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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Journey Back to Simpler Times in My Mountains of Rabun County, Georgia

A Journey Back 
to Simpler Times
in "My Mountains" 
of Rabun County, Georgia

I recently had the opportunity to read an un-proofed, pre-production manuscript, written by Rabun County native, Barbara Woodall. The  upcoming book, which I understand has just undergone final edits, and been sent to press as I write this, is due out in mid to late July, and is called It's Not My Mountain Anymore.

Barbara's stories, and lyrical descriptions, evoked many wonderful memories of my childhood visits, with my maternal grandparents, Sam and Helen Queen, of Mountain City. I called my grandparents "Papa" and "Gan." I was also reminded of time spent with other relatives and friends, in Rabun Gap, Dillard, Clayton, and environs. I decided to share some of my own memories, to whet your appetite for Barbara's reflections. 

Papa and Gan with Daddy and Mama (Herb and Betty (Queen) White)
My grandmother, Helen (Wilson) Queen, far right, with her cousin, Beth Moon, and and unidentified Man, in front of the Old Hotel in Mountain City
(which was in the movie Deliverance, also mentioned in Barbara's book!)
My grandmother used to send me over to the hotel with a pyrex container,
and the proprietress would fill it with thick slices of ham for our supper!

While reading Barbara's book, it was interesting for me to note how many "connections" we have had in common! I guess that's not so rare in the relatively "small county" of 30-50 years ago! I wouldn't be too surprised to find out that we may even be related, somehow! It's interesting how often I'm finding "new" relatives, and "relatives by marriage," as I'm spending more time in Rabun County!
Rainbow, April 2010

Sunrise, June 2010

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to have a home in Rabun County. I grew up at the beach, but have always been a "mountain girl" at heart! For six years now, I've been living my dream--part time! I think Rabun County today is the "best of both worlds!" My Rabun County roots go VERY deep, as you can see from the tombstones below. I love my rich mountain heritage and my cloggin' "hillbilly bones!" (Ahhh, what I wouldn't give to have the Mountain City Playhouse reopen for clogging and other "mountain dancing!") I'm also enjoying, and embracing, many of the changes that have come about over the last 50 plus years. (I love the new restaurants and shops and galleries featuring the works of local artists and artisans.) The changes are not all good, but they're not all bad, either!

Great-Great Grandfather, Samuel Patton Queen's  Original Grave Marker
at Blue Heights Baptist Church, Mountain City, GA

Great-Great Grandfather, Samuel Patton Queen's Confederate Grave Marker

Barbara's colleague, and dear friend who is mentioned throughout It's Not My Mountain Anymore, Laurie Brunson Altieri, worked on the Foxfire project, while in high school, with my college friend, Frank Hill. Laurie and I met over 35 years ago, and recently reconnected via facebook. I surprised Laurie with this photo of her with Frank. 
Frank Wells Hill with Laurie Dale Brunson Altieri

My earliest "Mountain Memory" is of visiting my great-grandmother, "Gran Queen," Ida Rosette Minnie Elizabeth Earwood Queen, in Mountain City. (I love saying her "whole name!") I don't remember my great-grandfather. I was just a little over a year old when he died. "Gran Queen's" home was always bustling with activity! She had ten children who lived to grow up, and lots of grandchildren. There were always plenty of family and friends around when we were there!
My Great-Grandfather's and Great-Grandmother's Graves
Tyra Queen was a former mayor of Passover, now known as Mountain City

My grandparents (Gan and Papa) didn't have a bathroom until about 1965, and Gan wouldn't let me go to the "outhouse" by myself. She was afraid I'd fall in. (I was probably 7 or 8.) I never "fell in" the toilet at home, and was indignant that my parents wouldn't tell my grandmother it was ok for me to use the bathroom without Gan standing there watching with the door open! At night, we had to pee in a "slop jar!" It was dark outside, and you had to walk "a right good piece" to get to the outhouse, so I don't remember anyone going to the outhouse during the night. 

Since there was no bathtub, we had to go to my great-aunt Reecie Cathey's house to bathe--Her husband George spoke with some kind of "device." He'd had throat cancer, I think, and had a "hole in his neck," (tracheostomy) through which he breathed and still smoked cigarettes! He'd put a "microphone thing" up to his neck to talk, and it gave him a funny electronic voice, which was a little scary to me at the time. 

My grandparents, and Aunt Reecie and Uncle George used to go "rock hunting." Papa and Aunt Reecie were "rockhounds." Papa found a really big ruby in Franklin, and had it cut and polished. He made my grandmother a necklace out of what was left. Uncle George burned a hole in my grandfather's car seat, during one of their rock hunting adventures, which remained a very sore subject with my grandfather, until Papa got rid of that car! My grandmother stuffed the car seat's hole full of Kleenex!

Uncle George and Aunt Reecie lived on 441, across from the turn off to Black Rock State Park--their house is still there. The old hotel (shown above) used to be right across from them. Aunt Reecie was my "hero!" She had red hair till she died, and she drank CoCola's, and ate cookies, for breakfast, dinner, and supper! (By the way, Karan Cathey, the caterer who owned Karan's Restaurant was also a great-niece on Uncle George's side. She and I established that a couple of years ago!) 

We spent Sundays at Blue Heights Baptist Church in Mountain City, and the singing doesn't get much better than that! Store owner, Mr. Jimmy Law, did some fine Sunday School teaching there over the years! The stained glass windows, adorned with the familiar names of family and friends, make me feel at home.
Gan's and Papa's "Back" Neighbor, Mr. Hoyt Dixon, whose wife is Mary.

Chevin Woodruff, mentions Madison McCrackin's work in Barbara's book. Madison's done grading work for me, too. Ed and I enjoy our theological discussions with him. I've heard Madison preach at Battle Branch Baptist, on Warwoman Road, a couple of times recently, and I can't wait to go back. 

And, speaking of Warwoman Road: a childhood trip to the mountains wasn't complete without my yearly pilgrimage to Warwoman Dell. We'd wade in the icy cold stream till we couldn't feel our feet, then we'd get out for a picnic and buckeye hunting! Another favorite memory is horseback riding in the apple orchards in Mountain City, with my cousin, Danny Farmer, who lived next door to my grandparents.
Horseback riding at the Dillard House, 1975
Papa always planted a big garden behind his house. He grew the best potatoes, fordhook limas, butternut squash, corn, tomatoes, and raspberries that I've ever put in my mouth! There's nothing as good as tomato sandwiches, with ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden, or fresh raspberry cobbler with ice cream--except maybe Gan's biscuits and her Butternut Squash pie!

Not sure what's in Papa's basket, but I think I see a mess of string beans!
Another view of Papa's Garden. 
 Barbara mentioned Mr. Grover Bradley in her book. Papa loved to buy his
cornmeal for my grandmother to use for corn muffins. Gan didn't put eggs in her corn bread, like my other grandmother did! (Gan called that "egg bread, not cornbread!")

I'm holding some freshly ground white cornmeal. Grover Bradley is between Papa and Me!
Papa used to take me hiking, and climbing, on Scrugg's Mountain (or Scrugg's Hill), which was owned by my grandmother's best friend, Sally Mae Scrugg's family, in Rabun Gap.  Papa taught me to identify medicinal plants like sassafras. From the top of the mountain, papa showed me a peaceful valley, which was mostly untouched by civilization. That was my favorite place in the world for over thirty years, till we got our own "Mountain Fortress."  There were also old graves, and an old "Indian burial cave" on the land, that Papa said had been "diney-mited" because "people who didn't have any business, kept a goin' in there!"

Papa and me on top of Scrugg's Mountain. 
Old grave marker that has since been vandalized on Scrugg's mountain.
In my mountain home, I have furniture, crafts, quilts, and toys handmade by Kenny and Clyde Runion, and other local residents of Foxfire fame. Rabun native, Tim Lovell, built us some beautiful furniture, and did an amazing job with our renovations. According to my husband, Tim "replaced everything but the septic tank!"

Fish Bed, designed by Tim Lovell

Rockers built by Foxfire's Clyde Runion, Buffet Table by Tim Lovell 
Thanks for joining me on my tour down "Memory Lane," in my piece of "heaven on earth," Rabun County, Georgia! I invite you to follow my blog, and continue to literally, and figuratively, dance along with me, and share in the "JOY on the Journey!"

Barbara is taking orders for pre-sales of her book on the website that is linked to her book title here and above. It's Not My Mountain Anymore left me wanting to hear more details and more stories. I told her she should have included some recipes. Y'all tell her that, too, and maybe she'll do her sequel as a cookbook!


  1. Loved this blog! My own Foxfire memories were tapped, and it gave my heart a tug to see the picture of Grover Bradley with you, Jamie. Kenny Runion was one of my favorite contacts, and I recall spending summer afternoons on the porch of his little house in Mountain City recording his recollections and asking about wild mountain plants. Thanks! :)

  2. Thanks, Laurie! Papa and Kenny were in school together, and we visited him fairly often--especially in his later years.

  3. I keep checking to see your Thankful Thursday! I will come be later :)

  4. Just read this. Good stuff .my name is Robert Lamon Queen. Them are my people.


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