Come sit on the porch awhile. Enjoy a glass of sweet iced tea as you peruse my thoughts, memories, dreams and images of family and friends - things trivial and not so trivial - past, present and future. I write and post for the simple pleasure of doing so. If you reap some small amount of pleasure from what you find here please come back again soon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sometimes I feel like a Mayberry player

Remember the Andy Griffith Show episode where a stranger comes to town and seems to know too much about the town folk? He goes around Mayberry with an ear-to-ear grin speaking to everyone by first name and asking intimate questions about their families and such. And the whole town gets spooked and in an uproar. The town is all abuzz: Is he a spy, is he a crook, what in the world is he up to?
And when Sheriff Andy looks into it and finally questions the stranger, he finds out the man doesn't have a family and has never lived in a community such as Mayberry. He is indeed a total stranger and belonging to a community such as Mayberry is something he has only admired from afar. But he wants so much to also belong that he devises a scheme to make himself fit in and consequently convinces even himself that he can truly belong simply by acting like he does.
Of course, in the end, he realizes you can't just fit in because you want to and simply wishing, no matter how hard you wish, does not make it so. And the town people realize how special their community is and how lucky they are to have grown up where everyone knows everyone by first name.
Crossville is like Mayberry in many ways, even now after many, many "strangers" have moved to town trying to "fit in". Only yesterday, during a conversation with a gentleman who is a lifelong resident of Cumberland County, I was reminded of this for the umpteenth time.
We were chatting about changes and modernization and such things, when he asked "Do you remember the Lewis sisters who lived on the hill out on Lantana Road just before you get to Pigeon Ridge Road?" And once again I had to admit, "No, I'm not really from here. I didn't grow up here and there's a lot of people I don't know or remember."
"That's alright" he responded, sounding a whole lot like Andy Griffith, "they probably don't live there anymore anyway." But he thought out loud how sad it was that the new road has cut right through the middle of their nice long driveway.
And I could see he was going back in his mind to a simpler time when roads were dirt and dusty and everybody knew everybody in Crossville, Tennessee. Times when it was usual to find folks you knew sitting on their front porches on Sunday afternoons sipping sweet iced tea and chatting about the week's events. And if you dropped by you wouldn't feel uncomfortable at all. You would just pull up a chair, have a seat and fit right in because you truly belonged to a community bound together by likes and dislikes, marriages and births, events and non-events and years of pulling together to make life work.
Now to be clear, I did grow up in a small town (just down the mountain from here) and it was not so different from Crossville. We had our Mayberry like characters and many of us knew each other by first name but still, it was different somehow. Perhaps it's because my family moved around a lot and my ancestry lies in western North Carolina and southeastern Tennessee that I did not ever feel a true belonging to my nearby hometown community. When I moved to Crossville it was for a new job and a new start. It is a wonderful place to live – as many others are also discovering – and I now consider it my home. But traces of the old community, where everybody knew everybody, still exist and I often find myself wishing to go back in time to feel what it's like to truly belong.
My husband has lived right here on this very land where we live now for all of his 60 years on this earth. He belongs here. I envy that and sometimes pretend that I do too.
But life has a way of reminding us who we really are and sometimes the town folk get uneasy about the strangers in town. Things happen that remind us that blood is thicker than water. And although they welcome us here and will happily share a glass of iced tea with us we are not, nor ever will we be, a party to the most intimate parts of their heritage. Becoming a member of their community is a privilege to be earned rather than a right to be bought.
But still...if I close my eyes...I can imagine it...swinging in the porch swing...sunny Sunday afternoon...birds singing....uuummm....peace at last, peace at last.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dorothea Lange's Country Store on Dirt Road

Country store porches were once an important part of community life. People gathered there to catch up on the latest gossip - how the crops were fairing; did sister have her baby yet; who passed away this week and so on and so forth.
My son found this image and sent it over thinking I too would find it interesting and appropriate to post here. Good choice Vince!
FYI: The photograph is Dorothea Lange's Country Store on Dirt Road shot in Gordonton, North Carolina in July, 1939. It is from the FSA-OWI Collection at the Library of Congress at and is among the public domain photographs.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A very sad time for our family...

We have lost a dear friend who enriched our lives for 15 years. Her passing has left a huge hole in our hearts.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Porches in a mining camp...Where in the world???

This old panoramic photograph belonged to my daddy and it has always fascinated me, as it did him. We have tried for years to figure out the story behind this (coal mining?) settlement. It remains a mystery. If anyone out there can name the who, what and where of it please post a comment. Any clues are welcome!  
*The three following photos are out takes from the original panaramic shown at the very bottom of my blog home page. Note that virtually every dwelling has a porch, even the YMCA in the middle shot.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More About Gwendolyn Brooks...

Gwendolyn Brooks was the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize and the first black woman to hold the position of poetry consultant to the Library of Congress - this in addition to being chosen as the Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois. At age 13 her first published poem appeared in American Childhood and by 17 her poetry was often published in the Chicago Defender newspaper. Her many other honors and positions held are far too numerous to mention here.
Her prolific body of work was largely about being black in urban America, especially during the 60s and beyond, and reflected her strong commitment to racial identity and equality. It has been reported that she considered visiting elementary schools and community colleges one of her most important roles in social edification. Her self described "folksy narrative" included varied forms of free verse, sonnets, and other models. One of her well known works is a haiku titled "We Real Cool" which is as relevant in today's society as when published in 1966.
'Gwen' Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, June 7, 1917, and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. Her father was a janitor, who had aspired to be a doctor, and her mother was a school teacher and classical pianist. While being very strict and not allowing her to even play with the neighborhood children both parents fully supported and encouraged their daughter's love of books and reading.
Brooks considered herself "essentially an essential African" and understood that "the black emphasis must be not against white but for black." She envisioned a future with "the shaking of hands (very important in African society) in warmth and strength and union."
Although she passed far too soon for those who admired, respected and loved her, Gwendolyn Brooks did not "die soon." She passed from this earth December 3, 2000 at the age of 83.

We Real Cool
By Gwendolyn Brooks

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shared Wisdom, Evolving Experience

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
Photo by Di Pugh

While attending Roane State Community College (1983-85) I was privileged to meet and photograph Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks. As a budding photojournalist, I was impressed by this kind and stately lady. She touched my heart and soul.
Sometime later on, I dreamed about a funeral and rose early from my bed to write it down while the memory was fresh. The words flowed in poetic form which I titled simply "The Funeral." Writing down what I had dreamt the night before used to be a fun and interesting hobby of mine but it was very time consuming and I have since gotten out of the habit.
For many years "The Funeral" remained in my old wire-bound, handwritten journal and occasionally, when I ran across it while searching for some other perceived treasure, I thought of Gwendolyn Brooks and how her life experiences evolved into words on paper...her wisdom thus shared freely with a world in much need of it.
Unlike her volumes of well recognized and published work, my poetry is largely unpublished and I feel privileged to post a piece of it here. I dare not compare my work to hers for I would fall far short.

by Di Pugh

They marched up the street in rhythm jive
held together by the black box burden they each had part to.
up the way they came
the burden they carried had not even a name
just some old dude with silver hair.
The neighbors watched
yet it did not seem strange
looking out doors with holes where the dog wants in they only watched
it was an every day game.
When they reached the corner to turn the last mile they suddenly stopped
and gone were all smiles.
They began to chant another slower rhythm jive
Swing Low
Sweet Chariot
Everyone Sing!
You didn’t sing to the drums.
We must go back where we started from.
Swing Low
Sweet Chariot
Sing! when you see us come’n.
Sing! as we pass on by.
Sing! till we’re gone plumb out’a sight.
Swing Low
Sweet Chariot
Sing! till the wind sighs with a fevered scream.
Sing! till this old black box rest in the angels wings.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Am I up to this challenge?

Working miracles on old photos is usually a welcome challenge, but "doctoring" the following two images may be an impossible task. The environment has been unkind to them - water stains, dirt smudges, rips, crinkles and overall fading bear witness to their carelessly handled history. But still they are neat images and well worth preserving. I am posting them here first sans restoration, and then will update them as my work on them progresses.

The portrait above is of the Goss Family - Morris, Eliza, Jeff, Allen and Louise - on their front porch somewhere in Cumberland County, Tennessee probably in the early 1900s.

This is John Dial and Alma Barnes posing together on a porch also somewhere in Cumberland County, Tennessee circa 1910, according to a notation on the back of the original photograph.
Were they engaged? Did they marry? And have children? Maybe I'll find out as I work on the restoration.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Postcard from a Montana Porch

"This was taken when we were up in Billings. Sister Emma is holding Baby. Last Sunday Mr. Chaffee took some Kodak pictures of Ralph and Baby and Baby alone. Hope they will be good.
Sister Maire stopped from Saturday until Monday on her way back to Billings. Had a good dinner Sunday of fried chicken, etc.
Made six glasses of choke cherrie jelly today, the first we have put up this season, fruit comes so high.
Today it is raining and looks like it could some more.
We are invited out in the country to eat watermelon Sunday don't know if we will go or not.
Baby is gaining weight every day. All of us send our love." Beda
Custer, Montana, Aug. 23, 11.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Favorite Porch Pictures...

This photograph is from my personal collection of vintage black and white prints and one of my favorite "porch pictures". As is true with many of the images in my collection, I do not know the who, what, where and why of it. It's just a beautiful moment in the life of a family.

Isn't their home lovely? And wouldn't you love to go inside for coffee? It would, no doubt, be a strong cup with rich flavor. And the smell of leather bound books would be almost as strong as the aroma of their fresh brewed coffee.

You see, that's the fun of having photos of strangers, you can only imagine what their lives are like and then make up your own stories about them.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Life as Simple as a Straight Back Chair

The little house where I lived as a child had a good front porch - not large, not railed, not even painted white - just plain boards nailed on a wooden frame. It was not spacious and grand like the wrap around Southern porches where genteel families enjoyed iced tea and lemonade. No definitely not fancy, but still it was nice and memories were created on and around it - wonderful memories of home and security:
Loving parents, best friend neighbors, lots of kids in the neighborhood playing old fashioned outdoor games – Hide and Seek, Red Rover, Tag You're It – up until and sometimes even after dark when the games often turned to catching "lightning" bugs in mason jars or telling ghost stories around a fire.
My mother sitting in the morning sun on our front porch rocking a neighbor’s baby in a white, straight back chair...clip clop, clip clop, clip clop…no curved rockers on the bottom of that chair, just wooden spindle legs sounding a rhythm as they alternately hit the floor. There was a seemingly endless procession of babies – one born each year for a number of years – and my momma was more than willing to help out with the little ones.
That same straight back chair that momma used to rock the babies also served well for churning buttermilk in a one gallon jug...clip clop, clip clop, clip clop…cradling and rocking just as if it were a baby too. And as us kids grew older we were drafted into helping with this chore...clip clop, clip clop, clip seemed to take ages to get butter from that stubborn sour milk!
We had four of those straight back chairs and they survived the rigors of active living and vigorous playing for many years. They were moved with us to several different houses with varied porches.
As our family grew up and apart – one brother went away to the Army; I married; the other two brothers married; dad passed; and now mother is gone as well – only one chair survives that I know of. It is safe in my home studio waiting for a broken slat to be repaired. Sometimes I want to sit down in it and rock...clip clop, clip clop, clip clop...but I am afraid of breaking it and maybe loosing memories of my childhood when life was as simple as a straight back chair.

Unfortunately, I haven't located any photos of the little house described above. I have several old photos of our life on that place but none of the house itself. The two photos below are other houses where my family lived. The first was taken circa early 1950s and the other was shot in February 1966.

In this old family snapshot, my brother Joe sits on the hood of one of dad's old vehicles playing with a "toy" that is nothing more than a simple paper "poke" full of air. In the background to the left, you can see the corner of one of our simplest of front porches. It was rustic, to say the least, and certainly not pretty but it served a purpose and, believe it or not, holds funny childhood memories. I was very young when we lived here, and certainly not old enough to participate in my three older brothers' rebel rousings. But  there are stories of them using this porch as a launching pad for various activities.
Our family always had farm animals - chickens, cows, goats, etc. - and this story revolved around a big Billy goat that we had. It seems two brothers would hold the goat below the deep end of the porch while the third launched a "trick jump" onto the poor critter's back and would then hold on tight for a wild ride around the yard. The one who stayed on the longest was declared the champion of all goat riders. Of course there was the devil to pay when mom got wind of their shenanigans. In their defense, I will say we were "poor" and had very few real toys with which to play and, as they say, necessity is the mother of all inventions.
Speaking of inventions, notice the utility pole in front of our outdoor toilet. If you're wondering, no we did not have electric lighting out there.

We moved several times between the place above and the one below. I have memories of all of them but unfortunately no photos of the houses or their porches.

Things started looking up when we moved to this “modern” house in the mid 1960s. Two bedrooms, running water in the kitchen, color television, party-line telephone, and a concrete front porch were special upgrades. We still had an outdoor toilet, however, but still no electric lights out there. No heat either and I shiver to think how bone chilling it was to go out in the snowy cold to “sit a while”. That’s the kind of memory that makes us appreciate what we have now. Indoor plumbing is certainly a blessing!

On this front porch I kissed my first date good night in December, 1965 and two years later I married in the living room of this house.
That cute little Fiest Rat Terrier sitting on the steps was my mom’s best friend and squirrel hunting buddy. Her name was Sissy and she was a very good dog.
As for those four straight back chairs...still hanging in there baby.