Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Way Back In The Hills

My life in appalachia - Way Back In The Hills

I’m sure I’ve told you at some point-but just in case you missed it-the Blind Pig Family is not made up of night owls. We go to bed early. Sometimes I wish we were people who stayed up late.

Yesterday evening after a full day of work for me and The Deer Hunter and a full day of Little Middle Folk School for Chitter and Chatter we headed out for a place way up in the mountains above Cashiers, NC. Its called Caney Fork-and is just below a place called Little Canada.

Another thing about the Blind Pig family-2 out of 2 get car sick all the time-the other 2 get car sick about half the time. Being tired, hungry, slightly nervous, and sitting in the backseat of car you’ve never been in around winding curves you’ve never driven-usually makes it 4 for 4 when it comes to being car sick.

So why would we put ourselves through such an evening knowing 5am would come early the next morning? To travel back in the mountains, sit on a porch like my Granny Gazzie’s and make music. The green siding on the house, the flower pots sitting on the railings, and the outbuildings all made me feel like we had traveled back in time as well.

We visited Henry Queen-maybe you’ve heard of him or his mother Mary Jane Queen? The Queen family is well known in Western NC for their love of music. Mary Jane passed away a few years ago, but her love for the ballads and songs she learned as a child have been passed down through her family-and beyond. I can’t help but think she’d be pleased to see her porch full of young musicians learning from her son in preparation to go out and share music with others.

The music was amazing-the company was good-but I also felt a bitter sweetness sitting on that porch. Maybe it was because the house reminded me so much of Granny Gazzie’s that sits empty now. Maybe its because I know those old house are far and few between these days and so are the people who used to inhabit them.

Ever since we left the Queen home I’ve been thinking of the Front Range song- Way Back In The Hills. I taped the video below back when I first started the Blind Pig-its just as good today as it was back then-see if you don’t agree.

As we headed home after the music making, me and the girls were all car sick-luckily The Deer Hunter wasn’t. After the 2nd stop at a closed gas station to get a drink out of a machine I said “You know what? We’re all a bunch of babies we can’t even stay up past 8:30 without getting sick.” Everyone in the car agreed with me. “But” I said, “Even though I feel so miserable-I’m so glad we went.” Everyone in the car agreed with me on that too-so it was all good.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    October 30, 2012 at 7:47 am

    what a great talanted family i whish that i was on that porch listen to the songs n music love your music videos great talant i think it is very sad to see old houses getting torn down the people who lived there are long passed away ye are doing great work keep it up thanks

  • Reply
    July 1, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I can only imagine how fun that day was, well, except for the ride home. My hubby gets car sick in the mountains, too. But only if he’s riding. If he’s driving he doesn’t get sick. Wierd!

  • Reply
    Brian Angell
    June 22, 2012 at 3:51 am

    Just loved this post. Great to see folks just enjoying playing music together. We have a friend Steve Read who travels to the US to play blue grass and he got my daughter interested in folk. She now makes her living that way.You may like to check out these links and . Our two boys and thier wives also also play percussion, guitar, violin accordian, whistle recorder etc. But its rare we get the chance to play together. This post has inspired me – I think its time we fixed a time to have a go.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    June 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Remember when we used to take the old ways for granted?

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    June 21, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    My goodness what I’d give to sit there on that porch with all of you..I can’t say as I know them but by the sound of it, I’d love to meet them..Aww heck I just did..thanks Tipper..

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Ken-The next time you’re up through there take a pitcher of that sign. I used to drive around up in there a lot a long time ago. There was a girl that lived over in Glenville that I was kinda sweet on and might still be just a little bit. But that was gettin close to half a century ago so things have probably changed a little.
    B.Ruth-I know that road you’re talking about coming down from Little Switzerland. I came off the Parkway one time and came down through there going to Marion. I was in my Subaru Outback and a fool in a Mustang got in behind me. He would catch to me in the straights and have to back off in the curves. My Outback would just bite in and go. There was a whole lot more curves than straights so I had to slow down and let him catch up. I had a lot of fun with him and I’ll bet he cussed me all the way down that mountain. When we got down to where the road got flatter and straighter, I just pulled over and let him by.

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings
    June 21, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Many of our youngins get car sick too. I do if my hubby is driving on a curvy road. It doesn’t bother me as much if I’m driving though.
    Great post btw.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    You shudda took the Deer Hunters old truck. He cudda drove while you and the girls sit in the back and sing and holler and wave at folks. And end up with one of them windblown hairdos. You know where all yore hair is in front and parted in the back. I’ll betcha a nickel you wouldn’t get car sick. I used to get carsick bad, but never on the back of a pickup truck. You are too busy having fun. You just got to make sure the Deer Hunter don’t get too fast. which is hard to do anyway on them curvy roads. And make sure the tailgate is latched good. If you are worried about holding up traffic, you need to be on a crookeder road.
    You can have some drinks and snacks in a cooler for sipping and munching. If the Deer Hunters truck has a sliding rear winder you can put the cooler up front so he can reach the goodies too. Otherwise you have to reach them around through his side winder. If you and the girls get too boisterous back there he can scrunch down in the seat so nobody will known him. And you know what happens if it rains? You get wet! But you’ll dry pretty quick in the wind like that if it don’t set in to rain all day.
    Did you ever ride backerds like that for a long way and when you stopped it felt like you were backing up?
    Did you ever try to grab leaves from overhanging limbs or flowers hanging out into the road?
    Did you ever spit out the back and see how far down the road it landed.
    Did you ever yell at your buddies in the back so they can hear and when you stop you still yell?
    Were you ever afraid to stand up? Not so much because it’s dangerous but because you don’t want a June Bug to go in your mouth. Or worse a bumblebee.
    If you do get sick, which I really doubt, all you need to do is hang over the side far enough that you don’t get anything on the truck. And if you do the wind will blow it all off. If that does happen and there is somebody following too close, you might want to hunker down so nobody sees who did it.
    Do I need to come over there and show you how to have a good time on a trip like that? Do I need to loan you my truck? It’s got one of them sliding winders in the back. And it’s got the little sideways seats behind the front seat so all of you can stay dry if it gets to raining too hard.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    June 21, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Loved this post…how very interesting…A wonderful trip for the family and all too short I suppose…I know I would loved to have stayed a while, even if it meant a pallet on the floor…LOL
    The only thing new in the picture is the gal playing the fiddle and the aluminum storm door…LOL I love a wooden screen door, with a big boll of cotton attached to it to keep the flys away…? It must work, fer my Granny put hit on the back screen door all my years there…
    I love the necessities of mountain living, so simple. A red fly-swatter. The muslin clothes pin bag…Looked to be a braided straw bag to gather the dill, sage or a few maters in when doing a few chores outside…The dotted apron probably with big pockets to put a little leftover cornbread in to throw to the chickens, while you slip in the nest boxes to gather the aigs!…Love it, love it!
    I don’t get car sick, with this coming round the mountain blood of mine…Lucky, I guess…I inherited the walked down legs from my tar heel family. You know, either wear down one leg or stick tar on your heels so’s to hang to the side of the mountains while trapesing along the little cow trails that go round and round!
    You know you don’t have to leave the mountains to find familar parts of the world…Little Switzerland or as a lot of folks call it, the Highlands…Little well…Going around them curves is a real challange on Little Switzerland…”Lawd, if you meet a truck that had just delivered some groceries to the store there coming toward you, I usually dug my nails into the door bar so deep it would need to be bonded when we got home!…When you look over and down just a ways out yore winder and see the tops of the big trees, you know if you go offen the road you’ll be falling into a green abyss that could go on forever! That’s when you pray fer “Wings of a Dove”….LOL
    I catch myownself humming “Way Back in the Hills” a lot here lately. I just love the way the Blind Pig Gang plays and sings the song…I miss it on the player!
    Well, hit’s hot as blazes here today…Been getting a few aigs…
    The blue ones my Granddaughter just loves…
    Thanks Tipper, We need to see more pictures, when you can post them…

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    In response to Ed’s question:
    There is a big sign that welcomes
    folks to Cashiers on hwy. 107, I
    think. Last year I took my folks
    through the area in 3 cars to see
    White Water falls again. We went
    through the Saphire valley and
    Cashiers to get there. I think
    the whole area is in Transylvania
    County, joining S.C…Ken

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I haven’t had a chance to see the video till just now. How do you know where to find these people and those places? I would love to have sit on that porch with everyone and listen to the music that was played. In that photo was that a tin roof I saw? Now I am envious!

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Oh My Gosh, I just re-looked at your post and noticed the clothes pin bag hanging on the porch. Sweet!

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Oh how I wish I was in the holler to hear the sweet sounds coming up wind. I remember your roads, so I understand how someone could get car sick very easily!
    Hope it’s an early to bed night, tonight.

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    June 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Our grandaughter is married to a Ammons up in those solid rock mountains. You turn at the Tuckaseegee Post Office and just keep going up that mountain,curve after curve. They live on a mountain side where you have to do “hillside walking”.Liked your post about the Queen Family and also the one about the chocolate gravy, our Mama made ours, more like a syrup, no flour in it. Was
    really good.
    Another thing about the Jewel Weed is you can’t transplant them, they are annual and reseed themselves when the seed pod pop open.
    “Hillside Walking”
    Peggy Lambert

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Ken-Can you splain “the land of the jellies?” That’s a new one on me.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    What a nice visit, getting to be
    a part and enjoy mountain music
    the old timey way.
    I can relate to the car sickness
    thing, and that is a crooked road
    going thru “the land of the jellies.” As a kid we passed thru
    Cashiers many a time on our way
    to Horsepasture River. And like
    Jim, one time I left Ft. Lauder-
    dale to prowl those Bahama Islands
    on a huge boat. Never again do I
    want to see those colors of green.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Tipper, I’m so glad you had the opportunity to visit Mary Jane Queen’s home and meet her son Henry. I have been to her home several times, she fixed dinner for my sister and I once and we would sit and listen to her sing and play her banjo then walk all around her property looking at all the beautiful flowers and garden she had. I wish you could have visited when she was still living, she really was a beautiful lady with a huge heart and so much music and history to share. She loved having company and would make you feel like you were just one of her family. She had notebooks full of the ballads she would sing, she had handwritten them over the years. She loved to talk and would tell us how she grew up in the mountains, how her family were singers and how she met her husband and how they continued to make music as she would say along with all of her children as they came along. I will always cherish the times I visited her and am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to do so. She dearly loved her home, her land, her family and friends, she never met a stranger. She was just so happy all of the time, always smiling, laughing, loved to talk, sing and play her banjo. What a remarkable woman who will live on for many years to come to all who were lucky enough to know her.

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    June 21, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Glad yall had a great time and sorry to hear about the car sickness. I had or have the same problem when riding in the back of a car. Sometimes mine goes to full blown vertigo which is a problem with the inner ear. One thing that does help me while riding is chewing gum. It’s safe as long as it doesn’t end up in someones hair. Hey thats an idea, chewing gum for the adults, bubble gum for the girls. Hagd Stephen

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Yes, I have heard of the Queens. In fact, when I saw “The Songcatcher” I immediately thought of Mary Jane Queen. So sad to see those old folks leaving us.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    June 21, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I don’t get car sick unless I sit backwards or try to read. Don’t know why. I can’t read 25 words in a book while in a moving car without getting nauseated.
    I also am an early riser, usually in bed by 9, up between 3 and 4 AM. I enjoy it that way. Don’t use any alarms to do it, just wake up.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

    i love this story, your post always always always fills me with nostagia for the past when i lived like you live and like your grand parents lived. when we moved to KY from Savannah, the dreaded 12 hour drive, i was sick the whole way, until my mother found if i laid down flat and read books, i did not get sick. daddy made a bed of pillows on each side of the hump in the old 53 pontiac, and my brother laid there and i laid on the back seat reading comic books. he played with little men. if i sat up i got sick. those winding roads just killed me, no interstates back then. the odd thing was if i sat in the front seat i did not get sick, but when mother got in the back seat she got sick. for that reason, each year when they went home to Savannah twice a year, i opted to stay behind in KY with friends so i would not have to ride.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Enjoyed your post today. The videos were great. Sorry to hear about ya’ll getting car sick. I get it too and it’s no laughing matter. Am glad you had a good time visiting and learning about the music.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    June 21, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Three completely unrelated comments:
    Comment 1………
    One of the places we rabbit hunted when I was a boy was at a place way up on Caney Fork. But we only went once. There were a mess of rabbits in there, but there were also a mess of groundhogs – or at least groundhog holes. Every single rabbit we got up went into a groundhog hole in short order. It got Claude Gossett, Daddy’s hunting buddy, so irritated that he tried to reach in and take holt of one. Well, there was, indeed, some taking holt, but probably not what Claude had in mind. Some other time, Jim or I’ll have to pass along the rest of that story.
    But there’s some really pretty country up in that section of Jackson County.
    Comment 2………
    The other, unrelated part is that I’d have happily made your trip a dozen times instead of the one Susan and I took yesterday. It was 20 hours, door-to-door, including three separate sessions of going through ever-friendly air security, waiting in overcrowded, stifling hot airports, being bombarded by four separate cell phone conversations at once, and especially dealing with airlines. I’ll call one out in particular – KLM, a Delta partner in Amsterdam who think they’re doing their customers a tremendous favor by allowing them to fly (especially if the customer is from the U.S.) My suggestion for anyone traveling to Europe: if you have any sort of an alternative, absolutely avoid KLM and The Netherlands.
    Better yet, don’t go at all – there’s no place like home. Blindpigandtheacorn just reads a lot better looking out the window across Bryson City than it does in a hotel room.
    That said, let me also say that the folks in England and Scotland are, by and large, helpful, friendly, and absolutely delightful to be around, and appreciate a good hillbilly accent 😉
    Comment 3……..
    We’ve got a front porch on a 120 year old house that is sized just right for the Blind Pig crew, and is even screened in to keep out skeeters and wasps. Now that you’ve done a gig in Jackson County, we Swain County folks are going to start clamoring for our turn. I promise not to sing “There’s a place in France, etc….” more than once.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 21, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Tipper–I was lucky enough (and am old enough) to have attended some square dances over Maggie Valley way back in the late 1950s when Sam Queen was known as the “king of square dancing.” I don’t remember a lot except his red suspenders, wonderful music, and good times. Do you know if he is related to the Jackson County Queens you folks visited? I am pretty sure that a modern-day Haywood County politician, Joe Sam Queen, is a descendant. At any rate, those were some cherished times from my teenage years when a bunch of us would make our way over Soco to Maggie Valley and and evening of clogging and good music. You brought back some fond memories.
    As for being car sick, I’ve never had much trouble that way, but once while fishing on a small boat in the ocean is was so sick I would have had to get better to die. I got on my knees and stroked the sand when we finally were back on land.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I can only hope and pray I will get around as well as the beautiful Mary Jane does when I’m 90. I noticed she wasn’t even wearing glasses! Must be that good, clean mountain living.
    I used to get car sick during a time that my job as a real estate agent required me to drive clients around town. I always explained the reason I had to leave the expressway and was never quiet sure they understood. I was ok for a few years, but now it’s back and worse than ever. I do much better driving than riding.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Bradley-yep shes a mountain girl for sure : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    June 21, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Wonderful presentation today, Tipper! I could even identify with the car sickness, because I used to get sooo car sick! When I started driving, that helped the situation. Maybe I was concentrating more on the road and curves than myself and that helped my queasy stomach. “Way Back in the Hills” video was wonderful! I especially enjoyed hearing it again! And the link to the Queen Family, and hearing the short video about the Queen Family and their efforts to preserve mountain music was so heartening! I definitely want to get a Mary Jane Queen disk. I know you’ll keep up the good work, and thanks for the Pressley Family, Pap, Paul and others who are doing their part to preserve our wonderful mountain folk music and traditions!

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Went over to the link to check out the Queen family; so glad I did. What a beautiful lady Mary Jane was. So glad you went to sit on that front porch and make music and some awesome memories!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 21, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I love that drive, thankfully I don’t get car sick. Great song too!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 21, 2012 at 8:31 am

    A pair of pretty piglets and their parents, picking and playing on the porch. A perfect picture. We won’t visit the porcine names for pig parents.
    Did you go through Highlands? Now that’s crooked road.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Tipper, why don’t you try eating some crystalized ginger—one often eats that after big meal,as well to help the stomach cope!!! and it is a remedy for some that car sick.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    June 21, 2012 at 7:56 am

    What a nice memory and visit! I do agree motion/car sickness is not fun. You might need to get one of those special bracelets that you wear to help. Imagine how the ride would feel in a race car, taking those curves rather quickly with a wheel or two off the ground. I think I would have quiezzies in my stomach. Happy Day!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 21, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Yes Tipper, it’s still good. I sure do miss the music player.
    I can identify with the going to bed early. I don’t put in your hours but I still go to bed around 9 or 9:30.
    That sounds like a great opportunity for you guys to learn more of the old time music. I trust you took your camera and will have some clips for us in upcoming days.
    In my childhood I had lots of trouble with motion sickness. With age it has lessened but I still don’t dare try to read while riding. I seem to do better driving than riding. I think that is because my head remains straight forward.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    June 21, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Really enjoyed this post Tipper. Its always interesting to me to read and learn about the old(er) families of the Appalachians and especially their music. An extra bonus of course is all the songs that pop up afterwards. I ended up listening to interviews of a number of other folks. I am so sorry ya’ll got car sick. My lovely wife suffers from that occasionally.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 7:41 am

    It would be hard to leave the porch at an early hour with such great music taking place. What treasured memories you have Tipper of “Little Canada” and the families that you visited there. Your positive outlook on life is a breath of fresh air and the description of the “old times” and “old folks” way back in them hills sounds like heaven to me. It’s unfortunate that y’all get car sick. However as you said, the pleasure you get upon arrival to see your departed friends (Mary Jane Queen) home and a visit her son Henry makes the journey worth the while.
    The song sounds really wonderful and the harmonies and band are terrific too.
    Thank you for sharing a piece of your world with such description that one can easily vision the beauty and tranquility of it all.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I was lucky enough to hear the Queen family. I hope it was same one you are writing about. They were good. Mrs. Queen stopped by my craft booth to wait for a daughter to come get her (she was so old but got around good) We talked about her family and her music. what a great experience.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I’ve loved that song for so many years now. The Gang did it just right.
    Ever since I started reading the Blind Pig, I have been gripped with envy of the people and place of the high country!
    Now I’m a askin’ you, ain’t that a pretty High Country girl playing that ere’ fiddle?

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    June 21, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Great post! I will be traveling the NC mountains this weekend. Think maybe I need to be aware of this car sick thing.
    Heading from my Ozarks to Charlotte area for daughters wedding.
    Sure wish we would have time to stop in Bling pig and Acorn territory.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 7:21 am

    I used to get car sick a lot down there. Every time we would go to Aunt Dorothy’s it was a given…even threw up a couple of times. Tried riding in the front seat, the back seat, having the air conditioning on me, nothing worked. Anyway, years later I saw a segment on TV about motion sickness. One thing they said that has worked for me is to focus your eyes on a single point in the distance…a tree or sign or something bigger farther away…a tower or hilltop, etc. I miss the scenery around me, but if I focus my gaze on the item it helps. It also works on airplanes. I try to focus on an item up in the front of the cabin when I’m having problems, and that also helps.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2012 at 7:08 am

    I love that video and I must say it never occured to me that two people could play a guitar at the same time.

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