Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 17: PMSS Publications (Published by the School)
Dear Friend Letters 1927 April
CONTENTS: Dear Friend Letters 1927 April, Pages 1-3
Dear Friend Letters 1927 consists of one 3-page letter that includes the following subjects: Letterhead lists Executive Committee, Secretary, Treasurer ; April is the season to visit neighbors ; imagine joining a doctor, nurse, or teacher on a mountain journey ; note the friendliness and hospitality ; description of a tiny home and conversation with the mother ; note the serenity and loveliness of homes despite poverty ; visit with a gentle mother and her children ; conversation with a woman about her son and husband ; visit with elderly Uncle Chad who tells stories of the past and credits Uncle William [Creech] for giving children a chance ; visit to a famous cow doctor’s house which gets its first window installed ; compares values of the country life with city life ; letter from an old neighbor asking to see Dr. Abell ; letter of appreciation from a former teacher ; Pine Mountain’s Ideal ; financial difficulties of the school ; request for donations ; signed by Ethel de Long Zande ;
GALLERY: Dear Friend Letters 1927
TRANSCRIPTION: Dear Friend Letters 1927
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Miss Evelyn K. Wells
C. N. Manning
Security Trust Co.
PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT SCHOOL, INC.
PINE MOUNTAIN, HARLAN COUNTY
My dear Friend:
Way off yonder behind the back of Pine Mountain “Aprile” is our month for journeyings, on foot or on horseback. The winter is past when travel is hard and one ‘s main thought must be holding the School steady. The days for visiting are come, days when the deep life of the hills gives back refreshment after routine, ardor for the next task. Come go with some one of us, a doctor or a nurse, or a teacher aiming to view out the country. Your road may take you along the foot of Pine Mountain, that hundred, and fifty mile wall that begins at Praise-the-Lord and ends at Hell’s-Point. You may travel in the by-ways and branches and ford the stream countless times in a dozen miles. Perhaps you visit somebody high on a bench of the mountain where there are white drifts of dogwood and long lines of redbud. Everywhere you meet people with time for you, and this impression of an enormous country with friendly homes and ready hospitality tempts you to go on and on.
You stop at a tiny home set close by the creek with one or two rooms, the sort everybody associates with the mountains. A plum tree blossoms in the yard, blue wood smoke rises from the chimney. A young growth of hemlocks on the opposite bank of the creek makes a beautiful play place for the children. Here the nurse happened to drop in after the mother had scrubbed the floor and walls to an enviable cleanliness, admiring the spick and spanness, dragged in her own hobby. “How nice it would be if you could screen the door and window.” (There are no flies in April but their day is not far off.) With warm Interest the mother answered, “I’ve been a-studying about that. ‘Pears like I’m bound to have somethin’ to keep the chickens out of the house.”
You get off your horse to see an old friend, one of the sweetest women in the world. Her little plank house is close by a branch whose stones and great rhododendrons and talking waters are so beautiful you can hardly leave them. Indeed some deep instinct for beauty guides most mountain home-makers, and no matter how evident their poverty they contrive to keep serenity and loveliness close by the doorstep. Here mammy and the least ones are in the corn crib shelling corn, the little three-year-old shelling with competent chubby hands and telling you, “I’se heppin mammy.” You don’t wonder that the oldest girl, a Pine Mountain graduate just married, wants to spend twenty-four hours at home every week or so, as you see that mother’s gentleness and watch her easy hand on the children. With a creek and a laurel thicket and a pet lamb and a pet steer, and a mother of so exquisite a sweetness, you count those children among the fortunate ones of the world. Indeed everywhere you stop the cluster of little folks working and playing with mammy and close to her all day helps to explain the strength of family affection in the hills and the dreadful homesickness that many of our children have to contend with.
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On a lonely trail you meet a bright-eyed little woman out for a bucket of ‘lasses which is to serve as a treat when folks come to the funeralizing near her place next Sunday — a forgotten woman, eager to visit and to find out all about you. When she has told you of her son George, six years old, “allus up to his devilments and mean manoeuvers,” you say, “I reckon he takes after his mammy. Anybody can see you’re anticky.” “Well, I allus was up-headed.” “And did you marry an up-headed man?” Her whole face twinkles with laughter. “Lord no, I got me dead-headed man.” “Well, how in the world did anybody as up-headed as you come to marry a dead-headed man?” Twinkling again the little woman says, “Why don’t you know, honey, he made out like he was up-headed till he got me, and then he went plumb dead-headed.”
You make an extra long visit at Uncle Chad’s, eighty years old, almost the last of the dear old friends who surrounded us when we first came to Pine Mountain and whose like we shall not see again. Nobody will every say as he does, “You’re an educated woman; now tell me what was the most important event of modern times. I heard it referred to just the other day.” Or, “Where is Paradise? It can’t be Heaven. I’d like to get your notion about it.” When he is gone who will there be to tell us of early days, when the finest farm in the county, now worth fifty thousand dollars, was swapped for an old flint-lock gun? His great-grandfather was kidnapped as a chunk of a boy from Ireland and later served in the Revolutionary War as one of Washington’s bodyguard[s]. “They call them staffs now,” Uncle Chad explains. Of his old friend Uncle William, the founder of our school, he says, “It’s all layin’ to him that there’s so many children not trampled on but havin’ a good chance.”
You climb to the head of a branch through the sweet retirement of its tall hemlocks and rhododendrons, past its waterfalls, to an eighteen-year-old house just getting its first window. “Maw has allus been afeerd someun would see in if there was a window.” But her son has persuaded her to take this radical step. The little three-roomed house with only one outside door and its first window just being sawed out is like a frail fortress testifying to the lonely fears of this country where one’s own hand and wit alone can protect him from a chance passer-by who has had too much moonshine and may shoot recklessly without knowing what he is doing. This is the home of a famous cow doctor, often called in to aid a woman in travail. “Stay and eat with us,” is his invitation. “Thar’s hog and hominy, cornbread and ‘lasses. We stand it every day and you kin stand it oncet, I reckon.”
As you come home through the dusk you wonder if any neighborhood is happier to work in. You think of the thousands of miles of mountains, the home of forgotten men and women who somehow keep alive the ancient fires, whose hospitality, family devotion, gentleness, and satisfaction in each day, refresh you at the very fountains of your life. No wonder that the feverish world of cities will always lift its eyes to the mountains for help. You think of this country’s wealth in children, as conspicuous,…
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…as inescapable, as its abundant beauty, and all your ideals for the Pine Mountain School are quickened.The simple mountain homes have given you such stimulus that you ask yourself if the exchange of benefits is at all even.
In the night mail you have a letter from an old neighbor whose singing of ballads is one of the delights of the years. “Can you get me a pass to see Dr. Abell again? I no I can’t live long in this condition. You no that life seems ofel sweete spashley when one has three sweete little babes to care for as I have.” Well, here is one good thing you can arrange for your mountain friends. The next letter is from a former teacher:
“I think of Pine Mountain and feel that there I had some sort of awakening. The reality of things and the possibility of doing things despite the greatest difficulties were deeply impressed on me. The management of your plant, the simpleness and refinement of life there in the mountains, the breadth of your work, all have made me want to keep mountains and make the best of them.”
She has in the last sentence somehow summed up Pine Mountain’s Ideal, — to preserve in the character and affection of its boys and girls the fine things in their heritage.
Uncle Chad said of Uncle William, “He founded the School so our mountain children shouldn’t be trampled on.” Uncle William himself said he founded it because he looked “to the prosperity of our Nation.” It is with the greatest difficulty that we provide our scholarships, pay the salaries that are a mere living wage, give our young people their chance. Unless you help us we cannot close the year free from debt. Can you send us a check for our mountain children, for the “prosperity of our Nation?”
[signed] Ethel de Long Zande
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