Recently, a woman from up north said on Facebook: “My mother was from Letcher County, and I want to know what a ‘holler’ is.”
There were many answers, but a lot of things about a holler were left out. Some said it is called a ‘hollow” but I disagree. It’s always been called a holler.
The most common answer was that it is a valley between two mountains. I say that it’s too narrow to be a valley.
I lived in Graveyard Holler for six years in the 1940s. It had a dirt road, and there were 18 coalminers’ houses in there. The school bus wouldn’t even come up the holler to pick us up.
A holler has a head and a mouth. The head is as far as you can go, and the mouth is where the creek runs into a larger stream of water.
A holler can have houses spaced out on both sides of the road. You can ‘holler’ from one house to the other to tell the latest news. It may have several branches of forks.
A holler may have a small grocery store at its mouth, and if you see someone walking to the store, give them some money and your list and they will bring your groceries back with them. Or, let them check your mail.
I can remember my great uncle, Sam Lucas, making the trip to the post office twice a week, his horse pulling a wooden sled down the creek in Dry Fork Holler. He would pick up groceries and mail for his neighbors and kinfolks living in the holler.
You knew everyone living in the holler. It may be a few hundred yards long, or more than a mile from the mouth to the head.
If your girlfriend lived up in the holler, everyone knew what time you went in and what time you went out, because their dogs would bark at you as you passed their house.
A holler is a place where you can sit on your front porch in the cool of a spring day and hear a whip-poorwill symphony. Then Old Uncle John would get out his fiddle (not to be confused with a violin) and play until he got tired, his music echoing all over the holler.
A holler is a place where the sun comes up late and sets early. After the sun sets, it’s still a couple of hours before it gets dark.
It’s a place where you can let your young’uns, dog, cat and chickens run loose in the yard.
A holler is a place where the kids can build a dam in the creek and have a good place to cool off and play.
A holler is a good place to live, raise your young’uns, and have fun. It’s a place where the mountains are your playground.