appalachian textures by bill jameson
Through the coffee shop and hospice I'm knowing more people like myself from Away. They are relaxing to be among. We're ex-pats that never left the country. In my case, I left the culture of the urban world. I wanted to live someplace with a culture. The cities had become television culture. Movie theaters were shutting down in cities. I didn't know anything about mountain culture, but suspected it was different. I'd prayed for a place to go and a way to get there where it's a different culture and they speak English. My parachute landed me in Air Bellows. This is my spot on earth. I take a lot of things for God's will and have full confidence it was. So I approached the unknown as such in the beginning. What no one but me knew was I was not leaving these mountains. It wasn't going to be too rough for me, because rough was what I wanted. Old man Tom Pruitt, my nearest neighbor and farmwork supervisor. In the beginning he gave me work to do he though would make me turn around and head back down the mountain. It was what I wanted. I knew I needed to get into some physical shape right away, so I took it as boot camp and worked like crazy building up strength and endurance.
Many years went by before I began to get clues of why my parachute landed me here with God doing the steering. Right away the mountain people I became acquainted with talked in a way that was familiar to me. Months later, I realized my grandmother Worthington talked like the people here talked, the rhythmic emphasis, turns of phrase, same country sayings. I learned after I'd been here almost 30 years that my grandmother's family took a wagon west to the Kansas territory from eastern Kentucky, Pulaski County. I found at the same time my grandfather Worthington, who died of pneumonia 7 years before I was born, was born in east Tennessee, Bledsoe County, and his parents moved out to the Kansas territory when he was a kid. Must have been in his teens, because my grandmother said to a friend of hers when she saw him first time, "He can put his shoes under my bed any time." And then he did.
I didn't know it, but I had hillbilly blood. If I'd learned it before discovering the mountains, I'd have been ashamed. Oh no, I'm a hillbilly. I hate banjos. It explained why Tom Pruitt's talking was music for me. It brought back my grandmother, the rock of my childhood. Just the way everybody talked made me feel at home. Their beliefs made me feel at home. Especially the philosophizing. I found right away the mountain people are philosophers, all of them. They're people who think about things. Or anyway, it used to be like that. Half a century of television has ironed out that wrinkle. In television culture we're not allowed to think about anything except shopping. Not cool. I believe the philosophical way of thinking in the mountain people came from the Bible. The old-time Baptists studied spiritual teachings and applied them to their lives. There was Bessie Brooks of the Regular Baptist way of seeing was so beautiful a soul, she convinced me from knowing her that she was a veiled advanced soul. I'd never met Bessie's mother, but from what I've heard of her over the years, I'd say she probably would be too.
It turned out I had a mountain childhood in Kansas. When I came to know people here, I found we had the nature of our childhoods in common. They had country to roam in and they learned how to do things like hunt and fish and work a garden. I didn't learn any of that, but I had woods that came up to our line that went on for miles along the side of Monkey Mountain that overlooked the Kaw River. Thanks to grandmother, I had a family of chickens for several years. In the woods, it was my own world. Nobody else walked in the woods. There, I could be alone with myself. I didn't have to follow anybody's orders in the woods. I could go as I pleased. I felt comfort among the trees. The world of trees felt more like home than the house. What I have done without knowing it consciously was find a house like the house my great grandmother lived in outside Perry Kansas, the great grandmother from Bledsoe County, Tennessee, Nine Mile. I have seen her parent's graves at Nine Mile. I'm in great grandmother's house on the edge of an expanse of Blue Ridge Mountain woods my great grandparents and great great grandparents knew in far greater expanses and more pristine beauty.
When I asked God to show me to another culture, I didn't know he set me on a trip to where I came from in this lifetime, the culture I came from. You might say I have found my own root culture. I believe another reason my grandmother and grandfather got together was they were both from mountain culture living in Kansas. They probably clicked when they met, familiar already. It's this experience that taught me God knows how to find what I need better than I do. If I pay attention to it, it's a let go and let God kind of experience. It was a long time before I could see it like that. Many times I felt like I'd been thrown into the dungeon. There was a period of years I made vain attempts to get out of here. Every attempt failed at the start. By now, I call it the home of my soul. Could not live anywhere outside the mountains. The only way I can leave this county is in a casket.