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  • Erinn W.

Guest Post: Like Toting Water Uphill

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

My husband and I headed out to pick up a pizza on a rainy Saturday evening. Traveling down Frederica Street in Owensboro, Kentucky, the thundering voice of John Prine saturated the cab of our SUV. Singing along with Prine, I stopped and turned to my husband and laughed. I recalled how when I was younger, the slightest hint of the smell of “snakes” sent me running as fast I could back toward my grandparents house. My older cousins were brave, I was not quite as courageous. Prine always transports me to another place when he sings about his “Paradise,” you see I have my own I fondly think back on.

The Lord saw fit to place us here, in western Kentucky, several years ago. Just as my bare feet adjusted to gravels as a child, it’s taken me a good while to callous them over on this flat land. This is our home now, and this region has been good to us, but there’s still a dull ache inside my chest come June when I dwell too long on if the lilies are blooming on Mud Creek Rd.

Growing up in Williamsburg, the countyseat of Whitley County, I never pictured myself anywhere else. Despite living in town, it was my Pappaw and Mammaw’s house nestled south that brought me joy. Kelly and Virgie Lambdin lived in the little yellow house on the hill.

The house was small. It was full of dark wood paneling and hidden treasures like stray pieces of spearmint chewing gum and cold biscuits on the stove. I recall as a child the stacks of picture albums that lay dormant in a bookcase beside the couch. I would skim through the pages and stare at pictures of people I didn’t know just to get to the back. Tucked in the back, in blackand white, there was a photograph of my Pappaw sitting atop a massive log cut in Bell County. He would always take the time to tell me about it, smiling with a twinkle in his eye, he would brush his fingers across the image and tell me who each of the men pictured with him were.

Born in Frakes, Kentucky in 1917 the son of a preacher, my Pappaw quit school shortly after the third grade to go to work. Farming, the mines, the log woods, and later on Poplar Creek School would define his life’s work. His greatest accomplishment outside of raising nine kids was loving Virgie Rose. He would head down from Pine Mountain to walk her to church, and he didn’t give up until she married him.

Every summer my mother’s sisters and brother would come home. These visits meant my cousins had encamped within the walls of the yellow house on the hill. Cousins meant “cones of cream” as Mammaw called them. There was always a gallon of ice cream in the freezer. On Saturday mornings we would wake up to the local obituaries blaring from the kitchen and a bowl of chocolate gravy sitting on the table. After dark we’d congregate on the front porch and listen for cars to pass.

As a grown woman during some of the hardest moments of my life I have sought refuge in memories of those times, and that place. I can close my eyes and be taken back. You see, Appalachia is like your favorite hymn, it never leaves you.

I was immensely blessed to marry a boy from Leburn, Kentucky. The both of us share the same speech patterns, values, and faith. Mountain people carry their lineage with them wherever they are as if they were toting water uphill. It’s heavy, familiar, and they won’t turn loose of it any time soon.

Guest post by Erinn W.

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