Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

A Blast From The Past – I’d Like To Wander Back

This post originally published here on the Blind Pig in May of 2008. Since then, Mr. Terry Thornton has left this world, I miss his advice, wit, and most of all his writing.


Wandering back in time is a common theme in Terry Thornton’s writing. He lives in the hills of Mississippi and writes about the history and heritage of the area. His work strengthens my belief that we need to understand what went before to gain a hope for the future. Terry has an incredible memory and documents not only personal details about his childhood but also describes in detail the landscape and how it has changed or in some cases simply disappeared.

I live in the same mountain holler I grew up in and Terry has inspired me to think of the changes I’ve seen in my life time. If I could show my girls what the landscape looked like when I was their age, I believe they would have trouble recognizing it’s the same place. One house is gone, 5 have been added, fields have turned to lawns, and many trees are gone.

Once a relative who come for a visit teased me about “pig trails” in the holler. He was talking about the worn footpaths between the houses.

I’ve always been intrigued by the trails and old road beds that run through the acreage surrounding our land. Pap can remember when they were traveled by people, wagons, horses, and a few cars.

Growing up we had gravity water (water that came from a spring up the mountain). I always liked going up the creek with Pap to check on the water. He would tell me stories about the corn fields that used to be on the sloping sides of the ridges, he showed me where a stone stable had stood for horses, and he’d point out old house places and tell of the people who had lived there. Even though the houses were long gone having been erased by time and nature, Pap made it seem real to me. All that remained of the homes and fields was a pile of rocks or a few flowers planted by someone I’ll never know. But the houses, fields, and people remain in Pap’s memory.

When I travel the trails and road beds with my girls I point out things that have changed in my life time. At one creek crossing I can recall 3 or 4 remaining logs of a bridge rotted and turned green with moss. There was a whole car door leaned up against a mountain laurel-now its rusted into just a few pieces. And many of the trails have grown up with saplings and weeds cause there’s no need to walk them now.

I’ve always thought if I could sit quietly by one of those trails and wait patiently-eventually I’d be able to see some of those folks who traveled them, I’d be able to hear their voices. Maybe it’d be some of my ancestors walking to check on a neighbor or work in the corn, maybe it’d be some settlers who lived before Pap’s time, maybe it’d be my cousins, my brother, and me walking, arguing, playing, and keeping the paths wore.

There’s a happy child at home In my memory I can see Standing out upon the hill neath the shadow of the tree If I only had my way It would give my heart a thrill Just to simply wander back to the Cabin on the hill Oh I want to Wander back To the Cabin on the Hill Neath the Shadow of the tree I would like to linger still Just to be with those I love Joy my heart would over fill And I want to wander back To the cabin on the hill

B.L. Shook



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  • Reply
    B f
    October 1, 2011 at 7:46 am

    i can identify with the person that walked across an old moss covered log, thats so much of what i did just to get water from a spout stuck back in the hillside , and even fell off that log once or maybe more carrying water and let me say that water was very cold
    we didnt have water unless “we ran and got it)
    thanks for all the memories of the past that you bring to us and all the nostalgia it brings and the sadness in knowing we can only go back in memory and oh those memories how we would enjoy them if we could only go back for just a day , tipper you are a special person and you have God given talent
    thanks for the joy

  • Reply
    April 6, 2011 at 6:27 am

    I’ve been wanting to take my son back to WV and visit my Grandmother’s farm. And walk the same steps my father and I walked many years ago. Show him the old graveyard and the cistern and the big old house on top of the mountain. Someday…..

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    March 27, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Tipper: the sure fire best is just what i did,after 40 years away i came back home and built a home across the street from where i grew up,looked up most of my old friends,and to some degree we relived our past at least talked the same stories. im happy to say each and everyone was happy to join in. love your writting. k.o.h

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    March 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Memories – we can all relate. I have written a new poem about going back home but the home I knew is not there anymore. Same land, same houses, but so different now.
    Your writing is beautiful and filled with feeling, Tipper. That is why we come back over and over again. Thanks.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2011 at 9:07 am

    When I saw the title of this post, I instantly thought of the song, sung by Ralph Stanley. So happy to have found you!

  • Reply
    janet pressley
    March 25, 2011 at 1:05 am

    I can still see my little great grandmother hunched over in her garden at 90 years old dipping her snuff. She was a hard worker and had very little to say. We called her Mama Florence. She had her little flowered apron on over her dress and boots. Her garden was huge. Growing up, we never had a garden because we lived close to town and Pisgah High School. My dad worked at Champion. We walked to school everyday from elementary school to high school. Miss that sometimes – the net age is starting to get to me. Nana

  • Reply
    March 24, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I live in Missouri and enjoy so many of the things you write as they relate to many people and times in the Ozarks. Many years ago, Harold Bell Wright wrote the book, The Shepherd of the Hills, which was set in the county in which we now find Branson, Missouri. Everytime I travel through that area, I wonder if it would even be recognizable to Mr. Wright. Huge hillsides have been demolished to get to the rock for gravel and a gash is left there. The clear streams are not clear; runoff from the developments pollute them. A John Denver song relates”and they wrote it all down to the progress of man”. The hymn “Precious Memories” reminds us of the treasure of a memory.

  • Reply
    Robert Loftis
    March 24, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Hey Tipper:I somehow deleted this from my email.Would you send it again?I keep a copy of all your emails from Blind Pig.Thanks

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    March 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Wonderful post, Tipper. So good that you make a point of telling the girls about what you remember. I don’t have those childhood memories of our place but I listened to others tell me theirs (and I made up some too) and that’s where my books come from.

  • Reply
    Farm Chick Paula
    March 24, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    I agree with you, Tipper… I was thinking the other day how I wished I could close my eyes and go back and be able to see those places from my childhood again… like the little church we attended… my great-grandmother’s house… most of them are gone now and like you said- most people wouldn’t recognize it the way it looks today.

  • Reply
    March 24, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    your writings become better with each one you write. This is no accident; there is an explanation for this….TALENT! You hit one out of the park once again.
    Only a calloused person would not become nostalgic when their mind wandered back to the memories of an old home place, a dear face from days gone by, the sound of a loved one’s voice or friend that is no longer with us. This article does this; it gives us something to think about.
    However, today there is so much to divert our thoughts. This is why a writer of your talent can be such a welcome release to make us think back to a more comforting time.
    I remember an old song from years ago. The singer’s name was Joe South. The name of the song was called “Don’t it make you want to go home?” Some of the lines I rember were:
    There’s a drag strip down by the river side where my Grandma’s cow used to graze.
    Now the grass don’t grow and the river don’t flow like it did in my childhood days.
    Don’t it make you want to go home? God! don’t it make you want to go home?
    Thanks Tipper, for all you do for us! You are just what we needed!

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    March 24, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    A nice post Tipper. What are we but products of our past and those many memories. To relieve those grand times and some not grand help shape us all. Thanks so much for your thoughtful posts. So glad I discovered your site.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    What thoughtful memories, Tipper. The world is so frantic now, it seems the only place to find peace is looking back to the time when peace was common.
    Something a simple as quiet was ever present and now almost completely absent.
    I live in a small country town…there is always noise. When I visit you in Wilson Hollar there is quiet, and it is beautiful. I love to sit on your porch and cuddle into the silence, sometimes hear the creek.
    In that silence I think we can hear the past talking to us.
    Thanks for the post!

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    March 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    It’s writings like this that bring me back to Tipper’s everyday. How many, many beautiful essays you have given us over these few short years we’ve known you.

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    March 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Love this post. So glad our memories can carry the past with us in the present.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 24, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Tipper–As you know, my career training was that of a professional historian. Mind you, there’s a world that is wrong with academe, especially in those hi-falutin’ university circles in which I labored for a quarter century. But I won’t get off on those ivy tower types who couldn’t milk a cow, slop hogs, or hoe a field of corn if their lives depended on it (much less call a turkey to the gun or dress out a deer).
    What I will share is a tidbit from history which I think is wonderfully applicable to this retrospective post of yours. It is a historians’ adage which states: “You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”
    I believe that with all my heart, and I think one of our biggest problems in today’s world is that too many people are so busy thinking about where they are going that they don’t have a clue about their roots (in other words, where they have been).
    Anyone who fails to appreciate those who have gone before is, in my studied opinion, living an incomplete life.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    March 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Tipper: That was so much fun to look back to a time when you went into the woods. I spent a lot of time in the woods as a kid.

  • Reply
    March 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I love your reflective writings.
    Everybody likes to wander back in
    their past to remember how things
    once were. In the mornings while
    having my coffee I look forward to
    reading the Blind Pig and the Acorn. These are my quiet times
    that make me reminisce “A touch of
    the Past.” …Ken

  • Reply
    March 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Enjoyed reading todays post. It brought back stories my folks told of folks long ago and places they lived.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    March 24, 2011 at 10:23 am

    This is a most beautiful post, Tipper. You write well and you make folks feel what you are feeling. I especially liked the picture of the trail.

  • Reply
    March 24, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Every time I go back to Mississippi I visit a sharecropper shack by a small waterfall. There are a couple of old house sites, along the way to the shack, marked by the daffodils that bloom in the spring.
    Great writing – you took me back!

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    March 24, 2011 at 9:16 am

    As a family historian, I am constantly struck by the extent to which the past is prelude. Winston Churchill said,”The further backward we can look, the farther forward we are likely to see.” And then there is this:
    “Yet, if you enter the woods
    Of a summer evening late,
    You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
    And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
    As though they perfectly knew
    The old lost road through the woods . . .
    But there is no road through the woods.” — Rudyard Kipling

  • Reply
    March 24, 2011 at 9:16 am

    I have went back to Hawthicket in Arkansas with my Mother not too long ago we looked for the old house that she grew up in. Nothing but a rice field now -but the memories she has-I’ve wrote a lot of them down.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    March 24, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Brings back old memories of trails on our old home place in Pulaski county KY. Old log house was torn down in the fifties to make way for the new one and the farm was sold when my Granny died. I have one of the hearth stones that we use for a step at our garden/play house. Guess most of the trails are gone now.

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    March 24, 2011 at 8:51 am

    They say time continues replaying past events, we just do not see them. But yes Tipper, I have often thought that if I sat still enough I would see my people from the past days. I lived in the house my granddaddy built, and much of the furniture and pictures and such were the same in the 80s as they had been in the 30s. I would like to see my granddaddy fussing with the old lady up the hill over her cow grazing in his front yard, or to hear my mamas voice calling me in from play, or to see the grandmother I heard of all my life but that died two years before I was born. Mama always said if there were such a thing as a ghost, that those that walked in our house, were not to be afraid of, for they loved us.

  • Reply
    March 24, 2011 at 8:01 am

    my brother went back a few years ago, sloans valley KY to find our childhood home we loved so much and remains in our memories. it had changed so much he was lost, the hollers were grown up, they had built and interstate between the parsonage and the church, the cave we played in, he could find the entrance, lots of change.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    March 24, 2011 at 7:41 am

    For some reason, this tripped a memory in my mind of walking on a moss-covered log, especially when dew- or spray-covered. It might as well be ice!

  • Reply
    March 24, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Great post and many things to think about regarding reflecting back on our past. 🙂

  • Reply
    March 24, 2011 at 7:12 am

    I miss Terry, too. He was an imposing presence in my digital world.

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