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Amelia SanJon Gallery
Amelia Island Artists Workshop
Sandra Baker-Hinton
218A Ash Street., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904-491-8040,  904-557-1195 cell
Amelia Island Artists Workshop (for workshop schedules)

Artrageous Art Walk is this Saturday Evening.  I usually have a big opening show but have been too busy this year to get it together but come and we will have a celebration anyway.  New things, new artists, new jewelry, new inventory of pottery, lots to see.  5:30-8:30pm
Thank you for letting me in share my visit back home, which is both very personal and as well as nostalgic.  My brother, Mike, has been doing family tree search so with that in the back of my mind it made me want to look beyond my living relatives to those who came before us, so indulge me as I take you with me on that journey.  The words from John Denver's song "Country Roads" kept playing over and over in my head as I took this drive.  There was not enough space to share it all but here goes with some of the highlights...
Country Roads Take Me Home, To the Place where I Belong, Mountain Mamma..
When family are scattered and visits are few and far between family portraits are always needed to cement those memories we want to save.  So here it is.  The clan which had gathered for a birthday celebration for both of the older Jones girls, minus niece Nicki who was off spending time with her dad.
The Jones clan, Helen, Treva, Sandy, and Susan.  It was mom's and Helen's belated birthday (lunch) dinner at a local restaurant and of course I am wearing my copper as is sister Susan.  I can see the effects of the home cooking on my waistline.  Oh well, another song from the movie Annie, Tomorrow, tomorrow, there's always tomorrow, it's only a day away, is my philosophy during this visit.  Today is to be enjoyed for what it is as the once wild and untamed Holston River, now tamed by TVA, rushes behind us.  I hope John understands as I take a few liberties with his lyrics.
"Almost heaven, East Tennessee,
Blue Ridge Mountains, Holston River,

Northeast Tennessee is bordered by Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina.   We decided to head toward Gate City, Virginia which was not far from our restaurant just to make sure we did not miss any of the best Fall color.  Gate City was always the place in my growing up years were people of questionable reputation visited the "Package" stores there to get alcohol and cheap cigarettes, since tax laws were different and Tennessee was dry except for illegal moonshine.
Not finding anything prettier than what we had in Fall Branch we headed back in that direction.  On the way, being the designated driver, I made a right turn after we passed Sullivan Gardens and headed back through a backroad with a certain destination in mind.  It had been a while since I had been there.  Still looking for tree color I pulled over into an area in front of the barn of this beautiful pastoral scene with a great colorful maple in the yard.  Funny flock of birds underneath it though.  Very pink????
Wow!!!  A lost flock of Florida's famous Pink Flamingos had found refuge underneath it.  Who would have thought you would find this rare bird so far north?  I felt right at home.
Behind the barn gave a hint of where we were heading.  The hills in this part of the country are quite steep and if you look closely you will see the faint rings around the hills worn by the animals who have grazed there year after year throughout its history after being settled by the Europeans.  Where we were headed is said to be so far into the backwoods that they didn't get the Grand Ole Opery until Sunday night and the hills so steep you had to pipe in the sunshine.
Country Roads, take me home
To the place I belong,
East Tennessee,
Mountain mamma,take me home Country roads
As the road winds deeper and deeper into the hills I reach my destination.  It is the community where my mom grew up, Blair's Gap.  Sitting on top of the hill is the church, Solomon's Temple Baptist Church, which is built on land my Great Granddaddy Carr donated for that purpose.  He worked so hard on the building of the church, even though he was sick with pneumonia, that he died at the too young age of only 37.
Life is old there, older than the trees,
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze
...Country Roads"
We visited the old cemetery where Great Grandfather W. R. Carr, born in the year the Civil War ended, was laid to rest, next to his beloved church for which he sacrificed his life to make a reality.  Nearby was my Grandmother, Vernie (Mae), his son's wife, who also died at a very young 38 with breast cancer.  Grandmother Vernie left my mom at age 16, the oldest of a family of four, with 3 younger brothers, the youngest only 6 years old, to raise.  Mom's life was hard being caretaker for a large family, wanting desperately to go to high school and be a regular teenager, and living under a very strict unkind father, her only escape was through the movie magazines where she could read of the glamour, make-up and fashion outside the mountains. 
My grandfather did not remarry until the time my own mom married my dad.  I guess the loss of a built in caretaker, cook, and cleaning lady made him realize he needed a woman in his life.  Marrying a much younger woman, Laudia, they went on to have another daughter who was born only 2 months after I was.  We have always felt like cousins rather than niece and aunt.  Laudie, as we called her, made it quite clear she did not want to be our grandmother, so in reality I never had a grandparent except my Granddaddy Carr.  Although he had been a pretty rough dad he was a great Granddaddy telling chilling ghost stories about the area, which we still think he may have believed, and could do what he called a "Bear Dance", which is in reality was the dance the Russian men can do where you kick your legs out while in a crouched position.  He died much too young at 70, when I was pregnant with my youngest child, David.  His own father, W. R., would have died only a few days after Granddaddy's 3rd birthday so he had grown up without a dad.  Looking at the dates and realizing what those numbers really meant to the lives they marked, brought perspective that made those lives more real.
This is the view across the road from the church.  Not a lot has changed from the days my mom walked these roads from her house, which would have been dirt, to attend this church several miles one way.  There are a lot of newer houses sitting on big pieces of land, but several of the old home places are still sitting there in a sad state of disrepair.  Mom remembered the names of all the families who lived in them and the names of the 'hollers' (sic).  "That's Smith Holler" there she would point out. 
" All my memories, gather round her
Modest lady, stranger to blue water..."
The road is curvy but had a lot of pretty leaves to enjoy, as well as the nostalgia as Mom reminisced about different families who lived where, who made moonshine, and where the kin folks lived.  Most of the homes I remembered were gone, burned to the ground.  Young vandals delight in burning old homes which are deserted. 
"Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye"
Old fences mark the boundaries of land which was precious in the mountains where hillsides are too steep for crops, only grazing or timber, and bottom land is prized.
"I hear her voice in the morning hour she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away..."
The roads connected people, and their lives in the days when there was not much in the way of social activity that was not centered at the church or the school.  The schools were places where traveling singers would put on shows for a small fee.  I remember people like Carl Smith and other people who were later country music stars putting on shows at the little elementary school I attended.  They were the community centers of the area.
"And driving down the road I get a feeling
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday"
This dilapidated tractor sits in front of my Granddaddy's old home place, his brother lived at the foot of the hill and his sister lived just a piece down the road.  All the houses are gone now except the one which belonged to his brother Otis's widow, Aunt Jenny.
It is now being used as a barn it looks like.  My mom told us that she and Daddy used to "Park" underneath the tree by this house and do a bit of kissing and hugging before she walked the long hill up to her front door.  My Grandfather was a hard father, whipping my mom for such shenanigans as that long after she was a grown up girl but he was a good Granddaddy.  He did not know how to be a father to a daughter.  He made mom quit school in the 10th grade because he believed that girls who went to high school were bad girls.  Before he died he told Momma how sorry he was for the way he treated her as a teenager, that he was just scared she would turn out "bad" and didn't know much about raising a girl then.
Country Roads, take me home
To the place I belong,
Blairs Gap, Tennessee,
Mountain Mamma, take me home
To the country roads
After returning to Mom's home, Susan and I decided to head out on an adventure of our own.  We decided the "holler" we used to play in as kids and held our greatest adventures needed to be explored.  (It was always just called "the holler".)  A new destination was set as tuned our internal GPS's as we headed down the now paved road downward.  A few new houses, and some mobile homes now were part of the landscape which had previously been just been washed out gullies, deep enough to be canyons for little kids to have all kinds of adventures and hideouts, and a rough dirt road which narrowed quickly into just a well decent hiking trail .  Our destination was Judy's Spring a favorite summer time excursion for us a kids as we set out to blaze a trail on our own at least once a summer.  We pass the new residents of "the holler".
We asked a neighbor who was out in the yard on his cell phone which would be the best way since the landscape had changed tremendously since our days of group hikes to Judy's Spring with our peanut butter sandwiches and a yearning for the cold, clear water of the spring calling us.  He recommended that we wait on cold weather because of the snakes but told us that he would recommend approaching from the top of the hill since the trail we had always used around the bottom was all grown over.  This skull was a warning as we blazed a new trail downward.
It was steep and I let little sis' be the leader as I pointed out what I thought would be the best route.  As we carefully picked our way around the rocks I was sure there were lots of snakes underneath them.  As you know I like snakes but I like to know where they are.  I don't want to accidently step on one and find out the hard way that I am in the wrong place, and with all those slick leaves covering the ground, that was a distinct possibility.
We did find the spring and this is not just any spring, it was our spring, and now is very neglected, filled with debris and leaves.  When it had been "our spring" (real property boundaries to a bunch of kids exploring the wilderness were of no concern) it was still used as a water source for the house at the foot of the hill just below the spring.  Then it was cared for and kept clean.  It was also a spring that supplied my dad and Aunt Helen's family with water when they had lived in a sharecroppers shack across the road about a quarter of a mile away.  They carried the pure clear water in buckets from the spring for their drinking water.
The smell of a deciduous forest is different from what we have here and even the smells bring back the feelings you had as a kid tromping these hills totally free like the horses on Cumberland Island.  No rules or time to check in at home until you got hungry and knew it was suppertime.  Too bad our kids and grandchildren will never know that kind of freedom.
This actually is the spot the spring exits from underneath the hill as it freely flows beneath the rocks.  It doesn't look like much but although Susan bent over and took a sip I was not that excited to do so since, as I reminded her, the new houses now sitting on top of the hill have septic tanks.  It used to be full of watercress which indicated pure water.  We also had seen a snake slither underneath the rock on which we were standing and I was not sure what kind it was.  It was in his territory and I did not want to intrude any more than we had.
As with all good things tend to do the end of our visitation was nearing an end.  Susan would stay and visit a few more days.  We had a surprise visit from brother, Gary, who was supposed to be away working on a job.  One final family photo this time to include more of the clan with the beautiful Nicki, the third generation of the Jones girls, brother Gary, and only missing my other brother Mike, -of course all the other Grand Kids, and now even 2 Great Grand Children for mom.  Nicki and I retraced our drive South arriving at Julie's (now home from her Peru trip) late and tired.  Nicki was a terrific navigator and good company as we whiled away the miles, noting the changing in leaf color in the few days since we had traveled this same road down the North Carolina side of the Smokey's. 
"All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go
I'm standin here outside your door...
Now the time has come to leave you
One more time...
But, I'm leavin on a jet plane
Don't know when Ill be back again."
Amid tornado warnings, rain, and thunderstorms we headed to the airport but with all the weather threats on the TV and radio it was a very smooth trip back.  Plane was on time, no problems. 
Beautiful clouds had formed with the threat of more rain when we reached the Jacksonville airport, a little turbulence as we descended, but it was only hot and sultry when we landed.  It was good to be back to my adopted home.  Glad to see the marshes beside the roads and to feel the difference in the smell and the air of being back.  No Fall color like in East Tennessee but I have gotten sand in my sandals now, and I don't see any way that will ever change.  As I continue to hear words from John Denver I hear a part of my all time favorite song:
"Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high"
And so it is back to finishing out turtle season, fishing, painting and in general working my fingers to the bone, but its nice to have only a 15 mile span of land on which to keep my feet firmly rooted.  With an enormous amount of social activities always going on, and I don't have to go very far to find lots of new adventures.  I have all I need right here.  I like being only a couple of blocks from the greatest view I can imagine, the ever changing Atlantic Ocean I just wish the Tennessee mountains and my mamma were just across the river.

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