Showing posts with label Gen Coleman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gen Coleman. Show all posts

Monday, April 11, 2011

Home is where the heart is...

Phelps. Freeburn. Majestic. Pond Creek. Knox Creek. Peter Creek. Up until a few months ago, these were but names of little places in the far southeastern part of Kentucky in Pike County, Kentucky. Just names that I had heard all my life. Places that my Daddy had spoken of so very often and always with a soft, nostalgic, far away look on his face. No matter how many years he had been away from the area, there was no mistaking that this little corner of the world was always "home" to Daddy.

I never understood that nostalgia for "home" until recently. I grew up in Lawrence County, Kentucky and lived there all my life except for a six-year stint of living in Columbus, Ohio. Eighteen months ago, I came to live in Pike County, Kentucky. It was actually full circle for me, because I had been born in Pike County but having left so young I had no memory of the area.

At first the transition was difficult. I didn't know anyone except my new husband and his mother and I didn't know how to find my way around. I felt out of step and out of my element.

I stayed home a lot. I missed my elderly mother and my brother and his family who still lived in Lawrence County. And I missed seeing my sister and her family when they came in from Columbus to see our Mom.

Slowly, I begin to make friends and find my niche in my new/old hometown. I admit I still get lost occasionally but that's mostly that's because I have no geographic bearing. I have a new job here and my son is doing great in school and will graduate from a local high school in a few months.

All of this made me think about the concept of "home". This IS my home now. I'm happy here. I have a full, rich life here. But every now and again I do think back to something I once knew as "home" and I feel the lonely stab of nostalgia that Daddy must have felt. But I realize that it's not so much a certain longitude or latitude, but rather, the memories that live in that space and time that make a place home.

I grew up in Lawernce County and I raised my son there and so the memories of both our childhoods live there. Memories of times when my mom was younger and healthier and when my Daddy was alive and the family was intact live in that place. That is what I miss. Not the certain point on the map, but how that time felt. It was home.

Of course now, I'm making new memories. My son will graduate from here and this is the home he will return to when he visits from college. And my sister and her family are making new memories by visiting here.

Still I understand the longing in my Daddy's eyes. Those places here in Pike County were where he spent his youth and young adulthood. It was where he made a place for himself in the working world and where he married my mother. It was where he started his family. It was the place and time in his life where he felt alive and strong and all the world was out in front of him. By the time he moved to Lawrence County, he had become disabled from epilepsy and he felt defeated and broken. No wonder his eyes always grew misty whenever he thought of "home".

I never thought much about it before, but something inside me makes me want to visit those places that I heard Daddy speak of so often. Something within me makes me want to walk where he walked and see if anything is left of the things he knew so long ago. I realize not much will have remained in fifty years, but to just be in the places that he loved, somehow might make me feel connected to him again.

I know that nothing will feel familiar to me, but then again, perhaps it will. Perhaps I will meet someone with the Surname Francis, or Hurley, Coleman, Daugherty, Stiltner, May, Allen, or Smith and there will be a familiarity about them. Perhaps, when I stand in those places where he stood and look out over what he was remembering all those years ago, maybe I will once again be able to see the look in my Daddy's eyes and this time I can whisper to him, "Now, I understand Daddy." "I understand what you heart was looking for all those years ago. Maybe through me, Daddy's heart will somehow be "home again"...and maybe, in some small, way... I will be too.


Picture owned and copyright by Geneva Coleman

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Appalachian Surnames

We've been talking in general about Appalachia and its history and culture and ancestory. I think it's now time to talk specifically about MY Appalachian history. In the next few posts you'll be hearing about my family ancestors specifically. If my scanner decides to cooperate, you'll be seeing some vintage pictures as well. Some of the family Surnames that I have researched or am continuing to research are:

Francis or France (my maiden name)
Lee (my mother's maiden name)
Smith (originally German and "Schmidtt" -- my maternal grandmother's
maiden name
Daughtery (Irish)
Honaker (Swiss)
Fuller (Swiss)
May (English)
Hurley (Irish)

There are many others, of course, but we'll start with those. That should keep us busy for a while. Many regards to my followers and faithful.
*Horse photo above copyright Susan Troxell See 2010 of Lexington, Ky.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ode to the Appalachian Coal Miner...

There are so many talented people here in Appalachia. For every person you have heard of from this neck of the woods who can play and sing, there are many more playing in small venues, who's names are known by few but who are every bit as talented as the biggest star who ever graced the stage. One might say that there is as much unmined talent in these parts as there is unmined coal. One such talent that I stumbled upon quite by accident while researching music and/or videos to share with you regarding the people of Appalachia is one Alan Johnston or "cathead 77" as he calls himself on the YouTube videos that he posts. If you have never heard Mr. Johnston, or his daughters Stacy Grubb or Jessi owe it to yourself to find one of their CDs. Cathead is a rare and wonderful talent with a Waylon Jennings like voice. Raw and natural. Truly. As real as it gets -and in every way Appalachian. It is his rendition of Sweet Appalachia (and that of his band, "South 52) that I chose to represent the spirit of my entire blog.

The link for the song "Sweet Appalachia", performed by Mr. Johnston, is posted above--directly under the cover picture. To hear this anthem for what it is to be Appalachian, just click on the words "Sweet Appalachia". I believe that this song was also recorded by the great bluegrass legend, Del McCoury as well, but quite honestly, for this particular song, I prefer the raw and unembellished voice of "Cathead" to that of Del. Maybe it's because I know Mr. Johnston is living the life he's singing about. He is a resident of West Virginia and has been most of his life, so far as I know.

I do not know Mr. Johnston's heritage but, judging strictly from his soulful, beautiful voice, and his remarkable ability to put feelings into words through the songs that he writes, I would venture to guess that he is of the Scotch-Irish desent like so many in Appalachia are. Mr. Johnston, if I am wrong, my humble apologies to you sir. But your music so touched a chord within me that I wanted to share it and give you your proper due here in this, my own humble forum.

The fact is, like so many talented Appalachians, Mr. Johnston has many songs, most of which you probably have never heard before. Many tell a story of an actual event that happened in Appalachia or speak to ongoing events that affect this region. All resonate with his deep and abiding faith. I chose one here for this purpose to share with you because it is a tribute to the Appalachian coal miner, a profession shared by so many here in Eastern Kentucky and all through Appalachia. The song is entitled "Sky of Stone" and the accompanying pictures that Mr. Johnston uses with his song are from a world that was exactly like that of my daddy's coal mining days. My daddy's work was before the big machines and the mountain top removal methods used today. Daddy and his fellow mine brothers worked with pic axe and shovel, often on their hands and knees for eight hour shifts, forcing the earth to give up her bounty. For this they received what, for the time, might have been an honest days wage, but also an old man's lungs by the time they were thirty.
Just as today, the coal companies back then got rich off the backs of these Appalachian men.--while Appalachian families struggled to make ends meet. I'm not anti-coal production by any means, but it has always been the case that the coal companies made the money while the people and the land of Appalachia were used so long as they had something to give and then left behind when they had "give out".

This song, so beautifully and hauntingly sung (and written) by Mr. Johnston, along with his video, tells the story of yesterday's Appalachian coal miner. It is the lives of our fathers, and grandfathers in pictures set to music. It is their story, and it deserves to be told and no one tells it better than cathead in this song. No words that I could write would give you a deeper understanding of the conditions in which these men lived and died. Enjoy-- and if it moves you as it does me...perhaps you could drop Cathead a note and tell him you enjoyed his music. Oh, and his lovely, and oh so talented daughter, Stacy, is the voice you hear singing backup on this.

Daddy, I know that no one loved or missed coal mining any more than you did and if God allows, I know you're listening tonight in heaven as Cathead sings this tribute song to you and your many fellow miners and their families of Appalachia.

Joe France, Jr.-- 1921-1995 --beloved husband, father, grandfather, and Appalachian miner, I dedicate this song to you.
--To hear Cathead's song "Sky of Stone" , click on this link:
Note: Photograph above is called: "Coal Miner Teach Slone" I do not own the rights to this photograph. It is part of the Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artifact Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond Virginia and can be viewed at the Library of Virginia website. All rights and priviledges for this photograph belong to them.