I hope everyone is having a safe Memorial weekend! I am sorry I can’t say a happy one, this is much too painful to be too joyful, at least for me.
Thursday morning, I started on an adventure that I will long remember. I drove to Englewood to meet with my dear friend Norma Ashcraft, and after loading everything in the car we set out for Ralph Stanley’s Hills of Home Festival in Virginia. It was a beautiful drive every mile of the trip, there and back.
We got there a little late for some of the bands Thursday, but the ones we did see were great. After the show there was a group jamming close to where we were parked. A few were band members, and some were just pickers. Norma and I stayed there until it was over at 1:30 a.m.
We could hear music up on the hill, we were just too tired to go listen. Later we found out that Alex Leach was in this group, and they picked until 4 a.m.
Friday, Norma and I, along with several others, took the trolley to Ralph Stanley’s museum, and oh my goodness this was an adventure in itself.
During the ride down the mountain there was bluegrass music playing the gospel song, ‘I’m Ready to Go.’
Norma said, “You better be, riding this thing down this mountain!” There was only 10 or 11 on the trolley, and everyone started laughing.
The museum is really interesting.
I would like to go spend several hours there to read and to listen to all details, since the Stanley Brothers have been so influential in bluegrass music, which used to be called mountain music.
Ralph Stanley did such a wonderful job singing, and to see and hear his son Ralph II by his side is so good to see.
We rode on a hay wagon to Carter Stanley’s gravesite, and it is really something to see.
The hayride was great too. Of course I had to be my usual silly self, as someone was kind enough to help me climb the step, I looked at him and started to sing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and we both started singing and laughing.
My beautiful cousin Beverly Adams, her husband Jeff and Jack were there. I forgot to get a cell phone number, but we finally connected for a little while.
Bev made chicken and dumplings along with green beans. She tried to find Norma and me, to no avail, as Norma and I were out on one of our trips someplace.
Norma’s sister and brother in-law, Jeff and Betty Fox, are Ralph Stanley International Fan Club presidents so they were there also.
Betty tried to find us to tell there were all kinds of food and desserts in the back of their stage. Once again Norma and I were nowhere to be found. Norma said we were like that old saying, a day late and a dollar short.
We had enough food with us and beverages to last a week or longer, I think.
Norma didn’t want to drive off that mountain at night so we took cover and decided to camp in the car.
Now this is not new to me, as I have slept in my car lots of times, though not in the front seat. The car we were in had safety locks in the back, which meant once you lock the doors it won’t unlock from the back.
Norma woke up and had to get out, but I had locked the doors and she couldn’t get out.
I won’t go into details, but we had a good laugh the next morning.
Friday night, we were getting sort of tired so we didn’t go listen to the jam sessions. Were we ever sorry as Larry Efaw, Alex Leach and several others had a jam session that anyone would have enjoyed.
Larry Efaw & The Bluegrass Mountaineers performed Friday. This is the first time that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this group for some time.
I have traveled to the mountains with several friends, but I have never shared camping with anyone except my husband in our van, and of course when my kids were small my husband and I camped several times in a tent and a mattress in the back of our truck, which had a cap.
I am no stranger to cooking out in the open, which means I have fried bacon, eggs, and fried apples on a grill, along of putting butter on a slice of bread and making toast for the kids.
This is the first time that I have shared camping in a car with a friend. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was fun, and we both enjoyed it so much.
As I was heading for the shower before everyone else, some guy told me that I looked as pretty as a bed pillow. Later when I was talking to him, I told him I didn’t know if that was a compliment or not.
He said, “Honey, you can take that as a compliment as you looked as pretty as a rose.” I laughed and said I wish I had smelled as good.
To be a primitive festival setting, they had very good showers, and they were clean.
Saturday, Norma and I stayed for a while then we decided to drive to Whitesburg. We went to Pine Mountain Grill for a bite to eat, then on to Whitesburg Motel.
I called my niece Sue Hall on Saturday after we got settled in the motel. Sunday morning, Sue came to meet us. She was sweet enough to take us places as Norma and was going to stop by Blackey and different places.
I wanted so bad to go to the cemetery and I wouldn’t ask Norma to take the car we were in. Sue took us up in Carbon Glow where Norma lived as a child, on to Crases Branch, then to Blackey, up River Road to Tolson Creek and on to the cemetery where over half of my immediate family is buried plus cousins.
As I looked at the three graves of my brothers Wallace Lee and Richie, and sister Loretta, who have been buried there in less than three years, all so close to Mom and Dad, it was so hard to hold back the tears.
Then we went to Green Acres where my brother Jerry is so alone by himself. It still doesn’t seem right that Jerry is gone.
Norma is originally from the Crases Branch and Blackey area. She attended school at Stuart Robinson. Sue drove up to the school so Norma could see the buildings. As we passed there were two guys standing there.
I started laughing and told Sue to stop the car, I see a good-looking guy, so let me out. Sue stopped so I could get out, after laughing at me.
I never explained who, as I walked up to speak to Winfred Wheatley and his brother Wayne. Both Winfred and Wayne were friends with my uncles Charles and Boyd Barton in Woodrock when I was a young kid.
I met Winfred at Blackey Days about three years ago, and it was the first time I had seen him since I was about 11 years old. Winfred lives in the northern Kentucky area someplace.
Thanks to Sue for being so good as to spend part of the day with Norma and me.
I called my sisters-in-law Mattie and Wanda Hall and never got hold of them.
I wanted to call Bessie Shepherd and Berma Matthews, but since we didn’t know what our plans were it was hard to plan anything as everything we did was spur of the moment.
I really don’t know if I ever mentioned this in my column, but the Saturday before my brother’s visitation, I took a ride down Route 7, and stopped by a few shops Libby’s and Delana’s. I then went up Blair Branch to visit my cousin Bev Adams, and Jeff and Jack was out mowing.
When they came home, Jack took me for a ride on the four-wheeler all the way to the top of Blair Branch Mountain.
Jack is a very quite young man, and he is so courteous and kind to me. I am surprised he doesn’t hate me, as I probably left bruises by sliding into him coming off that mountainside.
I haven’t talked to Les and Pat Wagner so I hope everything is still all right with their aunt Ethel. Hello James and John Ison.
I have to give Doyle and Betty Ison a call since she tried to reach me while I was gone.
I’m sure I will think of things after I send this column.
Thanks again, Sue, for being such a wonderful tour guide, and giving up your day to spend with Norma and myself.
P.S. Hello to Oma Hatton. I was hoping you would be at Pine Mountain Grill.
Until next time, Rose Ballard, 9110 Lawrenceburg Rd., Harrison, Ohio 45030, email Bluegrassmama4@aol.com, telephone: 513-367-4682.