sequatchie valley, tennessee, music
I've been gently driven to defensive feeling for my friends, my neighbors, my people over the last few days. Simultaneously, the defensive feeling turns to offensive feeling, a shoot the bird kind of feeling. Since I was told the white middle class is more to my benefit than the white working class, I still laugh at that. All day every day I laugh at it. It has provided cheery, happy feelings. I want to embrace all my hillbilly / redneck friends, because the last couple days have brought them to the front of my mind where I see how deeply and how broadly I appreciate them in my heart. Last night I went to the Blue Ridge Music Center to hear music of eastern and central Tennessee. It served as I hoped it would. I dove into the music and let it flow into my heart, the place where mountain music is heard. My ancestors are of the Sequatchie Valley at Ninemile, sixty or so miles north of Chattanooga. A musician played from the Sequatchie Valley, Joseph Decosimo (above, fiddle). I have an ongoing interest in finding old-time music of that region. Hearing the style of fiddling and songs from the region of my people, from grandfather to great-great-great-great, pulled me further into the music than usual. I was with my white middle class friends from Atlanta giving them a mountain music experience, and one particular to what I think of as my homeplace. Air Bellows is the home of my soul. Ninemile is the homeplace of my heritage. The music resonated way down deep.
The music brought to my heart why I love the working people of these mountains. I spent the entire day today with my friends, Justin and his kids, Landon 5, Vada 2. He wanted to talk to somebody about a bow he was wanting to look at with buying in mind. I went along for the ride. Justin is the same as my brother and the kids are the same as my brother's kids. I love them like crazy and they love me the same. I have the same loving grandpa relationship with Justin's kids as I had with Justin when he was a kid. These are the people of my heart. The kids were fun to ride with. I kept them entertained merely by paying attention to them, including them. When I walk in the door and see Landon at 5, I see Justin at 5. Malissie Pruitt, wife of Elder Millard Pruitt, told me in her kitchen in the early 1980s in conversation, Be good to a child and you'll have a friend for life. It was country wisdom, hillbilly wisdom. I cared deeply for Justin, who he is, as a child, as a teenager, during his wild-thang spell, and am happy to the soul that he found the woman put on this earth for him, and he for her. I feel like I can die satisfied that Justin has a good life. He will have a good life even when the bottom drops out of the economy, because he knows how to get things done. Crystal, too, is able to get things done. Both are workers. They are resourceful unto an easy transition to self-sufficient if it comes to that. When the bottom falls out, they'll be helping the people that can't handle it.
Back at the house, one of Justin's hunting / fishing / archery friends came by for what reason I don't remember. When they talk buying and selling back and forth I don't pay attention. The radio was on the 70s-80s rock station; I sat and grooved to Van Halen with David Lee Roth singing Dancing In The Streets. He made that song his own. Golden Earring, Radar Love, Led Zeppelin, I forget the title. Jimmy Page tearing up his guitar, John Bonham going off into orbit with his drums. I'd seen Golden Earring and Van Halen in concert, and Led Zeppelin in a concert film on the big screen and on video. Each song brought back concert moments. I didn't need any attention. I was in place. They went outside to shoot a new bow to feel its pull-back and look through the site. I said, y'all have a ball, on their way out the door. I stayed put and listened to this kinda serendipitous flow of music like it was specifically for me at this moment. Selections from the records I had from that time and concerts seen. Back inside, they sat down to have a cigarette and talk. We were in the basement, the man-cave corner among the table saws, mitre saws, planer, work tables, tool shelves, two dart boards, two deer heads with a robin-hooded arrow lying horizontal across each rack. Both these guys can shoot arrows like that. When they hunt, they don't want the deer to run off and die. They want it to drop straight down. One of their friends had won a new bow in a tournament earlier in the day.
I enjoy hearing them talk about the tournaments. I enjoy hearing them talk about hunting experiences. When the deer runs off, the hunter tracks it down. Next, you drag it to your truck. This is where 4-wheelers are handy. You may not be able to get all the way to where the deer is, but you can get closer than with the truck. It involves dragging the corpse (they're heavy) through the woods, where the ground is never level except as one of 90 degrees of constantly changing possibility. For me, they are able to do things I never learned when young and never wanted to learn later. I have my own reasons in my own particular relationship with my higher self, the part of mind that tells the lower part that when a coon darts in front of me on the road, it's the same as a child in my way of seeing. A deer standing beside the road at night, I will stop for, because they don't know what to do. I know what to do, slow down to a stop when necessary. For me, it's a matter of touching the brake pedal. For the deer it is bewildering and often they think they can dart across in time when it's too late. I don't want to hurt a deer that has no health care when I have control of the situation by moving my foot from one pedal to the other. No more than that. I regard the deer with the same loving regard I have for the children I know.
mother and child
Sometimes it is difficult for me to hear my hunting friends talk about the really nasty shit of cutting off their heads, throwing the testicals to the dog. They talk about their kills with much interest. They talk about things important to them, something that involves hyper skill. These guys are good at everything they do like that. They all have dozens of antlers hanging up somewhere in and around their houses. Hanging under the deck is a good place. A place where mice can't get to them. I listen to these guys with the same awe as if they were published academics talking about water imagery in Joyce's Ulysses. These guys have knowledge that is continually growing. The music of hunting. I believe hunting is the way of what we call the natural world. It's how things go on earth. I believe hunting is a respectable practice, even spiritual. They are artists with their skill, same, in my way of seeing, as a musician. Every release of the bow string tunes them in one step closer. They study their bows, very particular about their bows. I've watched them practice, standing back behind where they are shooting, not to be in the way, nor a distraction. Though the only way you could be in their way would be to step into the invisible laser beam line of fire the arrow travels. The arrows their bows release are gravity defying. They go straight to the target like a bullet, so fast I can't see them. I hear the thunk on the target and see the fletching of the arrow in the center of the target. Every one of them tears up the center of a new target.
the fast track
They don't like to tear up their arrows, because they're particular about the arrows too. A good arrow is several dollars. To a working man, that's something you're aware of. Each one of them has robin-hooded arrows resting in antlers on the walls at home. It's not just that they have done it so often, they can do it when they want to. It's not chance. They don't even keep the robin-hooded arrows anymore. I like to watch the hunting channel with them. I like watching NASCAR races with them. I like going to races with them and especially like that they are living human beings who know each other by their character, not by their status, position or show of money. They know each other too well to try to impress each other. They get excited telling about a fish caught. These are people so full of the living spirit, without being religious, they keep my mind and spirit refreshed. They love their wives and kids deeply unto would die for, go to prison for, whatever it takes. They have really neat kids too. The boys will grow up like their daddies wearing cammo tshirts that say White Tail Hunter, and be good men of true human character. Their kids grow up loving their daddies and mamas unto would die for, too. I feel best among people unafraid to be straight-on honest who they are without the 20-second delay for bleeps. These guys are the present generation of their hillbilly heritage. They carry many of the qualities of their great grandparents. I am happy in the soul to have lived the second half of my life among people of the Appalachian Mountains. I can see in hindsight I was set down here in a schoolhouse to spend the rest of my life learning how to live in the light among people who are already there.