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My Appalachian Childhood

By Luci Phillips-Fardo

I have been thinking a lot lately about my childhood. Mother's day is coming up next weekend. I lost mine this year and I have been thinking a lot about my childhood. I grew up in Eastern Kentucky in a small town called Beattyville. It is a tight knit community where everyone knows everyone. The population is 2,054 if that helps you to better understand how few people there actually are. If you were to use google to look it up you would find that it is known for The Wooly Worm Festival. It is also known from being 20 minutes from Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge. They are both places that are renowned for their scenic beauty and people come from all over to go hiking and canoeing. The crime rate is extremely low and that makes communities feel safe and secure compared to living in larger cities.

When I was growing up I was often in awe of the beauty of nature around me. I lived in a hollow at the end of the main road. I lived in a modest three bedroom house with my mom and dad. I was the last of four children and it was just us. My parents were in their forties and they seemed old when I was a child. There was a creek that ran in front of our house. My parents were both semi-retired and were able to take me traveling on vacations that were weeks at a time.

There were mountains across the gravel road in front of my house. There were trees everywhere with small roads leading behind the house to a barn. There was another path that led to a pond. I took that pond for granted growing up. I would go there and swim, fish, and paddle a boat around the pond. The pond were surrounded by trees and the mountains. It was a scene of beauty and I miss going there.

We had a small cabin there when my children were small and it was a five minute get away to enjoy with our family. We would have cook-outs, swim, and boat. There was a dock connected to the cabin to fish out of. My father and then my husband would go to pay lakes and stock the pond. It had catfish, bass, and many other fish in it. I used to run to the pond everyday.

My dad was very active and he always had very large gardens. He would sell the produce from them. He had an old fashioned plow and a horse that he would use to plow it. Dad also had a tractor and gas powered plow. My parents were raised during the depression so they always had the fear that the banks would collapse again and I believe that stayed with them. They canned vegetables and had a smoke house behind the house.

My dad also raised bees for honey. There were always jars of honey lined up in the pantry. My dad also raised cane and had a molasses mill. For one of the school trips when I was small we went to the molasses mill to see them make molasses. We had gallon jugs of it my entire life. I would eat molasses and cornbread. Biscuits and honey. I can still remember the taste of it.

My grandma had a cow and would churn butter every day. She would bring butter to our house every week. She didn't drive and would walk to our house and bring butter every week. There are several books written about her. When she was young she was a #pack-horse librarian. She would take the books from the library on a horse and go from house to house to distribute them. I honestly didn't know this until someone from the Courier Journal interview her. She raised a garden into her 90's. Her name was #Grace Lucas and she was an active member of the Evangelical Congregational Church that we went to growing up.

The Church was a big part of growing up as a child. Every Sunday we would all go to church. My sisters were there every Sunday for church. Every Sunday we would pick my grandma up in the car on the way. She was our closest neighbor in our small hollow. My dad didn't go with us because he went to a different church. The church I grew up in was filled with people. It was a small community called Canyon Falls. We would come home from church and have a large dinner. My mom would make meals like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, gravy and green beans from the garden. There was always a cake for dessert. We would sometimes have watermelon from dad's garden too.

When I had a family I lived next door to my mom and dad. I thought about leaving at the time, but my parents were in their sixties and my dad was diagnosed with alzheimer's disease. Later when he was gone I would come to regret that decision. By the time he passed away it wasn't practical to leave. The children were in school and I worked. I know a lot of people question why people choose to stay in these rural areas. It would seem to me that there are pro's and con's anywhere you choose to live anywhere. We did have to drive an hour to watch a movie. There was no delivery food from fast food to our house. What we did have was a very peaceful life. We appreciated the movies we did go and watch. We enjoyed knowing that no matter what we could survive. I know how to garden and preserve the food we grew. I also can shoot a gun and survive by killing squirrel, deer, catch a rabbit in a snare, and also know how to fish.

After my husband passed away I decided to leave this small community. I had always wanted to venture out and live in a city. I remarried and live in Richmond, Kentucky. It isn't a metropolitan city but it has a university and all of the convenience. I go to the gym every day and participate in races. I have a work from home job as a team lead at a tech company. This allows me to write books and to blog. We have Krogers, Meiers and all the restaurants that one could want. I love it here and am happy.

On weekends we go and visit my children and grandchildren. They come here to do fun activities. We go to the movies, arcades, and the shopping centers. They love coming here and I love seeing them. Do I miss living there? Not a bit, but I love to go visit. The small country cooking restaurants are better now that I don't only have them to choose from. The food takes me back and brings back the memories of my childhood.


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