Director, American Cave Museum "Horse Cave, Hidden River, and Caverna"
Storyteller "The Beck and Kate Straight stretch"
Stories Rise from Smoke
At the Bookstore's round table this morning
I stare at the drizzly rain
watching the fog
rising like smoke up the side of Gossett's Knob
drifting to meet the low clouds.
You'd think of fire
Then think of the cave
about half up the hill
in the low corner of an old rock quarry
But the mist goes up
further than the cave can deliver.
I remember stories
and the storytellers who told them
tale tellers now gone
a part of smoky fog.
I remember Hawk Page
tales of black horse trades outdoing white
with a twinkle in the eye that said
"I am a man, a black man,
but I skinned you that time
and we'll laugh about it."
And he wished for a horse
that day his Studebaker truck
mired in the mud and garbage
me with a Jeep and chain to nudge him out
Gone now with the rising fog.
Brother Omer had a farm beneath this morning's haze
watching the town
he tended its sins and fires
I see him driving
beyond the sight of cloudy eyes
we knew him
and gave him road room
and sat with him
with peach ice cream
and tales of those for whom he cared.
The town is listening to its stories
recording some before they vanish
as smoke on a winter's morning.
Our land is hollow
layers revealed beneath out feet
one stratum at a time our land and tales are made
for eons shaped the land
without thought of our need.
In those layered hills and hollow valleys
we have of late made purchase tenuous as smoke.
And now we catch the misty smoke of our short time here
photograph of mule-drawn wagons
waiting to unload burley
waiting on a day hazy as this
smoke of hills and
steam of mule sweat to offload countless hands of tobacco
From stripping rooms across the county
in tune to stories of farmers gone
gnarled hands no longer able to grab the leaf and tie the hand.
Tobacco tales stored in golden leaf released
smoke from pipe drifts upward
from the burning little altar fires of pleasure.
The land endures
the farmer endures
the stories endure
and bear witness.
Beneath all the Hidden River flows in dreams
the boy long tired of home feels
the river's tug in the night
cuts the ties of land and kin
never perhaps to return.
The night train whistles down the valley
it leads the boy in hope
to dreams of other places
return's coil formed by stories dimly remembered.
He may come back. . . .
Tom Mountjoy as a boy in Boy Scout Parade 1953.
"A Friend of My Uncle"
Story by Jesse (Tom) Mountjoy
about his uncle, R.E. Palmore, Jr. Click on icon to the left to read (.pdf 125K)
"Stories Rise from Smoke,"
written by Tom Chaney to
'prove Mountjoy right.'
Storyteller "Bawdy family stories"
owner and yoga instructor of Hatha Yoga in Horse Cave "Heart of Yoga Talks about Breathing"
Marissa Hale, Older Daughter Country Girl at Heart Bed and Breakfast
"Squeeze the chickens"
Marissa Hale, Cultural Researcher "The story of Frenchman's Knob"