To paraphrase the movie title “How The West Was Won” –  I hope to show you a little bit of how our whole country “was won.”

SAMSUNGAs you probably know, by reading yesterday’s “Rush”  posting,  I’m on the move again.   I tried not to take too many photos while I drive  –  but I just keep wanting to “capture the moment” driving up and down these long mountain hills in the beautiful Smokies.

But not too long ago, right in this very spot,  there was another kind of traveling done:


This is part of the way we “won”  America.   Hard and dangerous travel.  Uncomfortable.  No motels and truck stops along the way.  No anyone.    Nothing certain.

Those grand and picturesque hills in the Smokies and in the all-important Gap called Cumberland became the home of tiny settlements, a few houses together, or one all alone in the valleys. . .


I visited one this week.  Real houses built more than a hundred years ago.  I remembered something I had read a long time ago, about people who made these homes and it gave me a closer idea of what they all faced.    It took courage to “win” our nation.

One time, in the dead of night,  a man and wife woke up to the sounds of hideous screaming coming from a distance.  The wife was frightened.  She said it sounds like it was coming from the direction of that new young couple who just moved in over in the next valley.

After several minutes the husband assured his wife that it was just a panther, screaming out in the forest.

The next day these two set out for the home of that new young couple,   who had just finished building their little house a few days before.  They were expecting their first baby, and the older couple wanted to reassure them that the “hideous screaming” they heard last night was just a panther –  common,  but it won’t usually hurt anyone.

The young husband was very skilled and had built a finely crafted house:


But what they found inside still gives me chills when I remember this story.   The young couple had chosen the location of their home so that the hearth was built over solid rocks that poked through the ground.  A smart idea.   But what they hadn’t known was that the rocks contained a very large, very healthy nest of poisonous snakes, and by using their new hearth and heating up the rocks hundreds and hundreds of snake eggs had hatched and the new young snakes had crawled out, up into their new home.  The young couple had awakened in time to realize they were being overwhelmed by snakes – everywhere!  All over them.

And that hideous panther screaming was really the young wife screaming out her dying horror.

Courage.  In the face of deadly uncertainty.    And still we built this country.   The men (who survived)  had plenty of hard work  to do.   Tin smithing and black-smithing:


And the women worked constantly too, producing useful but beautiful items.


Hard, hard, daily work built our country.

When I walked into this gift shop, I thought: Oh, factory-made baskets to give us the idea of what women used to do.  They’re each so perfectly made that I doubt if the baskets that were really used were like this.

The lady at the counter was so friendly – I couldn’t understand much of her words for the thick accent “she” had ( not me!) –  but we got along well and discussed the different kinds of handiwork we do: crocheting, sewing, knitting….  And then she told me to look at those baskets.   She had made every one of them!    (I’m still apologizing for the look of incredulity on my face!)

Ever wonder how a broom is made?

SAMSUNGWell, the little village had a cabin where they made brooms.  And still do!


They make these little bundles of. . .  straw, I think.   And then they stitch the bundles together.   Somehow.     And then they attach a pole . . .   I really don’t know how they make brooms!      I think I could make one little bundle.    I guess I could make a whisk broom.   I’d be the laughing stock of the village housewives.

We see  on television, in movies, in music, in the news=entertainment programs a kind of American that is coasting on the hard work of those who came before us; we see Americans who are  giddy,  grouchy, complaining, divisive, entitled,  getting away with an easy life,   and everything worked out for them (us.)

But this week I was invited to spend some time with the people who built up our country and made it what it is.

SAMSUNGEven serious “preppers”  don’t know half of what these people did.    We should be self-reliant and independent,  right?    If the power goes out,  I can do just fine with candles.    But I wouldn’t even be able to make a candle – from scratch!!

Hats off to all the Americans who came before us!    You are truly the giants of our past.

(Travel:   Highly recommended.    It will make you feel very small.)




Explore posts in the same categories: American History, Culture

Tags: , , , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: