My great-great grandparents, Mack & Caroline Saxon [shown on the book cover], were some of the richest people, black or white, in this region at that time. Not only did they race horses, they owned over a dozen businesses including a fairground, built a Julius Rosenwald school and Mount Carmel AME Church, had sharecroppers and servants, and have a surprising connection to the Kennedy family. What was supposed to be a 25-50 page pamphlet to be given out at reunions about the family history, has become a historical account called Black Blue Bloods — Legacy of an African American Plantation Owner.comments
Tag Archives: appalachian literature
Before Hollene had time to react, a single shot from a high-powered Winchester rifle exploded into the air. Al’s startled horse jumped and spun wildly.
Another shot. Hollene fell to the ground, her face torn to pieces, black from powder burn and smattered in blood.
Dave Dingess, riding nearly beside Al and Hollene, had also spotted the two men hiding among the rocks. He had put up his hand before the second shot, then felt it go numb. Feeling little pain, he had quickly turned his horse and slid over toward its side opposite the shooters, and clung to his saddle, keeping his arms around the horse’s neck, until he maneuvered to safety. He and Harve galloped back up the creek toward home and help. No shots came their way. But Dave’s hand was covered in blood.
Al, meanwhile, tried to regain control of his horse. He looked down at his wife, then up toward the rocks.
Another shot—this time finding its mark.
Al fell to the ground, rolling in the dust. He felt pain at his right elbow and all through his arm, then numbness. His arm was covered in blood—shot and broken—useless from the fall.
His horse sped away down the creek.
Al crawled toward Hollene, reaching under his jacket for a pistol. Then came another shot, this time grazing his breast and ripping the fabric of his vest. The pressure was intense.
Al followed his horse downstream to safety.
For a brief moment, the scene was completely quiet.comments
Maybe it was the timing of my reading Out of Peel Tree, a novel in stories about a contemporary Appalachian family that follows a grandmother, Essie, and her lineage from Peel Tree, West Virginia to a Texas town and all the places of life in between. The book opens with a connected characters family tree – Essie, Eva, Darlene, Billie, Hector, Corina, Joshua – each of whom own chapters in this book that the academy and critics love. I can see all the ingredients and why – it’s a good story, it has detailed imagery, an interesting creative-on-linear structure that at times bridges between poetry and Appalachian story telling, offering changing points of view that move forward and backward to develop the characters and plot.comments
David stepped into the large warehouse at the southern end of the canal basin in Cumberland. The bay doors had been swung open to allow sunlight to shine on the work going on inside. However, it also meant that the warehouse stayed cold inside. It was nothing more than a very long barn. The difference was that this barn housed canal boats not livestock. The Lewis Boatworks was one of a handful of boat yards in Cumberland that built and repaired canal boats for canallers.comments
Emma’s “walk in the park” wasn’t – not on the trail, not in life. The trail, which was relatively new in 1955, was not in the “advertised condition” of a comfortable four feet in width with food easy to obtain and shelters nearby. The trail barely existed in many places, shelters were often filthy or uninhabitable and it was helpful to be able to forage for food growing wild if you wanted to eat regularly. In life, she worked hard and endured poverty and abuse. Her husband, Perry Gatewood, started beating her shortly after their marriage and didn’t stop until their divorce. Emma raised her children, crops and flowers. She wrote poetry and enjoyed nature. She was bent, not broken. She rose above it all and Ben Montgomery tells it all.comments