Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Storyteller shares tales of Tennessee mountains with Troy seniors
Long before Pat Parker passed around a photograph of her grandma’s cabin way back in the mountains of Tennessee, her audience had already pictured that place in their minds.
That’s the beauty of a well-told story.
Parker was the storyteller at the Colley Senior Complex Wednesday afternoon. She drew her audience in and held it with stories of then and now.
A self-proclaimed hillbilly gal with one leg shorter than the other from climbing the hills of Tennessee, Parker told stories of her granny who was the “real McCoy.”
“My granny’s kitchen was way away from the rest of the cabin so that, if it caught on fire, it wouldn’t burn the rest of the house down,” Parker said. “One night, my granny heard something out in the kitchen. She told my grandpa, Mr. Hobbs she called him, to get the shotgun. ‘I’ll run whatever it is out the window and you shoot it,’ she told my grandpa.”
The “whatever” was a big, black bear.
“The bear was getting in the sugar dish,” Parker said, laughing. “My granny whipped the bear out the window with a switch. When it went out, it knocked my grandpa down. He never saw it and he didn’t get a shot off.”
Living was hard in the mountains and the mountain folk were as tough as the land around them.
“When you came to the mountains, if you didn’t want to get shot, you didn’t mess with a man’s land or his hound dog,” Parker said. “He might give you his wife but he protected his land and his ol’ dog.”
Parker was not without her own story that rivaled her grandma’s.
She told the tale of the time her husband brought home an “ugly, ugly baby buzzard” that had just been hatched.
“I asked him what I was supposed to do with that ugly buzzard and he said, ‘raise it,’ so I did,” she said.
Parker said she had a gas stove and the oven stayed warm all the time, much like an incubator.
“I wrapped that baby buzzard in a towel, put it in an ol’ iron pot and put it in the oven,” Parker said. “It stayed just as warm. But, when I had to cook, I’d take the buzzard out, set it on the cabinet top until I got through cooking. Then, I’d put it back in the oven.”
On the serious side of storytelling, Parker told of an angel on the mountain.
“All us children would play up on the mountain where there was an open well,” she said. “It had been covered but the wood had rotted. Up in the mountains, a lot of children fell in those ol’ wells. When they finally got them out, most of the time they would be dead.”
Parker said that a lady in a white, flowing dress holding a red rose often appeared before her and her friends. They thought she was a ghost and would run away.
“But, when we got older, we decided that she was an angel that was there to scare us when we got too close to the well so we would run away and not fall in,” she said.
Parker grew up and left the mountains at age 18. She joined the Navy, fell into the arms of Cary Grant, who was entertaining the troops, and then fell in love with the man who would be her husband.
“That’s how I got to Alabama, with my husband,” Parker said with a smile. “It took a long time for me to make Alabama my home. I still miss my mountains. Every day, I thank God for the way I was raised – with pride, dignity and respect and love for God and country. I was blessed to be raised the way I was. I’m so thankful for that – and for growing up in the mountains of Tennessee.