Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Project

Yesterday I started a new project, not that I have finished the Pilot Mountain Schoolhouse project or anything, but the timing for this offered a window I couldn't pass up.

My mother's eighty-five year old cousin lives way, way back in the Smoky Mountains (yes, another mountain project) just off interstate 40, not all that far from the Tennessee state line. She has asked me for several years now to write the story of her life as a circuit riding (horseback) preacher for the Salvation Army. As I interviewed her yesterday I couldn't help but connect elements of her story to those I've caught from Pilot Mountain.

One especially stood out...the mountain language. In a previous blog, (click here) I wrote about people who moved into the South Mountains as children and found a culture and its language vastly different from any other.

This cousin is, like my entire family, from the coal mining region of the western Pennsylvania mountains. She left our home village and moved to Pittsburgh in the mid forties, war era. She never felt at home in a big city, always missed her mountains, and eventually moved south when she joined the Salvation Army. She found mountains, and even though these were called the same, Appalachians, these were not the same people. When she first arrived, she could not speak their language, athough they both spoke English. The southern Appalachians, specifically the Smoky Mountains, are very isolating, undeveloped even to this day. The early Scotch/Irish settlers kept to themselves, retaining their customs and their old English accents and vocabulary, wary of strangers with Yankee accents.

Enter this tiny missionary, from the Alleghney Mountains, from the big city, and most important to the locals, from anywhere but Max Patch, North Carolina. They couldn't understand her. She couldn't understand them, not their language, not their customs. She invented her own system of sign language in a necessity-mother-of-invention way. She made comical missteps simply because she didn't understand this mountain life.

Adapting to her new home is only a part of her story. Her faith journey is the rest.

I can't wait to go back and capture more of this exciting story.

Catch of the day,


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