Appalachia Christmas Pap

Pinecones and Christmas

Christmas memories from Western NC

Pap, Steve, Tipper, Paul – Christmas 1980 something

Last year was the first Christmas I ever spent without Pap. I thought it would be horrible, but it wasn’t even though we all missed him something fierce. Granny told me this year felt the least like Christmas that it ever had because he was gone. I was quick to remind her it was the second Christmas without him and that we made it just fine last year. She said she guessed I was right but she sure did miss him and knowing her two grandsons wouldn’t be here this year just made it worse.

Of course I have been thinking about Pap. Thinking about the twinkle in his eye as he teased the kids about Santy or talked about what a good bait of food we’d be eating. I’ve also thought about the serious earnest look he would get on his face as he spoke of his faith and the true meaning of Christmas.

The last Christmas we had with him was a good one-so I think about that too. How we were all together, happy, and mostly well.

That year he shared a story with me that I had never heard before, a story about Christmas time when he was a boy living just over the mountain in Pine Log.

Pap said there was a man from church who had a huge pine tree growing on his property. It wasn’t a tree that was native to our area it was one that the man or somebody had planted. The tree produced giant pinecones. You know the kind that looks like a small Christmas tree if you set them up on a table.

One Sunday before Christmas the man announced the pinecones were available for picking up if anyone wanted some for decorating. He went on to say he hoped no one would try to take them all so that there would be enough for everybody to get at least a few.

A couple days later Pap walked over to the tree to see if he could get a pinecone or two for his mother and grandmother. Pap couldn’t find not one pinecone! Someone had gotten them all. Pap said he was puzzled that someone would be so greedy but there wasn’t nothing to be done but forget about the pinecones. As the days passed he discovered he wasn’t the only one disappointed by the disappearing pinecones. More than a few people in the community felt the same way Pap did: someone had gotten greedy.

When the next Sunday rolled around the entire congregation got a pleasant surprise.

Pap said folks were standing around in the church yard before the bell rung for service to start when up rode Lenora (a girl Pap’s age) with a wagon full of pinecones for everyone to share. Turns out Lenora wasn’t being greedy she was being helpful. She thought it would be easier on everyone if she picked up all the pinecones and brought them to church so that’s just what she did.

I’ve had the great pleasure to know Lenora my whole life, only I know her as Big Momma. She is one of my best friends, Tracy’s, grandmother and I promise you she still has the same generous spirit as she did when she was a girl picking up pinecones to share.


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  • Reply
    December 23, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    What a lovely story. It’s my second Christmas without my Mama. I always went across town and picked her up on Christmas Even mornning and she spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with us. She loved going to church with us on Christmas Eve. I’m blessed I had my mama for 94 years. I wish you all a Blessed Christmas. Pap will be with you in spirit, as my mama will be.

  • Reply
    December 23, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Well that’s a nice story with a happy ending 🙂

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    December 22, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Merry Christmas, Tipper.
    And … God bless us … everyone.

  • Reply
    December 22, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Merry Christmas to the Blind Pig gang!!

  • Reply
    Bill Buntin
    December 22, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    What a beautiful remembrance of your Pap and his life!
    God Bless & Merry Christmas!

  • Reply
    December 22, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Man those things are gi-nor’mus.
    My Wife got some of those once, I would love to be able to read a squirrels mind when he ran up on one.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    December 22, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    What a sweet, sweet story. And how thoughtful Lenora was..
    “Hes as tall as a Georgia pine”. How many times I’ve heard that! State and Fed gov are making effort to restore these magnificent pines to our southern coastal lands where so many acres have been destroyed from many different reasons. They need humidity and sandy soil.
    I have baskets full cones where we used to pic them up in St George, SC . Some are long as my finger tips to elbow. They ARE like a small tree on a table.
    And, we love the beautiful red baled pine straw for landscaping. All straw not the same, for sure.
    (And all fathers aren’t the same, you were lucky.)
    Thanks for telling the story. Merry Merry..

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    December 22, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks for that story. It is the simp!e love gestures that mean so much. Y’all remind me of the song my Daddy used to sing… “I love those dear hearts & gentle people that live in my hometown. I LOVE THOSE DEAR HEARTS AND GENTLE PEOPLE, who live & love in my hometown…” Merry Christmas .

  • Reply
    December 22, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    What a nice story. Lenora knew there was folks that couldn’t get the pinecones easily, so she brought them to Church. Pap always treated me like a Friend and I appreciate that. I agree with Bill Younce who said “I’ve heard many singers in my time, but Jerry Wilson is certainly the best Tenor I ever heard.” I miss him too. …Ken

  • Reply
    December 22, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    The word “bait” reminded me of things my daddy said that I had forgotten…..he would have been 114 years now. He would say “I sure had a bait of them chicken and dumplings” or whatever good food he had eaten. Times sure have changed.

  • Reply
    June Jolley
    December 22, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Those pine cones were probably from the long leaf pine tree, Pinus palustris. They are truly beautiful.

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    December 22, 2017 at 11:00 am

    Tipper: great story , im sure it,s tough for you as it was when i lost my dad. he was from hazel creek. this christmas i get to spend with my daughter and my 4 grand children and my brand new great grandson. got bless all the little piggies this christmas. k.o.h.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 22, 2017 at 10:53 am

    That’s is the second best Christmas story I have ever heard. The best one is about a man who handed out free pine cones. He gave them to everybody in the whole wide world who wanted one. He still does!
    PS: I think you might know the man who gives out pine cones. At least I hope you do!

  • Reply
    Leon Estes
    December 22, 2017 at 10:14 am

    What a wonderful story of compassion and caring for others!
    “May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white!”

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    December 22, 2017 at 10:13 am

    A good story! And I love that picture! How I wish I might have known your wonderful father, Tipper,
    but I am thankful for the recordings of his voice. Every time you write about him, my mental picture of him gets clearer and clearer!

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    December 22, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Sweet story. Everyone needs a Big Momma in their lives. Merry Christmas!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 22, 2017 at 9:36 am

    What a sweet story

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 22, 2017 at 9:11 am

    It is people like Lenora who make the sweet in life. I think I can guess how she got the name Big Mama. I have a niece like that.
    Your story reminds me of the lone longleaf pine tree out in the countryside near Blairsville. It is on the corner where the road to Picklesimer Mt. turns off the county road. Longleaf cones are the largest among the eastern US pines.

  • Reply
    December 22, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Pap was like my mom when it came to remembering things like the pinecone story. Things like that wouldn’t matter much in this day and time, but a free decoration for folks who had so little was a lasting memory.

  • Reply
    December 22, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Wonderful story. Thanks, Tipper, for sharing it. Merry Christmas.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 22, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Loved the photo and the story.
    Merry Christmas to the whole gang.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 22, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Things just aren’t always what they appear to be! That was certainly a nice loving gesture. Life is like that, sometimes.
    I miss Pap too!

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