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Thursday, July 15, 2010

WALK THAT LONESOME VALLEY

joines cemetery whitehead



Stopped by Jr's grave yesterday. The death date still has not been put on the stone. I'll have to take care of that myself. I'll go to somebody who does that and get it done. Fell through the cracks, as they say. In the photo above, the view from Jr's grave, the mountain on the left is the Peak. It's on Blum land. Jr's homeplace was to the left of the Peak. The little white church in lower right that looks like it's sitting on the tombstone is Liberty. Over the last years they've been doing quite a lot toward the restoration and upkeep of the church Jr and Elvira Crouse grew up in. Thanks to the churches keeping records of baptisms we were able to find the date in 1935 Jr was baptized, meaning he was saved, which eased the minds and hearts of many of his friends and relatives. When I learned the date and was able to tell it, the relaxation that came over several was visible. It was a measure of how much they cared.



It's odd to think of Jr in the grave. While he was living, we didn't know which of us would go first. Whitehead without Jr is a very different Whitehead. I delivered one of the cds of his music to Ray Wooten today, visited with him a little bit. Ray plays bluegrass rhythm guitar, used to make music with Cleve, Jr and Art. At the dump, I ran into Doug McMillan, guitar picker and country singer at home and with friends, someone I know now because I knew Jr. Jr's friends have added quite a number to the people I'm happy to know in these here hills. I often think of what Elvira said the day Jr died, "Now Whitehead knows who you are." I thought I understood what she meant, more or less intuitively. Since then, I've seen what it means. All the ones I know in Whitehead are as wide open friendly with me like they were with Jr. I treasure it. Part of what I was doing passing around the cd was thanking my new friends for their consideration. It gave me reason to go around and see them individually.



Conversation with nearly everyone I saw today on a run to town was curious about the new radio station owner, wondering what was going to become of it. What I piece together from what I read in the paper and have heard, they'll continue with the obits, but probably not get any closer to the community than that. That's entirely uncertain. I'm thinking if they want to reject participation in the community, they'll go the way of the last bunch, a long, slow decline unto nothing. It doesn't matter to me what they do. I'll never listen to any of it, anyway. Probably will never turn it on out of curiosity. My feeling of the new owner is he likes to see himself in a corporate light, like CEO. I don't know. Don't want to know. I'd rather listen to NPR when I turn the radio on during the day. I won't pay enough attention to the station for what I think or don't think of it to matter the most miniscule iota. I don't even know if I wish them well after what I witnessed second-hand of the takeover. I remember listening to Tom Pruitt on money preachers. He spoke my own thoughts and feelings in eloquent brief. I asked him for what he thought of the radio preacher, George Farmer, who preached on WCOK every day. Tom's answer, "Money preacher." The money part voided the preacher part. That was all he had to say. It brought to his mind memories of other money preachers along his way.



I came to these mountains with that way of seeing it. It was such an unpopular concept to disregard preachers who do it for pay, favors, wealth. There again, in America the measure of the value of what you do is the money you make. The preacher that makes the most money, Billy Graham for example, is perceived as the best, which increases his following, especially after he counsels presidents, and fattens his coffers. I was surprised and heartened the day Tom let me know his views on the matter. As I've lived in the mountains, the number of people I know who disregard money preachers is quita a large number. That's the old-time way. And it's gone away. We're in television culture now and tv culture is all about money. This is a major reason I don't cohabit with tv. When it gets down to it, the more money a preacher makes, the more fraudulent his status in my way of discerning trees by their fruits. Jr didn't have any use for any of them. I'm inclined to that direction, myself, but have known some I know in my heart were true and actually were called by the Holy Spirit. Millard Pruitt, primarily. His power in the pulpit was the truth that borrowed his vocal chords for a little bit. He was not uncommon back in the old days.



I paid a great deal of attention to Elder Millard Filmore Pruitt. I saw him an old-baptist monk. He was hard shell in his beliefs and I was not. But it was no problem for me that he saw it the hard shell way. I just don't see anything that way, I hope. One doesn't meet many people whose every moment is in the presence of the Lord. Millard was. Tom was. Bessie Brooks was. Malissie Pruitt was. These people were examples to me that the mountain old-time religion is a true path up the great high mountain. These are some of the characteristics you hear people bring up when they remember grandma and grandpa, the most devout people you could ever know. At the same time grandma was just a woman and grandpa just a man. They went about their lives here on the earth with the spirit as their guide, neither above nor below anyone around them. Good neighbors. They lived good lives. They lived through deep sorrows. Death was not kept out of sight in their world. It was right there with you all the time. Graves were dug with picks and shovels. The bodies were cleaned and dressed at home. They lived so much closer to the bone than we do now, their way of living can't even be imagined for comparison. I tend to find tv culture lacking, considerably, in relation to the old-time ways. When it's gone, books, movies, what have you, none of it will have It. Thanks to old-time fiddle music and hymns, some of that old-time spirit continues to live as a subculture in the new culture guided by tv.



The devotion I saw in the old-time mountain people during my early years in the hills, the late 70s and the 80s, was such that it put me in awe of the culture that had in its people so many brilliantly lit-up souls living in the light. I don't mean anything less than that. They know what they believe through experience. Jr carried the tradition in himself. He stayed away from church, however, drank to his own satisfaction, lived his life to his satisfaction, not to some preacher's judgment he doesn't even respect as a man. He went his own way. He carried his devotion in his heart. I always saw it. It's part of what I most respected in him. Jr's heart was right. He spoke through the heart to everyone. He lived his life in the light, too, though kept his spiritual beliefs entirely to himself. He said the Ten Commandments were his guide. Enough said. It's all there. Jr lived a devout life while allowing himself to go ahead and be who he was, play banjo in a bluegrass band, keep his blood purified with the best white liquor around, he was definitely particular about the quality, and live his life the best he knew how. I saw in Jr a man like myself going his own way, making his own decisions, not adhering to anybody else's agendas, walking his own path. In the time I took care of him I saw him the brother monk in the monastery of our way of living in relation to the Most High. If I were to write of the time with Jr as a play, it would be 2 monks in a modest country house, the older one dying, the other one making it possible for the older monk to die in his own bed, which the care giving monk believed was as important as the older monk held it to be.

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