Hills and Hollers of Appalachia are a Comfort

mountains across a cow pasture

“She thought on Ann Liz and her farming as she reached the far end of the row where far below her a narrow band of shadow like a black line on the blue lake of the river told her more than a clock of the turning down of the day. Standing there looking out across the world, the war with all it brought and all it took away seemed somewhere else, not near enough to shorten her breath and chill her hands as when she listened to Mamie or sat in Mrs. Hull’s crowded house. She had only to look up the creek from the shadow of the river to a place hidden in a fold of the hills, and all the twisting troubles would leave her.”

—The Dollmaker – Harriet Simpson Arnow


My home is hidden in the fold of the hills in the photo above. For generations folks who lived in Appalachia built their homes in the coves and hollers where they were sheltered from wind and weather, where they were closer to the settlements and closer to water. Much like Gertie in the book, when the cares of the world seek to overwhelm me I’m comforted by the hollers and steep ridges that surround our house.


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Jim Berry
    September 4, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    It is interesting that folks from parts of Texas feel claustrophobic in the mountains while I feel exposed and vulnerable when I am on the plains of Texas. Something in our souls, I guess.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 4, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Tipper–I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been a great outpouring of commentary about how outlanders, ignorant in the ways of the mountains and irresponsible in terms of things such as land management and intruding on the beauty of the high country, about steep slope construction. To me, a summer home (or any house) perched on top of a ridgeline is an abomination. Yes, it provides great views, but all you have to do to enjoy those is make a bit of a climb. On the flip side, it destroys the beauty of the setting, is far more costly in terms of things like heat and cooling, and flies squarely in the face of many generations of carefully garnered mountain wisdom. Our forebears knew that hollers were places to live and hills places to let one’s soul soar.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    harry adams
    September 4, 2019 at 10:09 am

    In the days that the cabins were built in the hollers, the people realized that building where the wind would not whistle through the walls in winter was important. We have a house built in 1826 and it is situated to be sheltered from the wind on 2 sides. Important when you have to cut firewood for a fireplace in winter.
    Secondly they didn’t take up precious flat land that was good for crops.

    The one bird we miss in Ohio is the Whippoorwill. When we visit SC we go out at dusk to see if we can hear them.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2019 at 9:59 am

    I grew up in what I call a picture perfect little town and absolutely loved it, and as a young kid never really paid a lot of attention to the sounds, other than the chickens, when I visited my grandparents farm. I took our sons back to my grandparents farm in MS, (we call it the old place), and just sat down on the old front porch and listened. Way out there you could hear insects flying, the wind as it blew through the pines, and all types of birds singing and not another sound unless far, far away you heard the faint rumble of a vehicle maybe every couple hours. The ground comprising the hills in NE MS have such a sweet smell to it and it permeates the air early morning, during a soft rain, or as evening falls. It delights the senses.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2019 at 9:13 am

    I heard someone say, “She acts like she’s never been out of the holler” when referring to a lady who was not wise to big city ways. Well, that is my kind of people!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 4, 2019 at 8:51 am

    When I was little, after supper we’d go out on the front porch and listen to the nightingales and whippoorwills calling for their mates. Mama always said the nightingale never said the same thing. One time, after dark, Tommy Higdon brought his coon dogs up to the house to see if he could catch a coon and me and Harold went with him. There wasn’t no roads going up in the holler, only trails. We got up in the holler a far piece and his dogs smelled something under the banks near the creek. They wouldn’t bother it, but Tommy reached under the bank and pulled out a Whippoorwill. It wasn’t no bigger than a thought, but we noticed them red, beady eyes. Me and Harold had never seen one up close and were amazed. It was speckled, kinda like our domineckers back home in the roost. How could anything make such a loud racket, being so small? We put it back in the bank on a root and left it alone. We learned something that night and never spoke of it again. …Ken

  • Reply
    Sandra Johnson
    September 4, 2019 at 8:28 am

    The Dollmaker has always been one of my favorite books. A wonderful but sad story.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 4, 2019 at 8:22 am

    It is comforting to some of us to be enfolded by the hills, not just for down low but also for ‘lifting our eyes to the hills’ on the horizon as in your picture. For us raised in the hills, it is a bit of an odd un-homey feeling to be out on the Great Plains. Once acquired, I think that feeling of at home in the hills never ever fades away.

    I have probably posted this before, but growing up on the Cumberland Plateau the view from valley bottoms often was of cliffs on the horizon. Because of that, I relate to David writing, “when my heart is overwhelmed within me, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” When Sargeant York was wrestling with his conscience about being a combat soldier he reportedly went up to one of those bluffs, locally called the Yellow Doors, and stayed until he found his answer.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    September 4, 2019 at 8:15 am

    I can identify with it…

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 4, 2019 at 7:59 am

    I live just down the road from you but I live on the road not in the protective arms of the mountains and trees like you do. Still all and all, I live in the country and I love it. There is a peace here that you do not find in the towns and cities like where I moved from. I think next month will be six years since I moved here to Murphy/Brasstown and I have loved every minute of it!

  • Reply
    September 4, 2019 at 7:24 am

    Yes, they truly offer so much comfort. When I lived in flat lands for a time, I felt a vulnerability I cannot explain. My teen friend and I would often walk an old path, and we would talk about our dreams and life that lay beyond the mountains we could see. Unbeknown to me years later. I would realize that true happiness lay right there with us in that mountain path. We had it all right there with parents, friends, kinfolk, and big dreams. For most of us it is not our nature to stay put, and we have to rush forward to see what the future brings.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2019 at 6:26 am

    Where I was raised you could hear sounds that you don’t hear anymore, like a hoot owl, or ” wipper will”, quail whistling in the pasture in front of our house, when we got married the first house we built you could hear all those sounds but sense the 4lane has come thru you don’t hear that anymore. Mostly you hear cars, trucks, and jake brakes. O well, shouldn’t complain, with our situation with our Daughters health, you just can’t jump and run to the store for something you need, sure is nice to get groceries delivered from Publix or Aldi, and they’re 10 miles away. I guess you gotta give a little to get a little.

  • Leave a Reply