by Cleo Williams
MOUNTAIN MEMORIES is the title of a series of my original oil paintings intended to tell the story and bring back memories of a way of life in the mountains not so long ago. The first, DOING THE WASH, is a composition from my own imagination, of no particular place, but familiar to anyone from the mountains. It was designed to have just enough detail - not too much - to make the memories start coming back, and to show the beauty and character of the people as well as the mountains. When you look at the scene, the memories start - the creek where we fished with a stick, a string and a bent straight pin, and of course, waded and played in on warm summer days. We made a dam of rocks, mud and moss across the creek to make a "swimming" hole.
The lady doing the wash makes one remember other things - the rub board and the strong brown soap, the old bench where the tubs sat. the smell of wood smoke and the fresh scent of the clothes while taking them from the line after hanging in the sun all day. Then came the ironing with the black irons heated on the wood stove.
The chop block and axe bring back the smell of fresh-cut birch and pine wood and the warmth of a winter fire after carrying in the wood through the snow. The kitchen range made a snug place to sit behind while home-cured ham, bacon or sausage, coffee boiling in the big glared pot and biscuits baking in the oven filled the house with their aroma, minted with the smell of kerosene from the lamp.
The barn was a wonderful place to spend a rainy day - up in the loft where the pee-wee birds built their nests under the eave, and if you were very quiet and still, could watch the mama bird feed her babies. One of my favorite times was milking time, when I would take a little tin cup and follow my mother to the barn where she would fill the cup with fresh, foamy milk - right from the cow. The smell of the hay, the swish of the cow's tail. the sounds of the katydids, the low tinkling of the cowbell, the bats darting about as the sun quietly and radiantly disappeared behind the mountains, ended the day with peace and tranquility.
The second painting, titled UNCLE DAVE"S MILL.is the old mill at Aquone, where Nantabala Lake now covers. My great grandmother's sister and her husband, "Uncle Dave " Howard owned the mill. People carried corn from many miles around, as did my grandfather Taylor -who walked and carried corn in a sack across the mountains from upper Junaluska to the mill and carried the cornmeal back home. The small undershot wheel in the picture was made by Uncle Dave's grandson, Neal Hay, Jr. for the purpose of generating electricity which powered a woodworking shop inside and provided electric lights, a rare sight in those days. The large wheel that ground the corn is not visible in the painting. It is located inside the rear of the building. The stream of water is Little Choga Creek. My grandmother's people came from this area and many evenings were spent listening to her stories of things that happened when she was growing up there. The "painter" and bear tales made one snuggle far down into the quilts at bedtime.
It is hoped that this series of paintings will bring as much pleasure to the viewer as it has to the artist, as so many memories of places and people in the mountains come to mind as they are being painted. Each mountaineer could write a book about his or her own memories of home, family, neighbors and events as they grew up in these beautiful mountains. I am thankful for my heritage and could paint for years and still not begin to run short of my wonderful supply of MOUNTAIN MEMORIES.