Our little home set just up the holler a ways in Coneva, Coneva Holler being just a little spot on the map. I will always call it, "My heaven on earth"!
Coneva Holler is in Perry County Kentucky, but if you go out our front door, walk across the yard and creek, walk across the dirt road and look straight up, then that is Shooting Match Point.
If you walk up that mountain to the top for about a half an hour,
get to the top and drop over the top, walk for about another
half an hour longer, then you are in the head of the holler in Strong's Branch Kentucky in Breathitt County. My Uncle Price and Aunt Mae lived just over that mountain in the head of that holler and we were going to visit..
My Mammy and I traveled this path on a hot summer day in 1951.
Now mind you, it wasn't normal walking either, there was no beaten path, so we just kind of followed the place where there was less brush watching for the creatures of the woods that slithered along on their bellies.
Inside the very heart of that mountain was a sparkling creek that ran down the length of the mountain, When we finally got to the creek we tried to follow the path of the little creek sometimes stopping and taking breaks.
We would stop beside the creek and invade all the wild strawberry patches along the way. She was good at finding the juiciest berry in the patch. I stood back and watched because she said it was too dangerous for me. She said, "We have to watch for snakes because they love wild strawberry’s"! She would pick and then clean, looking for bugs and whatever else could be on a wild strawberry. She gently touched each berry twirling it around in her fingers, searching for varmints with the eye of an eagle.
The forest was deep and only patches of sun invaded the silence of the moment. The big red oaks stood like guards along the path! Their presence was like the greatest defense against the blaring sun of the Kentucky hills. Even though we could not see that much of the sun, the redness of our faces reminded us that somewhere outside that forest, the sun was shining like the sun of an African Jungle.
We plucked the big fat leaves from the trees and used them for fans as the sweat bunched up and stood in little puddles on our foreheads. Somewhere up ahead we found a tiny little cave, just about big enough for the two of us to sit just inside the mouth of the cave and let the cool refreshing air invade our backs and lift our sprits.
We were sitting there just enjoying the cool breeze, when all of a sudden, little trickles of water started touching our foreheads, mammy screamed, "Mary Alice, jump up quickly! I jumped up, she grabbed me by the waist and pulled me over to the side of that cave, and said, "Now watch". The water gushed out of that cave like the gushes from Mt. St. Helens for about five minutes, it was so very crystal clear and colder than any water from an ice box. Mammy begin to pull off her summer sandals as she said, "Come on, Mary Alice, Let's follow this stream of water and see where it goes". I pulled off my old worn out tennis shoes and the search was on..
That water bubbled down the hill, going from rock to rock, and
and then bounced down into the little creek, beautiful drips of clear sparkling water, it was so clear that I felt like I was looking into a mirror. It threw off a cold odor and paraded up under our nose nostrils. Mammy said that maybe it came from a underground spring inside the cave...
I guess Mammy was getting tired for she said, "Honey, let's sat and rest a spell". We sat down, on the rocks of the creek and let our feet dangle in the cold water of the Kentucky mountains. I watched Mammy as she ran her fingers through her brown-red curly hair, brushing the heat up into her forehead, and then she laid her head back and looked into the sky. I knew what she was doing, Thanking God for God!
I listened quietly as Mammy Grace burst into song as she so often
did when she was happy, "Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now I'm found,
twas blind but now I see". Her voice echoed the hills bouncing and vibrating off the sides of the mountain like a 100 stringed orchestra. We clapped our hands as we celebrated the precious Name of Jesus, whooping and hollering like children playing in the snow on a winter day..
We giggled as two Blue Jays started screaming at us sounding just exactly like the mountain hawk. In other words they were saying to us, "Who do you think you are invading our world, this mountain belongs to us". Two baby gray squirrels scampered up a tree, while Mommy gray squirrel leaped from another tree, and the race was on. I said, "Mammy look up", and there above our heads was a nest with three little beaks opening and shutting, shutting and opening. Mammy said, "I wonder what kind they are". We soon found out as that Northern Cardinal flew in with her wings spread wide, with a bug of some kind as big as she was, hiding her face. We watched as she gave each little beak a fair share of that big bug and then she flew away again. The life in Gods big country left us speechless, as we
sat there soaking up the joys of living.
Then I heard a scream I had never heard before, like the sound of a large cat, it sounded just like the scream of a woman in pain.It started and encircled our space, like round and round sound, like the surround sound in my living room. Then suddenly Mammy jumped up and said, "Baby girl, I think it's about time we headed on down the mountain"!She took my hand and squeezed it so tight and it was like we were flying though the air. Each tree and bush we cleared was bent and crumpled to the ground under Mammy's feet. Suddenly I realized that my feet were not even touching the ground any more. Without even stopping to think about it, she turned, lifted me in her arms and held me closely to her breast as she cradled my head on her shoulder,
I had never seen mammy run like that in my whole life..
Suddenly Mammy stopped dead still and then I notice something else, I could not hear that cat screaming anymore, and then I heard that prayer coming from her lips that I had heard so very often, she said, "Oh God Please Help Us"! She was frozen in time and me with her and she whispered in my ear, "Mary Alice, do not be afraid for HE is with us"!
We stood dead still on the mountain that day, the only thing that I could hear was the soft gentle wind coming from the mountain top and Mammy's breath on my cheek, coming in short sporadic sounds, with a low humming whine just inside her throat, like the desperation sound of a trapped animal..
I looked up just in time to see the largest cat that I have ever seen in my life, just starring down on us, with it's tongue hanging out and showing us those teeth all the way back to his very heart. He was just ready to pounce and pounce he did, just as I heard my mammy's voice rang out to an on time God, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have mercy on us"!
In the half blink of an eye, that soft gentle wind from the mountain top turned into a cyclone of power, collecting me and mammy, and wrapping us in a cone shaped bubble form of pure warmth, round and around and around we flew, as invisible hands held us so very close. We were traveling so fast round and around and up and down, one minute we would be high above the earth in the clouds and the next minute, we would be circling round and around just above the earth's surface. I couldn't move, touch or feel, but the one thing I could do was see..
I saw layer after layer of what look like silk, the colors blue, green, purple and pink...just floating endlessly, just like a big cone of cotton candy from the county fair. At the bottom of that cone that turned square at the bottom was mine and mammy's feet and holding on to our feet was four different colors, each color wrapped around the other, and then wrapped around our feet in a locked position.. I looked up and four faces were smiling down at me from the top of that cone.
And as they were twirling, they were singing, continually singing non stop, "Where are you going Sister wind, Where are you going sister wind"? Then they would answer themselves "Obeying the Master, Sister Wind, "Obeying the Master, Sister Wind, Sister Wind, Sister Wind, Sister Wind"!
Those faces were like angelic faces from a Christmas Globe with long swirls of green, pink, blue and purple hair just twirling and twirling, their complexion was pure cream. like the color of fresh churned butter, like my mammy use to make.! They had the most indescribable eyes I could ever imagine.. They were like pure tiny darts of pink, and their eyelashes seemed to be stuck up and then stuck down, but fluttering all at the same time, they looked like butterfly's wings in flight. They smiled down at me with lips from a thousand summers....And as they smiled, they reached out and touched my face with all those silken bits of the purest of colors. As they touched me, I felt pure droplets of wind, cold, warm, refreshing droplets of wind, touching me and renewing my being into pure warmth..
Those sister winds let us touch down in a field of wild flowers on a tiny hill just above Uncle Price's house. My mammy put me down softly amongst a 100 different kinds of wild flowers and instantly she fell to her knees in prayer..
"My Father God in Jesus Name I come to you, and I thank you Lord for delivering us from the hand of the enemy, I thank you Lord because you are God and there is non other like YOU, I thank you God for you are my sword, and my shield, my Master, my Redeemer, I thank you Lord for being my drink of water in a dry and thirsty land.. I thank you My Father God for being the Master of The Winds.........."
Her worship continued until the early evening shadows begin to fall and then she took my hand and we walked down that hill until we saw the last of the evening sun brightly shining in a clearing below. Like magic, the forest opened up into a valley, there were no signs telling us where we were but we just knew that we had entered Strong's Branch in Breathitt County, Kentucky.
The home place of Uncle Price set back under the mountain,
it was the first house we encountered after coming down off that hill. That's the reason we always said, "Uncle Price lives in the head of the holler in Strong’s Branch Kentucky"! They told me he built that house with his own two hands with the timber that he cut down from that mountain and it was so very beautiful! What an awesome place to raise a family...
We went through the yard, hollering, "Hey, is anybody home"?