Appalachia Pap

Pap Visits The Dockerys

Benjamin Wilson and John Mule

Benjamin Wilson and John Mule

The other day Pap and I made a trip over to Blairsville GA. On the way back he told me about visiting the Dockerys as a boy.

Pap showed me the little holler where Homer Dockery and his family lived at one time. There wasn’t much to see now. A power line goes right through the middle of the area and it’s so overgrown with trees and bushes you can hardly see the mouth of the holler unless someone points it out to you.

Pap’s Grandpa, Benjamin, and Grandma, Carrie, took him along with them to Homer’s. Pap liked to go so he could play with Homer’s sons Frank and Jack. Pap and his family lived in the same area we do today. I asked Pap if they went through the woods from our house to Homer’s or if there was a road that came around like it does now. Pap said he didn’t remember if they went the shortest route through the woods or came around. He said they walked or rode a mule because none of them had a car in those days.

Grandpa Wilson had a mule called John Mule. Pap said he was the meekest pet of a mule you ever seen-more like a big dog than a mule.

Pap has memories of visiting other Dockerys too. Caney who lived at the head of Pine Log, Chester who lived across the mountain from Pine Log in Smyrna GA (or Smyrnie as Pap calls it) and Dewey Dockery who also lived in Smyrnie. Dewey ran a small store and corn mill.

It would take about 5 hours to get to Chester’s house. Grandpa Wilson walked while Pap and his Grandma took turns riding John Mule.

I asked Pap what they did once they got there-what was the purpose in them going on such a long trip? He said “Oh the grownups would talk and the kids would play. And there was usually some sort of trading going on. Grandma would take something and trade it for something the Dockerys had. Grandma was always fooling with quilts and she might take a bunch of old scraps over there to trade. Sometimes she carded wool to take and trade.”

Pap said usually they’d visit with Chester a while then head back over the mountain to Caney’s where they’d spend the night before heading home the next day.

I asked Pap if he slept on a pallet in the floor; he said it seemed like Caney had an extra cornshuck bed and they slept in it.

Pap said when he was just a babe Homer Dockery sharecropped the Harshaw Farm with his Grandpa Benjamin. At the same time, Pap’s father, Wade, sharecropped the land just below the Harshaw Farm which was called the Richardson Place in those days.

I grew up going to visit the Dockery’s too-the main difference being I road in the back of Pap and Granny’s car instead of on the back of a mule. Pap and Granny would load us all up and head over to Moccasin Creek. Sometimes we’d pull up at one of Homer’s son’s house other times we’d visit with Homer’s daughter just up the road. Didn’t matter which house we visited-there was always grown ups talking and laughing, kids playing, good food a plenty, and fine music being made.

It’s comforting for me to hear that Pap grew up going to the Dockerys-like I did-but it’s slightly sad to think of those days being gone. As our lives and times have changed, my kids won’t have memories of visiting the Dockerys. But someday I can take them to Moccasin Creek and show them where I used to visit the Dockerys; and along the way I can show them where their Pap rode John Mule to visit the Dockerys when he was a child.


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  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    December 8, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Lived not far from Smyrna, GA in Woodstock back in the 70s and 80s. Smyrna, like most small towns near Atlanta, got swallowed up by the big town long ago.
    I guess Woodstock has nearly been swallowed up by Atlanta too, and I find that sad. When we first moved there, the main crossroads going into town (Routes 96&19) had a small Walmart on one corner, the Dixie Inn Restaurant on the other, a small laundromat on the third and a small Mom&Pop gas station on the fourth. We had to use that laundromat for a while until our appliances all got there, and after a couple of times to the laundromat, we noticed the same handful of old fellas always congregated there chatting and watching the tv. One day we went in and several of the washers were in use. Bro Tom asked them if any of the washers were available for us to use. One of them said, “Dunno, this here’s the best tv in town.” ROFLOL LOL LOL
    Such as it is with small towns, and I love it.
    Interesting side note, did you know the Mule is a man-made animal? Yep! God didn’t make Mules. Man bred a male donkey with a female horse and came up with a Mule. I understand most are sterile too because of chromosome-something or other, so almost the only way you can get one is by breeding it that way.
    Here’s an exception though:
    “Mules Are Sterile? Try Telling That to One Named Krause, Who Beat Genetic Odds and Became a Mother”,,20098425,00.html
    Interesting isn’t it!!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    and to Bradly…
    Vincent Van Gogh said….
    If you hear a whisper that says you can’t paint, paint anyway and it will quieten the whisper…
    Also, one of my very favorite quotes by ??? Van Gogh..
    Someone said to him, you only have one ear, you will never be an artist…
    He says back, “I can’t hear you!”
    Most all dappled mares look alike…paint one and then add something special to it that you remember about that mare! You will know it is your grandparents mare…maybe adding a “hat” a special gleam in its eye as it stuck its nose out at your Granny!
    Thanks Tipper,
    Good luck Bradly…

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 4, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Guess what day it is…Guess what day it is?
    Yep, I got my Christmas CD of Pap and Paul’s music…Just like you said, It was in the mail! Thanks, everso…(sometimes I like to use Marilyn Monroes sweet term, everso) LOL
    My Dads family still had a mule even after all the boys, 5 of them were grown and gone..and both Pappy and Grandma were gone!
    A farmhand still lived there to help my Aunt care for tobacco that she raised..It was hard for her to give up her allotments..
    I used to visit him (the mule) out at the barn when he was in the stall…By the way those stall bars were linked like a long cabin and about 8 inches wide, so I could climb up and pet that old sweet mule on the nose. He/it would down at me as to say something and raise his/its upper lip to show those big old toothies…Never would bite! I loved to watch his/its ears turn like radar incoming noises…Longest ears I ever saw…
    Thanks Tipper,
    Listening to music as I type!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    December 4, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Tipper: That expression John Mule might be fondly remembered by your Pap. But if a fellow was calling my brother, John Mull, by John Mule he would find himself in for a fist fight! That was probably our worst ‘name calling’ in school or on the school bus.
    I don’t know about any Dockery families, except the Dockery girls from Murphy who played basketball. They left a life-long impression in my mind from being on the basketball court with them.
    Great read!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Every now and then we get another
    of those “classics” from that pretty little head of yours. I enjoyed this story so much, kinda reminds me of my life when I was a kid. Some of my friends were Dockery’s that lived near the Red Marble Road. Most are all gone, but a sister lives in sight of my shop and we bump into each other at the grocery store sometimes.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful
    story of the past…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    My Daddy had an old plow horse that would try to eat the corn as you ran the three footed cultivator through it. Not all the corn, just the last plant at the end of the row. In the middle of the row the corn was sometimes tall enough that it brushed her face, but she wouldn’t touch it. Just the last corn plant at the end. As you were turning her around and flipping plow over she was going for that last plant. When you got her straightened out and started back, she was fine, until you got to the other end. Then the battle was on again. I not smart enough know what was going on in her mind, but I think she was either trying to collect her wages at every turn or just trying to shorten the rows.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Pap referring to the old mule as being more like a big dog rather than an old mule was great. I believe the is a power out there somewhere in the universe that directs the placement of dear people and beloved farm animals to the most deserving.
    My Great Grand Pa became sick and could do little on the farm. As you might expect they had a dappled mare that was so gentle it was said she didn’t need a bridle most of the time when she worked. She was just what they needed.
    I once saw a black and white photo of the old mare with my Grand Ma standing in front of her with my uncle sitting on her back when he was a little boy. – no saddle -the mare was sticking her nose out at Grand Ma as if she was kissing Grand Ma on the nose. The composition was a classic.
    I remembered that photo and tried to see if some of the family remembered it and where it was. Granny remembered it and knew where it was. Granny said the mare’s name was HAT. I wanted to paint a painting of that. However, there was a fire and all photos were lost.
    I have never considered myself an artist – rather an artist wan-a be – but I have always thought if I could have gotten that photo that I could have painted it.
    Momma used to say, “Son, it’s all right if you’ve done you’re best.” I would have given it my best!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Well writ, Miz Tipper; well writ indeed, and a bit of history that needs to be written of lest we forget those times….

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 4, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I thought the name Caney and Homer Dockery looked familar and shore nuff they are right there in my family tree. Caney Dockery was born in Madison County as was Benjamin Wilson. They were likely childhood friends.
    Don’t wait for someday to show the girls. I thought someday I would ask my parents about their young lives, but they slipped away before someday ever came.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    December 4, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Pap has been blessed to have lived straddling the “best of days” and today’s busy, frenzied pace. Not only that, he has lived them in the best of places.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 4, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Time and change have moved through places like Dockery Hollow.
    With time and change have come what we sometimes call progress and a modern level of life.
    But when I consider the trust, love and enjoyment of those times back then, I wonder if we can ever recapture the quality of life in the times of “John Mule” and the respite and welcome we found among people who truly loved and helped each other? Let us hope that the spirit of such times is still present with some of us Appalachian area descendants, even though the leisurely qualities of visiting and sharing may have “gone with the times.” Something for us to think on here at Christmas when good will still flows.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 4, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Sunday was visiting day. We went to each Aunt or Uncles house. Lots of playing, making music, and eating good food.
    There were 9 kids in my Dad’s family and 5 in my Mother’s so we had lots of folks to visit. They all lived within 30 miles of each other and were always glad to see you come to sit a spell.
    The winters were bad in PA so we did most of our visiting from spring to fall. Also, in the summer if a crop needed to be picked we were there to help.

  • Reply
    L. Dockery
    December 4, 2013 at 9:16 am

    There are still plenty of Dockerys around to visit Tipper!! Unfortunately, we aren’t quite as interesting as the characters you mention.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 9:01 am

    What a wonderful memory for you and Pap both. Tipper, you certainly do come up with some gems! This takes me back to a time before cell phones and computers. My mind wanders back to a time where everyone always had a yard full of kids. Everybody seemed to talk, laugh, and eat all day. We petted a gentle ole plow horse named Roy. Thank you so much for sharing, and the opportunity for me to reminisce with morning coffee. Mountain folk sure did know how to enjoy the simple life.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Sounds like you have a great start with the writing of a family biography. What a wonderful way to keep your family history together. Someday, the girls will enjoy the history as well as yourself.

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    December 4, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Very good post Tipper. I knew Homer Dockery and all of his kids. Pauline is married to my uncle Clinton, mama’s brother.Many years before he lived over there Homer, his first wife Callie and family lived just out the road from our old homeplace. I remember going to his house years ago. I knew Chester also and heard daddy talk alot about all of them. Daddy used to go to that grist mill. It’s so good that your pap is telling you all of this and about all the people he used to know. I cherished that with daddy and even more so today and when ya’ll get the chance just come on over here to Moccasin Creek. There’s only Pauline, Willabelle and Jerry that I know of that lives here from his first family.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 4, 2013 at 7:21 am

    It was a different world then. I’m a generation older than you are and it’s still foreign to me. My grandpa had a horse, named Bonnie, that he used to plow the garden. My mother’s name was Bonnie. I’m sure there is a story there but I never got to hear it. LOL
    I love what pap said about John Mule being like a big dog. The animals would have been a very important part of the family then!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 4, 2013 at 7:14 am

    What wonderful childhood memories. My parents used to “stop” by to visit friends a lot. Something not done anymore as we all lead such busy lives. No time for visiting. Sad

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 4, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Those were the good ole days! People cared about each other, where strong friends, helped each other out, etc.
    Today we have friends but don’t seem to have the time for sharing stories, quilt scraps, or trading what I might have that you need or I might could use or need that I don’t grow or make! Of course there are exceptions like quilting clubs, knife and gun exchanges, farmers markets..etc.
    I remember when my parents even when we were living in the city, would make time to visit friends..
    Stories would be traded. Knifes shown…Our family didn’t play much music…Flower cuttings would be traded, etc. Of course the kids played right up or until after dark while the adults caught up on all the news…
    Those were the good old days…
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS..I’d say having a mule to ride on those trips, would make the visit a lot more adventuresome…
    More than our old Ford that would just “sneeze or wheeze” and give us a flat tire, to change on the side of the road!

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