Welcome to the Holler!
OK. I’ve never done this or ever thought I would do this. However, the last five years of my life since fleeing academia in a hurry and moving to a 3 room cabin in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains has been nothing short of unbelievable. Five years ago I drove down the mountain road on the left and have never looked back. As I’m sure you’ve heard, it took me 61 years to get here but it sure is worth it.
My journey started way out on the Kansas plains. In fact until my 50th year, I had never lived anywhere else. But with a family to help care for and mostly being self-employed, I took my PhD and headed to academia to see if I could grab some retirement. ” Nothing could be that bad,” I thought, “I can put up with it for a few years while my retirement account gets big and fat.” Little did I know.
I landed at a state university in New England, and did what I thought you were supposed to do. To engage. I helped pass anti-bullying laws, wrote papers and books and pamphlets and educated prisoners and parents and legislators. I responded to school shootings and taught teachers how to deal with angry and violent students. Basically, I got shit done. At the same time I had a lot of fun and created a lot of passion in my students. One thing they forget to tell you about the residents of the snooty ivory tower, though, is that they are a jealous, conniving, egocentric bunch who don’t like it when you get attention outside the hallowed halls.
So in 2016, I ran as fast as I could. High-tailed it for the mountains just as many before me had done.
In reality, it really was coming home. See, for the past 40 years I had been traveling to the Appalachians to fill my ears and my soul with pure mountain music. Since first hearing Old Time music at the Winfield Festival in the early 1970’s I have been deeply in love with it and pursued it where ever and whenever I could find it. It has become such a part of me that it seems to have infiltrated my very DNA.
First it was the Galax Fiddler’s Convention. I just had to go, but instead of feeding my lust for old time, it just created more need. As a social scientist and educator in my day jobs became more unforgiving and intense ( I was studying student violence and incivility) and the school shootings across the nation increased, I found a deep need to find a simpler, prettier, less complicated and certainly less depressing place to retreat. The year after Galax, I headed to the Mt. Airy Fiddler’s convention and was regaled with the music and incredible tales of the likes of Tommy Jarrell and Kyle Creed. The next year included The Elk Creek Festival in Virginia that was highly recommended to me by my dear friend, Frank Lee of The Freighthoppers fame (another blog) and so on. I was spending my entire summers camping and listening to and playing some of the best music on the planet.
So, many years later, here I sit on my cabin’s porch. Heading down a new hiking trail with my banjo over my shoulder. Coming across the mountain to share my life with you. Along the way, you’ll meet many of my friends, acquaintances and be exposed to some places you’ve probably never been. Our journey starts down here, in the holler, on the crick bank. You all comin’?
In the upcoming weeks we’ll explore:
- Goat Raising
- The Mystery of the Myers Brothers, Sidna and Fulton
- The Wild Goose
- The Boyd Family and Nearly 50 years of Moonshine and Mountain Music
- Riley the Rescue Dog
- The White Top Mountain Folk Festivals and how Whisnant got it wrong
- Nestor’s Store
- Mac Traynham’s Banjo Shop
- The Floyd Country Store
- Powerful Women of the Appalachians
- Albert Hash and Wayne Henderson
- Goat Dung
- Much more! Come on back, now, ya hear?
MUSIC FOR TODAY’S JOURNEY! PLAY THIS!