Sunday, October 25, 2015

Berta, the Queen Bee, Me, and the 'Miracle'

As my Hunk and I were driving back up the mountain to our place one day this past summer, I looked over to my left as we passed Barney and Berta’s place. If their front door is open, I, and they, always want Tony to ‘toot’ the horn to let them know we are arriving back home. We neighbors way back here in this hollow are very protective of each other; all are closely knit,  all have weapons and each has the other’s back.

As we went on up the mountain a short stretch, I looked to the right and I squealed, “OH MY GOSH! There stands Berta, right in the middle of her bee hives and she is naked!”

Well, in my shock I said naked but what I meant was Berta had no protective bee gear on. No long pants, shirt, gloves, bee bonnet, NOTHING to keep the bees that were swarming all around her from stinging her to death! And she had a hand stuck down inside the guts of one of those hives!

I immediately grabbed my mobile and called Barney, her sweet other half, and the call went to voice mail but I managed, in my highly agitated state, to leave something like, “Have Berta call me if she’s not dead!” About an hour later my dear friend rang and I grabbed that phone and yelled into the receiver “BERTA! ARE YOU CRAZY?”  

This little gal, in her unassuming and gentle way, asked me what I was so excited about and I told what I had witnessed at her bee hives.

Her simple response, “My bees don't sting me Linda, 'cause I'm not afraid of 'em.”

Now that, to me, was a rather profound statement and I began to ponder on that. I could not help but remember a Bible verse from Genesis that says, God blessed the humans by saying to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it! Be masters over the fish in the ocean, the birds that fly, and every living thing that crawls on the earth!”

I supposed my dear friend had taken that verse literally and had become the master of her bees!

Berta went on to tell me she had walked up to check on her bees and she noted there was a problem. When I asked her what she meant she said there was a decrease in the activity of the bees coming and going from one hive. She said she took the lid off and took out a sash-the vertical wooden structure where the bees store the honey in the honeycomb- and noticed the queen was not laying eggs to produce new bees.

“I checked her and saw she had a problem with one of her legs. I knew it and the bees knew it. An injured queen is a bad thing for any hive. Some bees had already left the hive but others had started trying to hatch a new queen but they were spittin’ in the wind ‘cause that can’t be done. What I needed to do was go buy a new queen.”

I was in too deep to pull out at this juncture. “Berta! Where in the heck do you buy a new queen? I mean, this is not a pet store item, I’m sure. Or is it?
Laughing at my ignorance, Berta continued. “Nope, it's not. I had to go to a fella bee keeper on Beech Mountain, NC and I brought a new queen back. And that started the long, slow process of introducin’ her.”  
Now, I realized this was not going to be like a formal ‘coming out’ party for The Queen of England…but, by golly, I was not far off the mark!

The new lady was carefully carried back to our mountain in a 3 in. long by 1 ½ in. wide wooden box with mesh on the top. Two holes were drilled in each end with a tiny cork stuffed in each hole. The old queen was removed and this box was carefully laid in the hive and the tiny corks removed. Right inside the opening of the uncorked holes was a thick layer of candy-type substance.


Berta continued to enthrall me with her fascinating bee knowledge.
She told me 'her highness' stayed in that box and the bees slowly become accustomed to her sight, smell and sound; the bees get to know her this way. To get to her and her to them, they have to eat their way through the ‘candy’. By the time three to four days have passed, the drilled holes are freed-up from the goop and the lady of the house is able to crawl out to join her new family. Then life is again good in the hood.

I remembered those wonderful pearls of wisdom I’d learned from Berta when my phone rang a couple weeks ago and she told me she was going to visit her hives. This time every year, she informed me, she had to run a fall check to make sure her bees were on track in their preparations for winter. My buddy wanted to know if I wanted to come watch. Was she kidding! Not only yes, but heck yes!

It was a stunning fall afternoon, warm with a light breeze playing with the brilliantly colored leaf canopy in each tree. Berta and I were to meet at her hives in thirty minutes.

When I arrived, I noted that Barney had come too. He and Berta had driven up in their Mule and she was already down by the hives with Barney standing back a good distance. He said there was no way he would get anywhere near her bees; he always stood back “a far piece”.

I walked up and stood beside Barney with my I-Pad in hand and asked if I could video the production for my posterity. Sure. Then it was a matter of the right angle and proper lighting.

Then it happened.

“Berta, I want to come down there and stand beside you. May I?” Now keep in mind…once again my friend did not have on any protective gear. Neither did I.

“Are you sure you want to?”

“Yes, Berta. I am not afraid of the bees. Really, I’m not.”

“I believe you Linda. Come on down here.”

And I did.

I will let the video tell the rest of the story but you need to be reassured that I, nor Berta, received a sting. J


Trig, Me, and the Great UT

Owning University of Tennessee season tickets for thirty- five years running is considered worthless now to my significant other and me since we have not been to a game to sit our rears in said seats for over twenty years. Sure, we are still fans. Sure, we still follow Big Orange. But also sure is we have four kids who grew up, three married with spouses, and they also are huge fans.

I know I speak for all parents ‘out there’ who would take a bullet for their kids so giving up your seats for their pleasure is a ‘parent thing’. We gladly turn those tickets over every week during home games when ‘It’s football time in Tennessee!’ to always grateful family members.

Now don’t feel forlorn for Tony and me. We do have one big game we go to every year and it is a favored tradition. No, it’s not in Knoxville but is at the home of lifelong friends where the same bunch of UT fans come together and enjoy a wonderful fall day of eating, drinking and being merry. Aside from watching the big game, the highlight is a low country boil prepared by our host outside the door of his massive game room.

Today, we all gathered for the Florida-UT game and we were pumped. The colors orange and white were on full display from clothing to hats to the beautiful décor our hostess displayed. When the game started though we all settled down and the pre-game camaraderie took a backseat to the UT machine on the field.  But, lo and behold, what looked like a ‘sure win’ for Tennessee slipped away at the very end with some fourth quarter magic from Florida bringing them from thirteen points behind.
Geez. In ninety seconds time at the very end, all in that room went from soaring like eagles to full-fledged panic  to crashing and burning. The Gators then beat us like a drum, 28-27. When we pulled back in to Misty Hollow later that day  I was greeted by my awesome horse as soon as the car pulled up. My Trig can always sense when his mama is ‘down’ so he stuck his muzzle right in my face and started planting sloppy kisses.
He then wanted to know if I wanted ‘to share’. It has been said 'all I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he’ll listen to me any ole day' so this is the exchange we had. 
Me: "Trig, I’m feeling pretty down. Dad and I just watched UT lose a football game at the last minute to the Florida Gators. And by one measly point!"
          Trig: "Uh, help me out here, Mom. What is a UT. And what is a gator?"
"Trig, for heaven’s sake…UT. U is the initial for University. T is the initial for Tennessee. That is the name of the university of the football team in Knoxville we support.  Never mind what a real gator is; well, it’s like a huge lizard but for right now it’s not relevant to the discussion. Just call the other team University of Florida."
"Mom, I sure hate knowing you are sad so help me get this straight. When the little children come up here on the mountain to our place, we get a ball and kick it back and forth and around our circle. So football must be something like that. So, your side had a ball and some gators ate it, right?"
"Trig, good grief. Just forget it. Your lack of understanding distresses me and drags me down even further."
"Mom, I hate you’re feelin’ bad but can you imagine how down those football people, uh…I think you called them your team, must feel? I mean, just think crappy. About as crappy as I felt when you fed me that bad banana and I left that disgusting pile out near the fence. Shouldn't you do something to make them feel better and that might make you feel better.
I thought this over for a moment and then realized my ole buddy may have stumbled onto something. I knew then what we could do! He and I would make a fan video and send it to the UT team and let them know in spite of what happened today, they have two fans here on Roan Mountain who love them and think they will forever and always be #1! I was feeling better already.
Me: "Trig, you are brilliant! Come on, we are going to make a UT fan video and show our support for the BIG ORANGE!
Trig: "Mom, what’s an orange?"

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." -Benjamin Franklin

I want to share a wonderful story written by Ginger Manley, an extremely talented woman who is the author of several books as well as a honored professor/sex therapist at Vanderbilt University.  Why bother to share this story with you?  Because I am a very proud mommy and this true story involves my daughter, Tara Blevins Tolbert, and an incredible incident that took place in her life this summer.  Just click on the highlighted link and you will hopefully find this story warming the cockles of your heart. 

Priceless Treasure from Goodwill

Now, in case you are wondering about the Benjamin Franklin quote that kicked off this post, I thought (from a mom's perspective) it may be relevant.

You see, when Tara and her sister, Amanda, were sixteen and fourteen years of age respectively and Tara began to drive, I called my two daughters in for a chat.

Knowing both wanted to earn extra spending money for various teenage necessities, I told them I had a deal for them to help out with their immediate need. I also hoped my plan would teach them something they could hold on to long-term as well.

Not really sure what their reaction would be, I explained I would be willing to turn the household monthly food budget over to them and they could take that money and, on a weekly basis, make out the daily menus for our family of six. Keep in mind back in those days eating out at fast food restaurants was kept to a bare minimum and family meals were eaten around the family table. After the menus were decided, they could then prepare a grocery list for each week and then buy the groceries. At the end of the month if using the food budget wisely, and without starving us to death, they could split the difference they saved.

I was thrilled with the enthusiastic response from both.

I then gave them tips on clipping coupons and taking advantage of buying produce near expiration but still fresh for the next couple of days. I stressed the wisdom of finding great buys on meats which could be frozen for meals in advance and buying items by bulk. And finally...they could not spend the money they think they've earned until the end of each month.

Tara and Mandy, chomping at the bit, took their new project very seriously and hit the ground running.

Let's just say this. We did eat more than enough chicken during that period of our lives. Anything fresh and green... not so much. I did have to, on occasion, drop a hint about fresh fruit and yes, milk was one part of the important basic food groups. Well... one more thing. I finally did have to let it be known they could not stuff one more ounce of frozen meat in that freezer until I cooked some of it up even if it meant their earnings fell shy of their desired goal of the month.😀

Overall, on a scale of 1-10, Tony and I gave those girls of ours a TEN on the grocery project! They pocketed quiet a bit of money during that time and they made their dad and me extremely proud. They are to this day both married with their own children, both very frugal, queens of the thrift stores and the two can squeeze a dollar until it screams to let it go.

Always hoping I had a little something to do with that admirable quality in our girls, I mentioned something along these lines to my beloved man. His reassuring response? "Yeah, you probably did but even a blind hog finds an acorn on occasion, honey." 😊

Both Ends of the Spectrum

It never ceases to amaze me as I learn daily of the culture and pride of the kind folk that live up here on The Roan. As it seems to be in every locale, the folks in these parts range from the very wealthy to the poorest of poor; Yet, all here seem to be one big family and from what I’ve experienced…all stand ready to reach out and help a neighbor in need. In fact, I think this part of the country is as ‘Norman Rockwell’ as she comes.
I have found three common threads that weave the tapestry of life up here on Roan Mountain; the stubborn pride, the pick yourself up by your bootstraps mentality and that ‘git-er-done’ work ethic.
I can't help now but think of our awesome neighbors, Barney and Berta.  Barney is our local and fearless Constable and Berta, his sweet and quiet 'other half' is a real work horse, my morning walking pal and precious friend. 
Barney and Berta live in the next house closest to us down the holler and this past spring while planting their garden, Barney told me he was upset that a huge groundhog was living under his barn, eating his young seedlings. His barn and garden are located on his additional acreage across from his house and the lane leading up to the few homes in our neck of these woods.
Barney told me he was going to take care of the blasted rodent problem though.  I, unfortunately, did not focus on the word 'blasted'. 
Not long ago after my chat with Barney, I am relaxing on my front porch swing and a shotgun blast rocked my world!  Dear God!  I jumped in my car and rushed down to Barney's place and there he is, standing on his front porch, rifle trained on his subject across the road toward his barn, firing away.  He was simply 'gittin 'er done'. 
And then there’s that stubborn mountain pride.
I recently learned more about that deep pride when told about a couple of doctors who decided they loved exactly what drew most of us to these hills. They chose to move here from out west to start a new practice.
Wanna hear how it all went down?
Well, these two were best friends who graduated from medical school at the same time and decided, in spite of two different specialties, they would open a practice together to share office space and personnel within the Township of Roan Mountain. 
One was a doctor by the name of Ashan and he was a psychiatrist; the other specialist's name was Dr. Fryman, a proctologist. 
After enjoying a warm welcome from the area people and settling in a rustic cabin on the outskirts of town, the two doctors found the perfect office space where there was a smidgen of privacy, understandably. Then the two began the struggle with what to put on their shingle to hang outside their door. 
It became obvious pretty fast either these two moved here from too far away or they thought they has a funny sense of humor because the sign they came up with read:  Dr. Ashan and Dr. Fryman:  Hysterias and Posteriors.  Well, that sign had not been up twenty minutes before the Town Council members began to be inundated with calls.  Just exactly who did these two jokers think they were and just exactly where did they think they were!  Didn't they realize there was pride in these parts?
Well, the doctors, not wanting to offend their future patients quickly changed the sign to read: Schizoids and Hemorrhoids.
Once again all hell broke loose. The ignorance of these uppity newcomers was unbelievable.  Thinking quickly the docs changed it to read: Catatonics and High Colonics.  This, also, was unacceptable so they regrouped.  How about Manic Depressives and Anal Retentives?  A no go.  Next, they tried Minds and Behinds - thumbs down again.  Now, the good people up here in these parts are long suffering but they still struggle to be patient. 
Another attempt resulted in Lost Souls and Butt Holes. This one almost brought out the shotguns but the Council's Chairman finally calmed the crowd with a passionate plea, "What would Jesus do?"
So the message was given again to the two doctors; Jesus and the township both loved them dearly but they would have to come up with a decent office name soon.  Another valiant try....the doctors tried Nuts and Butts - WHAT WERE THEY THINKING! 
Freaks and Cheeks - still no good.  Loons and Moons - not on your lives.  Almost at their wits' ends, the doctors finally camp up with: Dr. Ashan and Dr. Fryman - Specializing Odds and Ends. 
It is my understanding everyone loved this one and those two doctors to this day have a thriving practice right in the middle of the township.
Last but not least, I forgot to tell you about another couple of strong virtues of Roan Mountainians. They do have the patience of Job...and very forgiving spirits.
Now half the town as well as those living in these mountains have given their business to and are patients of Dr. Ashan and Dr. Fryman whether they need it or not.
**Kudos to the original posters of this (adapted)**

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jesus Belongs to Mother Josephine and She to Him

I heard the most interesting tidbit recently about a precious nun named Mother Josephine who lives a rather austere life in the backwoods up here on the Roan. It is my understanding she will literally give you the habit off her back if need be and is renowned for driving her old beat-up car around in the hollows to find anyone who needs a helping hand, a fireside chat or a 'Come to Jesus wearing out'.

Apparently, not long ago she came across a construction site, noticed the coarse language of the workers and, feeling heavily burdened, decided to spend more time with them to help them see the error of their ways. 

With the best of intentions, Mother Josephine was determined to take her lunch the next day and sit with the workers for a spell.  Now, having spent the biggest part of my life with construction workers, I immediately became concerned when being told about this kind woman and her well-meaning strategy.  She was walking into the lion's den and all hell could break loose.
I was told she put her sandwich in a brown bag and with no meekness whatsoever marched onto the site at noon where the men were spread out eating.
With a smile as gentle as a lily floating on a pond she walked up to the group and boldly asked, "Gentlemen, do any of you know Jesus Christ?"
They shook their heads and looked at each other, very confused.  One of the workers looked up into the steelworks and yelled out, "Anybody up there know Jesus Christ?"
One of the steelworkers yelled back down, "Why?" The worker yelled back, "Cause his mom's here with his lunch."

A Sage For Our Age

His name is Daryl. As he stood over my woodpile determining how much wood would be needed for our winter supply I once again was overwhelmed with affection for this simple man of imposing height and humble ways. I asked if I could take a photo of him and tell his story to my friends; I wanted to pay him homage.

He blushed and shyly mumbled, "I reckon" as he drew his shoulders back and stood tall and proud.



You see, Daryl has every reason to be proud; at age seventy-six, he is the last of his breed around these parts. This photo does not reveal the long silver platted mane that falls down his back, a clinging remnant of his early youth.

He, long ago, was a 'bad ass' hippy motorcycle gang member from the Woodstock generation. And to hear the tales, he was the real thing. Finally settling down in the California desert, Daryl became lonely and advertised for a wife in ‘Cycle’ magazine. Melanie read the ad from Tennessee, she came and they have been together for thirty two years now. They are our neighbors who live on the sixty-four acres up behind our place and the pair fascinates us with their life stories. They sold us the two cabins and acreage we now own.

Incredibly, Daryl built these two cabins plank by plank rarely using nails but screwing everything tight. With love in every tree that was cut from the surrounding forest, many that were stripped of bark for the charming hand rails that are placed around my front and back porches, every detail a labor of love. He never, ever, intended to sell them; they were to be his pride of ownership to the day he died. We were honored they chose us to buy them; they said it was because we shared their love of their mountain and the sacredness of the animals who lived there.

I remember when my husband Tony, a contractor, came to look at these cabins for the first time in light of our possibly buying them. He was stunned. Daryl did not believe in working within the parameters of county inspectors. He didn’t need to. While they may have demanded 2' X 4’s, he would use 2' X 8’s. That is the way he quietly goes about his business in everything he still does. With flair for creativity Daryl placed a lovely tall tree right up through the living area next to the stairwell at Bear Cabin and up past the loft and into the ceiling.  The grandkids assume the tree trunk is in the dirt basement and the top of the tree is growing out the roof. Yes, Daryl is quiet the builder of awesome mountain cabins but he is so much more.


For his startling size he is gentle, unassuming and quieter than a whisper. He rarely speaks; Daryl listens and learns. He is soft hearted toward all animals, great and small. Every evening just before dusk this gentle giant goes outside and gets an old metal pail and takes it to the springhouse. There he fills it with kernels of corn and brings it to his backyard close to the woods and whistles a strange low guttural whistle and immediately deer begin to wander down from the mountain sides. My friend will slowly start walking while dropping small piles of corn over a thirty to forty yard stretch. By the time he finishes, the deer are all gathered by the edge of the woods and as soon as Daryl is walking away, feeling safe... the deer step out and graze. He fell in love with our little granddaughter, Savannah, and so taught her how to feed his deer.

Peggy, this is one of the things we did not get to this past weekend...the evening feeding of the deer. This video is of Savannah helping Daryl feed as the deer start coming down from the surrounding mountains. The next video will show them eating.
Posted by Linda Blevins on Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The feeding of the wild deer on Roan.
Posted by Linda Blevins on Tuesday, April 8, 2014

This ritual began years ago and I've brought friends and family up to Melanie and Daryl's place many times to watch this awesome ritual. Every time I've wondered what the deer will do when Daryl is finally laid to rest. I've also wondered if he and his wife would mind, and if no one else wants to do it, I could lay the corn down in his honor.

He Swept Me Off My Feet

The first time I saw him my heart missed a beat. 
It had been a long time since any other had this effect on me and I knew I could not let him get away without meeting him.

I was standing in front of the florist shop at Food City in Elizabethton waiting on a floral arrangement I had ordered. He had picked up his grocery cart at the front of the store and had rounded the corner, headed in my direction.

As he kept strolling toward me my mind was racing. What could I do to get his attention? Should I quickly pay for my flowers and then follow him around as he picked out his groceries until I ‘accidentally’ ran into him? I felt my face blush at the thought of that idea; I did not want him to think I was stalking him…he would probably shy away.

By this time he and his cart were about three feet from me and my anxiety of missing this chance meeting with him overcame me I gathered every bit of courage I had and stepped out in front of his cart and stopped him.

Nervously, I extended my hand and introduced myself.

He, too, held out his hand and in a very low, somewhat gruffy voice said, “Hello ma’am. I am Mr. Lyons.”

I asked him if he knew how fascinating he looked and if anyone had ever been as bold as I to step out and stop him just to meet him. “Yeah, there was a woman in Jonesborough who did the same thing”, he said.

Well, I told him, she must have been a writer as well and she must have, as I, felt that she could not live another day if she could not take a photo and write a story about him.

“Yes ma’am, that’s right. She told me she writes stories for a magazine in Jonesborough. So you write stories too?”

And that is how I came to meet Mr. Lyons, the Chimney Sweep.

That day I met him he was dressed in the original clothing of a Chimney Sweeper of the 1800’s, black top hat rounding off the complete look, and I must say I was fascinated. He was definitely a story waiting to be written.

Long story short, Mr. Lyons soon afterwards came up to Misty Hollow and ‘swept’ Jake’s Cabin- and boy did that chimney need it!- for me while we chatted the entire time. This incredibly charming old man kept me in soot and stitches with his quick wit and running monologue of past experiences as a chimney sweep.

He left that day with an appointment to come back and sweep Bear Cabin and I was left with the gift that I had made a new friend up here in these mountains I now call home. The list of fascinating acquaintances keeps growing and I am richer for it.

My Puppies and the Kind Cherokee Indians

Lazy days on the Roan are most spectacular when I have our three grandchildren, Savannah, age six, Ryleigh, seven, and Emmett, now eight, up here with me at Bear Cabin. The only thing that would make it better would be if Chandler, our oldest at age 18, could be here having fun with us but he says he now prefers college life. Then there is our beautiful Baby Bowie Bruce, but he is much too small at age seven months to romp and play. He says he still prefers to be very near Mommy.
Chandler no longer has no interest in our Indian play because he still remembers when he was seven years old and Grandfather Don and I (Don and I were married during this time) spent every Friday night and a half day on Saturday's for six weeks with him on a thorough study of the Cherokee Indians, culminating with a trip to the Cherokee Nation in the Smokey Mountains. We had also studied the Trail of Tears so when we took the little fella to see this live drama on the last night we were there, it was not at all surprising to Don or me to see our tender hearted grandson’s tears flowing freely.

 So I at least did have three of my puppies with me on this beautiful sunny day... all with different personalities, temperaments and a willingness to throw themselves full-throttle into whatever hair brained idea Nana came up with.

The kids all woke up this particular day and it was decided we would play act being Cherokee Indians; After all, Nana did live in the Cherokee Mountains. So we first started with our best friend, Mr. Google, and then had a home school time of learning all we could regarding the Cherokee Indians. Next, we gathered everything I had (and there was a bunch of stuff) regarding all-things-Indian from around the cabin and out on the porches and we carried it all out into the back near the big river rock fire pit. Laying down three huge Indian blankets on the ground, we built our Cherokee home.

This was followed by all sitting Indian style on the blankets and each of my puppy’s chose an authentic Cherokee name and learned the significance of that name. Each child then was given a job, equivalent to the task they would have had as a Cherokee back in the 1800’s. The two girls were delighted to hear that the women held positions of great importance within the Cherokee tribes, equal to the men; some of the women were even warriors!

Once the duties were meted out, I then made the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT. We would be sojourning over to the next mountain range and we were going to visit with the Indian tribe where I had noted smoke the morning before.  We needed to see if they were friend or foe. ***Now the smoke I had seen was coming out of the chimneys of two sets of new neighbors who had built cabins over the way; one couple was from Chicago, the other from Florida. I had met all but the wife of the fellow from Florida…all lovely people.  I had no idea how they would react to my approaching them with the children and I all dressed up like Indians with faces painted. But you never know until you try.***
I told the kids we were going to put on our painted faces, no, not with war paint, but the paint we would use to show we were coming in peace. Total chaos broke out and the excitement was overwhelming!  I told all to get in line and I painted each little face with bright colors of Indian symbols.
Finally we were ready. Each little Indian and I picked up a walking stick and off we went up the hill, past Trig's barn-with him staring at us like we were from outer space- and past the woods, crossing over Stanley Hollow and down Ruth’s Road into the little valley that would take us up the mountain to where the other ‘Indian Tribe’ was. I told them the Cherokee greeting for hello was Siyo (pronounced see-yoh) and as we approached we would greet with that word.

I guess the thing that surprised me most was how serious the kids were taking this whole thing. When curious Savannah would stop to inspect a pretty leaf or rolly bug along the route, her older cousin Emmett would bark at her. “Savannah! Stop it! This is not a trip to hunt bugs! We are going to check out the Indians who live over this way!” “Yeah”, Ryleigh would chime in, “This is important Savannah! We can hunt for nature later!” Surely these kids remembered we were play acting.

As we approached the first cabin where the couple from Florida lived, I was a little apprehensive to see Jim standing out on his front porch with a cup of coffee ? in his hand. The kids all shyly fell in behind me as I walked into his front yard and held up my hand and said, “Siyo! We are from the Cherokee Tribe across the mountain. We come in peace!”
God bless Jim’s heart. He immediately fell into the perfect role and reaction as he held up his right hand and said, “Siyo! I am peaceful as well. I am from the Cherokee tribe, too. My wife and I left our tribe in Florida and came to this mountain range to build us a new cabin to live in during the summer. We are your friends. My wife is not here. She is out gathering food.”
Flashing Jim a huge grin of appreciation, I introduced each of my grandbabies by their Indian names and then wished him well and told him we would travel on as we hoped to meet some of the others that lived up on this mountain. (I, on my end, was hoping to get the same wonderful response from the other couple. Plus, to be honest with you, I was glad that Jim’s wife was apparently at the grocery store as I did not relish meeting her looking this goofy. I had been told she was a school teacher and, as a former school board member, I was hoping that when we did meet, we could have a nice, adult conversation without me looking like an idiot with black, green, red, yellow and white Indian symbols all over my face.)
After bidding this 'friendly fellow Cherokee' farewell, my tribe ventured on up the trail toward the next cabin. As we started walking we saw this gorgeous woman coming toward us with a well-groomed little dog on a leash. Oh good grief! Surely this was not Jim’s wife! But…I was in too deep to dig out now. When she was abreast of us, I raised my right hand in traditional Cherokee greeting and in a very serious face asked if she was friend or foe. The children had gathered shyly around me again in a tight circle, staring intently to hear her answer.
This magnificent creature opened her gaping mouth further and with a very heavy Italian accent asked me what I meant. In shock, I told her we were from the Cherokee Tribe and was she Cherokee?
“I am not a Cherokee person! I am Italian! I am from Italy”, came her response filled with laughter. No one had mentioned that Jim's wife was from Italy for heaven's sake!

I simply could no longer go on with the ridiculous charade. Beet red under my heavily painted face, I extended my hand and introduced myself as her neighbor from Misty Hollow and the three little Indians with me were three of my five grandchildren. I told her I was a bit embarrassed to meet her under these circumstances.
She was so gracious, said she loved the play acting as she taught kids and hoped we were having a great time; in fact, running into us had made her day. She and I promised to get together soon and and I took my little tribe and wandered on up the road, thrilled my new friend has such a delightful sense of humor.
As we were headed toward the next cabin where the couple from Chicago lived, my little Savannah was unusually quiet; she looked sad. Since this is my grandbaby who wears her feelings on her sleeve, I wanted to get to the root of her problem. 

“Savannah, is something wrong sweetheart? Are you okay?” Now keep in mind here little Savannah always pronounced her letter 'C' with the 'S' sound.
“Yea, Nana. But I was just thinkin’ and wonderin’ why that woman is not Sherokee like her husband. That's sad."

Post Script:  Just as I was preparing to shoot this video prior to leaving on our trek across the mountain, all three of the children were grinning like 'possums.  I then told them in the olden days many Native Americans were wary of having their pictures taken and would not because they believed doing that could steal their soul and disrespect the spiritual world. I nearly became hysterical watching those grins disappear in a nanosecond and the serious looks cross their faces. 

Posted by Linda Blevins on Thursday, June 18, 2015


Snug as a Bug in the Mud on a Rug

We are blessed to have a creek that runs beside both Bear and Jake's Cabins up here on the Roan.  The area of the creek up beside Bear Cabin has a small waterfall that feeds down into a pool that provides so much fun for the kids and me.
One hot summer day when my puppies were spending the weekend up here at the cabin and activities were lagging I heard, "I'm bored". Like a streak of lightening, one of my brightest ideas to date shot into this blonde head of mine. I told the kids to get their swimsuits on and meet me at the pond. PRONTO!
When we were all standing pool side it was noted that the pond, usually filled with water, was thick with mud due to the lack of rain over the past week or so. It was then I informed the puppies we were going to take a mud bath...LET THE FUN BEGIN!
We hit the pond and a mud bath ensued. I told the kids women paid big bucks for expensive mud treatments like this in lavish salons. Then we imagined the mud pit was a grape vat in Italy and they learned how grapes were stomped to extract the juice for the wine making process. I would be hard pressed to find an orifice on a body that had not been invaded with mud.
When I decided to capture this photo for the Mom's shopping in Ashville to enjoy, Emmett insisted he would take it and Savannah refused to be in it. "You are crazy, Nana, if you think I want people to see me looking like this!", my six-year-old grandbaby wailed.

Seams that Endure

I resented her.

Her name was Peggy King and she taught me Home Economics at Tennessee High School, home of the mighty Vikings. I didn’t like her because she reigned in a world that was inaccessible to me.


I had waited a long time to set sail on that mighty Viking ship. Once on board, I hoped I could put distance and closure between my elementary and junior high experiences and me. I hoped to erase some mortifying memories of those earlier years.

The memory of that fourth grade lunacy of altering a pair of shoes given to my mother by a woman she cleaned for still gnawed at me. They were too small for my mom but quite pretty and I yearned for such things. The idea to saw the spiked, pointy-toed pumps down to half-inch heels and wear them to school sprang from an ache to walk in anyone's shoes other than my own.

 I was quite surprised to find lowering the darn things resulted in the toes tilting upward. Nevertheless, I slipped them on and hobbled down the Central Elementary School hallway that day only to drown in embarrassment while sipping water from the school fountain. The kids lining up behind me were laughing. Instead of impressing them, I realized I was an object of ridicule.

High school also meant leaving behind the humiliation of my George W. Vance Junior High Christmas choral concert. Wanting to feel grown-up that night, I borrowed a pair of dark tan nylons from a worldly friend. One of the dark stockings was streaked with a long, jagged run that made me think of the muddy creek snaking behind our house.

Dashing into the school bathroom before the program, I tied the stockings up with strips torn from an old pillowcase. Not owning a garter belt, I was afraid to sneak Mama’s. She’d told me I was too young to wear hosiery so slipping behind her back would be disastrous if my disobedience fell down around my ankles mid-performance. I tied the bonds a little tighter.

As well as I recall, all sensation in my legs began disappearing not long after the choir's opening number. As I stood perched on the top riser, the roaring of blood in my ears mocked the fact I had cut off my own circulation from the thighs down. My alto and confidence had sunk pretty low by the time Joseph led Mary, great with Child, into the darkened stable. Thanking Jesus for the final curtain, my numb legs buckled.

Yep, high school would be both my eraser and clean slate. Things would be different...or so I thought.

I eventually found myself under the tutelage of Peggy King, a woman hell bent on fashioning her female students into gracious ladies and model homemakers.

The very attractive Mrs. King, tall, confident, and immaculately groomed, carried herself like royalty. Everyone knew she belonged to one of the most prestigious families in town. I assumed she must have had gilt edged security in the H.P. King Department Store downtown.  

I recall the class time spent on dressing for success and purchasing power. Mrs. King would bring in beautiful outfits, using them as object lessons. Spreading each garment she would show us how to examine the linings for tiny, tight, even stitches-the hallmark of topnotch workmanship. We fingered raw silks, crisp linens, supple leathers, and textured tweeds, experiencing the feel of quality. It certainly felt different from the thin, frayed, cotton shirts I ironed for my brothers on the weekends.

She also stressed the importance of the right accessories. I learned that buttons had the power to make or break an outfit. After force-feeding us details on how to identify genuine bargains, she exposed the sales hype that lulled us into making poor clothing choices.

On and on and on she droned, day after day. Had we understood that a bias is a forty-five degree angle to the selvage in the fabric, often used in the cutting of garments to insure a smoother fit? Would we remember to invest wisely in classic pieces that would wear well for years while avoiding "trendy" clothes that would be outdated in no time?

Wearily I would trudge into the Home Ec department wondering how this worthless information could ever relate to the life I knew. What did this woman know of soup bean suppers, sleeping three to a bed, and being jarred awake by the thunder of passing trains?

Having mastered Concepts in Clothing, Mrs. King then introduced us to the culinary arts. After covering myriad details in food preparation and gracious entertaining, my tormentor put all to the test. She divided us into groups of four and gave us our assignment; she wanted us to prepare a home cooked meal. As her students dutifully gravitated to the fully equipped kitchen/dining stations, she gave us the recipe for what she called the entrée. It was a strange sounding dish. Lasagna. Such a foreign sounding word to me. Was it French?

My kitchen crew and I set about the task of boiling the large flat curly-on-the-side noodles while measuring dry curd cottage and ricotta cheeses and opening cans of tomato sauce. We browned ground beef and onions and pinched off tiny quantities of a pungent herb called oregano. This process resulted in my foursome generating a massive mess as we managed to use every pot, mixing bowl, and measuring device available to us. But...we got the job done in the allotted time frame with no one more surprised than I at the incredible aroma wafting from the oven.

Our team mother carried the main course to the pre-set table and we settled down to enjoy our meal. As we placed our napkins on our laps, Mrs. King strolled by our table and, with disappointment in her voice, asked us to stand.

"Do you not realize your food will only be as appealing as your environment?" she gently chided. Peggy King went on to cite research verifying that people ate better and enjoyed food more in pleasant surroundings. We would not be allowed to eat until we delivered a tidy kitchen.

So as the rest of the class ate and our meal cooled, we cleaned. Seething with anger, I again begged. "Please God, help me get out of this class and let me get on with the rest of my life."

And so I did and the years passed.

After leaving THS I found myself following paths I never dreamed I would walk. One of the most rewarding of these was my service as a member of the Bristol Tennessee Board of Education.  I remember the day I visited Central Elementary School with my fellow board members and as I passed the fountain I drank from so long ago, I realized then how small it seemed. The "drowning" that took place there seemed even smaller. Years do have a way of changing perspectives.

Just like the times Mrs. King, when teaching, would walk around the room and occasionally lay a hand on my shoulder as she passed. I, at the time, would stiffen and sit up straighter, thinking she was reminding me of my posture. No, it took me a long time to realize that was just a gentle hand of reassurance. Yes, time does put things in perspective.

And throughout those years I never forgot Peggy King. In fact, I still think of her often when I go shopping. I delight in beautiful clothes and I lean heavily toward the classics. Trendy things seem here today, gone tomorrow and such a foolish investment of hard-earned dollars.

I know quality when I see it. I inspect seams and finger fabrics. If the buttons do not enhance an otherwise perfect outfit, I make a trip to a fabric shop in search of the perfect complement. Though I have been known to buy expensive dress suits I never pay anywhere near the asking price. I know quality but I also know how to find a true bargain. A good friend taught me that long ago.

Even to this day, I cannot help but think of Mrs. King when I prepare a special dinner. I enjoy gathering friends, preparing delicious dishes and setting a pretty table. I learned long ago how to entertain with ease. It goes without saying, when I sit down for dinner, I want my kitchen spic-and-span. I find that I, and my guests, enjoy the meal so much more in pleasant surroundings.

 I will always remember with fondness Mrs. King and the Home Ec class I resisted so long ago. As I faced many of the challenges and opportunities life brought my way, I did so with fewer hesitancies and more confidence because this exceptional teacher chose to expose her students, especially students like me, to a way of life some may never had known.

Isn’t that what teaching is all about?
The things I learned from the regal Peggy King are still tightly woven into the fabric of my everyday existence. Stitch by stitch the lovely, kind and gracious Mrs. King sewed seams that have endured a lifetime.