Monday, February 20, 2012

Memorial to a Southern Mentor - Mike Mullins

For any of you that might not know, I grew up in a small town in Kentucky. Nowhere near the big cities, but tucked away into the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. I lived in a tiny, close knit community. In a county with one stop light, where any stranger could easily be connected to you through one degree of separation. 

shed at the Hindman Settlement School, Hindman, KY

But I wasn't born into my Kentucky citizenship, it took a great deal of indoctrination. You see, my family moved to Pippa Passes, Kentucky from eastern Ohio when I was 8 years old. At first it was a real struggle for me. Everything was new, I didn't know anyone, and I could hardly understand what people were saying through their country twangs. In short time, however, my heart melted for the place and the good people that live there. 

the view from the top of my hill in Knott, County, KY

Even now, after 6 years away, that region and those nestling hills represent the strongest ties I have. There were a few people who taught me to love Kentucky the way that I do. One of those mentors was my first boss, Mike Mullins, at the Hindman Settlement School

Mike and his wife Frieda were staples in my life from church. Where I grew up, it was still a cultural understanding that it takes a village to raise a child. As a result, I had a great many wonderful adults who invested themselves, at different levels of involvement, into my up-bringing. My own parents were raised in Ohio, and though they enjoy and respect Appalachian heritage, it wasn't something I could inherit from them. It was through my kinship with people like the Mullins' and my dear friend Virginia Combs that I grew into the Kentucky girl I am today.

Mike passed away yesterday, at age 63, from a heart attack. Even from all the way up north in Tipp City, OH I can feel the great void his passing will leave in Knott County, KY. He will be sorely missed.

The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote while doing a summer internship at the Hindman Settlement School during the summer of 2005. 

* * *

Evening up the Score 

One morning, as I pull into work I meet Mike walking down the hill from the summer school girls’ dorm. Five or six little girls came in tow, donning tangled hair and glittered jeans, still sleepy-eyed. Mike holds a rifle in one hand. 

tackling some copperheads with a rifle
“Is that the only way you can get them up in the morning?” I ask. 

He shakes his head. Mike’s not really a laugher. He’s a happy guy, but with his job, it's as if he's too busy to smile. In all of the pictures he’s taken over the years for local and statewide newspapers, Mike mostly sports this same “get on with it” look, his mouth sometimes open in conversation with the photographer, telling him what he should remember to include in the shot. Mike’s still a bit of a newspaper man himself. He knows what makes good news. He’s now spent much more time as the cover story than in the paper business, but he’s still uncomfortable in front of the camera. 

the lucky hawk
This particular morning he’s got his sleeves rolled up around his elbows doing some of the more hands-on work of his executive position. 

“He shot a bird,” a little girl says matter-of-factly as she runs past me towards breakfast. 

Mike points to the front of the office building with his free hand. “Some crows were gangin’ up on this hawk over there.” He slaps the butt of the rifle on his palm like a baseball bat. “I just evened up the score a bit.” 

He chuckles so abruptly I believe he surprises even himself. Just reveling in another one of the perks of his job, it seems. 

* * * 

Seems like this happened just yesterday. It is easy for me to imagine Mike sitting in his office in the morning, the summer sun just peeking above the hilltops. I can still smell the mustiness of the old offices, hear the creak in the floorboards, feel my fingers fumbling with the old door latch. I might have sat down for a moment in a rocking chair in his office, looked around at the frames on his wall, his collection of hand-crafted election signs. One brittle board painted with the words: "Jesus is Soon Coming."

only one sign of many
In that moment or moments like it, he might have asked me what my plans were next, listened to me as I shared some unfocused dreams. Then he probably told me that I could do a lot more than I thought I could, and that whatever I did choose to do, to do it well. 

This, I know he said: No matter where I ended up, I could always come home. There would always be a place for me in Knott County. I am so grateful to know that. 

Mike's birthday/my going away lunch with some HSS "family". A smile here! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tippacanoe & Old Stuff Too! (or) Antique Antics 2

A picture diary of a fun pre-valentine's day gift: a day with some lovely gals doing something I love to do! Mostly, this is a look-what-I-found entry. Bear with me. Ooh and ahh if you wanna.

The antique shop we visited had a great selection of creepy dolls, as shown in these pictures. And check out that awesome Santa Claus washing basin and pitcher. 

It seems odd to me that someone would want to collect creepy doll heads and display them in their home. But then again, I come from an odd family, so who's to judge. 

When I was a child, my mother kept her doll collection in a large glass-doored curio-cabinet in my bedroom. I used to sneak into the drawer at the bottom of the locked cabinet. I would shuffle open a brittle box and inside? A beautiful, pristine original Barbie in a black and white swimming suit. Her hair was so soft, like the underside of a puppies ear. The other dolls in the collection included some Madame Alexanders and several dolls collected by her mother and grandmother during international travels. I always felt like their little eyes were watching me sleep.

And now, for the booty that came home with me. No creepy over-sized clowns made it into my shopping basket. But I did come home with three awesome things:

Wanna come visit me and go shopping? It could be arranged. I have a guest room.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Many Earrings Made in Absence

Hello, internet friends. I went on an adventure or two in the last couple weeks and so have experienced a little (much needed) distance from the internet. You should see how behind I am in all my Words With Friends games! But I've returned with a couple finished projects. I've been doing a little tv-time crafting lately.

Mainly, I've been making earrings. Some are inspired by some sparkly fishing lures I picked up at Cabella's on the way home from a long weekend visit to Ann Arbor. One pair went to my mother for her 57th birthday. She opened the gifts as she sipped on her first mango lassi at a very grown up Indian food dinner treat from her very grown up youngest daughter. I didn't snap any pictures of her earrings, but they were a hit.
The little green bead on the top of the below earring also made an appearance on mom's earrings. It was originally from a wind chime that my family had at the island house at Put-In-Bay. Mom was excited to see it in a new form. The best kinds of gifts, in my humble opinion, mix old memories with new beauty. And now my mom and I have matching-ish earrings. It's a new take on the broken heart, best-friend necklace.

I thought I'd also share this shot I took while I was doing the earring photo shoot. I flung on a coat and some rubber boots over my favorite lazy day outfit: my adult-sized zipper sleeper (minus the feet, sadly). 

Lots of bloggers take beautiful pictures of themselves looking all perfectly primped and pulled together. Not me. I am a schlub. Don't expect cute coiffures and pressed hems from me. Sometimes, maybe I'll get it together for that- but more likely than not, my house is looking cuter than I am on any given day.

I already have more to share with you. Get ready for a post valentines recap of an awesome antiquing day that I had with "the Amys" (two friends who share a great name!) today. 

For now: I hope tomorrow is fantastic for you. Valentines day isn't my favorite, but I do love vintage-y valentine fare. This handkerchief belonged to my grandmother. I found it crumpled up yesterday in a red silk purse hidden away in a box of family things in my closet. 

The design is by Carl Tait. I did a little online seeking and found out he has a vast collection of handkerchief designs. They are really wonderful- playful, quirky and bright.
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