Sunday, December 6, 2009

Special Edition: The Mountain & The Man

High Knob Massif
Early Autumn In Head of Powell Valley
Photograph by Dan Weemhoff - © All Rights Reserved.

This photograph is of a great mountain, which rises above a man who knows it in a way unlike anyone alive today. 

He's lived beneath it nearly his entire life, and portions of the Valley spreading out from it's great mass have been in his family for more than 166 years!

A portion of the great high country sprawling outward beyond this lofty crestline, visible in the above photograph, can be seen below in this wonderful panorama by Dan Weemhoff ( * ).

*Who would ever imagine that all this below, and SO MUCH more, is beyond the crestline seen above?

The High Knob High Country
Looking Across Grindstone Ridge & Big Cherry Basin
Photograph by Dan Weemhoff - © All Rights Reserved.

In years past, this used to be 
the stomping ground of The Man!

This website does not typically recognize the birthdays of family and friends, although all are treasured and respected.

It is not every day, however, that a friend turns 90 YEARS of
age and has such a strong connection to the High Knob Landform.

This is a special tribute to:
Addison M. Stallard.

I really am not certain, even after all these years, of what the "M" stands for.  Perhaps, Methuselah, now that he's turning the BIG 90 on December 7, 2009!

All I know for certain, is that it stands for "My Friend."

Addison is a very POSITIVE influence in my life and has made the world around him a much better place.

That is the greatest tribute which can be bestowed 
upon anyone, since ultimately it matters not how much money you have or what rank you hold in society.

What matters, plain and simple, is that this world 
( around YOU ) is left a BETTER PLACE for YOU having lived.  Addison is an exemplary example from which we all may learn this most vital principle of human life.

If your life has not been what you wanted it to be, TODAY is a new day!  Everyone has special gifts, whether they are recognized or not, which make them UNIQUE.

Discover those gifts and use them to make the world around YOU a better place.  They may seem so little, 
but ultimately mean so very much to someone, or something. 

Addison and his truly beloved Elizabeth are simply extraordinary folks, as anyone fortunate enough to know them can testify.

Elizabeth lived a while in Lee County, Va., before moving with her family into the Head of Powell Valley in Wise County at the sweet age of 15 
( time has only made her sweeter ).

Addison was not living in "The Valley" at the time Elizabeth initially moved there.  He had moved to another state with his family, after being born and raised in The Valley. 

Upon a return visit to see his Grandparents the beauty of The Mountain, The Valley, and the new "Girl Next Door" could simply never again be let go from his heart! 

Elizabeth & Addison both have strong, deep roots in the High Knob Landform that extend back to its original settlers, as noted in opening remarks.

The best way for those not knowing this Man, and the Mountain above, is to hear him speak in HIS OWN words via a composite of speeches he's given to various groups over the years ( ** ).

**I have selected portions from his speeches which I think will give you a feeling for why I have come to love this man, and to respect his life and wisdom so very much.

In these words you will learn of this wonderful man and his loves for this magnificent mountain landscape and his sweet Elizabeth, whose life ultimately made this tribute possible!

All the words below belong to Addison.  Only a few numbers have been changed to reflect the passing of time since these words were publicly spoken by THE MAN!

The Spoken Words of 
Addison Stallard

Addison Stallard
Photograph by Wayne Browning

Isaac Willis was my great-great-grandfather. Ora Willis Gilly was my great-grandmother and I was privileged to meet her once, when I was very young. 
I remember that occasion very well. 
She lived to be near 95 years of age.

Her son, George Melvin Gilly, was my grandfather. I was born in his home. He influenced my life more than any other individual. He taught me so much. And though he has been gone 62 years, it is the rare day when I do not mention his name. Elizabeth says he will continue to live as long as I live.

I was born in the Valley and have never been happy when away from it. Though others have had title to most of the land, 
it has seemed like mine.

As a boy, I roamed and hunted over all 
of it without needing to ask permission. 
It belonged in the family!  They hunted on our land without asking.

As a boy, I could start at the eastern boundary of the golf course and walk, 
hunt or fish almost to the present quarry, without stepping on land that did not belong to a Jones, Willis, Collier, or Gilly.

As one drives up the new four-lane 
( U.S. 23 ) highway from Big Stone Gap toward Norton, Powell Mountain is on the right and Stone Mountain ( Little Stone Mountain ) on the left. There are those who will not consciously see either mountain. They will look ahead and think only of their destination. Others will observe the Valley and the mountain beyond, and admire what they see.

Some will stop at the scenic overlook and enjoy the view without knowing who lives in the houses below, or anything about the small church. They may not see the little creek which divides the Valley. They will snap their pictures and drive away.

As Elizabeth and I drive up this highway, 
I look at the Valley and then the mountain. I see things which probably no other eyes see. I see Sheep Gap and Beaver Dam Gap, Beaver Dam spring, where I've camped many times, the Jake place and the 
Jake spring.

As we continue, my mind's eye sees the hickory orchard, with its two-or-three-acre stand of giant Shagbark Hickory trees. A dim path, which may not be visible to other eyes, passes through trees which may no longer be standing, but still are in the corners of my memory.

The path winds around above the head of Sugar Camp Hollow where, in years long past, maple sap was boiled down to become maple syrup and maple sugar.

I see outlines of what once was Uncle Creed Collier's mountain pasture, now overgrown with trees & bushes. I wonder if the clear, cold spring still bubbles up from between the roots of the large ash tree in the pasture. Probably not; the tree may 
be long gone.

My eyes pass over Uncle A Collier's cold spring. As mentioned earlier, he owned the farm adjacent to my grandparent's property.

As a boy of 7 or 8, I would travel out our dug road, past the "far spring," through our woodland and down the steep hill to where he lived. His unmarried daughter, Nannie, had remained with him.

We would sit before the fireplace in winter and he would tell me hunting tales. In summer the canopy of wild plum trees in his front yard provided a resting place.

When milking time was near, I'd go with him to bring in the cows, then I'd climb the hill, walk through the woods, go past the far spring, out the dug road, wash up and eat my evening meal, usually milk and cornbread. Grandma's molasses stack cake or apple pie were always there if one desired dessert.

As Elizabeth drives, if I look quickly I can catch a glimpse of my grandparent's home, and if one knows when and where to look, the High Knob Tower ( before it's burning ) may be seen.

If we stop at the Powell Valley Overlook, I see much of that which others have seen, except I know something about the people in the houses.

I know the history of the small Presbyterian Church which I helped to build, and in which Elizabeth and I worked so hard for so many years. Our children grew up in that church.

As I think back 76 years, the scene below changes. Green corn fields and blue-gray oat fields appear. Wood smoke drifts up from the cooking fires as farm wives prepare the next meal. I visualize the winding, willow-lined creek with deep holes at every bend, washed out by current fed by spring rains, holes in which a boy could take a cooling dip after he filled his stringer with suckers and redeyes, with an occasional bass if he was lucky.

Long ago farmers cut the willows, dredged the creek and straightened it so there would be no more bends and deep holes. And why not? They needed the land for their crops, rather than a place for boys to fish and skinny-dip.

With no bend or deep holes to impede its progress, the water now swiftly goes its way and the creek is little more than a ditch.

The enitre Valley floor is as familiar to me as my own fields. I've tramped every acre, sometimes with bird dogs or Beagle hounds, other times with a fishing pole or just to be roaming about.

As I lift my eyes once more to the mountain I see not an inanimate object as one would see a pyramid or a monument or statue, but I see a living thing! The mountain changes shapes, colors, moods. She sometimes flexes her muscles and sends large boulders crashing down from the cliffs into the trees below.

Her moods are at times bright and cheery, sometimes somber, even brooding. She may don a crystal cap embedded with countless jewels which sparkle with an unbelievable brilliance as she is greeted with a kiss from the morning sun. She may wave and sing as breezes play through her ledges and dance through her treetops. Or she may show anger as high winds lash the trees and roar through the cliffs.

In spring the mountain dresses from the bottom up. The green begins outside our window; the maples in the field above show pink. The green slowly creeps up the slopes and when it leaps over the cliffs, our spirits soar with it, for then Spring has truly arrived, and if the Wood Thrush is not already on the hill behind the barn, she will not be far behind.

In summer the mountain is dressed in numerous shades of green. These difference shades show where the tulip poplars, oaks, beeches and lindens grow.

Fall, of course, brings the most spectacular dress. Color begins at the top, then moves down the slopes and continues until she is magnificently clothed.

All too soon she disrobes, from the top. Leaves drift down until only gray, barren limbs and the brown forest floor are visible.

Occasionally she dresses in a mantle of white --- in my youth, a time to follow the tracks of a fox or mink while unraveling the story of a previous night's search for food and survival, now a time to look from my dining room windows --- and wish for Spring!

I am intimately acquainted with this mountain. Since early childhood she has drawn me like a magnet. I've touched every tree, rested on every mossy log, I've feasted on her bounty. I've gathered her walnuts and hickory nuts, her pawpaws and wild plums. I've quenched my thirst from her clear, cold springs, picked her berries and, yes, I've taken a few of her trees for my workshop. I've given little in return --- only my admiration and perhaps a special kind of love.

The Valley and the mountain have, in a sense, dominated my life. There have been times past when I gave more of my time to them than to Elizabeth, and sometimes I brought bouquets of wildflowers as penance offerings, or to soften my feelings of guilt, though Elizabeth never complained.

There are those who find it difficult to understand the depth of feeling a mountaineer, such as I, can have for 
his land.

Elizabeth and I live in the home we began building when we were married 68 years ago. It is adjacent to my grandparent's farm which we bought many years ago. This land has been in the family more than 150 years ( as of 1993 ).

Three times each day we sit in our dining room, which is mostly glass, and admire the beauty around us.

We are blessed!

The touching, beautiful words in BOLDFACE above, spoken by Addison, are part of the FOREWORD in one of my book volumes about the High Knob Landform ( as he describes "The Mountain" ).

Powell Valley - Hidden Within High Knob Massif
Photograph by Dan Weemhoff - © All Rights Reserved.

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