In this episode, I take you on a little trip through time and the backroads of Kentucky, across swinging bridges and up dirt roads to the tiny dwelling of my mother’s mother, Ollie Gilbert Hudson.
I wanted folks to feel what a visit there was like for me as a child, and I also share a special story about a moment I shared with her as a child, and how I had an experience years later that let me know she was still with me and looking out for me.
If you enjoy stories of magical realism, you’ll like hearing about how my Granny sent me a sign when I needed it the most.
welcome to the what dreamers do podcast. i’m your host carla govan and appalachian musician flatfoot dancer, mama creative and dreamer from kentucky. i’m on a mission to inspire others to realize their dreams and live their most creative lives. grab your mason jar full of sweet tea or something a little stronger, and pull up a chair, because it’s time to get your dream off.
that’s what dreamers do. hey, there dreamers, i’m happy to be with you for another episode of the wet dreamers do podcast. and i’m grateful to be spending this time with you. when i started this podcast, it was my intention to talk a lot about creativity and the creative practice and living the creative life. and of course, i will continue to do that. in fact, i’ve been working hard behind the scenes to line up interviews with some amazing people that i really can’t wait to share with you. but the other thing i’ve noticed, as i’ve been releasing these is that you guys can’t seem to get enough of hearing about my granny. and i think it’s just because everybody must feel her magic vicariously when i talk about her, and so i’m going to do a little episode about her specifically, because i never get tired of talking about her. so i thought for this episode, what i would do is a very simple trip to my granny’s house. and i’m just going to describe what it was like for me to visit her as a young girl. so up until i was about nine and her trailer burnt down, she lived on the banks, his branch of the redbird river, in clay county, kentucky. and so that’s where i would go visit her sometimes it would be my mother and i together. and sometimes it would just be my mom dropping me off for a couple of weeks while she went and did whatever moms do when they have freedom from caring for a young child for a while. but i did not mind one bit. i loved so much to go over there with or without my mother. and so i’m just going to take you on that trip with me. so it was a lot of back roads to get there from where we lived in whitesburg, kentucky where i was born. and we drive these curvy roads, we listened to my mom’s eight tracks on the way and when we got there. at that time, it was really difficult to drive all the way back to where my granny lived, because there was a low water bridge, but often it was underwater or in disrepair. so we would have to park in this big field by the river next to this tiny little holiness church that sometimes i would attend with my grandmother and go across the swinging bridge and walk up this gravel road dirt road to her house.
now, i don’t know if you’ve ever walked across a swinging bridge, but there are a lot of them in clay county still to this day. because so many people live on the river on the banks of the river. and in many cases, even when you can’t drive out from where you live, you can take one of those bridges and get across and at least, you know, get to a neighbor’s house or get to town, something like that. so i absolutely loved walking across it because it was you could kind of swing it and shake it and jump on it. and it just felt sort of magical, like you’re in the jungle or something. now my big brother hated it. and i could torment him on the occasions that he came by jumping on it and scared him to death, which i enjoyed because my big brothers were much older than me and they tormented me so much, you know, in that big brother kind of way that i was actually happy to have something i could do that would shake him up. anyway, less flattering aspect of my younger self there. so we’d walk across a swinging bridge, and then we’d be in the woods on the path to granny’s house. and i just remember the way i would feel when we got there because i lived in the woods i lived in a holler. although i was right next door to a coal mine but it was just a little bit more remote. it wasn’t right on the road. there weren’t cold trucks whizzing by 24 hours a day. and it was quiet and peaceful. and my granny was there. so we would walk it’d be less than a mile up to her house. and at this time she was living in a trailer because her the old homestead had burned down years prior to that and eventually she got a trailer to replace it. and it was interesting because this was the 70s. and she had electric run to the trailer. and it was cool because she had this instead of having like a little deck or something somebody built for the people to walk up and down, come in and out of the trailer, there was just this big limestone, quasi rectangular rock that somebody had dragged down from the mountain. so there was just this big steep stone in front of the door to get in and out. but we also would often sit on this steep stone and just look out over the creek. her house was right on the the branch as she called it as the branch you’re gonna go widen the branch. so we would arrive at granny’s. like i said she had electricity, but for whatever reason, i mean, there was no city water out there. and she had not hooked up the water to the spring, from the spring to the trailer. so when you’d go in, there was a bucket with a gourd dipper. and we first thing we do is get us a good cold drink of water or lukewarm drink of water fill in the middle of the summer, out of that bucket next to the door. and the spring was just up the hill behind her house. and so one of my jobs was to go up there and take the bucket and fill it up with spring water because we would use that to drink out of and then we had a different pan of water a dish pan full of water over in the sink to wash our hands with. so when i would be at granny’s house, the best way i can say it is the pace of life not only was different than it is today, it’s it was so different as to almost be unrecognizable. it’s hard for me to try to convey to my children or anybody that hasn’t lived through it. what it is like to have absolutely no hustle at all in your day. now, i’m not saying there wasn’t work, because there was lots of work and there was hard work. and there was also work that you shared with your neighbors, because you had to, you know, it was hard for one or two people to slaughter a hog alone and butcher it. it was hard for one or two people to clear a new ground by themselves, if not impossible. and
so i got to see that element of old appalachia where people were really living in a kind of community that is much more rare today. but that i think is very beneficial and very soul making and that we probably still need to be trying to create around ourselves, just because nothing’s guaranteed, right, all these modern conveniences that we have, there’s no guarantee that we’re always going to have access to them. at least that’s how i was taught to think growing up in eastern kentucky. so i don’t get too paranoid or prepper about it, but so don’t get too paranoid about it. and i don’t have a basement full of, you know, bags of rice or anything like that. but it’s just always in the back of my mind, like, you know, some of this stuff that we learned, we might have to use again. but anyway, like i said, sometimes it would just be me and mom, sometimes it would just be me. and sometimes some of the cousins would be there. now most of my first cousins are much older than me, because my mother was almost the baby of the family and the kids were really spread out in ages. so a lot of the times the cousins that were closer to my age, were my second or even third cousins. and sometimes they would be over there too. of course, i always loved that to have other children to play with. we’d all sleep together and granny would have asleep sideways in the bed. and she would call it bed and titers. she said we’re going to bed titers tonight children, we don’t have much room. so whether i was there with my cousins or my mom or just myself, spending time with granny was magical. i followed her around like a little duck. if it was the summertime, we’d go up to the garden, which was up above her house at the holler. and it was the same piece of ground that her ancestors, my ancestors had been farming for a long time both on the european side. and on the indigenous side, the cherokee side. so we would plant beans, we’d plant corn, we’d whole things. we’d pick things, all the stuff that you do in a garden, and there was a big rock up above the garden that we sit on and everybody called it granny’s rock. and it was supposedly where my great great grandmother used to sit and smoke her pipe after she had a long day in the garden. so that’s a special memory. one of my favorite pastimes was to get a stick in a safety pin and a string. go dig knock crawlers, and catch crawdads. with the worms, of course, they didn’t get hooked by the hooks by the safety pins, i would just put the worms on the safety pins. and then the crawdads would pitch onto the worms. and then i could get them off. and i’d put them in a lard bucket where we would fill up our lard bucket, me and my cousins with crawdads and keep them for a while and then dump him back out into the creek. but that was big fun. and sometimes it was real special granny would take me up the mountain to this little flat place that was kind of had some rock houses or rock shelters. and she would say this is where the people used to live. and by that she meant the first people, the indigenous ancestors. and it was in her knowledge base because that was part of her lineage. she was one quarter cherokee. and so she had some stories and some aspects of that culture. and i would just love sitting there with her seeing the places where people used to live and imagining how they might construct their houses up under the eaves of that rock and maybe build some walls, would they use steaks, would they use scans. and i remember something that happened to me in about fourth or fifth grade, they used to teach in the kentucky curriculum, that kentucky was just some sort of summer camp like hunting ground and no indigenous people actually lived here that it was just like a place where people pass through. and i remember raising my hand and saying no, there are people that lived here. and the teacher correcting me and calling me down and you know, so i didn’t say anything else. but i remembered what my granny said. and then of course, when i got older and and did more study with archaeology and sociology and stuff about kentucky, at university of kentucky, of course, they were people, indigenous people, many multiple tribes and nations that lived here. but for a while, that was what was taught in kentucky. and so my experience with my granny had told me something different. we would can food from the garden and one of my favorites was making kraut, we would
take a cream cayenne, with the lid off after he’d opened it because they were very sharp. and we would take the cabbage, we would start cutting it up, but we would cut it on this old formica table that she had. so you just cut it right on the table. it wasn’t anything fancy or special that you just say for company to keep your table special. we used it. and those cream cans, three or four of us would be standing there chopping, chopping chopping that crowd. now granny talked about how to you have to salt it just right, of course. but you also according to her need to make it during a certain phase of the moon because she planted her food and also made her cry out by the suns and the phases of the moon and i don’t have that memorized. because it’s been a while honestly since i made cry out but i do have it written down somewhere. and i never quite understood it. but i always thought was really cool that she planted by the science i never it always seemed very mysterious and magical and witchy now if it was wintertime, we would do more indoor things like making crafts, we did a lot of sewing. she was a expert doll maker, and made these dolls with petticoats and long skirts made out of calico. and these little boy tumors that came down around their legs with the lace around the edges and that’s what that’s what granny called. women’s underwear anyway was bloomers and that’s actually what she wore till the day she died as these i don’t even know where she got them during the 80s she died in i think 9092 but they were these really long underwear that came down past her knees and had lace at the bottom. and if she was wearing a shorter skirt, they would kind of peek out the bottom of her skirt. it was adorable. anyway, we would sew those dolls, we would sew clothes. we would quilt she like so many of her generation was a beautiful quilter made lots of intricate designs and i think probably her most common and most masterful design that she would quilt was granny’s flower garden is what it was called. but there were so many beautiful patterns while geese drunkards path, dresden plate, double wedding ring. i could go on and on about the quilts. but that was just another special thing that we shared together. and really for my grandmother, i can talk about creativity. one of the themes of this podcast easily and one of the most beautiful things that i learned from my grandmother about creativity and living a creative life is yes, you are being creative when you sit down to deliberately make a work of art like a quilt or like a doll. but also, living that way is something that extends into your entire life. so it’s not just the crafts you make, but it’s the way you arrange your house, the way you carefully make your food or your biscuits or your jams, the way you line them up on the shelf, the way you pick some sweet williams and put them in a mason jar on the table. it’s the little artful touches that help us to celebrate life, celebrate being alive, celebrate the little moments of our day and just enjoy, enjoy being alive by making our small moments of everyday special. a couple of the things that i remember that she would do that i don’t see people do as much anymore is she grew these things called plumb grannies. and i’ve only seen him a few times i don’t have any of her original seed, but i keep meaning to find somebody that’s got some get get some, but they look like these little teeny, kind of like little baby watermelons, but the skin is thinner. and they have the most intense melanie sweet kind of smell. so nowadays, a lot of people use those glade plugins, which don’t even get me started about those. they give me a total sneezing fit. but you know, people want to make their house smell good. and my granny’s way of doing that was she put plumb grannies on the window seal the window seal, and she put them in different rooms. and when you walked in, you were just hit by that smell. and it was kind of like what is that it’s kind of like a fruit or it’s kind of like a flower i don’t even know. but it was really nice. and i associate that smell with her.
another sweet thing she did not necessarily just to decorate her home is that she grew these little beads. it was these little seeds. and the plant i later learned was called job’s tears by some people. but she always just called it indian beads. that was what people of her generation called native americans or indigenous americans. and she just called them indian beads. and they were gray. so she’d raised them and then you have to kind of pick this little middle section out of them and you string them up, and they make beautiful necklaces. you can make little ornaments out of them. but she always had those around, and i enjoyed making things with her out of those. of course, a visit to my grandmother’s house always included delicious food. whether it was fresh eggs from the hands with biscuits and gravy, or cornbread and good shape beans in the wintertime or fresh green beans during the summertime usually cooked with some kind of salt pork or ham. my grandmother had a sweet tooth and my very favorite sweet thing that she made were her fried apple pies, which we would make out of the apples that we dried in the fall with some cinnamon added and sometimes rhubarb depending on what time of year it was, and reconstituted and cooked down. and then you make sort of a biscuit dough and make little turnovers filled with those fried apples and then you fry them. they’re so delicious. and of course, with anybody’s traditional foods, your grandmother’s is always the best. so sunday my goal is to make fried apple pies that are as good as my granny’s. so as i’ve mentioned about my grandmother before, she always had an extra place at the table. she was always ready to welcome a new friend or an old friend or relative. and so if you came on this trip with me and walked across her swinging bridge and walked down her dirt path, she would have welcomed you and coach you about to eat. and she would have sat with us and chatted. and then before you left, she would have hugged your neck. that was always the thing that she would say. if somebody was leaving, she’d say, carla hug jacobians neck before he leaves. she was precious. and i miss her every day. and i thought i would finish this podcast episode with a magical story that i have about her. and that special spot over on the banks is branch of the redbird river. so, one time when i was at my granny’s house, i was eight years old. i remember it and i’ll tell you why in a minute. want to know that i was eight. but i was eight years old and i was playing in the creek, and i found this little piece of shiny pottery. and it definitely caught my eye it was out of place. of course, you know, in a natural landscape like that with every spring and every snow melt, the banks of the creek change a little bit and this creek went right across the road. so that’s another reason it was really hard to drive there. because you know, that’s how it is in eastern kentucky. sometimes the creek goes across the road, or sometimes it is the road for a little portion of your drive. but anyway, it was pretty early in the spring, and the banks had shifted around. and so there was i feel like there was a lot of new rocks and pebbles and whatnot that had recently been unearthed. and so i was digging around and sifting around like i love to do looking for arrowheads and points. and i found that shiny blue piece of pottery and i ran up to my grandmother ran she was back at the trailer. and i ran up and i was like grainy. look at this. look what i found in there pretty. and her eyes filled with tears. and she took the piece in her hand it had a recognizable pattern on it to her. and what she told me was, she said when i was eight years old, we didn’t live right here in this spot. we lived up on the mountain and she gestured up up the road to where there was a different hillside. and she said we would keep our cold stuff down here in the creek. and so my mommy’s turn was in the branch to stay cool, because it had the butter in it. and she sent me down here to get her turn, and run back up the hill and bring it up to the house. and she said i came down here and i got the turn. and i was headed back up the hill. and she said i dropped it and broke it into a million little pieces. and she said i just cried and cried and cried because it was my mom’s most prized possession. and
me finding that little piece of that turn from i guess this would have been like 8080 years or 79 years previously. something like that. 75 years, i don’t know, i haven’t done the math. but when my granny was eight is when it happened to her and i was eight when i found it. so her mother forgave her she didn’t get in trouble or anything. but it brought back so many memories for her. and she kept that little piece of turn. and then unfortunately, when her her trailer burnt down and everything like that was lost. i guess the silver lining of her trailer burning down when i was nine is that she came to live with my parents and i and i got to have even more time with her. so there is one more little part to this story that just was extra magical for me. and it happened after my grandmother had already passed away. it happened after i had had children. and actually, that was when i was going through a divorce. and my daughters were younger. i had just been going through a divorce with their father and i was really sad and i was really grieving and i was feeling really lost. and i went over on the way back from a gig that was by myself and i just stopped there at granny’s land. and there’s nobody living there on the homeplace. that’s, you know, nobody in my family, i think some cousins lived down the road. so i was just alone, i went to the old garden spot, i went to the old spot where her trailer had been where the stoop stone was and went down by the creek and the whole time i was praying, just praying, just i wanted to feel connected to to the divine and i wanted to feel comfort and i just needed to feel that i wasn’t alone and i just kind of was talking to my granny too. i was just saying, hey, granny, you know, just please be with me now i need you. and i walked up to the creek to the branch and i was looking in and i looked down and i mean to tell you there was a little blue and white shard of pottery there in the water. and i picked it up and i immediately burst into tears of course because i felt like it was just such a sign you know sometimes i don’t know if you believe in them or not. but i’ve had things happen to me that i feel like are just direct communication from my loved ones and that was definitely a time that i felt like wow, she is really here with me. and it was a beautiful experience and i still have that little shard and i keep it with my crystals and my stones and all my special little things on my dresser have a look at it every day. and if i really need some courage or confidence, i’m doing something big, i’ll just take it and slip it down in my pocket and keep it with me and just kind of reach in there and touch it every now and then. and it just helps me remember that my grandmother, and all those who love me are always with me that i carry them inside me. so thank you for listening along on my little trip down memory lane down the banks of the redbird river. and i hope you enjoyed it. thank you for letting me share my little turn story with you. and i hope that you have a wonderful week and that you feel loved and inspired and that you feel the presence of your ancestors with you and supporting you and helping you be most fully who you are. because that’s what dreamers do. i’ll see you next week.
thank you so much for joining me this week. if you want to make sure you never miss an episode, please hit subscribe wherever you’re listening now. or visit my website to get on my email firstname.lastname@example.org. when you sign up, you’ll instantly receive my milton mama digital care package, a bundle of music and videos to help you wring every drop of yeehaw out of life. you’ll even find a dance lesson as well as my granny’s cornbread recipe with new goodies being added all the time. i’ll see you next thursday on the wet dreamers do podcast
• Enjoy original songs, banjo tunes, and mountain ballad downloads from the hills of East Kentucky
• Learn the basics of mountain percussive dance in my free instructional video “3 Essential Steps for Appalachian Flatfooting & Clogging”
• Snag our video guide to making your own herbal tinctures along with homey recipes from our family!
• Stay in touch about all things Appalachia with my fun weekly email, like a front-porch visit in your inbox!
Website by Tracy Raftl Design
© 2023 Carla Gover
Carla is currently based in Lexington, KY, ancestral lands of the Adena, Hopewell, S’atsoyaha (Yuchi), Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee), ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), and Wazhazhe Maⁿzhaⁿ (Osage) nations.
Online Press Kit
A hearty helping of Appalachian goodness with lots of tools to help you stay happy and sane, including Kentucky songs and tunes, a Flatfooting & Clogging Video Class, our guide to making your own herbal tinctures, a creativity handbook, mountain recipes, and more!