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Joining the Foothills Voices writing project took a step of bravery (and a confidence boost from my mother.) My idea for a contribution changed several times before I landed on my final iteration.

I originally intended to write a something about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of my favorite parts of living in this area. Then my grandfather got sick, and I refocused on recording as many family stories and memories I could commit to paper.

For a while, I thought my chapter would be my origin story, the story of how my grandparents met. Instead, what I wrote turned out to be a story of the Appalachian Everyman. While the details of Earl and Harriet* are specific to them, their story speaks to the hardship of the land and the strength of family.

Thanks to the Blount County Library, my story be published in their anthology. In addition, they will be producing an audio version of the book. Many chapters, including mine, will be read by their authors.

Today will be my first experience with audiobooks on this side of the microphone. In honor of this milestone, I wanted to share with you the opening lines of my story. The book launch will be in early May, and I’ll be sure to pass along details of how to obtain a copy for those so inclined. In the meantime, may I present to you, my first baby.

*Names changed because, like many in Appalachia, the couple who shared their story with me are modest to a fault.

She calls it Honeymoon Lane.

A young couple, thin and naive, climbed a path to complete the daily afternoon chore of milking the cattle. It was their wedding day.

Immediately after saying their vows, Earl and Harriet Walker set off to begin their life together on the farm. Earl had to milk the cows. Harriet had to overcome her fear of livestock. They walked up the hill towards the herd. It was as close to a honeymoon as they got.

Earl had never lived more than a few miles away from that family farm on the outer edges of Sevier County. Born in 1932, Earl – the youngest of 10 children – had farm chores as part of his earliest memories. His father James had become a foreman of sorts, instructing the children in how to see to their duties. His mother Bessie kept the family fed by growing a garden, raising chickens, and bartering for staples their farm could not provide.

Harriet was growing up a few miles away. She and Earl would not know each other until they were nearly grown. She had no idea what kind of life was in store for her.