My Beautiful Wickedness

Up a holler
February 5, 2008, 11:15 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is my Uncle Lucian (plaid shirt) and my Papaw in the summer of 1981, up a holler near Louisa, Kentucky. Lucian was out of the holler once, when he got drafted in WWII. Once he got back home, he married my Aunt Mouse and decided he didn’t need anything the 20th century had to offer except a radio (which, if memory serves, he ran to a rigged-up car battery).  They raised their family in a house he and his brothers built; they farmed their land with a horse and a plow and sold a few cattle or some logs to make tax money and to buy cloth and tobacco and such. They raised most of what they ate and hunted for the rest. Lest you think that Lucian was backwards, let me say that he owned a large library and was of a philosophical bent; I think that some thoughts need space, time, and quiet to grow large and that’s why Lucian lived as he did. He was a handy fellow but probably also the laziest man I’ve ever seen. If a kid or a woman could do it, fetch it, fix it, haul it, feed it, cook it, clean it, mend it, or fill it, he’d let them. He was easy — when he sat with you on the porch swing, you knew he had no other place to be and he luxuriated in the pleasure of visitors. You’ll note the Prince Albert flat can in his breast pocket. Both he and Papaw rolled their own. They both died of lung cancer. 



5 Comments so far
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Oh, I am just loving these photos, and the stories!

Comment by RockyCat

OOOOOOOOH! I didn’t know you were doing these until I saw Slarti post about it! I started a project of my own and have really enjoyed reliving memories. This is exciting!!!! 🙂

Comment by Kathy T.

Yay for the bigger photos (and bigger stories, too)–thanks!

Comment by John Gruver

You know, I have a question that I think you might be the one to answer. Back at Christmas, I was baking with a Wisconsin friend and somehow ended up explaining what a holler is. When I got home to Arkansas in January, I mentioned it to my parents and they completely disagreed with my definition of holler. I say it’s like a small pocket between foothills — way smaller than a valley, certainly, but big enough for a small community. My mom says it’s smaller than that — maybe big enough for a smallish neighborhood or even just one house.

Wikipedia is no help, and my various encyclopedias of southernness are in storage. What’s your take?

Comment by Krista

A holler is a small pocket between hills, usually sloping down to the banks of a tiny little creek — the word comes from hollow, so it’s a space between hills not big enough to be called a valley. The hollers of Kentucky might have a cluster of a couple of houses (close enough to hear when you holler, far enough away that you have to holler porch-to-porch). The holler my mom grew up in, for example, had a couple of farms — my granny’s in the bottomland and the newer houses upland, my uncle’s house on one ridge and my aunt’s house on the facing ridge. The holler in the photo above has Lucian’s house in the bottomland, his brother’s house on the ridge, and my Uncle Amos’s house across the creek. (In cultural geography terms, I guess you can say there is an implied relationship between length of residence, kinship and place identity — if the Petermans have been fruitful and multiplying for generations in this little place, locals will probably call it Peterman Holler. Otherwise, if unrelated people live in it or the family hasn’t been there for very long, the location would be maybe referred to by the name of its creek — like Acie’s Creek or Dog Fork — not as a holler.) Now that nobody farms, hollers are more crowded than they used to be because you can fit many more single-wides into what used to be farmland. That also means — refer to naming rule above — that there aren’t as many real hollers as there used to be, despite the unchanging nature of the physical geography. Hollers in Southern Ohio are bigger and a little flatter (wider floodplains on the rivers, probably) and so they have more houses and sometimes a church or a little market. I’ve never been to the Ozarks, so I don’t know what counts for a holler there. In eastern KY, however, most hollers are residential and the schools, churches, and markets are out on the two-lane feeder roads. The holler itself is usually just served by a winding single road and sometimes just a single lane (left over from the wagon-ways that they used to be); that makes oncoming traffic or blind curves kind of exciting.

Comment by bridgett

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