Appalachia Blog

The Angel of Brasstown by Jim Casada

A few weeks back I told you I was featured in the February/March issue of Smoky Mountain Living. Blind Pig Reader Jim Casada wrote the piece. I had nary a clue that he planed to write it nor that it would be in the magazine until it was! Many of you have emailed me to say you couldn’t find the magazine but would love to read the article so I’m sharing it today. Jim’s kind words still make me blush even though I’ve read them a couple dozen times myself.

 

Jim Casada Copyright 2016

TIPPER PRESSLEY: THE ANGEL OF BRASSTOWN

Folks commenting on Tipper Pressley’s daily blog, “Blind Pig & the Acorn,” often call her the “angel of Brasstown.” The description’s geographical part is easily explained. She lives in the crossroads community of Brasstown in far southwestern North Carolina, a location best known for the annual New Year’s ‘Possum Drop and a storied bastion of Appalachian folkways, the John C. Campbell Folk School.

Explaining the moniker’s angel part is more demanding and open to multiple interpretations. Among them are an angelic face graced by a permanent smile; an approach to life conjuring recollections Loweezy’s quote in the Snuffy Smith comic strip, “gooder’n airy angel;” and her keen interest in crafts such as corn husk angels and decorative paintings depicting angels. But where Pressley really shines in earning earthly angel wings is passionate devotion to celebrating and perpetuating our rich, varied Appalachian heritage. As she puts it in describing her daily blog, which first appeared in 2008, “All you really need to know is I’m crazy in love with . . . Appalachia—the people, the food, the music, the colorful language, the sustainable lifestyle, the soaring mountains, and the deep dark hollers.”

In truth there’s far more to know. She’s a marvelous cook specializing in traditional high country cuisine who teaches classes at the Folk School and in other settings; talented musician whose bass playing helps showcase the singing and instrumental talents of her twin daughters, Corie and Katie, brother Paul, and recently deceased father, Jerry; skilled photographer with an exceptional eye; serious student of mountain history; writer; storyteller; and speaker. Atop all that she has a full-time job at Tri-County Community College where, among other duties, she manages the college’s website.

Tipper’s interests, invariably attuned to her passion for place, range even wider than her abilities and are daily displayed in Blind Pig & the Acorn (www.blindpigandtheacorn.com). The blog’s title, taken from an Appalachian adage suggesting that even a blind hog occasionally roots up tasty oak mast, enjoys considerable and growing popularity. Performing a daily balancing act that that avoids contentious comments common in many blogs, Pressley educates and entertains while celebrating southern Appalachia’s attributes through a steady flow of noteworthy material. A heartfelt comment from one reader succinctly summarizes what many readers have discovered: “You have done so very much to make me proud of my heritage.”

That pride involves an array of topics, with one of Tipper’s strongest attributes being the ability to infuse almost any subject with immediacy and interest. Another is insatiable curiosity. Vanishing mountain customs, old-time edibles, or some obscure subject once commonplace to those calling the region’s steep ridges and deep valleys home all form fair game.

Among Pressley’s encyclopedic interests are a number of threads which run as bright strands through her blog’s entire fabric. One favorite is the monthly “Appalachian Vocabulary Test” where five words are offered to see if readers know or use them.

Another recurring theme is music. Her college-age twins, Katie and Corie (“Chitter” and “Chatter” in the blog), possess ample quantities of the family’s deeply entrenched musical talent, and they now perform regularly at regional church gatherings, fairs, and folk festivals. They play guitar, fiddle, and mandolin while offering exquisite harmony reminiscent of the likes of the Louvin Brothers or their grandfather and Uncle Paul. Tipper’s father, the late Jerry Wilson (“Pap” on the blog) and his brother, Ray, were an acclaimed regional singing duo and recipients of a North Carolina Heritage Award in 1998, while Paul is an accomplished guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Readers of Blind Pig & the Acorn can savor scores of selections from the family musical archives while reading the latest blog post.

Given her love of the land, gardening is another prominent theme. Her husband Matt (the blog’s “Deer Hunter”), a skilled jack-of-all trades, enters the scene doing everything from simple tilling to greenhouse construction. Blog readers actually serve as testers for Asheville heirloom seed company Sow True Seed, and from winter’s seed-starting time right through to fall harvest, there are regular updates on everything from herbs to “tommytoes,” cabbage to corn. Use of crops on the family table and for canning, drying, preserves, and pickles also looms large.

Traditional mountain crafts form another area of prominence on the blog. Periodically some craft project are covered, and each year near Christmas Tipper offers unique family creations for sale, such as knitted and crocheted items made her mother (“Granny”) and CDs from various members of this musical clan. Each twin has her own Etsy shop, respectively featuring jewelry and handmade soaps, oils, and balms.

Selfless in promoting mountain heritage, Tipper generously shares links to other Appalachia-related blogs in her “Sit a Spell” section. There are frequent historical posts with coverage ranging from Civil War letters back home to stories underlying popular ballads, from forgotten customs such as dumb suppers to Decoration Day or all-day singings. Yet the blog involves more than “pause and ponder” reading material leavened by ear-soothing music.

The blog’s visual impact sometimes stirs the viewer’s soul. Pressley’s keen photographer’s knack for capturing commonplace scenes from strikingly different perspectives often draws immediate attention. Daily comments from readers provide insight and information. Where responses on many blogs deteriorate into sniping, here there’s a sense of shared passion. Readers feel they are part of an extended family. As a personal example of this togetherness, I’ve obtained candy roaster seeds from fellow Blind Pig fans, received helpful suggestions on troublesome gardening problems, and been reminded of how tasty springtime pigweed (purslane) can be.

Adding a bit of spice to Tipper’s heady literary brew are occasional guest posts. The quality of these varies, but unfailingly they come from the heart and evoke a deep, abiding love for Appalachia. That affinity for Appalachia, masterfully molded and melded by a true Appalachian angel, forms the essence of Blind Pig & the Acorn.

To date well over three thousand blogs devoted exclusively to heralding all that is good and gracious, endearing and enduring, about the mountain way of life have appeared. Quantitatively only by John Parris’ storied “Roaming the Mountains” newspaper column from yesteryear surpasses that figure. Only in her mid-40s, Tipper Pressley likely will give us stories on the glories of Appalachia for many a year and yarn to come.

———————

Jim Casada is a son of the Smokies who has written extensively on his highland homeland and its people. He has a particular interest in distinctive mountain personalities and is currently completing a book, “Profiles in Mountain Character.” The Angel of Brasstown is the first of several profiles that Jim will be doing for the magazine Smoky Mountain Living so please be on the lookout for them.

To learn more, visit his website, www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com.

——————–

Tipper

You Might Also Like

40 Comments

  • Reply
    quinn
    February 23, 2017 at 9:15 am

    I am proud – in both senses of the word – to be a longtime Blind Pig reader. Tipper writes so well across a span of topics, and the comments section always make me think of a few folks chatting on a porch. When another person appears walking up the path, folks just nod or maybe wave a hand, and make room for the newcomer. And then the conversation picks up again.
    Well done, Jim. And well done, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Charles Ronald Perry, Sr.
    February 22, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Jim, you summed up for me what I have been thinking since I began reading her blog in a far more eloquent manner than I could have done. I have been encouraging Tipper to take her writings and incorporate them into a book. Your writing today would make an excellent intro page and The Angel of Brasstown would make an excellent title.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 22, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Well, it is only fair that those who strive to be a blessing get to be blessed for it from time to time. The connections you have made with us, and allowed us to make with each other, are the stuff of a life well lived. It is a great encouragement to me to know that ‘there are good people everywhere’. And I know some of them. One of the blessed things about them is that they think more highly of others than they do of themselves.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 21, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Today I noticed some yellowbells starting to splatter a bit of color across our canvas of browns and greys. They have little competition now other than the few daffodils who have poked their heads out for a look around and decided to stay. A few speckles of white have also been flung far and wide by the pears, both Bradford and prickly, and by snowdab (deciduous magnolia) bushes. More sparse are the blushing pink cheeks of flowering crabapples.
    I even noticed a hint of green on my own thumbs, a sure sign that spring is upon us, albeit still a bit early.

  • Reply
    Sherry
    February 21, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    What a beautifully written article! I say “amen” to all my sister, Charline, said a few posts up. I am so happy that she introduced me to the Blind Pig a few years ago. It is always a bright spot in my day when I can open up that window into those mountains, the people, the visiting talk, the music and am drawn into the family. What a blessing indeed. Thank you once again, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    February 21, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Finally! Tipper gets what she surely earned time after time. I am so glad I made it – A LONG TIME AGO – to one of her wonderful family performances down at the FOLK SCHOOL! Now Tipper, as we always say up in the Matheson Cove, “I SURE HOPE TIPPER DOES NOT GET THE BIG HEAD!” She will understand perfectly what I am ‘talken bout’!
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    CLAY COUNTY NATIVE!

  • Reply
    Charline
    February 21, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    Oh, and my curiosity is finally satisfied as to what your day job is!

  • Reply
    Charline
    February 21, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Tipper,
    I say Amen to all the comments! Between Jim’s insightful, delightful article and the recent interview, you’re getting some well deserved exposure. Anyway, I’m plumb tickled and proud for you.

  • Reply
    Ken
    February 21, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Tipper,
    I can’t think of anyone else to do a Tribute to An Angle, like our friend Jim. As someone said “he covered ’bout everything.” We Love you girl. …Ken

  • Reply
    TimMc
    February 21, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Wow, a really nice article, you all have so much on your plate and still find time to be a Mother and Father to two beautiful young women, I wished other families cared as much as yall do.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 21, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    At the risk of sounding contentious I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Casada’s characterization of our beloved friend and mentor Tipper (M J) Pressley. One needs only to consult the likes of Webster, Johnson and Larousse to determine that the terminology does not apply. To Mr. Casada’s credit many, if not most, people are lexicographically challenged in this area.
    Angel – “a spiritual being specifically created to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God” Angels have no human body and lack human characteristics. Angels are emotionless. Angels are robotic in nature in that they do what, and only what, they are programed to do. (The exception to this is Lucifer who rebelled against God. We can in no way equate Tipper to that.)
    Saint – “a person who is officially recognized as being very holy because of the way he or she lived. A very virtuous, kind, or patient person.” Saints are ordinary people who live ordinary lives but who are recognised for their extraordinary work toward the betterment of mankind.
    Angels are God’s servants. Saints are his children!
    So, having read the definitions, which more closely applies to our teacher-trainer-coach-champion Tipper? I vote for the latter!
    I know to a certainty that Pap is now a saint and firmly believe that his daughter is well on her way!
    Amen!

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    February 21, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks Jim I didn’t know all those things,
    Thanks Tipper for all your hard work. How in the world do you find time for sleep?

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    February 21, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks Jim I didn’t know all those things,
    Thanks Tipper for all your hard work. How in the world do you find time for sleep?

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    February 21, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks Jim I didn’t know all those things,
    Thanks Tipper for all your hard work. How in the world do you find time for sleep?

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    February 21, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks Jim I didn’t know all those things,
    Thanks Tipper for all your hard work. How in the world do you find time for sleep?

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 21, 2017 at 11:48 am

    A lovely article about a lovely lady! One of the first things I do every day is read the Blind Pig. Yall feel like part of the family!

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    February 21, 2017 at 11:42 am

    What a fitting title and wonderfully written tribute. Well deserved, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Melissa P (misplaced Southerner)
    February 21, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Thank you so much, Jim, for such a wonderful article. I can’t tell you how often Tipper’s wonderful stories have been something of a lifeline for me. Having lived my first 50 years in the south, my move to the Midwest was something of a system-shock. Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many wonderful people here; but I do understand how plants get root-shock when they’re pulled up from where they’ve always been warm and comfy and transplanted in a new and different area. Blind Pig has been that daily touch of home that has helped me feel like my roots may be long, but some of them are still firmly planted in southern soil – even if it’s just for a few minutes each day.

  • Reply
    Joe Penland
    February 21, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Thank you. A great tribute to a great person. All I can add is AMEN!!!!!!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    February 21, 2017 at 11:00 am

    The Flagship flies the B (Bravo) and Z (Zulu) flags to praise other units on a successful operation. A well deserved Bravo Zulu to you Tipper for your success with the Blind Pig and the Acorn and to you Jim for your excellent article.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 21, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Shoot Tipper, you done went and turned into one of them there celebrities and all! But seriously, the article was very good and you are very deserving of the recognition for all the work you do in keeping our culture alive. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy checking in for my daily dose of Appalachia each morning.
    Oh, and after meeting you and the girls at the festival I think there’s three angles fluttering around up there in Brasstown!

  • Reply
    Zelma
    February 21, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Nice article!! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    February 21, 2017 at 9:57 am

    The Angel of Brasstown, Pap and all the angel band have been a blessing beyond words for the entire Casada family, and brought peace beyond measure for Susan and me on the day that Daddy died.
    Gooder’n airy angel, indeed.
    By the way, that photo of Corie, Pap, Tipper and Katie was taken by yours truly on the day we dined on cubed steak which Tipper wrote about yesterday.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 21, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Tipper,
    and Jim…I enjoyed the article very much. As I read each entry about Tipper, I kept looking for something you might have forgotten…nary a stitch missed. Great job, great article about a wonderful person and her family!
    As I have said many times before, Thanks Tipper and thanks Jim for spreading the word!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    February 21, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Good and truthful article Jim. Tipper, there’s no need to blush, I think Jim did a very good job of bringing out the attributes which keep all of us addicted to the “Blind Pig & Acorn”. Keep up the great work.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 21, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Thanks, Jim, and you speak the truth, whether it embarasses Tipper or not! I always look forward to the Blind Pig posts.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    February 21, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Many thanks to Jim for this wonderful tribute to Tipper. He took the words right out of my mouth. Jim is an excellent writer, and he is also a dedicated Appalachian. A good post would be asking Blind Pig readers and posters about why they are addicted to The Blind Pig. I’ll agree with Jim about the freedom from contention. Tipper, your blog is refreshing at a time when many entertainers forget they are popular because they entertain. Dear wise one, you share sadness and humor. We can turn on tv and see folks in constant uproar! No thanks, I will stay grounded by starting my day with The Blind Pig. I will enjoy my day better.

  • Reply
    Bob Dalsemer
    February 21, 2017 at 9:39 am

    A lovely article by Jim. This recognition is well deserved and long overdue!

  • Reply
    Shirl
    February 21, 2017 at 9:29 am

    I found this blog several years ago while googling information about a subject only a true Appalachian would know about. After reading several hundred post, I wondered how on earth Tipper manages to do all the things Jim described. Maybe it’s because she IS an angel!

  • Reply
    Jackie
    February 21, 2017 at 9:28 am

    You have no reason to blush. Jim’s tribute is well deserved from my point of view. I look forward every day to reading something that either teaches something new or reminds me of past experiences. Keep on keeping on.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    February 21, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Excellent article – but look at the subject, how could it not be.

  • Reply
    Maxine
    February 21, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Wonderfully written, Mr. Casada -and well deserved, Mrs. Tipper!! You are indeed the ” Angel of Brasstown” !

  • Reply
    Eleanor Loos
    February 21, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Good Morning, Tipper! Thanks to Jim Casada and his excellent review I learned ever so much about “The Angel of Brasstown”. This is the first time I’ve read that Chitter and Chatter have REAL “birth” names (Corie and Katie), though I suspected as much! Oh my goodness! You’ve achieved much in your forty years and given enjoyment to this 79-year-old Great Grandma. I thank you and Jim! I pray God’s blessings on your life and those of your family members as He gives you grace to share your wisdom with all of us ….. even northerners who appreciate the folk from Appalachia.
    Eleanor Loos in Ohio

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    February 21, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Well deserved, such a fitting tribute and a fine portrayal of Tipper, whose delightful blog drew me in immediately when I stumbled across it several years ago. Blind Pig & the Acorn has held me in thrall ever since, with its lively variety of subjects and Tipper’s dedication to all things Appalachian, most especially the music, the history and the dialect.
    Thank you, Jim Cassada, for shining your literary light on an Angel so worthy of commendation.

  • Reply
    Mel H.
    February 21, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Mighty fine…!

  • Reply
    Maggie Boineau
    February 21, 2017 at 8:34 am

    What a beautifully written article, Jim!!
    Tipper has a unique way of drawing you into her world even if you are in a totally different demographic. That is the true marker of a talented writer. I look forward very much to reading her stories. Blogging takes a lot effort to stay fresh, and good content is critical. It is very obvious that she has a loyal following. She has graciously helped me with some issues I had with my blog, http://www.camo365.com. Thank you, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 21, 2017 at 8:19 am

    Great article. I think he covered everything that the folks love about you and your family.
    What I love most is the way you jiggle our memories to things we had forgotten.
    Our heritage is so important to the person we become no matter how far away from home we go.
    Thanks.
    Gayle

  • Reply
    Brenda Jump
    February 21, 2017 at 8:06 am

    This is a great article! Tipper and her family are rare gems and I am happy I know them.

  • Reply
    Paulette Tonielli
    February 21, 2017 at 7:04 am

    So well said – Tipper is an angel indeed!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 21, 2017 at 5:43 am

    Thank you, Jim!! This is a wonderful spotlight to shine on Tipper and those of us who know her know that it is a well deserved spotlight! She is, indeed, an angel!
    I am so proud of you, Tipper!

  • Leave a Reply