Most folks don’t have a lot of free time anymore to sit and visit with their neighbors. The days of front porch guests seem to be waning quickly with so many other means of entertainment. However, two authors have taken the time to hear the stories of their neighbors, recognize the wisdom to be gained from an older generation, and discover the extraordinary people right in their own communities.
Paintsville author and newspaper writer/editor Clyde Roy Pack has interviewed his fair share of community personalities to feature in his weekly columns. Dear Hearts & Gentle People: Rural Americans at Their Best (Where? Press, $10) is a collection of 32 of these writings. Pack says the people are “prime examples of what we, as a society living in eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian foothills, are all about. (They) represent rural America at its best.”
I found particularly interesting the story of Alice Montgomery Howard, who at the time of the article’s first printing was 101 years old. Ms. Howard has since passed on, but Pack witnessed her sharp memory during his interview, proven when she recited a lengthy poem and then volunteered to say the alphabet backward, fast, or slow.
Phyllis EagleTree grew up in Kettle. She found herself at a turning point in her life and determined that her next role would be to act as a channel for wisdom. Through an acquaintance, she was introduced to Mae Phillips, a 79-year-old resident of Evarts, near Harlan. Phillips had been described as having “an unusually strong spirit and a very good heart (with) much to teach people about living.” EagleTree has recorded Phillips’ stories exactly as they were spoken in Roll the Wheel: The Abundant Life and Wisdom of Mae Phillips (ForSight, $24.95). Though Phillips led a hard life, never knowing the abundance of monetary wealth, it is apparent she knew the abundance of blessings, knew how to give, knew how to love, and knew how to appreciate the simple things.
What is it that makes our state so beautiful? Is it the landscape with its hills and valleys, the wildlife of deer, bison, squirrels, and raccoons, the foliage that changes so colorfully, or the many stone formations and caves? After browsing through Kentucky: Unbridled Spirit and Beauty by Middlesboro photographer Dr. Chuck Summers (Acclaim Press, $39.95), you’ll heartily agree. The full-color collection will whet your appetite to take a driving tour or two to see these places yourself.