Appalachian Stories from the Folk Apothic
Meet Luke Dilbeck, explorer of the Appalachia, believer in the simple. He is our newest guest writer and will be a regular contributor.
You chose to come here for a reason. Mayhaps you are one who seeks adventure, and you heard tell of the countless miles of hiking that can be found within our wild southern appalachian mountains or the hidden waterfalls and swimming holes that beckon you to shed your clothes and cares on a sweltering july day. Perhaps you came to wet a fly and find solitude on a cold and clear mountain stream and find that oneness of forest, water, and sky. It could be that whilst sitting in traffic, you found yourself daydreaming of mountaintop sunsets from the deck of cabin that overlooks an ocean of trees.
And we have that. In abundance.
But if I were a gambling man, and you were honest with yourself….I mean down deep honest….I would venture to guess that these mountains also drew you in on a level deep within your soul. A longing for just a small reprieve to a life a little more laid back. And perhaps, to a place where in the right moment, time seems to stand still.
Those of us who have roots here understand that call. And contrary to many out there who believe that we are just 'stuck', its that primordial call that either keeps us in these mountains, or finds us returning to our roots later in life. There is history here. Some of it isn't pretty. Yet much of it is beautiful and there are countless stories from the simple folks who scratched out a life (a good life) in these unforgiving mountains.
And I am here to tell their stories….the good, the heartbreaking, the customs, the colloquial, and the traditions that make us who we are. I tell these stories not for mere entertainment, but so this dwindling culture that once ensconced such a large part of our nation, should not be forgotten, and perhaps, just maybe, seen in a different light other than just the bumbling hillbilly.
I am Luke. I was born in the shadows of Big Frog Mountain out a little country road that led into the depths of the Cohutta Wilderness. I grew up wading the crystal clear waters of Tumbling Creek, and rambling around the woods behind my house. Daddy worked in the copper mines, Momma worked for the state, and I went to grammar school at a little old school that sat on top of a large hill overlooking our small town on one side and the vast de-nuded landscape of copper mining on the other.
I spent my summers with Mamaw (old Rube) an Papaw (Creed) in their little shift of a place just up the road a piece from my own house. It wasn't much. Papaw built it after he and mamaw got married at the start of the Depression, but Lord, was it a warm and homey place. Papaw worked in the mines till he retired and mamaw was a housewife who raised all the youngins and grandbabies, and she was the local Avon lady. Those two always had something going on, but yet always found the time to enjoy a front porch sitting with friends and family.
It was here, my summers with them, and the stories they told, that I learned of the beauty and simplicity that these ancient mountains hold. And in the stories to come, I hope that perhaps….just maybe, if you close your eyes and breathe in real deep, that you too can find yourself on an old front porch on a warm June evening with a cold glass of overly sweet tea in your hand listening to the resonating voice of Papaw Creed telling tales as lightning bugs rise from the meadow and Old Rube hums those old southern hymns.
Story and Photos by Luke Dilbeck