Appalachia Music

Every Person Has a Place

Every Person Has a Place

The excerpt I shared a few days ago about Dorie being homesick reminded me of the song The Hills that I Call Home written by Bob Amos. The song isn’t about the Smoky Mountains nor even about any area of Appalachia, but it sure offers a good narrative for the sense of place many Appalachians feel.

People have pontificated about the attachment folks like me have to their home in the mountains of Appalachia in a positive manner as well as in a derogatory manner. Whether their homes be mansions on a hill or cabins in a holler, they have historically been fiercely attached to them. Appalachians like their place.

There are varying reasons behind our love for home. I’m sure some Appalachian scholar could explain each of them to you in great detail. Me-I like things simple. And in my simple mind I narrow that love of place down to three reasons.

First: There is a true sense of belonging to the actual terrain of Appalachia. It’s the towering mountains that hover close; the sparkling water that sing a merry song to you; it’s the wind in the trees that whispers secrets; it’s the deep dark hollers that make you feel the presence of those who walked the trails before you. Appalachia is magic. People like me, who’ve lived here their entire lives feel the magical pull of belonging to Appalachia, and people who move here feel it too.

Second: Generational ties to Appalachia are hard to break. In a 2010 Blind Pig guest post, David Anderson wrote about two of his ancestors. In the post he highlighted the fact that ten generations later the descendants of those ancestors are still abiding in Clay County NC. Take a minute to think about that. Ten generations of the same family who walk the same paths; who speak the same words. Ten generations who are bonded with the same landscape and culture of Appalachia, never straying far from where their ancestors first settled.

Third: The physical landscape of the Appalachian Mountains has made it an isolated area. Appalachia as a whole was a very remote and hard to get to place and in turn a hard place to make an exit from. It was too hard for people to leave, too hard for them to imagine a life outside the mountains, and it was hard for them to leave in a physical sense because their travel was restricted by the rugged terrain. Certainly modern transportation has removed the barriers which have traditionally held the inhabitants of Appalachia close. Yet even now, portions of the area could still arguably be called isolated. Murphy, the county seat of Cherokee County NC where I live, is closer to five other state’s capitals than to its own.

Give Pap and Paul’s version of the song The Hills I Call Home a listen and see if it speaks to you about your place.

I don’t agree with a lot of things scholars say about Appalachia, but I do agree a sense of place is at the heart of Appalachia and its culture.

A line from the song says: Yet I found no peace within me till the day that I returned For there’s two things you can count on as the troubled world we face Every season has an ending and every person has a place.

Appalachia is my place.

Tipper

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Lisa I
    October 28, 2015 at 11:11 am

    You know Tipper, I think our roots call to us. I was born and raised in Whitsett NC and live about 5 miles away in the outskirts of Gibsonville. We bought my husband’s grandparents homeplace. I can’t imagine living away. The memories and the places are in my heart. Driving through the country, calmness comes over my heart and I know I’m where I belong

    • Reply
      Mamie H Scott
      November 9, 2019 at 7:31 pm

      I too am a daughter of the mountains. Born and raised in the mountains of Virginia. I always find peace when going back home to the Blue Ridge.

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    October 25, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    I recollect something someone said to me a long time ago. I can’t remember who it was, but that’s not important. I remember their words:
    “Every person has a place in the sun that God has made for them, and that’s where God intends for them to dance.”
    I always interpreted it to mean, when they’re not in that place – smiles, laughter, singing and dancing may not come as easily or comfortably, but when they’re in their place in the sun, it flows from them joyfully like living water.
    While I’m comfortable with where I am right now, I still don’t think, at 68-years of age, that I’ve found my place in the sun, but one thing I am certain of is, if or when God wants me to know or find it, He’ll let me know – He surely will.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 25, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Following the Revolutionary War the former colonists started looking westward for places to settle and raise their children. Thus began the westward migration. The first real barrier they encountered was the Appalachian Mountain Range. Having been born and raised in the coastal flatlands, the rugged terrain seemed impenetrable to some and they gave up. These became the settlers of the piedmont and foothills. Others were more ambitious and struggled on through the mountains and settled the Midwest. Still others began the struggle through the mountains but liked what they saw and stayed. Those were my people!
    Only one of my family lines crossed over the mountains. My Dehart ancestors began their westward journey in Rowan County in North Carolina, crossed over into Tennessee and on to Kentucky. Then they did the unheard of. They came back and settled in Macon County in North Carolina. Apparently they liked what they saw and after years of child bearing and presumably prosperous living, Nathan and Catherine Dehart retreated into the mountains. And, every one of their children either came with them or followed soon thereafter, even those who had married in Kentucky brought their husbands and wives. All but one lived out the rest of their lives in southwestern North Carolina and northeast Georgia. Eli Martin DeHart moved from Kentucky to Macon County but sometime in the 1850’s moved to Texas before settling down in Arkansas. Arkansas has the Osarks!
    Of course when the government saw fit to create a playground for rich people and to allow the TVA to drown my kinpeople, some of them began to scatter, but all my direct ancestors stayed. They are all still there. Some were dug up and shuffled around. But they are still there.
    Economic factors perpetuated by the insensitivity of governmental entities at many levels also forced me to leave my beloved homeland in order to survive. I survive now on the hope that when I reach the end of the trail, someone will pick me up and carry me on to where my spirit has always been.

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    October 25, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Great posts! I really enjoyed them, and I understand them.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 25, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Tipper,
    I enjoyed your take on living here.
    John Paris use to write a column in
    the Asheville Paper, “My Mountains,
    My People.” I feel that way too.
    But I enjoy the comments from other
    states, lands, and countries.
    As in your title: Every person has
    a place…Ken

  • Reply
    Jackie
    October 25, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I’ve lived in thirteen places in seven states. I’ve been happy and enjoyed each one. I’ve learned to love people from at least forty countries as we taught then English as a second language. I am most content when I visit Graham County where I was born.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    October 25, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Revised version:
    In the land of old Swain County
    Where the sarvis blooms in spring,
    Where the fog lies in the hollers,
    And the crystal waters sing,
    By the hills that I call home.
    Speaking just for myself, I think that it took being away (school, work) to fully appreciate the mountains, so the line “Yet I found no peace within me till the day that I returned” rings true.
    James Copeland, a Scottish songwriter, wrote about the connection to mountains in “These are My Mountains.”
    It begins with these lines:
    “For fame and for fortune I wandered the earth
    And now I’ve come back to the land of my birth
    I’ve brought back my treasures but only to find
    They’re less than the pleasures I first left behind.”
    The song goes on to say:
    “No land’s every claimed me tho’ far I did roam
    For these are my mountains and I’m going home.”
    Here’s the link to the Speyside Sessions version, which I really like:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1JiSONS9k8&feature=player_embedded

  • Reply
    Jeanie
    October 25, 2015 at 11:48 am

    A very powerful post!

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    October 25, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for this. It couldn’t be better timed. I’m at my old home place now. We spent the week at our harvest festival and the kids spent time with Meema and Pap. In a few hours, we head back to Cleveland. I’ll be sure to listen to “The hills that I call home” when I get homesick tonight. I guess it’s better to have a place and not be there than to have no sense of place at all. This was a great reminder of how lucky I am…even in Cleveland.

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    October 25, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Thanks Tipper,
    All of my poems, songs are about Appalachia. I just can’t let go of that feeling of home in West Virginia. I’m sure my parents felt the same way about The Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. Appalachia is one Ancient, Beautiful, Welcoming place.

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    October 25, 2015 at 9:56 am

    I find myself again in these mountains
    Sittin by the river alone
    I’ve awakened to the Appalachian morning
    In West Virginia, my home
    I’m singing a song of freedom
    I’m dancing to the music in the air
    As I think of you in that distant city
    Im thinking somehow I should be there
    But my spirit soars in these mountains
    My heart will always be here
    It seems like I never left completely
    Though I’ve travelled far through the years
    I miss you. I’m longing for your lovin
    As I sit by the river alone
    But my heart belongs to these mountains
    West Virginia will always be my home
    Let me sing my song of freedom
    Let me dance to the music in the air
    Let me live, laugh and love in West Virginia
    My heart will always be here

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    October 25, 2015 at 9:49 am

    You have put into words what I have tried for many months to explain to some family members. Not everyone has this deep seated attachment to the magic place we call home. Apparently there are two Appalachias in WV–the areas trapped in poverty and the beautiful mountains that seem to go on forever. Dad, in his wisdom explained it as, “In the city you can just see what is around you, but in the mountains you can see everything.” One would think so when viewing Autumn colors standing in a holler or on a mountain.
    In years past coal mining has seen many slumps. Sadly, we watched more and more members of our huge extended family leave for greener pastures as unemployment rose. Thousands of jobs are associated with the industry. Even with coal mining, most of this beautiful state remains clean and pristine.
    Fortunately when many retired they packed up and back home they came. After 25+ years away, my Aunt brought her husband back for burial only to have to return a thousand miles away after the funeral. She remarried and made another life, but was also brought back to be buried alongside the husband of her youth. In Appalachia it is a strong bond that ties us to home, and as if your heart and spirit actually never leaves.
    Pap and Paul’s song made me homesick, and I am home.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    October 25, 2015 at 9:24 am

    After being away from my hills and hollers for so long, I still get homesick. It’s an Appalachia thing…I doubt anyone would understand unless they have lived and loved the simple life offered by my place.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 25, 2015 at 9:09 am

    My Dad worked in a foundry in Covington, KY for a total of 17 years in several different ‘spells’. In all that time he missed coming back home (about 200 miles one way) on only two weekends.
    I think I told this before but …. when Toyota opened their plant in Georgetown, KY real estate developers anticipated a housing boom and developed subdivisions. But many of the workers were from the Cumberlands and chose to commute rather than live in the Bluegrass. The boom didn’t come.
    It is a mystery, just what makes ‘home’. Our inability to say exactly implies that it is of something so deep it is beyond our own kin. It was those sort of things Johnson’s War on Poverty did not figure on in their accounting. The ‘poverty line’ in not merely a dollar figure. By the same token, neither is riches.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    October 25, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Awesome!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 25, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Tip, in college I wrote a paper titled “Of The Mountains” for a literature class, it was what you are speaking about. We belong to these mountains and there is no changing or denying that. Where visitors feel claustrophobic in these mountains we feel cradled and protected. That’s just the way it is.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    October 25, 2015 at 7:33 am

    Tipper, you call your “three-point” analysis of why Appalachia has such a strong hold on those of us born and reared there, a “stated-simply” summary. But how profound is your analysis! Thank you for touching at the very heart of why we “born there” people love “our place” so much! And, shortened for memory recall, stated in these three points (Tipper’s analysis):
    1. A sense of belonging
    2. Generational ties
    3. Physical location

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