I cannot begin to try to count the times I’ve closed my eyes and thought back, with the most peaceful recollection, to the little mountain holler where I spent the first several years of my life. Well, not several in a row, as we were constantly moving and back and forth between the mountains and our other home in Central Kentucky, in Hardin County.
And yes, I know the word “holler” is actually supposed to be “hollow” but you’ll never hear me call it that. That may be how it’s written, but it certainly isn’t how it’s spoken. Not by anyone that’s actually from there, anyhow.
I took my children up there for the first time not long ago, and I have to laugh when I think back on it. As we started up the mountain, it was so steep that the things I had laid on the dash slid off and hit me right in the chest and my daughter cried out, “Stop! I think the truck’s turning over!” I took her mind off of that though, by telling her stories of my going up that holler when I was her age and before you know it, we were all laughing.
I could go on and on about how beautiful it was, especially to me, as a child. Of course, I didn’t have the grown up worries that my parents did, so it was a little easier for me to see the beauty, I suppose. The “mouth of the holler” (where the road started up the mountain) opened up into a very small little neighborhood of a few houses. My cousins lived on one side of the road, at the foot of the hill, and my great-uncle on the other side.
Going up the holler, about halfway up on the left side, there was a creek that ran parallel to the road. It came from a spring at the top of the mountain and was the coldest, sweetest tasting water I’ve ever had! Daddy and I would often walk down the holler and he taught me, when I was very young, how to drink from it. He showed me how to get down and put one hand on each side of the little stream – it was very small, so even at the age of three or four, I was able to do that – and then gently sip from the fast-flowing water. If you crossed that stream and went on around that side of the mountain, that was my great-grandmother’s home place. The snowball bushes are still there to this day, if I’m not mistaken.
On up the holler was somewhat of a flat place where Daddy built our house, and off to the side, a small log cabin for storage. He put a porch, as long as the house (which was built long, like a mobile home) and that porch is where I would sit and stare down the holler. Every once in a while, you would see family walking up to visit. And if someone happened to have a Jeep or some other four-wheel drive – preferably with “bulldog” in it – they could drive up. Nowadays, though, you can get up it with pretty much any vehicle, unless it sits low to the ground.
On up the holler from the homeplace is the family graveyard. Of course, unless you ARE family and know where to look, odds are you wouldn’t even know it’s there. It’s where I have a handful of cousins laid to rest, some LONG before their time. It’s where some of my great uncles are resting. Off to the right, there is a huge dropoff that over looks Jone’s Creek, where many of my family still live to this day. Standing there on the edge of that mountain is one of the most beautiful sights I believe I have ever had the fortune of seeing with my own eyes…
You can go further on up the mountain, but the holler ends there, at the graveyard. I don’t get to go back nearly as often as I want, but when I do finally make it, this holler is the place I want to be the most, and it’s the place I want to stay the longest.
Even when the sun starts to set over the mountains, long about three or four o’clock in the evening, and the mountain cats start hollering and sounding like a baby crying, it’s all that I can do to turn and leave.
There are SO many memories and SO much love for this land in my heart, that I’m probably four counties away before the tears dry on my cheeks. Do I miss it, or the memory of it? It’s hard for even me to tell. But it’s a kind of feeling that words don’t do justice.
It’s a holler… my holler…