical, learning an instrument is an exercise for men, women too, with exceptional minds, who need something to work with in the mind, something to master. And they do become masters. I'd call Richard a master mandolin picker as I would call Jr a master banjo picker. Richard has a good mind too that, like Jr's shows best in simply how he lives his life. Both treat everyone they know or meet with ultimate respect, no matter what they might think about whoever it might be. Both Richard and Jr are men that the people who know them respect for who they are.

Frances, his wife, is the daughter of Elvira Crouse who grew up across the meadow and creek from Jr. They grew up in the same church, Liberty Baptist, went to Whitehead School, knew each other all their lives, and live maybe a half mile apart now. These people are proof that mountain people aint ignernt. I recall my grandmother's viewing in Kansas City I think 1989. It was like a big crowd of people talking as loud and fast as they could talk, a great big talk fest of people talking over each other full tilt. I was sitting with my head down. A great uncle I'd not seen since I was probably 8 sat beside me. I was half in tears. I said, I'd guess everybody in this place believes the people I live among in the Blue Ridge Mountains aint nothin but a bunch of ignernt, illiterate, toothless, inbred, Beverly Hillbillies, and look down on them like not worth notice. But one thing about them hillbillies, I said, is they know respect. There is no respect in this place. He was right there with me. I said, They aint no hillbilly with this little respect.

Later in the day talking with Vonda, Jr's niece by his real wife Lois, a Lowe from Low Gap, we were talking about the preponderance of urban people around now. I told her I left the city to get away from city people, and it's the mountain people God sent me to live among, not because he wanted me to be a missionary to them of how to live better like city people, but to learn from them, learn how to live life with real integrity, learn how to appreciate other people, learn how to be a true human being. I have city friends, though I feel something special in the heart when I'm among mountain people, even if they're the kind of people in court every week, felons who have done time, the most devout God loving Baptist people there are, everything in between. The thread I find that runs through all mountain people, and this probably goes from Alabama hills on up to Maine, is respect. It's what mountain people have a hard time with when they live outside the mountains. They come back saying there's no respect out there. I believe respect is the invisible barrier between mountain people and the suburbanites coming here from cities, simple respect.

I couldn't thank Richard enough this morning for coming to see Jr and he couldn't thank me enough for calling him. As he was going out the door, I thought, a truly honorable man. There are many in these mountains. I don't mean to say it's 100% by any means, but it's a rule of thumb. Like when I met my 4th cousin, Keith Worthington, in his 70s living in Oskaloosa KS, and saw he was of these mountains. He didn't even know we came out of Tennessee. But with Keith it was like being right here in Whitehead. He was a man who'd worked hard, partied hard, fought hard, lived hard, and had in him that mountain respect. We had a beer 10 in the morning and I sat gratified to find I have kin who have that respect in them. I felt like we connected right away when we shook hands. I was with his brother Eldon, another man whose grandparents came out of these mountains; he still had mountain in him too.

I think of Jr's fiddlers convention winning tune, Home Sweet Home played bluegrass style. I've felt happy all day over Richard coming to see Jr, and a little later Johnny Miller and his boy Walter came by to see Jr again. I was happy Jr was receiving all this love, Vonda here too, whether he knew 10 seconds later who it was, or even if he didn't know who it was at the time. His conscious mind isn't working any more. But the subconscious mind is still functioning and his soul is still there. He knows down below the conscious mind who it is and the love feeling he's receiving and giving.

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