Interview with “It’s Not My Mountain Anymore” author, Barbara Taylor Woodall
Interview with “It’s Not My Mountain Anymore” author, Barbara Taylor Woodall
A long time ago a group of mountain folks left North Georgia to work in a cotton mill in Atlanta. They took their crafts, remedies, recipes and customs with them. Joyce Brookshire’s song writing help sustain hearts that yearned for home.
North Georgia Mountains by Joyce Brookshire
“Tomorrow I’ll be back home in my Georgia. Where the wild dogwood trees, their beauty unfold. I’ve missed it so bad, in my heart there’s a yearning for the simple existence that I used to know.
North Georgia Mountains, I crave your protection, from a world that’s gone mad with power and greed. Let me live in your valleys surrounded by forests and give of your quiet for the rest that I need.
Tomorrow I’ll be back home in my Georgia, where the faces I’ll see are ones I have known. And the voices I hear will all be familiar. A sound sweet as music to one who’s come home.
Tomorrow I’ll be back home in my Georgia. I’ll breathe the fresh air by the cool mountain stream. In the land of my youth, I’ll seek my redemption, for a past of indifference and a wasting of dreams.”…. Joyce Brookshire. ( Her music is available on Amazon)
Listen to Joyce ! <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/NkEy3yaKPBo” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
I am a 7th generation Appalachian still living on my home place in the North Georgia Mountains. I’m held captive here, not with chains and fetters but by an undying devotion to a land of great beauty. I was reared in a humble farm family that taught me to appreciate God’s giant pastures.
On winter mornings from underneath thick layers of patchwork quilts I studied ice crystal formations on frosted window panes. Oxygen-rich air burned our noses until Dad kindled a fire in the mud-daubed fireplace he had built from creek rock and red clay.
Long before the rooster’s crow, he raked gray ashes with an iron poking stick, looking for glowing embers. He reached into the wood box for the rich pine splinters and cones to place on the live coals. Gently he fanned with a paper until bursts of yellow flames appeared. Aromas of rich pine filled the house. Finally, a leather string latch was lifted, opening a weathered plank door. Dad carried larger sticks from the porch to cross over the young fire. A huge back stick was placed behind the flames. It held heat all day while he was away working at the sawmill.
The morning fire, now ablaze in the fireplace turned into a rib-roaster. Mama called it a ‘turn and burn” heating system. Stepping into my brother’s bedroom with a voice of authority, Dad said, “Hit th’ floor. More people die in th’ bed than anywhere else. Shake a leg!” An unheeded call was met with a bucket of cold water thrown into their snoozing midst. It always worked.
Dad assigned chores for after school. He was not to be triffled with: nothing short of a hospital stay excused us. He honored the law requiring school attendance, but school was secondary to working the land. My brothers had one foot in the classroom, the other on fallow ground.
When Dad was not pulling “the money stick” at Ritter’s Saw Mill, he lived behind a mule-drawn plough. He never saw mere dirt, but envisioned planted seeds and tender plants kissed by morning dew. He saw bushels of shelled corn drying in hampers for seed and bread. He saw winter feed stored among ribbons of cobwebs, hanging through barn cracks and well fed stock roaming the fields. Faith in a full harvest kept him stepping.
I watched the plough turn new earth row after row. It looked like the earth was opening her mouth to produce life. Corn was life. Soft silver winds brought scents or pennyroyal and mint from the creek bank, awakening the sap within him. When he stopped for a dipper of cool water, he often picked dandelion blooms that dotted the landscape like golden jewels of Eden. They looked nice on Mama’s table.
Our hearts were knitted with golden threads to The Appalachian Mountains. We were in fact married to our portion of paradise.
- posted by Madison
Barbara Taylor Woodall, a distinguished writer and Appalachian native, tells the gripping — and sometimes humorous — story of her life growing up in the heart of the Georgia Appalachians in “It’s Not My Mountain Anymore.”
Woodall was born in 1954 and raised in a family that maintained a very traditional Appalachian farm life. From producing their own milk, to community hog-butchering days, their only way of life was to live off the land. While tending to the farm and family came first, Woodall’s father made sure that education fell into a close second.
School was never a thing of interest for Woodall. During her early education she often got the switch from her teachers, but she finally discovered a passion for school and writing when she met a passionate english teacher named Wig who inspired his class of 1966 to create what is known today as The Foxfire Magazine. It contained stories and interviews from elders that Woodall and her classmates gathered. These students shared a passion for the heritage of the Appalachian Mountains and the land they were raised on.
With time comes change, and Woodall saw firsthand how the green and fertile mountains she and her family once knew saw things of change like highways, and traffic, and shopping centers. Her book resembles old folk storytelling, and like all story tellers, Woodall maintains a distinguished voice. Her once proud and joyful tone takes a solemn turn as she realizes the mountains are no longer what they used to be. The mountains aren’t hers anymore, “inevitable changes both to the landscape and its inhabitants clash dramatically with cherished memories of a passing era.”
Although Woodall explains the grave situation of what the mountains are becoming, the book does not end on a sad note. Her hope and faithful attitude is instilled in the reader and bring more awareness to Appalachia. What one man does to the mountains affects his children and his children’s children. Her only wish is that generations in the future can enjoy the cool crisp mountain streams and the winding trails which she spent most of her childhood exploring.
Candice Felice interviewed It’s Not My Mountain Anymore author Barbara Taylor Woodall for the October 11. 2011 edition of “Community Life in Northeast Georgia” on WPPR-FM 88.3 in Demorest, Georgia. You can enjoy this insightful conversation by clicking on the link below.
Appalachians share a common love for the mountains. Virginia Watts said, “The mountains give me a sense of protection from city distractions. I experience a moving awe in my soul here. A purer atmosphere and the wonderful people are the secret of the mountains. They contribute greatly to my life and security. I can depend on them to embrace me, understand me, lend helping hands, or just leave me alone to be who I am.
Our ancestors once owned thousands of mountainous acres. Over the years the land was divided and sold to outsiders who put chains or gates across the property. Now, my generation owns very small parcels of ancestral land. Few mountain families have enough land to divide equally anymore among children and grandchildren. They have a greater challenge to go to college and earn land here if this is where they chose to stay. But, wherever younger generations put down roots, the God of the mountain lives within hearts all over the world. My hope is that they build on values we were taught and try to live by.
I cherish memories. When I was no older than six, Mother allowed me to hold a small paring knife on lazy summer evenings as the entire family gathered around tubs of soft golden peaches that would become winter desserts. As ripened peach slices collected in kitchen bowls, rich conversation planted orchards inside our minds like the soft velvet on each peach.
I hope the mountains themselves remain without more houses poked into their bleeding sides. I hope the younger generation can roam trails soaked in inspiration as time marches on.”
Snowfall created and vast fun park for my brother, Ernest and me. He is two years older and like a burr under a horse saddle. Mama said, “Poison ivy will never bother that boy. I do declare he sugars his oatmeal with gun powder every morning” Demons seemed to dance in his brown eyes underneath a home crew-cut (hair-cut). A twisted hickory switch stayed within arm’s reach, but had little effect. Mama whipped Ernest like “pattin” for a dance. He had A.D.H.D..XYZ…plumb off the page, squirming like a maggot in hot ashes unable to be still.
One cold winter afternoon Mama began to discern weather signs. The chimney smoke settled close to the ground and the fire was making ”trompin” sounds like boots swishing deep snow. Raising a cup of water to her mouth, she said, “I can taste snow in th’ spring water. The stock was laying down this morning around the barn. Yes sir, a doozy of a snowstorm is a’comin’. If we can’t make it to the outhouse, we’ll just have to pee in the gun barrel and shoot it out the window.” We laughed as clouds gathered and excitement swelled. Sure enough that night, large snowflakes descended from heaven, covering our world with blankets of white purity. It settled on every branch, twig, and limb. Small noses withdrew from windowpanes in morning’s light to go gather snow from locust fence posts. We hoped Mama would make us delicious snow cream from the wells high above the earth. What excitement to chase snowflakes! I could feel the whiteness of nature’s breath as we caught flakes on the palm of our hands and tongue.
After a few rounds of snowball fights and a couple of snow angels, a glimpse of something pink caught my attention.
I drew near to investigate. To my horror, my only baby doll, “Nancy Louise”, the one Santa brought just a month ago was lying face down in the cold snow and NAKED! Quiekly, I grabbed the doll by bare feet. Her soft hair was now a crew cut! A full, black beard and mustache were drawn with a fire coal on her rosy face, I guess that was the first sex change to come to the mountains!
Ernest took refuge in the house, watching and snickering from the frosted window as he warmed by the fire. I entered the house flinging kindling corncobs from the porch at him. Ernest just laughed making bad matters worse. He said, “I hope she gets sick and dies!” In a fury I lunged into him, shoving him backwards, seating him squarely down on the blazing back stick in the fireplace. Sudden sounds of straight chairs crashed to the floor vibrated through the room as Dad and Sister Betty pulled Ernest to safety. Smoke from blazing britches filled the house. Luckily, he was wearing long johns and was not injured. Once the fire was extinguished on my brother, Dad started one on me.
The barn was a mainstay on mountain homesteads, housing more than tools and feed. A multitude of memories rests on old gray boards. One rainy day my brother and I climbed the wall ladder looking for hen nests, but a fodder fight was more tempting in the barn loft. Fodder was winter feed for our animals. After Dad discovered the damage, he went to the creek bank to break a red alder switch to lay lash.
Another time, we used his huge black umbrella as a parachute. Needless to say we broke it and crashed into soft hay bales. Mama was always in the shadows during correction times. I could hear her say, “All right Jim, that’s enough. ‘Th next lick will be mine.”
Below the barn loft was a gear room consisting of harnesses and trace chains, buckles and cinches and eyes, bridles and bits. It was also a place to doctor sick or hurt animals and a refuge to doze while fresh rain drummed a rusty tin roof. I think God smells like fresh rain.