Appalachia Pap

Paths in Appalachia

Paths in Appalachia

From house to house he goes
A messenger small and slight,
And whether it rains or snows,
He sleeps outside at night.

~Riddle from The Frank C. Brown Collection Of North Carolina Folklore


The answer to the riddle is a path.

The photo above, shows the path that leads from about midways along our driveway down to Pap’s big garden. Actually the path doesn’t begin in our driveway, it starts at the steps of Granny and Pap’s back porch. The path goes along through their yard and when it reaches our road it splits.

One path leads off down to Paul’s house, one leads up alongside our driveway to our house, and the other that you can see in the photo, goes on across the road, down to the big garden and on out to Steve’s house.

Paths are very thought provoking. There are paths everywhere in this world, even in the largest cities you can find paths that cut through grassy areas or unused lots. People and animals make paths which lead to their daily destinations. I find it fascinating that paths made by feet traveled in years gone by can still be seen today, even though no one has walked them in ages.

Way back in the day before I was even married, a fellow visiting our mountain holler made fun of the paths which led from house to house. At the time I felt embarrassed or slighted by his comment. All these years later, looking at the paths with older eyes, I see the paths which travel between mine, Pap’s, Paul’s and Steve’s houses as a source of great wealth.


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  • Reply
    June 28, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Tipper,Tears fell as I read about the path between the the 4 homes,now thats a FAMILY!! God Bless. Jean

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 28, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    I never call them paths. To me they are trails. I can’t help but think of my grammaw’s cow pasture. It was rather steep and marked by horizontal trails that gave it a terraced appearance. Over the years the cattle had worked their way back and forth while grazing the slope above them. Their hooves had worn an almost level area just wide enough for them to stand and left a grassy strip about three feet wide. That is where the best blackberries grew. The cows kept it cleaned out around the briars and kept them fertilized. You needn’t worry about snakes. There were snakes there but you could see them. If you encountered one, you could take a little keen switch and send them scurrying.
    The pasture ran up one side of the valley to Hightower Gap and covered the area from the road to the top of the ridge. Right above Grammaw’s house there was a laurel thicket that the cattle had to go through to get to more grass on the other side. Their trails continued right through to more pasture. We used to play in the laurel thicket. The laurels were so thick that we would often get lost. We didn’t know which way was out but we knew that if we followed a cow trail, we would always come out somewhere.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    Hi Tipper, never “older-eyes” rather “mature-eyes”…
    Paths…like a good ol tune you get in your mind and can’t get out…I too am going to be thinking of paths now for the next few days….
    …paths from our house to Siebert’s store…we’d take the ‘shortcut’ through the woods…to buy baseball cards with rectangular pink bubble gum in it and a nice cold nehi soda…
    …on another path in the opposite direction, we’d ride our bikes through Paperdale to town to play Little League ball…
    ….same path we’d use to go swimming in the dammed up creek…cold as all get out it was…but relaxing on those hot humid summer days…!
    …hunting trails (paths)..which our Father and friends would take us…still imprinted in my minds eye…so as to not get misoriented, (never lost!), in the woods… A skill which paid numerous dividends on my first career path as an Army aviator…
    …paths of our lives which our parents, pastors, town elders and teachers set examples for us by being good citizens and decent, respectful human beings…
    …life paths we consciously or by pure happenstance chose for ourselves while out of view of the above…and that we set as examples for the next generation(s)…
    My where has the time gone… I’m getting old…err…mature…
    Cheers to you for continuously tickling the mature memory modules!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Just this morning my husband called to me to show me the path that the raccoons have made from the woods right up to our patio where he feeds them! They are right smart little critters. Thanks for sharing about your paths. You help us stop and ” ponder the paths of our feet” like the Bible talks about.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    It seems I am getting on later and later, but just had to stop by. Imagine my surprise to find such a thought provoking post. Paths were always so important and still are.
    There was the well worn path from the old country store down into the woods where some would walk and take a short cut to the store. My favorite path was the one that probably cut 1/4 mile off the walk down the road to school bus stop. Now I am wondering if it is still there. Walking paths always keeps you close to nature, and they are filled with new surprises each time you walk if you just observe.
    I found paths can even be humorous. Years ago another nursing student and I were all dressed in our snow whites. A nice gentleman invited us out to see his hogs. He had been careful enough with the path to place boards neatly along the path to prevent walking in mud which had accumulated on the well-worn path. By the time we walked out the path and back the boards had splattered a kazillion tiny droplets of mud on our snow white uniforms from head to toe. We maintained our composure until we got in the car, and then we laughed hysterically all the way to our destination. I don’t remember the student’s name, but I will always remember that path. Now, that gentleman was a cool little man unlike the narrow minded path critic you encountered.

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    June 28, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Dad and I grouse hunted for almost 50 years.While hunting out in the hills we often came upon old abandoned roads and trails that crossed over the hills instead of going around them.Many times Dad would tell me that old trail was his short cut to school,the store,or a neighbor.
    One day while grouse hunting we came upon an old graveyard with headstones.There was a husband and wife buried the same time.I asked what happened.He told me that back in the depression the couple had got commodities and opened up some canned meat. they didn’t eat it all and left it open and ate it the next day.Ptomaine killed both the same day.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    I was late calling the Radio Station today to request a song, but Donna Lynn took the time to play “Oh How I want to go There”, then she played most of the musical “New
    Birth”, that one’s my Favorite. Paul and Pap sure know how to make those chills that run up and down your neck. All the Blind Pig and The Acorn players do such a great job…Ken

  • Reply
    June 28, 2016 at 11:28 am

    You can tell you’ve put a lot of thought into the paths of life. In our holler you can still see the moonshiners trails on the mountains. We called then “liquor trails.” I grew up with these moonshiners on both sides of our property. They were friendly folks, but you never seen ’em in Church. Some showed up at the dinner on the grounds every year, but they’d leave just after dinner.
    A book could be written about the paths of life…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 28, 2016 at 10:31 am

    I see three people in the picture. Pap and two girls. The girl in pink is not a bloom on the plant. I don’t think the girls are planting the garden. I think they are looking for rocks or perhaps arrowheads.

  • Reply
    Guitar Man
    June 28, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Tip, funny to read this now that I know what was the impetus behind it. So true though, and the metaphorical paths are merely represented by the physical paths we make. Very interesting comments here below too.
    Have you posted 7 Year Blues this year? You may have and I may have missed it, but if not, it’s just over 7 years since we recorded it.

  • Reply
    Vie Herlocker
    June 28, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Between my house and my neighbors is a skinny path created and maintained by Mama Cat and Simba. These two cats have adopted me as their granny and spend as much time on my porch as their own.
    But as Miss Cindy posted, paths go so much deeper than the physical ones. Thanks for once again starting my day with a wonderful, memory- and thought-provoking blog.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2016 at 8:51 am

    I can’t add anything to Miss Cindy’s profound comments. She also has a sharp eye to see two people in the photo.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 28, 2016 at 8:49 am

    The critic you mention looked at the paths without understanding. They are a visible representation of the family bonds that tie you all together. Far from being a negative in any way they are something to be proud of.
    Paths are interesting in a lot of ways. When I was in college there was a good sidewalk in front of the forestry building, making a nice rectangle by following the borders. However, a footpath cut a diagonal through the middle. The grounds folks sodded it and planted trees. Didn’t work. Students on their way to the Ag Building continued to cut through the middle.
    When the subject of paths comes up, I remember my Grandma’s path across the garden over to my uncle and aunts. It was about a foot wide, if anything less. A lot of people could not have walked it because it was so narrow. But long years ago I read that a woods person walks very straight and city folks toe out. I have watched ever since and it is true. My single-parent Grandma fed her kids during the Depression by squirrel hunting, mostly ‘still hunting’, so she very much was a woods woman. Incidentally, how a person walks can be checked by looking at the wear on the heels of their shoes. If worn to the outside, it means they toe out; if in, they toe in; if uniform they walk straight.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 28, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Tipper—Good fences make good neighbors, but well-trodden paths are even more meaningful whether they involve neighbors or families. Your post today brought to mind two wonderful memories related to paths.
    One was the path from my boyhood home (now that of Don and his wife) to that of our next-door neighbors, a wonderful couple, Stanley and Marianna Black, who were not only pillars of the community but some of the finest people I’ve ever known. There was a fence between the two gardens Daddy and Mr. Black had, and a privet hedge delineated the rest of the line between the properties. However, there was a gap in that hedge at just the right place so that neighbors could visit and go conveniently from one house to the other without any problem.
    The second path was one at the home of my paternal grandparents. It led from the back yard to the chicken house and from there on to the hog pen. It ran right down the middle of the two plots of land Grandpa tended, and in my mind’s eye I still see the asparagus lining one side of the path and the pear-shaped yellow tommytoes that grew on the other every summer. Simple things but for me, paths of memory leading back to the paradise of youth.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    June 28, 2016 at 8:27 am

    I read about construction at a college that did not include sidewalks. They waited until people had established paths and then poured sidewalks where the paths were.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    June 28, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Amen, Tipper. My brothers live close to each other and their kids have worn a path through a field of wild flowers between the houses. In the town where I live, the only path is the one worn in our backyard by the dog on his daily patrols.
    Your blog today makes me think paths speak to relationships and a vibrant community of family and friends. You always give me something to be proud of I hadn’t even considered before.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 28, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Indeed, it shows the closeness and love between your families. A closeness most people no longer share with their families. Indeed some barely make a weekly phone call.

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    June 28, 2016 at 8:12 am

    We called the ones created by animals trails. I enjoyed following them and trying to figure out where and why they were going. If you look for them they are everywhere. Paths or trails, they have stories to tell.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 28, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Oh Tipper, your post is going to have me pondering paths all day long. There are paths everywhere, we live our lives by the paths we choose. We follow the paths of those who went before us or we set out the unknown and create our own paths.
    In your photo there is the path from house to house but there is also Pap and the girl in the garden. She is following Pap’s pathway of planting a garden to feed your family.
    Then there are paths in our brains that lead us to do the same thing the same way from day to day until something occurs that causes us to change and create a new path.
    Yep, I’m gonna be thinking about this for a while.

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