As a part of my “I Remember” series, I would like to talk about my great grandparents on my mom’s side: Mammy and Pappy. I was lucky enough to get to know my great-grandparents and have many awesome memories of visiting them in Tennessee.
Every year in May, most of the kids I went to school with would talk about where their families were going on vacation. My reply was always: “Tennessee. No, not to Pigeon Forge. Nor Nashville. Nope not Memphis either. We’re going to visit my great-grandparents.” You know when you tell your friends that, they kind of just move the topic on to their cool destination like Disney World or Washington DC, etc.
Even though it was my mom’s family, every year my dad insisted we go to visit because you just never knew when something might happen to Mammy and Pappy. Dad is big on family. So, each year at the hottest point of the summer we would head south to visit.
Pappy was a carpenter and that is how he made money when my grandfather was growing up. They settled in a small town called Tazewell. Mammy and Pappy had 9 kids. Two children were lost at very young ages. My grandfather was one of the youngest.
Btw, Mammy and Pappy are not their real names. These are just the names that everyone calls them. Tazewell being a smaller town, many people just called them by their nicknames. It was easier. 🙂 Kind of neat to hear Bud from a general store ask how Pappy was “gettin’ on”.
Mammy and Pappy lived in a house that Pappy built in 1910 in a holler. This house did not have any running water or plumbing. This means that to get a drink of water, you had to pump water and drink out of a community ladle. Trust me as a kid…this was fun! I made many excuses of being thirsty just to pump the water. 🙂 This also means that there was no bathroom indoors.
There was an outhouse in back of the house that you used to relieve yourself. Personally, I hated the outhouse and only used it when I really, really had to. The reason I hated the outhouse was the wasp nests that were in there. They scared me to death! When I was younger I wasn’t allowed to use the outhouse by myself because you had to walk a path up to it. The mountainside that the house was situated on had a nest of copperhead snakes living on it. Mom was worried that I would encounter one on the path. BTW, I love snakes which was probably another of her worries.
Out front there was a creek! A great place for a kid to play in. I looked for crawdads all day long. Given that the temperature outside was always above 90 when we were there; playing the creek is not a bad way to spend the day. 🙂 Now Mammy didn’t like me playing the creek and was worried that I would get a leech on me (I never did). However, my mom was usually in the creek with me to try to keep from getting to hot, so I had no worries.
There were always tons of cats/kittens around. Mammy always fed them the leftover scraps. The cats were really wild and I could barely catch one to pet it. My best chance was when Mammy set the food out to feed them. I could usually get one then only to be told my Mammy to let the cat go, so it could eat. Timing was everything.
The roof of the house was tin. This meant that the house was a sweat box in the summertime. Every evening there was a rain shower that would pass through, and if you have never heard raindrops on a tin roof, you should go and find one somewhere. It is a beautiful sound that will lull you to sleep. One day I would love to have a house with a tin roof on just the porch to hear that sound again.
Pappy had a porch swing that he would sit on all day long. My great-grandparents were beyond retired when I met them. Even though they stayed busy with general housework, there wasn’t much to do. I used to sit in the porch swing with Pappy. You know I don’t really remember sitting on any other chair other than the porch steps. I always hated sitting on the inside of the swing though because of all the mud dauber nests on the house. But if I sat on the outside of the swing, I interrupted Pappy’s ability to spit out his tobaccy.
Part of the fun of sitting on the swing was waiting for a car to go by. You have to have a lot of patience though because very few cars went by, but I waved with Pappy at every single one of them. Some people would stop and ask Pappy if he needed anything from the store. That’s the way it is down there, everyone takes care of each other which is something that has been lost today.
Mammy and Pappy had just a small patch of grass on either side of the house. Down there, you only remove the trees you have to and leave the rest. The funny thing was that they did not have a lawn mower or anything. When I was a kid, they had a cow. I no longer remember her name, but I remember her. She mowed the grass for them. In later years once the cow was gone; my great-uncle who lived next door mowed the grass for them.
I have so many fond memories of my time down there. It was a simple time in my life, but I believe it was the most enjoyable and relaxing time. I think that my summertime down there was more special than going to Disney World. My parents even took a cousin down for me to play with one year, and when we hooked back up on Facebook years later after losing touch; one of the first things she posted to me was about the time she went with us to TN. It is a special place.
As this article is already longer than I expected, so I’m going to break it up into sections. This was the introduction to Mammy and Pappy and where they lived.