The road leveled out and they passed an overgrown field, barely enclosed by an ancient fence with rusted wire and still sturdy posts. “What was that for?” The boy asked. “Grandma and Grandpa had a lot of animals up here." the man answered. "You've never seen many animals. They had goats and sheep, lots of chickens. Mama said when she was little they had horses and llamas too. Grandma liked working with the animals, Grandpa did too. He liked them for the work they did around the place and he liked to eat them."
A couple of weeks ago, as we drove up Hickey's Fork looking for a barn with tobacco hanging in it, we passed by this sign. We were already driving slowly, but immediately slowed even more in case we encountered this unseen "deaf resident." I thought of this person and the sounds he was missing - the wind and rain in the forest, the bugs at night, a screech owl calling a mate. I also thought of a photograph I had made in 1998, also shot in Shelton Laurel, not far from where I was today. In it, the driving public was warned of a "blind resident" who walked Highway 212. I included the earlier photograph in my book, The New Road: I-26 and the Footprints of Progress in Appalachia.
The two signs are, for me, reminders of the intimacy and immediacy of small places. They tell me of the concerns of real people, of neighbors and family, who have real concerns that could be affected by our actions. These are not signs one would see on the Interstate. Rather, they are gentle suggestions of acceptable behavior in this small, quiet and slow place. A place where values and lifestyle are such that disabled residents are at ease walking our roadways; knowing drivers will heed their personalized appeals, slow down, and respect them for their strength and resilience.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I have much to be thankful for – health, friends, family, our home and community, my life itself. Fortunate and blessed are words I like to use. But today I find my thoughts repeatedly returning to one of my present-day heroes – Corey Gradin.
On a recent trip to Durham, I had the distinct honor of photographing Corey on her seventeenth birthday – November 12. It was a gray and rainy afternoon when we set up for the portrait in her backyard. We were both shivering and bundled against the weather and the resulting pictures present a slightly-blurred vision of this remarkable young woman.
Corey is the daughter of dear friends, Harlan Gradin and Elise Goldwasser, and has been a model of strength and wisdom for me since I first met her as a baby. You see, Corey was born with cystic fibrosis and her life has been an endless stream of hospital stays, missed school and activities, and delayed dreams. Her health issues have recently progressed to include diabetes and hearing loss. This past summer she and her parents spent long months at Washington University Hospital in St. Louis where Corey had a successful double lung transplant, which has given her some relief from the respiratory problems she’s endured forever. What has impressed me most has been Corey’s total lack of self-pity. That, and her ability to take full ownership of her illness, handling most of her own daily treatments, and accepting the cards that life has dealt her.
So, today, I am thankful for Corey – her friendship, her life, her warmth, her intelligence and sense of humor. I think back to a visit with her a couple of years ago – a particularly good period of time for her. She walked into the room – a vivacious fifteen-year old, hair in curled ringlets, a short skirt and tight blouse advertising her strong sense of self. “Geez, you look hot,” I proclaimed in my best dirty old man imitation. Corey looked me in the eye, obviously pleased by my observation, and with customary grace and glowing pride said, “Well, thank you.”
Driving around the county today - a tour guide of sorts with a visiting photo friend - on a search for tobacco curing in barns. It’s an image that used to be everywhere in the county, but is now mostly gone. It takes phone calls and driving to find that important piece of our county’s history. But we do find some and my friend is happy with the outcome.
It’s a funny thing – driving around with another photographer and seeing what attracts his eye. Often, people are looking for nostalgia and memory, a sense of days gone by, and we certainly have our fair share of that here in Madison. Our traditions take us back and often hold us in place. But, more importantly, I sense people from the outside, from cities and bigger places, are looking for what Melville would have termed a true place – a place not down on maps that has remained relatively untouched by the modern world. Madison fits that definition, too, and we seem to draw people looking for that kind of experience. I worry our place will become known as a museum and not the actual living, breathing, evolving community I’ve always known it to be.
Throughout its history, Madison County has been a place of refuge and resistance to the outside world. The Native Americans, the Anglo settlers, war resisters, and present-day refugees from urban living have all found Madison to be a receptive place for people wishing to get away from it all or living off the grid. For some people that vision of refuge is fulfilled with an image, and for others it may be a retreat to a part-time palace in the mountains that resembles their home in Florida. For others, that wish is more of an insistent need and people who are supposed to be here always find their niche.
It’s been six weeks since I last wrote on this blog and I must admit I’ve enjoyed the break. There have been a number of intervening life issues that have made writing difficult, notably Leslie’s recent hip surgery and the temporary loss of all our help around the place, which has returned me to “chore” mode. It's served to remind me exactly how much work the young people do while staying with us. Most agree to let me photograph them, which is a bonus for sure. Muses come in many forms, from many directions. But these are flimsy excuses for not writing. So, call it writer’s block, or whatever, but the reality is I just haven’t felt like writing.
The break has allowed me the time to ponder some of the good things that have come my way over the last year. There were one-person exhibits at Wake Forest University and the Carrboro Arts Center and group shows at Duke University and the Madison County Arts Council. And, with the help of my irreplaceable assistant Jamie Paul, my work has been included in a number of online photography magazines and websites including http://www.lightleaked.com/, https://www.lensculture.com/, http://walkyourcamera.com/, http://sxsemagazine.com/, and http://www.artphotoindex.com/.
And beginning on November 8, six of my photographs will be included in an exhibit titled Way of Nature/Way of Grace, www.ashevillearts.com/exhibits/nex-exhibit/, sponsored by the Asheville Area Arts Council, at Pink Dog Creative in Asheville’s River Arts District. This show has been organized by my old friend, Ralph Burns, and includes the work of a number of fine photographers – Tim Barnwell, Steve Mann, Brigid Burns, Mike Belleme, Erin Brethauer, Eric Tomberlin, and others, a total of eighteen artists. It’s an impressive group and I’m proud that Ralph chose one of my images for the exhibit announcement. The show explores the unsettled, and often unsettling, relationship between humans and other life on our planet.
I expect to return to the blog soon.
It’s hard to think of Doug Wallin and not smile. One of my first times around him, I helped him and his brother Jack hang tobacco in the barn next to their cabin on Crain Branch. Doug was high in the barn, moving between the top two tier poles. I was new to the work and he didn't want me handling the heavy sticks of burley while up too high in the barn. After we got into a rhythm with the passing of the tobacco, Doug began singing. His voice echoed from the tin roof and filled the barn with his unique soft voice, eloquent phrasing and unaffected style. It gave me goosebumps and made me smile back then and does the same thing now as I write about it.
Doug always made me smile. He was a bit of a jokester and player of pranks as his father, Lee Wallin, was noted to be. He had a song to fit most any occasion and reputedly knew over 300 ballads and songs. Doug could be cantankerous and suspicious and he didn't suffer fools or what he perceived as disrespect. When his mind was made up about something or someone, he wouldn't change it. He would quickly drop an offender from his life. He was an incredibly gifted singer, many say the best Madison County has ever produced.
I was fortunate in that Doug’s mother Berzilla, Dellie Norton's 83 year old sister, really liked me. Her daughter Berthie once said her mother used to daydream about me, which I find amazing and flattering given our 55 year age difference. As is the case in any community that celebrates family as Madison County does, my relationship with Berzilla carried over to Doug and over the years we grew fond and comfortable with each other.
Years later, after Berzilla died, and Jack was needing increased attention at the VA Hospital in Asheville, the brothers moved to a small apartment near the Marshall bypass. As much as I loved spending time at the cabin, listening to music and stories, eating, working, sitting on their porch, my favorite memory is from the time when they were living in town.
I stopped at Ingles on the way home today. I had Benny and Kate with me and walking through the canned food aisle we ran into Doug and Jack who were doing their weekly shopping. We visited for a time and talked briefly of their lives in town. I begged off, needing to get the kids home and fed, and told them I’d come by soon for a visit. As we turned to go, Doug and Jack both reached into their pants pockets and pulled out their wallets. They each found two one-dollar bills and ceremoniously presented one to each of the kids - a gesture so stunning in its simplicity and sheer goodwill.
This time of year hurricanes and tropical storms are not far from my mind. I’ve photographed the aftermath of many storms and the people affected by them over the years and I’m always struck by the numbers of unsung heroes who play a role in the clean-up and rebuilding.
This image was made near Tarboro, North Carolina, in 1999 after Hurricane Floyd and the ensuing flood that covered most of the eastern third of the state. This young man was working on a poultry farm that had been washed over. The barn was knee-deep in thousands of dead chickens, water, and fecal matter. His job was to help remove the feed and water lines before front-end loaders were brought in to remove the toxic soup. I think it is important for us to see the people doing this incredibly awful, but vital work in our communities and take that into consideration as we debate our nation's immigration policies.
When my mother was alive and visiting from Maryland, she would invariably complain at some point during her stay that she didn’t like it at our place because it was simply too dark and too quiet. I think about her comments most every night as I sit on our deck relishing the depth of our night sky and listening to the same sounds people have heard in our holler for hundreds of years – frogs peeping, the wind, a duo of screech owls calling one another.
I inherited many of my mother’s fears and as a child growing up in suburban Washington, D.C., I was petrified of the dark, avoiding it whenever possible. The walk from late-night basketball practice at school was especially traumatizing because the preferred, shorter route home cut through an unlit section of woods. At bedtime, I insisted on a nightlight and fell asleep to the sounds of a local rock n’ roll radio station. More than once I called out to my parents in the middle of the night, convinced there was a predator in my closet, and I regularly poked under my bed with my baseball bat in a futile search for alligators.
It happened over time and with the help of many different experiences – night compass hikes in Junior ROTC, working in the darkroom, and living by myself among them – that I eventually outgrew those fears. But it has been living in Madison County that has taught me not only to be comfortable with quiet and darkness, but also to embrace and anticipate them for the healing, solitude and connectedness they offer.
We’re fortunate, here in Madison, to have the stars close at hand, and the crickets as background music. It’s not the case in most places, certainly not east of the Mississippi River. I recently read an interview with the author Paul Bogard about his new book, The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light. In the Verve magazine article, linked here, http://v-e-n-u-e.com/In-Search-of-Darkness-An-Interview-with-Paul-Bogard, the author talks about the importance of darkness in our lives from health, security and environmental perspectives, as well as, the fact that it simply isn’t as dark as it used to be. He includes a map of North America made by Fabio Falchi that illustrates the change in artificial lighting from the 1950s to the projected level in 2025. It clearly shows that even the northeast corridor, around the time I was trolling for alligators and dreading my late night walks home, was much darker than it is today. The eastern mountains, including Madison County, stayed pretty dark until the early 1980s, but have steadily brightened over the last thirty years. We see immediate evidence of it in the increased numbers of security lights around people’s homes, the over lit convenience stores, and the broadened glow of Asheville. It’s disheartening for a now lover of the dark. But for my mother it could never have been bright enough.
I love it when photographs both stare and blink.
When they look intently, with time spent in the seeing.
Revealing detail as only a photograph can.
The background and backboard.
Chickens frolicking with tires.
Piled-up stuff you know has been there for awhile,
And will likely be there a while longer.
A freezer on the porch - so Southern.
Staring is like that – it offers us the particulars.
But there is nothing like the blink of an eye.
The instant the crux is revealed.
The Decisive Moment, the master Henri called it.
To trust eye and hand, and mostly instinct.
Knowing to push the button right Now.
With ball poised between hand and ground.
The foot in ballerina pose, anticipating the next movement.
A shoelace, attached to the shoe, but seeking its own direction.
Blinking is like that – it lets the breath of life invade our stillness.
We always celebrated Memorial Day when I was growing up - a day of remembrance and thanks that always included a visit to the cemetery to place flowers on the graves of family members who had served in the military. The visitation was usually followed by a picnic and barbecue back at the house. Memorial Day also marked the beginning of summer vacation.
I was introduced to grave decorations when I moved to Madison County and they were different than I was used to. I learned that each of the hundreds of small family cemeteries in the county has its own unique Decoration Day – all held on Sundays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Prior to the actual Decoration Day, family members would tend to the cemetery – mow the grass, rake the grave mounds, and remove last year’s plastic flowers. On the appointed Sunday, relatives would gather first at someone’s house for a reunion and dinner and then move to the cemetery to honor the deceased and to listen to preaching. This wasn’t the case with every cemetery in the county – some were only mowed and others weren’t touched at all.
I went to the Decoration at the Rice Cove cemetery this past Sunday. I was last there in 1977 when I had gone at the invitation of Bonnie Chandler who hosted a huge meal and reunion at her house. I made photographs at the reunion and cemetery, a number of which were included in my book, Sodom Laurel Album. Bonnie’s children and their spouses continue the tradition today and Sunday’s meal was every bit the feast it was when Bonnie was alive.
What struck me about the day was how little it had changed from thirty-six years earlier. Yes, faces were different – some older with more lines and wrinkles; some faces not there; other new faces in their place. The massive tree in the cemetery was bigger, offering even more shade and respite from the heat of the day. And there were certainly more graves. The road to the cemetery was improved and easy to negotiate, even with all the rain. But the placing of flowers, the singing of hymns, and the preaching and the saving were old and comfortable rhythms, as they were meant to be. In this time of seemingly constant and drastic change, it was reassuring to be in a place where the rituals and traditions remained constant.
One day a couple of weeks ago, French Broad Electric Membership Corporation arrived to spray the right-of-way for the power lines with a toxic mix of chemicals produced by everyone’s favorite corporation, Monsanto.
We were expecting this and, in anticipation of it, had posted “no spraying” signs in English and Spanish around the targeted portion of our land. Our thinking was to stall the process, hoping an early freeze might solve the problem. But that wasn’t to be and we were faced, as is every homeowner who contracts for electricity with FBEMC, with allowing them to spray the right-of-way, or clearing our 50’ x 500’ swath of head-high briars ourselves by hand, or by goat. FBEMC, by right of eminent domain, can do whatever they deem necessary to clear right-of-way under power lines. Up until three years ago, clearing was done by hand by FBEMC when, in an effort to save money, the company switched to chemicals.
The arrival of electricity to small mountain communities, as late as the 1950s and 1960s in some places, was a culture-changing event and it significantly altered people’s lives and lifestyles. Few of us could get by for very long without electricity - I know I wouldn’t be writing this blog without it. And I think French Broach Electric does a reasonably good job of keeping us supplied with a steady and reliable source of power. Part of that reliability comes from keeping the right-of-way cleared and to that end I have no problem with cutting problem trees and overhanging limbs.
But I have a problem with chemicals. Annually in the United States, we apply over 500 million pounds of herbicides to our land. Most of these poisons are considered endocrine inhibitors by the EPA, which means they alter the reproductive systems of animals and invertebrates, not to mention what they do to plants. These poisons ultimately end up in our streams, creeks, and rivers; they drift over our crops; and they imprint brown, sterilized swaths onto our verdant green landscape. It looks atrocious and reminds me of a piece of mountain wisdom about fouling your own nest.
I, and I suspect many of my neighbors, have a problem with anyone claiming the legal right to poison land we’ve spent decades nurturing and stewarding. Eminent Domain is supposed to be for the good of the community and I simply don’t understand the good in spreading a blanket of chemicals over our landscape.
By now, everyone knows Marshall resident and Bluegrass wonder, Bobby Hicks, celebrated his 80th birthday on July 21 with a concert on the island in Marshall. It was nothing short of a wonderful day for the music, the setting, the sense of community, and the pride everyone felt in our little place. There have been many wonderful photographs published from the event. Here are a few more to add to the mix.
“Lots of ticks this season.”
“Yeah, I think it’s ‘cause of all the rain we’ve had.”
"Might be all 'em damn dogs you got around yer house."
“Maybe, but ya know, I’ve heard a tick can live twenty years, waiting for a warm-blooded something to jump on.”
“That's hard to believe.”
“They say one in a thousand carries the Spotted Fever.”
“Hard to figure what a tick is good fer, besides killin’.”
“And they ain’t that easy to kill at that.”
“Dropping ‘em in a jar of gasoline works and you can see ‘em pile up over time. I like that.”
“Yeah. We generally stick ‘em onto surgical tape – it keeps 'em from moving and soon smothers ‘em. I only wonder if they’ll outlive the tape.”
“One killed my Grandpa when I was a baby. Never had much use fer ‘em since.”
"Yep. They're won't be no ticks in my heaven."
Not so many years ago, this was a common sight throughout the Smokeys. Black bear, trapped or orphaned, housed in a small, inhumane, metal, and just plain awful cage, where it will surely go crazy, for the amusement of human beings. Most of these operations have long been shut down, but for years they were a staple of the tourist industry in the mountains. I'm sure there are people who would love to bring them back.
Smell and taste.
Eye and hand.
How we interact with the world around us.
Collective memory and internal reality.
I think these are the concerns of photography.
Ultimately, I make pictures for myself – a search for my own truths. To make some kind of sense of these diverse, rich with life, divisive, greedy, thoughtful, and generous people who inhabit the places we call home. When I photograph, I often think, if only common ground can be found, if I can establish a trust with the subject of my picture, then perhaps that relationship can be communicated to a viewer. And if it can, then maybe that viewer will be challenged in a long-held belief, or come away with some fresh understanding of their own world. But mostly I hope the photographs will prompt openness and encourage people to be receptive to the shared experience of being human.
I read a disturbing article on the state of the world’s water supply that I’ve linked here: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/07/06-5
The article is titled The Real Threat to our Future is Peak Water and it is a fairly gloomy assessment about water in specific parts of the world, including much of the American mid and southwest. The author, Lester Brown, says, “Today some 18 countries, containing half the world's people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers – China, India, and the United States – and several other populous countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Mexico.” This is problematic because most of the water in these deep aquifers is being used for irrigation, which has fueled an increase in grain production to feed growing populations of people. When we exhaust these aquifers, they will not replenish, and much of the land will go out of production, which will spark food shortages.
I was reading this article as we here in western North Carolina were experiencing one of the bigger rain events in our climatological history. There’s no lack of water here and the only cracked-earth photographs I’ve seen are of buckled roads, sinkholes, and fractured culverts from too much rain. I’ve heard many people say they’ve never seen it rain so hard and for so long. So, I think it’s fair to ask why an article on Peak Water has any relevance for those of us living here, where, for the moment at least, we have abundant water.
Many of us remember less than a decade ago when a persistent, multi-year drought gripped the entire region and state. In Madison County, numerous residents had heirloom springs go dry or were forced to dig deeper wells. In the mid-1980s, a drought forced many farmers in the Southeast out of business and saw others accept shipments of corn seed and hay from the Midwest in order to survive. We have plenty of water right now, but before we complain about too much water, it might be good to recall our dry past.
More importantly, we need to understand how societies respond when faced with a lack of water. Think New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Or in India right now, where thousands of farmers, faced with dried-up wells and an inability to grow even subsistence crops, have committed suicide. It isn’t hard to imagine the economic and political pressures that would come from the migration of millions of people looking for water. Those people probably won’t wind up in Madison County, but the effects of massive dislocation will be felt worldwide. People will do what they have to do to provide food and water for their families.
There is an old mountain saying: “A drought will scare you to death, but a wet time will starve you to death.” Our region’s farmers are finding truth in that adage with drowned crops and normally productive fields saturated with standing water. But farmers in India, Mexico, parts of China and the United States, and many other countries are living the opposite – a total lack of water that can starve you to death just as effectively.
As we experience and recover from our abnormally soggy season, we should be thankful for the gift of water, and remind ourselves of how quickly the world’s water tables can turn.
Liz Smathers Shaw of Canton, NC, at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival,
Asheville, North Carolina 1974
The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival was started in 1928 in Asheville, North Carolina and claims the title as the earliest folk festival in the United States. It was founded by Bascom Lamar Lunsford of Madison County and it continues to this day.
The nation experienced a revival in folk music that began in the 1960s and brought deserved attention to musicians, singers, and dancers in western North Carolina. It also sparked an interest in mountain music among young people, many of who moved to the area to learn music from the source. Others who were from the area were just beginning their lives in music. Musicians like David Holt, Sheila Kay Adams, and John McCutcheon and Liz Smathers were in the beginnings of their careers and the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival was an important venue for them.
Liz Smathers Shaw is a member of the musical Smathers Family of Canton, North Carolina, a heritage that includes her father, Quay Smathers, a shape-note singer and leader, and cousins, Luke and Harold Smathers, had their own very popular swing band. Liz lives in Athens, Ohio, with her husband Lynn Shaw and continues to perform and teach fiddle.
My Grandmother, Jennie Lozupone, ca. 1915
Today would have been my Grandmother’s 114th birthday. She died in 1995. I was asked to give the eulogy at her funeral, which I’ve reprinted in this post. Rereading the eighteen-year-old text, I understand how much I’ve learned in the ensuing years from a series of great editors and teachers. I’m resisting the urge to correct grammar, syntax, and sentence structure within the text. There are also some factual errors that I’ve corrected at the end of the post.
So, what’s in a name? The woman we are honoring and saying goodbye to today was known by many names. Jennie Lozupone. Mrs. Galeano. Aunt Jennie. Mama. Gram.
Her life spanned the length of the 2oth Century and encompassed many of the great events of this county’s history during the Century. But as we know, history is more than great events. History is also the past and the past is both personal and intimate.
Jennie Lozupone was born in 1899 in Bari, Italy. She arrived in the United States in 1907, part of the great Italian migration. She landed at Ellis Island and her family first settled in Albany, New York, before moving to Washington, DC, where she lived her entire life.
In 1916, she married Joseph Galeano, a fellow immigrant, he from Sicily. They bought a home on Morse Street in Northeast Washington. It was there they had their four children – Vincent, Louis, Catherine, and Charles.
When the Great Depression struck this country in 1929 Jennie joined the workforce to help support her family. She began a career as a seamstress with the late Jimmy Bello. While her clients included President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Supreme Court Justices, she was most proud of the First Communion dresses, the dance recital outfits and the Easter clothes she made for her nieces and grandchildren. She was always there to hem a pair of pants or sew on a button.
Two of her sons served in the Armed Forces during World War II. She suffered the insecurity of not knowing her baby son’s whereabouts for two years during that conflict.
After the war, as the middle class in this country grew, her family became part of that movement. She and Joe bought a house in suburban Maryland on University Blvd. Gram always accepted what life had to offer her – sometimes with resignation, but more often with grace and a willingness to make the best of any situation. Her husband Joe died unexpectedly in 1948 and it was then the second half of Jennie’s life began.
Gram loved life. She loved food – not jus the cooking and eating of it, but she loved to feed others. Her lasagna and eggplant are famous across the country given the travels of her children and grandchildren. She loved to gamble – bingo, horse races, poker. She loved to win, but really she was a safe bettor. Mostly, she loved the Fellowship that the gambling provided.
Gram understood the value of money. I remember a story of her getting held up at knife-point by a young boy whose situation was even worse than hers. She said she looked him in the eye and said, “You’re not getting my hard earned money” and started swinging her oversized purse at him. She was a giving and generous woman who understood that by giving she would receive.
As she got older and her eyesight worsened, she switched from sewing to knitting afghans although she never could get the name right, calling them Africans until the end. Hundreds of Africans that now reside all over the country. She made them for weddings, births and graduations – or simply because she liked you. Every Christmas and birthday each of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren received a savings bond.
When she was 67 years old she made the first of seven trips back to Italy to visit her late husband’s relatives in Sicily, often taking one or more of her grandchildren with her. She loved those trips – talking the language again, the food, the attention.
She was devoted to St. Camillus Church and was an active member of the Leisure Club. She put her sewing skills to use for the Church and often made Baptismal bibs for the newborn and did laundry for the parish priests.
Gram represented a sense of security and safety for all of us. She has been with us all our lives. Not just the literal security of a home, a meal, clothing or help when we needed it, but also a symbolic security of a safer place, a safer time.
So, what’s in a name? I can’t help but wonder if this Jennie Lozupone, this Mrs. Galeano, this Aunt Jennie, this Mama, this Gram had any idea she would be so blessed in her life. That she would leave such a wonderful legacy – four children thirteen grandchildren, 37 great-grandchildren with two more on the way and seven great-great grandchildren.
The last few years she had forgotten most of our names although she still delighted in our company, especially the young children. She seemed to become more of a child herself. The last time I saw her was last November. She let me feed her her supper and carried on a long conversation with me – in Italian. As she finished her meal I struggled with my Latin and Spanish to ask her if she was done eating. “Fini?” I asked. She looked me in the eye, always the teacher, and answered, “Finito.”
Jennie Lozupone Galeano, 1992
My grandmother and her family lived in Gioia dei Colle, Italy, which is a small village just west of Bari. Gioia dei Colle means Joy of the Hill – if there could be a more perfect name for a town I haven’t heard it.
I’ve listed Gram’s birth year as 1899, which would have made her 95 when she died. After her death, we discovered a document that indicated she was actually born in 1897.
The number of great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren has mushroomed since 1995 to a point where I can no longer keep up.
4th of July Rodeo at the Madison County Fairgrounds, Marshall, 2012