Appalachia

The Home Place

Today’s guest post was written by Ed Ammons. If you missed his first post on his childhood home place-you can go here to read it: Life On Wiggins Creek.

Old house in bryson city nc

 

The Old Home Place was in a little valley known as Wiggins Creek. Harold says it was named for Will Wiggins. Where did he come from, where did he go? Maybe we’ll find out later. Maybe we’ll never know! The home place was the last house up the valley. There were the remains of houses further on up and one cabin we called the Pressman place which never had an occupant that I knew of. Nobody lived upstream of us. No toilets over the branch. The branch water was clean enough to drink, but we had a good spring and never had to.

The valley in which the house sat ran almost directly west to east and the house faced east. Behind the house was Breedlove Mountain, a high Mountain that dominated the western skyline. On both sides of the valley, almost parallel, were lower ridges running to the east. The view to the east was open for miles. It seemed like sitting in a giant arm chair.

On clear mornings we could look to the west and watch the sunlight appear high on the Mountain top first, and then work its way down toward us. Turn and look back to the east the Sun would soon erupt over the ridge top near a lone pine that stood proud above the other trees. We got the advantage of the early morning light, but lost it earlier in the afternoon when the sun sank behind the Mountain. Some of our crops never prospered as they should because of the shorter span of direct sunlight. Others fared better later into the summer for the same reason.

The weather, because of the way the home place was situated, was unpredictable. Storms that formed to the north, south and west had time to build before you could see them. You might hear a mighty rumble and see a massive thunderhead just in time to get drenched before you could get your stuff in the dry.

When the weather came in from the east we had the advantage of a much longer line of sight. We could watch storms form, grow and sometimes die before they reached us. We could ‘see the rain coming’.

In the summer I would have time to go to the barn, pull together a couple of bails of hay, lay back and let the rain on the tin roof sing me to sleep.

The view to the east was wide open. You could see the top of the neighbor’s house and smell the smoke from their fire, if the wind was blowing right, from a quarter mile away. We could hear them talking on the porch, scolding the kids or calling cows and chickens. Chicky-Chicky-Chicky-Chickeeeeeee. We could see a car coming around the curve below their house, but would soon lose sight and have to track its progress by its sound. If the sound stopped before we saw the car, we knew it had turned off at the neighbor’s house. Some vehicles, such as the school bus and the motor grader, could be identified by sound alone. The shape of the valley and lack of ambient noises seemed to amplify sounds and funnel them up the valley. On cold clear mornings we could hear the sounds of the Little Tennessee River, two miles away, and vehicles on the Franklin Road beyond. We could hear the once daily freight train that ran to Topton and back.

Beyond the curve we couldn’t see any more terrain of Wiggins Creek, but because of the elevation, could see out over it. Over the valley of the Little Tennessee, over the valley of Sawmill Creek and Davis Branch, to the western slopes of the Alarka Mountains. Past the valley of Alarka Creek we could see the tops of the mountains of the Big Laurel and Cowee.

We called these distant mountains ‘blue mountains’. On clear days we could watch cloud shadows form, change shape and move across these blue mountains. We could see thunderstorms in their entirety.

The blue mountains lost elevation as they progressed north to the left in our mental picture, toward the valley of the Tuckaseegee River and the county seat Bryson City. We couldn’t see anything of the town itself, but could sometimes see airplanes circling above. These were small two seat airplanes which were flown to and from a hilltop strip above the town. They looked likes gnats and were easily dropped from sight. If you blinked, you might have to stare for several moments before you picked them up again. Or, you might never see them again. Sometimes they would drop below mountain top level and you could track their progress against the backdrop of the blue mountains.

Wiggins Creek begins when three branches converge below the old Home Place. If the three had names, I never knew them. After becoming the Creek, it flows through the neighbors property to a point where two ridges come almost together and forces it into a sharp turn over a waterfall. The creek and the road are squeezed through a slit no more than fifty feet wide. This point is what I’ve always known as “The Curve”.

From there the valley opens up into what appears to be little more than a crack in the mountain wide enough for not much more than the creek and the road. It flows through terrain which seems alien to the valley above and below. It wiggles and winds through a maze of jagged boulders, filling deep pits and cracks, and flowing over falls. After running this torturous gauntlet the little creek emerges into wider, flatter valley floor and soon is joined by Ammons Branch coming in from the left. Another quarter mile and it meets Charlie Branch, also on the left. From there it wanders leisurely on, being fed by numerous unnamed branches and springs, until it reaches the Little Tennessee and ceases to exist.

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I hope you enjoyed the guest post as much as I did! I’ve never been to Wiggins Creek-but Ed’s description makes me feel as I though I have.

Tipper

 

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    JOHNIE T. ARANT
    August 27, 2012 at 10:13 am

    THAT OLD HOUSE HOUSE BRINGS BACK
    MEMORIES IT LOOKS JUST LIKE THE
    ONE WHERE I LIVED WHEN I WAS A BOY
    WE LIVED THERE UNTIL I WAS 18 TEEN YEARS OLD, DAD RETIRED FROM
    FARMING AND MOVED AWAY, I STILL THINK OF THAT OLD HOME PLACE ONCE
    IN A WHILE THE OLD HOUSE ISN’T THERE ANYMORE.
    JOHNIE IN ARK.
    ,

  • Reply
    Judith Curry
    June 20, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Thanks to Ed for that wonderful journey to his homeplace. Reading it was like a beautiful, peaceful, mini movie. I do so love the mountains and creeks! I too wonder if anbody but a country born soul could be so attached to their home and respectful of their roots? Thanks,Judith

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    May 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Ed. Is that a picture of grandmaw Ammons’s house before it was torn down? You might want to mention that there was what appeared to be a cross on the mountain in the distance each time it snowed. I was told that was one of the reasons daddy loved the place. Was it just a cleared out place so the snow would lay quicker. Stephen

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo
    May 24, 2012 at 7:45 am

    I liked reading the two articles by Ed Ammons. His name had caught my eye, because my grandmother’s sister Addie Morgan was married to an Ammons (Jud Ammons),but they lived in Morgan Hill, near Barnardsville a little North of Asheville. (http://www.childers-shepherd.org/MorganHillSchoolPhoto.html) I think my great Aunt Addie’s husband (Jud Ammons)was the principal of that school at one time.
    My Dad was born in Whittier North Carolina, which is also in Swain County. My Dad would be way over a hundred years old now. I loved reading both articles by Ed Ammons, for it makes me feel closer to my Dad who was forever talking about places in and around Swain County. I digress, however, I did like reading the article “Life on Wiggins Creek” that was written by Ed Ammons. I thought the part about “boxed and slatted houses” was really interesting.

  • Reply
    kathryn Magendie
    May 22, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Thank you, Ed — so enjoyed this . . . beautifully written . . .

  • Reply
    RB
    May 21, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    What’s fun is going to a map and finding almost where he’s talking about, which I did right here.
    http://maps.google.com/maps?sugexp=chrome,mod%3D18&q=map+%22wiggins+creek,+nc%22&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x88593444eaaa4edb:0x36c1305f25ada420,Wiggins+Creek&gl=us&ei=Uv26T4XdO6jZ6gHa67naCg&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CB0Q8gEwAA
    Sure would love to trek around there to see if I could find his old Home Place, but the actual area is always gonna be bigger than it appears on a map, durn it all. LOL
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Ken
    May 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Tipper,
    I just read Ed’s and Jim’s comment
    and wanted to throw this in. I’m
    friends with Jerry Breedlove and
    he was Clerk of Court in Murphy
    for 40 some years. Don’t know his
    folks. And Jim mentioned Doctor Bacon, he delivered my oldest girl
    back in ’68. Ain’t it a small
    world? And a lady I talk to alot
    mentioned she knew some Ammons’
    who lived on Happy Top here in
    Andrews, but couldn’t remember
    any names…Ken

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Ed–Since I’m fairly familiar with the area where you grew up, I particularly enjoyed your return to your boyhood home. Don didn’t mention it, but in my boyhood and on into his we did quite a bit of rabbit hunting in what might be styled the greater Needmore metropolitan area (for those of you unfamiliar with the area, this would be seen as encompassing everything from Maple Springs a short ways off of Highway 19-74 all the way to Lost Bridge way up the Little Tennessee River towards Franklin). In fact, chances are fair to middlin’ that we hunted on or near your family property at some point, because Daddy and Claude Gossett, between the two of them, seemed to know most everyone from Burningtown Creek downstream. For sure we hunted on Rattlesnake Creek, Wiggins Creek, and in and around all the little farms and homes which lay along the river and the main road.
    Do you by chance know Susan Coe, who until quite recently wrote a column for the “Smoky Mountain Times?” She lives on Wiggins Creek although she isn’t a native.
    As for Will Wiggins, I knew a man by that name as a boy, although I have no idea whether it was the same individual. Wigginses are passin’ plentiful in Swain County.
    Thanks for “going home again” and taking all of us with you. I think one of the strongest, most salient aspects of mountain character is our sense of place and the way we cling to memories of the geography of childhood. I know that I am as intimately familiar with the topography of every little branch, knob, hill, and field within two miles of where I grew up today as I was as a boy. That was pretty much my range by shank’s mare.
    One final thought. I knew, as you may have as well, the two fellows who were mostly likely to have been piloting those planes you mention. They were Leroy Sossamon (who owned the airport) and Dr. Harold Bacon.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    Lewis
    May 21, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Been to Wiggins Creek. Great job!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Don-As far as I know there is only one Breedlove family in the whole of Western North Carolina, the descendants of John Watkins Breedlove, Sr. I assume the Mountain was named for him or one of his children. Most likely his Junior.
    Charlie might ought to be Charley. If you go up Charlie Branch to it’s source you will be near Charlie (Charley) Gap. Climb up and through the gap there and you are above 19-74 near Nantahala Village. I wonder myself who Charlie might have been. Maybe someone will see this and enlighten us both.

  • Reply
    Ken
    May 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Tipper,
    Just wanted to say that Ed’s words
    and memories of his childhood home
    are wonderful to read. I can relate to those sights and sounds
    of our beloved Appalachia, and our
    neighboring county. Thanks Ed, for
    reminding us how life use to be.
    …Ken

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    May 21, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Ed, you show yourself to be a true son and lover of these mountains by your recollections of the sights and sounds that surrounded you.
    If you ever do learn more about the naming of Wiggins Branch, please do share it.
    But surely you know the source of the naming for Ammons Branch (and Ammons Knob)!
    Who was Charlie of Charlie Branch? Which Breedlove (or specific Breedlove family) did the mountain take its name from?
    I ask those latter two rhetorically, but if you know, please tell us. There are far too many names in the mountains for which the source has been lost.

  • Reply
    Laurie Stone
    May 21, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Ed,
    What a lovely description, you painted the picture so well I could feel the air change as the thunderstorms moved closer and picture someone running out to grab the clothes off the line – wind whipping through their hair as the clouds approached.
    – Laurie

  • Reply
    Ethel
    May 21, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Thank you Ed, for the loving description of your home!
    Mountains are some of God’s finest handy-work, I’m convinced, and I can’t imagine how my great-grandparents could bear to leave them.

  • Reply
    Charles R. Perry, Sr.
    May 21, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Ed, wonderful piece. Both you and Tipper have a natural way with words and can paint pictures that everyone can see just as if they were there. You need to send a copy of this to the Swain County Genealogical Society for their files.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 21, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Hi Ed, thanks so much for the story. You have a talent for word bending. I especially liked how you tracked things by sound. You could hear sounds back then and distinguish what they were and where they came from. Now there is so much constant noise that nothing is distinguishable.
    My grandparents lived 4 miles out of town but could still hear the mill whistle that blew at each shift turn and noon.
    I read your post and hear as well as remember a different time that was so different it was like another world.
    Thanks so much for sharing your life with us.

  • Reply
    Jackie @Syrup and Biscuits
    May 21, 2012 at 8:25 am

    What a beautiful post! I felt that I was right there with you, Ed!

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    May 21, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Enjoyed your story. Perhaps, you could take these beautiful memories and write a mystery. You seem to have a good way with words.

  • Reply
    Bradley
    May 21, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Ed someone said that home is where the heart is but, it is hard for me to think that anyone other than a person raised in the country could be that attached to home. Would a city dweller have those endearing memories? I suppose they could but it is hard for me to grasp. Well, I’ll say no more about that but, this story was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Oh yes, you know that part about the rain on a tin roof and how soothing it was well, I used to love to hear the rattling of sleet on a tin roof during the night when I was a boy cuddled underneath one of Momma’s hand made quilts safe from all harm. It was a perfect muscle relaxer! Thanks again.

  • Reply
    Steve
    May 21, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Thanks for the nice post. Caused me to remember the details of my childhood home. It is good to stop and remember those little things like watching a rainstorm move over the land toward you and sounds of the distant neighbors.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 21, 2012 at 7:22 am

    An idyllic childhood, hard work, hard play and a time to be you. Sounds beautiful.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    May 21, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Tipper,
    and Ed…What a wonderful description of your homeplace…I do believe I could find it by your mental map, without looking at a paper one in hand….
    Thanks Tipper for sharing Eds story…

  • Reply
    Jo
    May 21, 2012 at 4:43 am

    Dear Ed, I began reading and overlooked your location, but suddenly felt that I was on Needmore (where we lived 7 years and moved away almost 20 years ago. My second child was born on Needmore Rd, and those were the most content years of my life.) It was a breath taking surprise when I realized that you were actually describing my neighborhood. You carried me back to Needmore.

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