That Poor Valley Mud

It has been beautiful in our river valley for the past few days. Low humidity…sunshine. Everything is growing.

Potatoes and Blueberries

If you’ve followed my blog, you’ve heard me mention… “Once you’ve got that Poor Valley mud on your boots, you can’t  wipe it off.” You’ll always want to come back.     Please travel around our area with me and enjoy a few of the pictures I’ve taken in the past 24 hours.  As I look at them, I think that it’s true — you can’t wipe the Poor Valley mud off.     Or maybe you just won’t want to! The hayfield below….I can show you a picture, but I wish I could share the smell.   Hay Bales Quilts…this quilt was won this morning by Darius Hall at today’s Mt. Vernon UMC Homecoming.   It was donated by Linda Nunley.   Her stitches, love and fabric selections helped raise over $1600 for the Mt. Vernon Cemetery.   Thank you Linda.  Congratulations Darius.   Quilt Darius Won

We were all happy that someone we knew won the quilt.  However, Fern Salyer and I were also hoping that Dixie Hall of Franklin, Tennessee (and sometimes Maces Springs) would win as this Memorial Day weekend is Dixie and Tom T.’s  birthday weekend.  Dixie and Tom always support Mt. Vernon and our quilt sales efforts, and we love them!    Maybe next year!   I took a picture of Fern as she has something to say to Dixie and Tom….

Fern for Tom T and Dixie

In southern, rural America…places like where I live…there’s a blur between families and church families.    There’s an intimacy in worshiping together as well as living near one another and sharing  lives.     You should hear our “prayer and praise” list.   We gathered yesterday at Mt. Vernon’s picnic shelter  to celebrate Emmie’s first birthday …here she is.

Emmie 18

While we were having birthday fun,  a film crew arrived to work on a documentary.   Since our church has ties to the Carter Family, this wasn’t as unusual as you might think.   We figured out how we could work, party and film together.    We invited them to the birthday party and then to Homecoming on Sunday morning.     They accepted, and we so enjoyed them.

Film Crew At Table

Some of the film crew were Scotch Irish, and guess what?  So are we!!    We compared our light eyes…light skin…discussed sunburns.   We discovered that the largest difference was in timing…we arrived across the pond a little sooner (a few generations ago) and our accents are no longer quite the same.   I asked this pretty young lady to pose with Dale Jett.    They compared accents…here’s how Dale summed it up:

Dale and Friend 2

I think the film crew might have gotten some Poor Valley mud on their feet.     Dale, Teresa and Oscar sang for them (and us) this morning.   I couldn’t get Teresa in the picture from where I was sitting.    I was listening….“I’m going where there’s no depression.”     Lyrics and sounds that travel across generations.

Great Depression

After church…we went for a drive….you know what we were doing…have you ever got behind someone just barely moving down the road?  That was us.  We usually say “it’s those Tennessee drivers” but today, it was Mike and me and I was taking pictures.  Sorry!  It was another opportunity to pick up some more Poor Valley mud.   It’s rampant. What do you see below?  Do you see lovely small white flowers?   If you do, you’re not  from around here, and we need to have a lesson!   If you live in the Southern Appalachians…in what we call Mendota…Hiltons…or Poor Valley… you don’t really see the flowers on this vine.   You see future blackberries!  Blackberry cobbler!   Blackberries in the freezer!  Blackberry jam!   It’s going to be a great year for blackberries…they are everywhere!   Another rich blessing…another reason to pick up another piece of that Poor Valley mud.


We drove a little further, and Mike said “you’re going to love this” as he spotted the quilt square in the picture below before I did.   I do not know these people but I ran right up in their yard and took a picture.   A new quilt square!   I knew that if the homeowners came out, we’d end up being pals!  I love quilt squares, and I am  an enthusiastic, crazy for, in love with the idea, a supporter of the Mendota Trail.  In fact, I’m certain we’d be best friends!


Quilt Square Thank you for visiting RiverCliff Cottage.  Did you get any mud on your boots?


Meeting With Jessica Fischer of the Kingsport Times News

Today Oscar Harris and I met with Jessica Fischer of the Kingsport Times News since she is doing an article on our Dale Jett & Hello Stranger event that will be held on Friday, April 25.  If you are reading this, please try and come.    It’s at the Mendota Community Center, and it’s such a wonderful event.  Dale, Oscar and Teresa seldom get to play for the local audience so this event is as special to them as it is to everyone who attends. Oscar’s daughter, Heather Pace, and the Poor Valley Girls open the event at 7:00 pm. Dale, Oscar and Teresa will come on at 8:00 pm.

We met at Mt. Vernon Church in what we still call “Maces Springs” but now is officially Hiltons, Virginia.   I arrived first and walked through the cemetery to remind myself why we have this benefit. It’s our fundraiser for the Mt. Vernon and Mendota Cemeteries. I’ve blogged about the Mendota Cemetery several times, but not Mt. Vernon. Can you believe it was snowing while I was walking around?  It’s April 15, and it’s snowing!

Headstone 1


Mt. Vernon Cemetery — I see names I am familiar with…Bays, Faust, Hensley and Harper to name a few.

Mt. Vernon Cemetery Tombstones

There are also some famous people…beloved to many.   When A. P. Carter passed, my father was a pallbearer.

A.P. Carter's Headstone

Sara Carter Bayes…”Anchored in Love.”

Sara Carter Headstone

I called Joe Carter “Uncle Joe.” He sang about a girl from Mendota who drove a Toyota. He called me  “WT’s girl”. WT was my father’s nickname. I think he actually knew me as “Todi” but was afraid I”d be offended. I would not have been. Todi was my father’s nickname for me.

Joe Carter Headstone

Jeanette Carter….probably one of the most beloved women in Virginia and possibly Nashville. Jeanette was a lunch lady at Hiltons, but she was not afraid to dream and her vision created a legacy for Carter Family music at the Carter Fold. When I think about a hiking and biking trail between Benhams and Mendota, I consider Jeanette my inspiration. She was one of a kind. I’ve been looking at the shape of her tombstone and wondering if it’s shaped like an autoharp — that was her instrument.

Jeanette Carter Headstone

I noticed quite a few Barkers buried here. My family cemetery is in Mendota, but I’m sure there are relatives here, too, since I am a Barker.  A restful place.    This is a cemetery filled with believers.    Look at Jeanette’s stone above…”deliverance has come.”

Mt. Vernon Cemetery

It was freezing cold, so I went inside the church and Jessica arrived soon. She is wonderful and reports for the Kingsport Times-News. Everyone in this area looks for Jessica’s name in the newspaper…what she has written, etc. We are so proud! Her father is the recently retired pastor of Darthula Baptist in Hiltons, Layton Bentley.

Jessica and I talked a bit and Oscar joined us. We discussed all the reasons we have this benefit, what Dale Jett & Hello Stranger are doing musically, and how much we need for people to come to Mendota on Friday, April 25.


Oscar arrived just a few minutes after Jessica, and we asked him to pose with the autoharp. I know I’ll hear this autoharp come in with a sweetness that will capture everyone’s attention when they play “Farmer’s Prayer” on Friday, April 25. If that was the only song played that evening, it would still be worth the trip.

Oscar and Autoharp

Our article will be out in a few days. Watch for it in the Kingsport-Times News!


Dale Jett & Hello Stranger – Progress!

So excited.  Our Dale Jett & Hello Stranger Cemetery Benefit just went on the Crooked Road’s website.  Our little benefit takes a lot of volunteers and support; however, in the early weeks leading up to the April 25 date, it’s primarily Oscar Harris and me.   We contact newspapers, on-line bulletin boards, television stations, and tell everyone we see about our special night.  Earlier this week I showed Oscar the proposed publicity poster for this year’s event.

Here it is.   Do you like it?  The letter spacing appears incorrect in this image.  They are corrected on the copy that’s being printed.   I was a little worried because Teresa and Oscar are blurry (on purpose),  and Dale’s all crisp and clear.   He’ll get the big head for sure.



If you know of a good place for this poster to be displayed in the weeks leading up to the event, message me and I’ll get you one.  They are currently being printed.    We deliver them wherever there is an interest.    In the past two years, we’ve had that magic time when the artists and the audience connect.  They will open with “Hello Stranger” but we aren’t strangers to these musicians.  We know  and love them.   You can almost see that connecting thread when the song “Farmer’s Prayer” is played.

Many thanks to Jeff Chamberlin and our pals at Domtar Paper who support this event.   We could not do this without them.

If you’ve got loved ones or friends buried in Mendota or Mt. Vernon Cemeteries, I ask that you help me share this information.   Our donations are drastically down–we could not maintain these beautiful, restful places without fundraising.

Mendota Cemetery 4

Mt. Vernon and Mendota Cemeteries follow a time-honored, southern tradition of being there when a family is in need and not charging for the gravesite.     This event–with the accompanying Cemetery Quilt Raffle– is what allows us to continue that tradition.

Mt. Vernon Church Sign


Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage.



Oscar Harris & Audrey Auld

This past weekend was my last weekend with my beloved Golden Retriever Gracie.    I’m aching missing her.  We decided not to go to church on Sunday because I did not want to be away from her even for an hour.   However, I missed the special music provided by Audrey Auld and Oscar Harris.

If you can take five minutes and listen to the two songs that Oscar and Audrey recently performed – the first is not at Mt. Vernon but for a  television show – you won’t be sorry.  The first song is called “Dear Mother ”  written by Audrey.  The second song is “Clinch Mountain Prayer” also written by Audrey and being performed at  Mt. Vernon on Sunday.    Please listen to her clear voice, peppered with words describing the places and people we love  followed by our own very talented Oscar coming in with the autoharp.  Are there many things more beautiful than the sounds he makes with the autoharp?

Audrey’s  from Australia, lives in Nashville, but obviously she needs to be here with us!    She gets it!

Each day I work a small amount on the publicity for the Dale Jett & Hello Stranger Cemetery Benefit on Friday, April 25.  (Save the Date!)    If you are local and receive WCYB on your television set, mark your calendar for the News 5 at Noon show on Tuesday, April 22.  We’ll be there talking about The Third Annual Cemetery Benefit, Oscar and the Poor Valley Girls will be providing some great music, and I’ll have the Mendota Cemetery Quilt with me asking the viewers to help sell a ticket in all 50 states.   We missed it by 10 states last year, although we did sell tickets in about 7 foreign countries!    This year’s quilt is a beauty….it’s being worked on by Chris, Nancy and Margie.  We  are so grateful for their hard work and talent.   Here’s a little peek…it’s red and white.  I love Chris’ sewing machine.  Chris knows something it took me years go figure out — newer is not always better.


Margie’s ironing…I didn’t get  a picture of Nancy.  I’ll get that in a week or two.

Margie Ironing

Lots going on.  Quilts, music, weddings, babies…why does everyone think we live such sleepy lives in Mendota?

I’m going back and listening to those songs again.






Dale Jett & Hello Stranger – The Cemetery Benefit

It’s March 1, and it’s time to start working on the Dale Jett & Hello Stranger Benefit which will be held the last Friday in April–April 25th. Each day, I’ll do a bit of work to nudge the publicity along. It’s our third year, and we’re always hopeful and nervous that we’ll fill the old Hamilton School Building auditorium up.

Tonight, I met with Oscar. Oscar is part of the group and is pretty famous for his autoharp talent. He lives and breathes music. We talked a bit about my blog and I explained why I had not been posting. He suggested that I post our “story” of how we put together the Dale Jett & Hello Stranger Cemetery Benefit.  The picture below is the trio which makes up Dale Jett & Hello Stranger.   Oscar is third from the right.  Teresa is seated and Dale is standing beside Oscar.


The challenge for us is not the level of talent. We have that.  Dale, Teresa and Oscar have been invited to play at the Grand Ol’ Opry.  They’ve played at the Smithsonian.  Our challenge is getting the word out and making sure everyone knows it’s worth the drive on a Friday evening to come to Mendota.  We notify and appear on local tv stations, ask for media attention from the newspapers, and post on all electronic bulletin boards. I put together posters and have them printed that we place throughout the area. We hang banners.

I am so thankful that Domtar Paper provides money to assist with  The Cemetery Benefit. We try and use every penny very efficiently.   Another publicity item we use that has a minor cost is postcards. We have postcards to make sure that everyone in the surrounding community knows about the benefit. We distribute by mail and other means. Here’s this year’s postcard.

Dale Jett Card front

Here’s the reverse…I tried to give the card an aged, western appearance.   Dale Jett & Hello Stranger is a group steeped in Carter Family tradition and a love of  things people from our area hold dear…our land, animals,  Clinch Mountain, our music and faith– and our tender hearts.   As I work with templates and design the cards, posters, etc., I try and capture that tradition.

Dale Jett Card back

Do you like them?   I hope so.  And now something funny to end this post and hopefully get you laughing as I ask for your help in getting the word out that something special will happen in Mendota, Virginia on Friday, April 25. CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW!!!





Guess Who?

After the Friday night Mt. Vernon/Mendota Cemetery Benefit, we had some barbecue left over, so we took a portion of it to Mt. Vernon and served lunch following the service today.  It was nice to have on hand because Laura, Mitchell and Rachel all had to eat and drive back home.     All three helped with the music on Friday evening.

We also had some great music at church this morning.   Here’s a picture of the musicians…

Me and the Band

Left to right from the rear…Dale Jett, Oscar Harris, Daryl Jayne, Eva Beaule, Laura Cash, Rachel Schott and Mitchell Cosby.

Can you find the imposter in this picture?    Oh come on…I sound pretty good in the shower.



Mendota Cemetery Benefit 2012

dale jett hello stranger

Dale Jett & Hello Stranger

Last night was the Mendota/Mt. Vernon Cemetery  Benefit 2012.  Here’s what went good and what when bad:

Good things…people came!  They came to our benefit.  I never doubted the talent of the artists — Dale Jett & Hello Stranger (in the photo…that’s Dale Jett, Theresa Jett and Oscar Harris).   They have played at the Opry.  However,  I kept thinking of  Oscar’s comment that sometimes “at home…people just think that’s ol’ Dale and ol’ Oscar…we see them at the Rally Mart.”

That was not the case.  They played their best, and the people gave their best.  They clapped and clapped and when Oscar thanked them, they kept clapping.  I teared up.  Bet that Dale, Oscar, and Theresa were sniffling around on the stage, too!

Note to self:  Next year bring tissues!

Bad things…we ran out of food!    Given the opportunity, we’ll do better next year.   We planned for 200.    350 showed up.   We totally underestimated this benefit.

My feet are hurting but my heart is full.

Oh….and we raised money.  It looks like each cemetery (we divided the proceeds between Mt. Vernon Cemetery and the Mendota Cemetery) will get about $1500 to help with the mowing expense.  We sold a bunch of quilt tickets, too, and that is not in the count.

I recall my sister, Pat, nudging me a few years ago when we were sitting at the Mendota Homecoming.  She said “don’t you just love living in the country?”

I do.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...