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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

(by Levon who is still listening to Tyler James, “It took the fire”)

With renewed vigor I’ve come home to Knoxville determined to do something.  I still don’t have the what exactly, but I’ve got the where.  Kentucky and Virginia are forever our family homes, but this is the place that we’ve come, left, returned and decided to stay.  However, having just returned from Tazewell for a few days, I have stories to tell which you may not believe and shouldn’t repeat.

This is Brian Addair, or Fathead, and Shane Wilson.  It’s down off the hill at Aunt Gwennie’s.  Grandmother’s hill is in the top picture.  The trophy is Glen’s.  Glen raced pro motorcross and everyone was raised to be as tough as him.  That’s why Dustin is named Dustin, because when you read “Dustin” on the back his shirt, it’s because he’s “dustin’ you.”

Pa Paw was serious about racing.  If your cousin missed a double, they’d quickly pull his broken body and wrecked bike around the other side of the jump.

“Com’ on Brent, Eddie made it easy!”

Then they’d pull Brent off to the side and Chad would make it.  Chad was the best, after Uncle Glen.  Anybody will tell you that Pa Paw carried a handful of rocks and so that you would at least try.  You knew you’d get hurt if you didn’t.  The worst thing you could tell him was that you couldn’t do something.  Or make excuses.  “If?  Why, if your grandma had balls she’d be your grandpa!”  He said other things like that, too.  Some of them worse.

Grandmother’s hill is off Dial Rock in Tazewell, VA.  Just take a left at the Pop Shop if you’re coming from 460.  I was walking my dog the other day and a truck stopped to ask me directions by a person’s name.  That’s what kind of town it is.

Aunt Gwennie goes out to Eddie’s hill everyday to feed the mules.  When Gwennie asks me to do anything, I say yes.  It’s because she isn’t asking.  Little Zach went with us to help, that’s her grandson.

The first time I met Gwennie she put me in boxing gloves up against Fathead.  Go back and look at how big he is.  The family has never questioned my loyalty to Ashley, or ever worried about any misbehavior.  This is little Blake playing in the Green Room at Grandmother’s.  Blake and I survive by our tenacity.

Shonna married Zach Ruble and they built a house out’ Gratton, just past Burke’s Garden.  It sits in a valley between two ridges and at the fork of two creeks.  An old church is in front, full of yesterday’s everydays.  Zach told me once,

“Whenever I take a notion to fish, I just put on my boots.”

The first day little Zach missed a big one.  The second day big Zach said,

“A fish like that, he’s the only one in that hole.  What if I hook him and you pull him in?”

“I think that’d be a good idea,” said little Zach.

I didn’t catch a thing, instead I went what Uncle Larry calls “Squirrel Fishin.”  That’s when you throw your line in the trees all day.  After I lost a few hooks I figured I was getting too expensive.

Shonna took me to Lewisburg, WV for a day.  She has three real estate offices in the region and covers Abingdon, VA to Snowshoe, WV.  Lewisburg is a real nice place and they know it.

I was researching art galleries when I found something that made me smile.  I’d seen it before, but not in “America’s Coolest Small Town.”

That magazine has Shonna on the cover.  The lady there said I could have one and I said, “No thanks, we have a few.”  Lewisburg is really cool, but the “Best Town on Earth” has long been reserved and proclaimed as Madisonville, KY.  But if Lewisburg wants “cool,” then we can keep “best.”

We listened to Alan Jackson over and over because I had to learn “Sissie’s Song” to sing.  It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard, but it carries a lot of hope.

Anyone will tell you I’m a card shark.  Probably one of the finest produced by the Kentucky educational system.  Dustin is a good partner, we whip our wives every time.

But we really didn’t have a chance with some of the experience we were up against.

I’m trying to decide if I can repeat any of the stories I’ve heard over the last few days.  I secretly shot videos, but I definitely can’t play those either.

The only times I’ve ever been to prison was to see some of these boys when they were in.  I don’t know half of what they’re talking about, I guess I’m not accustomed to being the minority in a conversation about the great indoors.

This is Isabelle.  She’s a pretty little girl, people tell her all the time that she looks like Ashley.  She says, “No, Ashley looks like me.”  She asked me if I had a girlfriend.  I told her no, but her cousin wouldn’t like her asking me very much.

I don’t know what the last count is on how big the family is.  Everywhere you look, you see little happenings like this one.  Grandmother has 9 kids with about 50 first cousins.  That generation ranges in age from 11 to 49 and probably has another 80 kids.  Grandmother even has a handful of great greats.  There’s more on the way.

But that’s not a clue that Ashley and I have any news.

I’m done talking about Tazewell now, I have to get to work.  We’ve all spent some rough moments together lately but it has been good to have each other.  It makes me value where I have come from and where I have found myself.   We have been formed in one place and added context in others.  It matters to recognize that.  To continue a good story, we should see to it that it’s the one we want told.  And also that we know the one we have.

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