You Can Take the Girl Out of The Mountains But…

I was born in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky in a town called Hindman, population 900. It is very rural. The night my mom went into labor with me there was a terrible blizzard. My parents lived on a hill (shocking) and dad had to call the funeral home for help because they were the only people with 1. A four wheel drive 2. Crazy enough to brave the weather and 3. The ambulance service said, um no. I came into the world with the help of a family medicine physician and a midwife at the June Buchanan clinic. The original plan had been for a hospital birth but that just wasn’t in the cards. It was December 21, 1976 and my dad was right there to see me make my grand entrance. Most hospitals didn’t even allow men in the delivery room.

I was named after the character “Cassie” in Harriette Arnow’s “The Dollmaker.” Arnow was a friend of my mom and dad’s and I love having a name with its own story. They neglected to give me a middle name. I will do a separate post someday on all of my fake middle names I’ve used over the years.

The county where I spent my next 18 years doesn’t have a hospital, a movie theater, or GASP… a Walmart. There was only one stop light in the entire county until I was in college. Now there are two. The nearest airport is over two hours away. I was taught to share the road with coal trucks, never ignore a flash flood warning, and always be on the look out for snakes. 

I’ve seen summers so hot that Troublesome Creek was a mere trickle going past my house and winters so nasty we missed a whole month of school. Power outages were no joke (especially when you had a well like us, no power=no water) and forest fires scared me half to death. I vividly remember seeing the mountains glowing bright with flames that moved like a reverse tide toward the houses below.

I went from my house in tiny Emmalena, KY to a dorm, then an apartment, onto a house in Pennsylvania with my new husband, and finally to our home in Cynthiana. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to feeling so much wind or being able to see a storm approach. I still find it weird that all the snow melts in my yard at one time. I look out my back windows in the winter and wonder if there are still traces of white on the mossy hillside behind my childhood home.

The mountains where I was raised are as much a part of me as my arms and legs. They gave me my rich heritage, a pretty awesome accent, and a place that is home forever. I might not live there anymore but I know that a mere hour away I can hit the Mountain Parkway in my swagger wagon and see those mountains rising up before me. I find comfort in the fact that even though I left, I can always go back and someone will know my name. The mountains that my parents traveled on the day I was born are the same ones that will always welcome me home.


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