Appalachia Through My Eyes – Murphy and a Sense of Place


Murphy, NC

The other evening The Deer Hunter and I did something we rarely do, we went out to eat. I told him I’d pick him up after work.

He parks his truck in a parking lot just behind the County Maintenance Shop where he works, and just across from the Historic Cherokee County Courthouse.

Town takes on a totally different air after the working day is over. It’s not exactly a deserted feeling, although there aren’t many people around. It’s more of a restful easy feeling. The hustle and bustle of town gives way to a calmer atmosphere as soon as the clock hand moves past 5:00 p.m.

Once we finished eating I dropped The Deer Hunter off at his truck so we could both head for home. As I set in my car and waited for him I looked around noticing the change in atmosphere that had happened in the short time it took us to eat. I was suddenly hit by an overwhelming sense of place.

I thought how could I possibly live in a town that Pap and his brothers didn’t grow up knowing?

There’s a staggering difference between growing up in the country or in town, even when it’s a small town like Murphy. Yet town plays an important role in everyone’s life. It did when Pap was a boy just like it does today. I mean where else would I go to get my groceries or where else would Pap have gone to get his first drivers license?

A common phrase thrown around when the subject of Appalachia is discussed is ‘sense of place.’

Appalachians like their place. Whether their homes be mansions on a hill or cabins in a holler, they have historically been fiercely attached to them.

I’ve shared a Loyal Jones joke with you before, the one about Appalachians having to be chained up in Heaven near the end of the week or else they’d try to go home every weekend.

I know the sense of place in Appalachia is real, and I know it’s a legitimate characteristic of mountain people and has been for generations, yet I’ve never felt the actual realization of it as strongly as I did sitting in my car behind the courthouse on a beautiful evening in Murphy, NC.


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  • Reply
    April 27, 2019 at 11:40 am

    You described that feeling so well, Tipper. Good writing!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 25, 2019 at 6:31 pm


    I have a little place on a mountain.
    It’s snuggled right in between my wife Yvonne and my sister Freda.
    I wish I could move back there today but I have a little more to do here first, I guess.
    I’m not physically able to make it on my own anyway. If I have to be carried I don’t want to be aware of it.

  • Reply
    April 25, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    I can imagine the realness of the sense of place you described, also the sweetness of that strong realization of it on that especially experienced day.. although not Appalachian, growing up here in Kentucky in the small town I’ve lived in all my life I think I can relate to that characteristic of having a sense of place … it’s a place I know, and that knows me… a place where I have years of precious memories upon precious memories, where my Grandparents lived ,where my Mama was raised and lived, where I picked blackberries, and played in the mud, where I know where everything is at, and also where things that are gone use to be .. know it’s history- ( some good some not so good) ,have seen changes come over the years that haven’t been for the bestie seemed along with some good changes. Still it’s home….I so enjoy visiting other places . We are so thankful for every time we get to…. but then, we are always so glad to see our city sign come into view on the interstate when we’ve been traveling….as soon as we turn off on the exit ramp into the closest section to house…usually pretty stiff from driving 🙂 …. it’s awwwww, almost home…..but I also have a greater home I’m looking forward to also.

    • Reply
      April 25, 2019 at 3:43 pm

      ”For the best ” I meant to type 🙂 haha not ”bestie”

  • Reply
    April 25, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    Its nice to have that home feeling of love where you were grown up. Sometimes we can’t because of people gone on . I wish in a way i could live where i was brought up at but i cant because we have no city water , no well and too many snakes. I do love the hollow. Where we live now, its home, but its not home. God Bless!

  • Reply
    April 25, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    That sense of place is so very important but I honestly had never thought about it before. Now I have a delimma, because I am betwixt and between. Where do I belong? I can’t make up my mind if my sense of place is those mountains where I grew up or are they in the neighboring state with my family. Just a two hour drive, and I am back to home and roots. I live less than a mile from my beloved parent’s resting place. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but that is where my own ashes will one day be placed. I think I answered my own question. Your sense of place, your home, and where you belong will always be where you wish to be your final resting place.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    April 25, 2019 at 10:35 am

    The town I’ve lived in for my adult life has grown tremendously. There are benefits, of course, but I really miss the small town feel.

  • Reply
    April 25, 2019 at 9:36 am

    That mansion on the hill and the cabin up the holler are simply houses. If those houses become ‘our sense of place’, they can be called home.
    When I got my real estate license years ago, my first ad was corrected before I placed it in the classified section of our local newspaper. My ad was titled “Home For Sale” before it was changed to “House For Sale” by my manager.

  • Reply
    April 25, 2019 at 9:11 am

    I had a sense of place for many years, and it was always comforting. Unfortunately that place no longer exists except in my mind. There are houses, commercial development, and other eye sores where there were once open fields and woods. You are fortunate to still have “place”.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    April 25, 2019 at 8:29 am

    I miss home or the home I knew growing up. I haven’t lived there in years and don’t expect I will again. When I visit, which is seldom it feels foreign to me. There is a slight sense of belonging but it’s very hard to explain. Mom and dad are gone and old relationships are just memories. Some people stay in the same place their whole life and that is a wonderful thing. I was not that kind of person. I worked out of town for years and then moved to be closer to my job. I find my sense of home when I’m with my family. It’s not necessarily a physical place but a place of togetherness.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 25, 2019 at 7:29 am

    Some of us who have pretty much had to move away to make a living have never again felt at home. We have lived here very nearly 27 years but it isn’t home to me. It is somewhat more than the house I live in. There are good memories here, good friends, church family, yet something is still missing.

    I know. It would seem as if a simple answer is to move back to where I grew up. Yet in a way I can’t quite identify that is spoiled to. It most likely is not the place I remember. And whether I like it or not I am not the same guy who left forty-some-odd years ago.

    I am glad for you all, Tipper, that you stayed at home. But you did something more. You bring home to a lot of folks every day.

  • Reply
    Dan O'Connor
    April 25, 2019 at 7:20 am

    Its must be the time of year, I had that same peaceful feeling last night as the sun was setting, the temperature was just right and there was a gentle breeze. No need to go to heaven, it’s right here.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 25, 2019 at 7:13 am

    I didn’t grow up in Murphy, but it is certainly my home now. I love being here. It’s a nice little town without the overpopulation of most most areas now days. I hear the birds this morning as I read the Blind Pig and occasionally a car goes by but it’s mostly quiet.
    Occasionally I go by the shop where the Deer Hunter works and chat with the guys on my way home from the gym. This is certainly my place now, a real sense of home in Murphy NC!

  • Reply
    April 25, 2019 at 6:02 am

    Our Daughter has such a deep devotion to her home, I guess because of her condition she feels safe here, but every time we mention about going on vacation ( which we hardly ever do) she starts hollering home, home, she just doesn’t want to go, and I’m sure God gave her to the right parents because we are homebodies, most folks couldn’t live the way we do, we just want to be left alone and stay close to home, not the hustle and bustle of most folks lives, most families don’t even know each other anymore apart from work, school activities, church activities, community activities, the sense of family has been seriously eroded away with all this running.

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