Appalachia

Remembering Bill Burnett – A Friend to the Blind Pig and The Acorn

Yesterday I received the sad news that long time Blind Pig reader Bill Burnett passed away. Over the years Bill was a true source of encouragement to me. His comments were always insightful and full of mountain wisdom and knowledge.

I’d like to share some of Bills’s comments with you as a way to remember and honor him today.

August 24, 2011 “Butter on Your Nose

When growing up at Needmore, NC we always had Milchows, hogs and chickens. The cows we had were Golden Guernseys so the cream would be a third of the way down on a gallon of milk so Mom would skim it off and we would churn almost every week in an old crock churn with a dasher while chanting “Come butter Come”, it was tedious work but the resulting butter was worth it and helped support the family as we sold butter and milk (fresh & buttermilk) to several neighbors. Hot biscuits, home made molasses went very well with it not to mention the Honey we harvested off our many hives of Bees. Thanks for helping keep the memories fresh.

February 11, 2012: “Mules and More Mules

This brings back memories of how smart mules are. Once when in my early twenties Dad borrowed a mule from an older neighbor of ours to plow out our “Taters”. I made one trip down the row turned the mule around and said git up, nothing happened, I tried again, again nothing. I tried for approx five minutes and suddenly she took off, plowed back down the row, turned around and again just stood there for another five minutes. I finally realized that our neighbor who was in his seventies had to rest at the end of each row and no amount of begging, pleading or threatening could get the mule out of her trained way of plowing. I finally got the “Taters” plowed out but it was on the mules terms, not mine. I had a real life example of where the term “stubborn as a mule” came from.

February 4, 2013: “Eating Food You Put Up

Another thing I remember about “puttin up food” was the pride everyone had in their productivity and self sufficency. The cellar and smokehouse were my parent’s way of keeping score on how busy and productive they had been. One of my favorite memories was bleached apples made into fried apple pies or as a side to a slice of cured hickory smoked Country Ham and biscuits that would melt in your mouth. Of course the Apples and Biscuits required a dollup of freash churned butter which was also a fruit of our labor. Another source of pride was after showing the bounty of the cellar my parents would always share with the guests and visiting extended family, most visitors in the Fall of the year left with a bag of taters, a jar of something or a helping of cured pork. This showed that even though we may not have been wealthy in terms of money we were in our ability to work and produce sufficient food to survive as a family and even enough to share our bounty with others. Tipper you sure have stirred up a lot of memories today. Have you tried puttin up any of your snow to use later?

June 24, 2016: “Overheard

My Dad used this expression on me a lot, he would tell me “son, you could have the job done in the time you spend trying to figure out an easier way to do it” I would tell him that the wheel was invented by someone trying to find an easier way to move something than just sliding it along. That’s when I’d get “son don’t worry about the mule, just load the wagon” meaning just get the job done. I knew then the conversation was over and the matter settled and I’d better “get er done”.

January 9, 2018: “Shanks Mare

When in High School I played football for four years and not being able to afford a car many days after a three hour practice I rode “Shanks Mare” fourteen miles home. I usually arrived about 10:00 PM to milk a cow or two, feed several head of hogs and numerous chickens. I then ate my supper and sacked out to arise at 5:00 AM to tend the stock before catching the School Bus, I was glad I didn’t have to walk to school in the mornings but did have to pole our boat across the Little Tennessee river after a flood washed the Needmore Swinging Bridge out in the mid-sixties. The funny thing is that I thought nothing of doing this until I was older. Sadly we didn’t realize what a great gift youth was until we lost it.

March 26, 2020: “Finding Solace on High Ridges

Your fire brought back some wonderful memories of my youthful opening day of Trout Season. It was an unwritten law with my Dad that we had to open the season irregardless of how cold it was. We would take a frying pan, a can of Spam and a dozen free range eggs and when we would get to cold to fish we would build a small fire like yours’ and cook a Spam Omelet and toast some bread over some green sticks. This with a small pot of coffee was wonderful cuisine. I can still smell the smoke and taste the smoke flavor. I don’t know why, but it seems the opening day of Trout Season was always cold, I have thawed ice out of my rod eyes almost every day I can remember even though it was the first Saturday in April and we already had our potatoes planted as Dad insisted they had to be in the ground by the middle of March.


There were 43 pages of Bill Burnett’s comments to search through. Yes, he was a true friend and supporter of Blind Pig and The Acorn. Bill also came to our performances when we played near his home. He was always a delight to talk to.

When Pap died Bill left this comment: “May God grant you all solace in the knowledge that “Pap” has run a blessed race and won the ultimate prize, his place in Paradise. The wonderful example he set for all of you and the great memories he leaves each means he will forever live within your hearts. My thoughts, prayers and condolences are with each of you. Even though I never had the pleasure of meeting him you kindly shared him with each of us who follow the Blind Pig and Acorn and I feel I knew him. Thank you so much for this.”

I send the same sentiment and solace to Bill’s family.

Tipper

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Becky Nunnaley
    August 11, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    Tipper ( and others who left comments), My brother Bill truly was one of a kind. He shone in storytelling, but thanks to your site, some of his stories are captured for future readers. Thank you for the beautiful memories and your kind words. They are a comfort in my grief.

  • Reply
    Frank
    July 31, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    May the peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus be with him and his Family and may he look down upon us and share his prayers as we share ours with all our beloved who too have passed.

  • Reply
    Gigi
    July 31, 2020 at 11:50 am

    Tipper, so sorry to hear this. We to lost 2 peoe we loved over the weekend. I know he will be missed. But He left so much behind.

  • Reply
    Quinn
    July 30, 2020 at 10:00 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about Bill Burnett’s passing. I’m always happy to see his name in your comments section, Tipper – his has been one of the Blind Pig voices I’ve always enjoyed. You picked a fine way to remember him in this post. Sincere condolences to his many friends and family.

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    July 30, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    So sorry to hear about your friend. Loved what you posted today.

  • Reply
    Brenda Moore
    July 30, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    Wow! Those are keepers. I really enjoyed reading them and would enjoy reading more.
    Can hardly wait to meet him when it’s my turn to go Home.

  • Reply
    Glenda C. Beall
    July 30, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    Beautiful tribute, Tipper, to Bill, your loyal reader. We will miss his comments on life as it was when he was a kid. Like my older brother, 91 now, he told good stories of the past. Thanks for sharing his comments.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 30, 2020 at 12:02 pm

    Bill and I were kin. Third cousins by genealogical standards. But our lineage converged in many different directions. We figured we probably shared as many genes as brothers. He was a year and a half older than me (one day younger than my older brother) so we weren’t close as children. But, in the last decade or so we reconnected with each other and our past. Oddly enough it was through the Blind Pig & the Acorn that we found our common ground. I made a suggestion that he read your blog and he said he already did. It was on from there.
    Our shared obsession with genealogy coupled with his voluminous knowledge of the citizenry of Swain and surrounding counties allowed me to amass a family tree containing more than 100,000 names all related or otherwise connected to us. Bill knew people past and present. Bill had an amazing memory. Bill was eager to share his knowledge.
    Bill did not write much as attested to by his infrequent comments on the Blind Pig. That was the only place that he was unsure of himself. He felt his writing skills were lacking. More than once when encouraged to write a guest post to offer to the Blind Pig he declined. His words were always “I’ll leave the writing to you!”
    You know, I could go on for days but I’ll quit now. I’ll end with this, on June 11th I lost my brother Stephen and now it’s my “brother” Bill! It’s tough!

    Oh! and I didn’t attend his and Bunny’s wedding but I will always remember the date. It was on my birthday! So, after I discovered that fact I began sending them anniversary greetings every year on that date. I suppose that will have to stop now but I hope not. See I told you I could go on forever.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    July 30, 2020 at 11:32 am

    Bill… May you find fair winds and following seas…

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    July 30, 2020 at 11:25 am

    What a loss to his people and to all of us who read (and have read) Blind Pig & the Acorn. I loved reading his comments. I know his soul will rest in eternal peace because of the man he was.

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    July 30, 2020 at 11:17 am

    So sorry to hear of the loss of part of the BLIND PIG Family. I never met Bill Burnett, but was blessed to feel that special “Mountian” kinship that our souls shared. That kind of kinship can not be explained or described. It must be experienced. Tipper, thank you for helping to make that possible. God bless, and comfort all whose lives he touched.

  • Reply
    SusieQ
    July 30, 2020 at 9:56 am

    Sorry for the news of the passing of your dear friend, in reading his comments, you get glimpse of knowing of the sweetness of the man who shared so kindly . Oh ,I wish we could put up some snow:).. God be the comforting solace of his family and friends near and far ….

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 30, 2020 at 9:49 am

    Tipper,
    The first and only time I ever met Bill was at Don and Susan’s Speech with Slides somewhere on the Left side of Bryson from here. Don introduced Bill to me and we talked a while about Jerry Breedlove. He was Clerk of Superior Court at Murphy and I voted for Jerry many years. Bill said “shoot, a lot of the times, Jerry didn’t have no competition.” I knew him when we were in School.

    I didn’t know Bunny or any members of his Family, but if I can borrow a line from Margie Goldstein’s comment, “May all who knew Bill find Peace in knowing he is at Peace. …Ken

  • Reply
    Don Davidson
    July 30, 2020 at 9:23 am

    May his memory be eternal!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 30, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Those comments you chose, in summary, said to me ‘essence of Appalachia’; the man, his character, his influence, his times. We need people like him now more than ever and feel the loss more keenly because of it.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    July 30, 2020 at 8:29 am

    I’ve always enjoyed Bills’ writings, he was so knowledgeable and genuine. He didn’t write every day but I looked for his post every day.

  • Reply
    Randy Pruit
    July 30, 2020 at 7:57 am

    The story of the mule reminded me of growing up with my granddaddy. When grandmother rang the dinner bell for dinner (lunch now) his mule, Kate, would stop no matter if it was in middle of row she knew it was time to stop and go to house for water and something to eat. I also think about putting food up and how it was a necessity. My mother and grandmother would can, freeze, or dry everything they could for food.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 30, 2020 at 7:56 am

    Oh my, he will be missed here on the Blind Pig. He is what this blog is about.
    His comments were always so spot on, painting a beautiful picture of the Appalachia we love.
    Rest in peace, in that better place.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 30, 2020 at 7:32 am

    I’m sorry to hear of Bill’s death. He leaves many wonderful memories.

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    July 30, 2020 at 7:28 am

    No better reading!….We would be honored to have Bill or you all, Tipper, as neighbors!

  • Reply
    Rebecca Layfield
    July 30, 2020 at 7:16 am

    Tipper I am so sorry to hear of Bills passing!! He was a great friend and will be missed!! Praying comfort and peace over all who know him!! Thanks for sharing some of his post really blessed my heart!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 30, 2020 at 7:01 am

    Tipper–Since we exchanged e-mails fairly regularly, I knew Bill’s race was nearly run. Still, this comes as shocking news. He was an absolute treasure house of mountain wit and wisdom, and no one knew more about the Needmore area where he grew up than him. He was so deeply imbued with the history, culture, and genealogy of not only Needmore but Swain County that chances were better than fair to middlin’ that he could address most any question on local ways and lore with insight. I know I turned to him frequently. Thanks to a career in law service he not only knew the region’s past, he had an exceptional depth of knowledge when it came to its people.

    Just yesterday morning, while working in the garden, I finally spotted the first “fruit” on the Chinese okra for which he gave me seeds and I planted. Although it seemed to be thriving, I was despairing of it bearing. Now I have it as a visible, tangible reminder of a staunch son of the high hills who cherished his roots and all the truly meaningful things of life. I’ll reach out to his wife, Bunny, whom I’ve known even longer than Bill, and I thank you for sharing some of his thoughts and insights with us. They are a powerful, poignant reminder of a mighty fine man who left a mark through who he was and how he lived.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    July 30, 2020 at 7:00 am

    I so enjoyed reading some of Bill’s comments you shared and what a blessing he must have been to those who were fortunate enough to know him personally. It looks like he too finished this race well and has today received his reward from THE MASTER as he is seated at the bridegoom’s table. May all who knew Bill find peace in knowing he is at peace. God bless you, Tipper, and I’m sorry for your loss.

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