As you may already know about me, I am the fourth of five children. All of them, except me, were born in Eastern Kentucky, in the Appalachian mountains, that – even though my birth certificate does not state that I was born there – I call home. Always have, always will.
My oldest sister is 18 years older than me, my brother 16 years older, and my next oldest sister, 15 years older. My youngest sister is five years younger than me. So it’s always been jokingly stated that my younger sister and I were Mom and Dad’s “second” family.
The older three were married off and gone from home by the time we came along. Well, my brother kind of came and went, but doesn’t every family have one like that? He passed away in the late ’80’s, the result of a motorcycle wreck, and he is sorely missed. He was more of a character than any of the other four of us, and people who knew him remember him as someone who always had a smile on his face and would literally give you the shirt off his back. There’ll be more about him to come in future posts.
We never did stay in one place very long. We had a home in Eastern Kentucky, and another in North Central Kentucky, and we moved back and forth so much between the two that I never finished a year of school in the same place until I was in the sixth grade.
I remember asking Daddy about it one time and he said that his family had always been like gypsies, always moving around from place to place and never staying long once they got there.
I found this to be exactly the case while researching my family history over the years. His family has always been the hardest to trace. I’ve found them in Eastern Kentucky – very, very briefly – and in Eastern and Central Tennessee, in North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Colorado, and several more places.
That always seemed odd to me, because usually, in Eastern Kentucky, families stayed together, or at least had adjoining farms, and helped each other out. Farms and belongings would often be left to children or siblings, and grow in size, and they just stayed and flourished on that land.
Dad’s mother’s side of the family was like that and they had been in Harlan county for many years, but his daddy’s side was another story. I still have my brick walls in searching that line!
Well, It’s Home…
We stayed in Eastern Kentucky long enough for me to form most of my values from that style of life, and all of my thick Appalachian accent. The accent, I’ve managed to simmer down to at least fit well in any part of Kentucky, but my husband always laughs when we take a trip back home. He says it gets thicker and thicker the closer we get.
I have to admit, it also does that when I’m talking to relatives from there. It slips out sometimes when I’m very tired, or sad or angry; it’s always there.
From what I’ve seen, being “from” the mountains is something that always stays with you, from the accent right down to the family and core values, and the love of the earth. Many people from the mountains trace their heritage back to the Cherokee tribe of native Americans, and sometimes Cree, Blackfoot and a bit of Choctaw, though the latter is rare for the area, so a lot of those values come from that.
Native Americans have a relationship with the earth and the land they live on that few can understand, unless they share the blood AND the beliefs. I think it’s something that, while hard to explain, is harder still to get away from. I believe that’s why, no matter where in the world two people meet, if they are both from the mountains, they immediately have a bond.
There’s nothing quite like being a “mountain girl” and I wouldn’t change it, even if I had the chance. I’ve been laughed at for my accent and some of the strange words we use that, apparently, no one else uses. It would be called bullying in this day and age, but back then, we just had to “suck it up” so to speak, and we did. For me, it helped to know that we’d be going back soon. Of course, there came a time when Mom and Daddy finally did settle down, in Central Kentucky, and we learned to adjust. But my heart is always at home.
If you’ve read this far, know that I appreciate it. If you’d like to hear more, please come back to my blog again, as I will try to share even more in the days to come. Primarily, I’m trying to put down some things in a “safe place” for my children, and maybe for me to put together in print someday for family members that have asked for it, but if others enjoy my stories, then it’s for them too, for you, because every story needs to be told.