My Name Is Cora Lee Mease


My name is Cora Lee Mease. I was born and raised in the Little Cataloochee Valley. But just cause I was born in the mountains didn’t mean that’s where I was bound to stay.

Daddy blamed my wanderlust all on Aunt Pearl. She’s Mamma’s baby sister. By the time Aunt Pearl came along all the other children Grandpa and Grandma Ammons had were grown and gone from home. Grandpa’s health was such that they’d moved into Asheville to live out the rest of their years. So as strange as it seemed to the rest of the family, Aunt Pearl was a real life city girl. A real life city girl with her eyes set on even bigger cities.

They all said Aunt Pearl and me were cut from the same cloth, with a stubborn streak a mile wide. Daddy liked to say Aunt Pearl was spoiled rotten, and no child of his ever would be, but even he admitted I was more like her than he wished. Our similarities caused Aunt Pearl to take a special interest in me. On occasion we’d make the long trip to Asheville, for Daddy had promised Mamma when they first wed that he’d make sure she got to see her family as often as possible. On those trips, Aunt Pearl would tell me about all the things there was to see in this big wide world. She held me spell bound with tales of cities that were bigger than Asheville and people who lived an easier life with modern conveniences. In between those trips, Aunt Pearl sent me books, newspapers, and magazines. Daddy said it was her attempt to force me to put on airs so that she wouldn’t be alone when she drowned from having her nose stuck straight up in a cloud burst.

Even though my mind often dreamed of what was beyond Cataloochee, my feet recognized the beauty and wealth we were surrounded by. Daddy said it was the finest place he’d ever seen, and it might have even been the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve were born into. Mamma said she didn’t think so, but Daddy always winked and said, “You don’t know for sure now do you?”

 

I first met Marshall Cook the summer I turned 13. His family had been lost to him in a house fire, and he come too Cataloochee to live with his Uncle and Aunt. From the beginning there was a powerful feeling between us, so much so that Mamma often put the question to Daddy “Wouldn’t it be better for her to go to Asheville instead of ending up married to somebody who don’t have nothing to his name?” Whenever Marshall and me were mentioned Daddy conveniently pushed his chair back and said he had work to do.

Marshall wasn’t like none of the other boys, he understood it when I talked about seeing the world. Marshall had seen a fair amount of it hisself. His family had lived in 3 different states before the fire. Marshall’s father had the wanderlust too. Marshall said he could see why a body would want to see the sights and hear the sounds outside these mountains, but he could save me the trouble by telling me I’d not find another place like Cataloochee no where. The one time he heard Daddy give his Garden of Eden speech, Marshall whole heartedly agreed with him. He gave me a kiss for good measure when no one was looking.

Those days were the happiest of my life. It seemed my dreams were just that-lovely dreams to dwell and think upon while I spent my real life time with Marshall. When our chores were done, we’d roam the woods together or sometimes we’d just sit out in the barn or on Mamma’s back steps and talk.

Shortly after I turned 17, Aunt Pearl sent me a letter so exciting I could have swore I heard her voice leaping off the paper at me. She’d finally found her way to see the world and, better than that, she had found mine too. One of Asheville’s most important men had got a job as an ambassador for the United States, and since him and his wife had 4 small children, they decided they’d need some help along the way-that’s where me and Aunt Pearl came in. She’d already secured the job for us. All that was left was for me to meet them in Asheville in 2 weeks.

Daddy and Mamma didn’t like my decision one bit, but they said they reckoned I was grown and could make my own way now. During those days before I left I spent every moment I could with Marshall. He never begrudged me going, never one time made me feel guilty or like I might be making the wrong choice. On the day I left, he told me, “Cora I’ll be here waiting when you get that wanderlust out your system. I’ve done and seen enough of the world to know Cataloochee is the place for me. And when you get out there, you’ll see that clear enough just like I did.”
In the 2 years I was gone from my mountain home I saw things I’d a never of believed if I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes. The family was nice to me and Aunt Pearl, and treated us as though we were kin. But Marshall was right. All the wondrous sights and sounds of the world could not compare with one sunrise at home.

I’d been gone a year and half when Mamma sent word to me that Marshall had died. I had traveled so far from home in more ways than just distance that I found it hard to believe. I found it easier to pretend it wasn’t true.

When Mamma sent word they were leaving Cataloochee forever, that the government was forcing my Daddy off the land he loved, I knew I had to return.

As I crossed the last footlog to home I knew for a certainty I had lost everything I had only to find out what I needed most was in front of me all along.

—————————–

Above is the story I’ve had running around in my head for weeks. I hope you enjoyed it-come back in a day or two and I’ll show you the song that started it-the video that was filmed in the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church.

Tipper

 

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39 Comments

  • Reply
    barb
    March 31, 2014 at 11:01 am

    My maternal grandmother, Della Bennett, was raised in Cataloochee. I have been there several times and like the idea of some of my ashes being scattered there. BTW… she is kin to the Mease family her “tree”.

  • Reply
    Becky
    August 16, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Good story. But so sad. I can’t imagine being forced from the only place that had ever been “home”.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    August 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    I don’t know how I missed this Tipper! I just read it. It’s wonderful. Keep it. Then write another one…and another one!

  • Reply
    Barbara Johnson
    August 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    You need to write a book! I want to know if she ever fell in love again , and how far they had to move.

  • Reply
    Maxine Appleby
    August 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    This story and the video brought tears to my eyes. I’ve been away from home a long time, and feel the tug to come back. Your story and the beautiful views of the Appalachians have made that even more of a need in me. You write beautifully, from the heart. I want to see and hear more from you. Carolina girl

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 7, 2011 at 6:34 am

    Tipper, you weave a fine tale. It well represents our world and values.
    In fact you so well represent our world that I think should write a book..

  • Reply
    glenda Beall
    August 6, 2011 at 1:38 am

    Beautiful story, Tipper and the photos are powerful. How often we spend time dreaming of what we don’t have when what we love and need is right under our noses.
    Touching.

  • Reply
    janet pressley
    August 6, 2011 at 1:34 am

    Happy birthday Tipper – a little late. Great story and lovely music and voices that will never stop. Nana

  • Reply
    Laurie Stone
    August 6, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Tipper,
    I have a tear running down my cheek – what a wonderful short story. Generation after generation we look to see what’s in the next pasture – is the grass really greener? Often, we don’t know what was lost until something slaps us in the face as a wakeup call.
    – Laurie

  • Reply
    downthelanegirl
    August 5, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Wow, brought tears to my eyes. My community is still here, but really gone in spirit. They put the 4-lane right through us, brought us closer to town and now the farm land is all gone and houses everywhere. I like to remember what we used to be. I go there in my mind quiet often.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    August 5, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Beautiful story-I’m so glad you shared it with us(beautiful daughter,too). Cora Lee reminds me of Mitchell. Growing up, all he wanted to see was White Oak in his rearview mirror. He got his wish & got back here fast. These days, it’s rare to see him off this mountain. People say, “Come see us” or “Let’s go…” & my answer used to be, “Uncle Arley gets out more than we do!”

  • Reply
    martina
    August 5, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Tipper, that is excellent writing. You should submit this story to a magazine.

  • Reply
    Gail Williams
    August 5, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Your writing in fantastic!!! I could not stop reading.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on Things in a Row…every Thursday.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 5, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Tipper–Nicely done. I have two comments and a thought. Someone mentioned a book with the title Cataloochee. It’s by a fellow named Wayne Caldwell. He won the Thomas Wolfe award last year. Also, I’m going to throw a few words from one of my favorite poets, Robert Service, your way. They read: “A promise made is a debt unpaid.” I’m eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of the promise of the Cataloochee video.
    One final thought,and it sort of echoes some of the thoughts tendered by my brother. Cataloochee was (and is) a surpassingly beautiful place, and the havoc the Park Service wrought there is indescribable. Imagine being uprooted from a little piece of Paradise, for pennies on the dollar, with no choice. I’m amazed, more than three-quarters of a century later, that there wasn’t violence.
    You hear a lot about the folks on the North Shore of Fontana being displaced, but they were for the most part impoverished, few owned land, and the timber companies had ravished the landscape. At Cataloochee, on the other hand, you had self-sufficiency, fertile and productive farming, folks like Boogerman Palmer who never cut virgin timber, and an idyllic way of life.
    It’s a sad and in some ways sordid tale.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    bakingbarb
    August 5, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Beautifully written, gave me chills.

  • Reply
    Ken
    August 5, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Tipper,
    A beautiful story! If someone
    happens to stop by for a spell,
    they can see the love and compassion you express daily for
    the people of Appalachia. Someday
    I hope you get the recognition you
    so deserve. You are one Special
    lady with a strong will and the
    heart of a little girl…Ken

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    August 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Absolutely WONDERFUL! A story almost all of us can relate to. I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit (and am even now “stuck” far from my mountains). I’m never completely at peace or contented as I am in my mountains. They’re in my blood and my love for them and all they represent will never leave me.

  • Reply
    Wayne Newton
    August 5, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I’ll wager that this little tale just whetted your appetite for the next chaptersss.
    I wonder where your imagination will take us next.
    Please don’t make us wait too long for the next chapter..

  • Reply
    Charlotte
    August 5, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    A terrific story!! Why would anyone ever want to leave those beautiful mountains?

  • Reply
    Jen's Farmily
    August 5, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I think I read a book that this reminded me of… it seems like it was called Cataloochee too. Maybe not though.
    I love the story and even though it was short, I felt her losses!!

  • Reply
    Mary Berrong
    August 5, 2011 at 11:27 am

    This story brought tears to my eyes. I was born and raised in the mountains and have never left, at least not for any length of time. I have always been happiest right where I was planted. I have been fortunate to travel some, but have never seen anywhere that compares with the Blue Ridge Mountains. Your stories have brought back so many happy memories.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth K
    August 5, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Wonderful story Tipper, sad and sweet, perhaps a lesson for all of us.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    August 5, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Like Dorothy said. “There’s no place like home!” This was a beautiful story Tipper. I want to hear more and more.

  • Reply
    B f
    August 5, 2011 at 9:33 am

    so sad and sweet a story , i can identify with it in some ways
    you cant find better people than the down home kind no matter what city or country you go to. the one you remember from a child will always be special
    God Bless

  • Reply
    Terry Fillow
    August 5, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Great story! Hope to see some of you at Jimmys Pick N Grin tonight. A benefit for Jimmy Lequire who has cancer. Suppose to be some pickin and fun stuff!
    Terry

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    August 5, 2011 at 8:44 am

    great story – you are blessed with many gifts — thanks for sharing them.

  • Reply
    kat
    August 5, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Such a wonderful but sad story. Can’t wait to read the rest of it. You are so very gifted to write the way you do, plus all the other talents you have. I look forward to reading your post everyday.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 5, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Tipper,
    Very well done. You’ve captured many truths with your short tale. Some rambling thoughts follow…
    Whether wanderlust-driven or not, I do think that being away from these hills that we call home makes us love and appreciate them – and their people, idiosyncracies included – all the more.
    I suspect most of us have an Aunt Pearl in our family – one which wiser minds recognize as a shallow Siren.
    The wealth of wisdom and knowledge acquired by mountain people that we’ve already lost and are still losing (not to mention the people themselves) – all while we are pursuing passing passions – becomes painfully plainer by the day. Which is one reason the work that you’re doing with your blog and otherwise is so important.
    Cataloochee Valley in general, and Little Cataloochee in particular, has an unequalled feeling of being a place well-loved by the people that were once cuddled by the high and strong embracing arms of Mount Sterling Ridge to the north, the Cataloochee Divide to the south, and nestled against the nurturing Balsam Mountain breast to the west.
    To the eyes, legs, mind, heart, and soul of one mountain boy you know, Cataloochee is as fine a place as he’s traveled. Anywhere. Period.
    Just don’t let the word get out 😉

  • Reply
    Sassy
    August 5, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Wow, great post Tipper!

  • Reply
    Mamabug
    August 5, 2011 at 8:25 am

    What a beautiful story Tipper. There’s just no place like home. Can’t wait to see the video! Cataloochee is such an amazing place; can’t wait to see it again.

  • Reply
    Lise
    August 5, 2011 at 8:04 am

    What a wonderful yet melancholy story! I could not stop reading. Thank you Tipper

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 5, 2011 at 7:53 am

    I can’t wait for the next installment!

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    August 5, 2011 at 7:45 am

    You are so good at whatever you chose to do, Tipper. I bet your mind is just working all the time on things you want to do, so many you don’t even have time for them all! But you will get around to them all one day. That was beautiful writing, and a sad thought, to realize you left the world behind you to find the world, and when you have finally realized it, its too late. (lovely Cora in the flesh there too, I’m sure you are proud of her!)

  • Reply
    Ray P. Algee
    August 5, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Tipper, I loved your post. If the truth is told we are all born with a little “Wanderlust” in us. Some just dream about it and others actually take the step-out. I wandered as I read your post! Thanks for the trip.
    Ray

  • Reply
    Bradley
    August 5, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Amen!
    Bradley

  • Reply
    barbara Gantt
    August 5, 2011 at 7:27 am

    My Daddy grew up in Waynesville and talked his whole life about Cataloochee. He took me there as a child but I dont remember much about it. I would love to vist that whole area again. My memories are more of Cherokee and Maggie Valley. The wild beautiful mountains that are so high. Seeing the bears and the wild sheep. Barbara

  • Reply
    Jo
    August 5, 2011 at 7:08 am

    too sad and too true….Tipper, You done good.

  • Reply
    Anastasia
    August 5, 2011 at 5:59 am

    That’s a gripping tale, Tipper, which I greatly enjoyed reading. I guess there’s nothing like “the green, green grass of home” as Tom Jones sang. Yet, travel broadens the mind. While I feel there’s nothing like home, I like to discover new places and new cultures. Great post!!!

  • Reply
    Chip D.
    August 5, 2011 at 4:41 am

    Love your writings, Tipper!! Feel like I can connect with my soul by reading your stories! Great story about home,,,,made me look around our place and appreciate it a little more,,,even with all its problems and things that need fixing, its still home. As I write this, our house is quiet,,all are asleep, and if you listen close you can hear stories,,,,Thanks again

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