Pack Horse Librarians

Image courtesy of the National Archives and New Deal Network

I came across an interesting article recently about Eastern Kentucky’s Pack Horse Librarians. After the depression President Roosevelt enacted the New Deal to help put people back to work. One of those projects was the Pack Horse Librarians. It started in 1936 and continued through 1943.  With many women on relief it was a way to put them to work along with the men.

Eastern Kentucky had been hit especially hard by the depression. Very rural and dependent on the now closed coal mines they were isolated from the rest of the world. Librarians from around the state were brought in to establish this unique service. Women were recruited to take books and magazines via horseback and mules into rural Kentucky. The terrain was rough, rocky and steep, through dangerous creeks and rivers, in all kinds of weather. They worked summer and winter, traveling as much as 500+ miles in a month! They were paid $28 a month. People were skeptical at first, but this project was a great success. The librarians took great pride in taking books to people who never had access before. They also became a lifeline of sorts, bringing news and comfort to these isolated people. They could carry messages between the isolated families, send for doctors, midwives and carry medicines. They looked in on shut-ins and read aloud to those who couldn’t read.

There was such a demand for books they asked organizations to help and a penny-fund was started to purchase new books. Some credit this program with raising the level of interest in education in Eastern Kentucky. By 1943 the WPA had been de-funded and the program came to an end. The program established 30 libraries in Eastern Kentucky serving over 100,000 people! I admire these women’s dedication!

There’s a book about these courageous women: Down Cut Shin Creek, The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathy Appealt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer

HERE is a link to look at some pictures from the project and HERE to read more about it

Had you ever heard of this before?


Flat Foot Dancing

IMG_20170610_144422_907Mountain Music was filling the air the second Saturday of June! Every year on that day the Madison County Arts Council holds their annual Bluff Mountain Music Festival in Hot Springs NC. It’s just a run over the mountain from our house and we’ve gone for the last two years. I LOVE it! It’s all day with lots of traditional mountain music and ballad singing and clogging. There’s a wooden floor laid in front of the stage for people to get up and dance if they want. Lots of vendors and food tents and a silent auction to raise money for the Arts Council.

This is the music of my heritage. My maternal grandparents grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee. Sadly I did not grow up with this heritage. My grandmother was deeply ashamed of being a ‘hillbilly’ and rejected everything about it. Such a loss. She only saw the poverty and the stigma of poor white trash attached to the word. But I see a rich culture of determined, strong-willed, tough, friendly, giving, joyous people who love to dance! Flat Foot Dancing is the dance of choice among these mountain people. ‘‘The music just goes in your ear, down through your soul, and comes out through your feet,’’  an old West Virginia flat foot dancer once said. It reminds me of step dancing a little and probably is derived from it as most of these mountain people have Irish and Scottish roots. I wish I was brave enough to try it! We bought a CD to come home and practice! Watch a little here and be sure to keep your eye on the gentleman in white! 

They love to waltz too! How I wish I had learned to do this when I was young. It looks heavenly! The Lover’s Waltz is just a gorgeous song. You can watch a video of the couple who wrote it playing HERE or you can watch Roger Howell play it here at the Bluff Mountain Festival. I shot this video…

There is a lovely group of cloggers who perform every year here too. You can check them out HERE. Ballads and storytelling are a big thing among the mountain people too. Sheila Kay Adams is a seventh generation ballad singer and storyteller and we were lucky to get to see her this year at the festival. You can hear her sing Barbary Allen HERE. That was a song my grandpa sang a lot. I love it! Her daughter did a really funny one, but I didn’t get it on video. I found it on Youtube by someone else though. You have to listen to this one!

Here’s some photos I took at the festival…





This is a gorgeous Magnolia Tree!     We sat under it.




Bathroom Remodel

The bathroom remodel isn’t completely done, but I thought I would share the changes now with you. It might be awhile before he does the finishing up. There is still some tile that needs to be put back on the wall and plumbing done on the bathtub, new faucets and shower fixtures. The old vanity was longer and went to the wall and the new one doesn’t. We got a cabinet at IKEA to put beside it and the tiles need put on beside the cabinet and the door put on the cabinet. Discovered the wall board the bath fixtures are on is crumbled at the bottom and that put the brakes on the fiIMG_2112nishing up as Bossman said he has to take off the tile and put up new drywall on that side. Big job, he’s lost heart 😦 Surely he doesn’t have to do that, there has to be an easier answer.




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Bossman working on the floor. He wasn’t ready to do this room remodel but we discovered a small leak on the toilet and the floor was spongy around it so before the plumbers could do their work he had to replace the floor and that meant pulling out the vanity and it just snowballed… Not the remodel I would have liked to have had but it will do!

He ended up putting new drywall where the sink was. I would love to have that old wall heater taken out, but he doesn’t want to redo all the tile. And the shelves next to the toilet are a little odd, they extend into the coat closet on the other side of the wall. I’d like those out too but that’s another big job and we need the space as the house has no linen closet. The little IKEA cabinet really is nice and gives us lots of extra space. That skinny wall between the toilet and the bathtub is where the waterlines for the bathtub come up, no access door. We had to rip off the tile there and cut out the drywall for the plumbers when they ran new waterlines in the house. Bossman will need to get in tFullSizeRender-3here to finish up the faucets and shower. So for now it has plastic taped on it. He will have to put in some kind of access door when he is done with the plumbing. The challenges of old houses! Not sure when this will get completely done. Patience is a virtue, my mother told me over and over when I was growing up! I’m happy with the changes though. MUCH improved from the original!



Today we are leaving for Alaska! First stop back home in Pennsylvania for a couple of days and then flying out of Pittsburgh on Sunday for a 12 day Alaskan cruise/land tour! Can’t believe it! This is Bossman’s big bucket list trip.

We fly into Seattle early Sunday morning and will have a whole day there. Bossman wants to go up the Space Needle and I’d like to check out Pike’s Place Market. We spend the night there and then Monday morning head out for Vancouver BC to catch the ship. The first day of cruising will be the Inside Passage, John Muir wrote the first time he sailed it, “Never before have I been embosomed in scenery so hopelessly beyond description tracing shining waves through fjord and sound, past forest and waterfall, islands and mountains.”! Exciting!

Then one day in Ketchikan, one day in Juneau, one day in Skagway. Then we cruise for two days through Glacier Bay National Park and then the Hubbard Glacier. Our cruising portion ends at Seward on day 9 and we travel up the Seward highway by motor coach to Anchorage stopping at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on the way. Once in Anchorage we will get a sightseeing tour of the city and spend the night there. We leave the next day for Denali via Talkeetna and Wasilla. We get to visit the Iditarod Sled Dog Headquarters near Wasilla. We’ve opted for a train ride from Talkeenta to Denali aboard the Alaska Railroad. We will cross Hurricane Gulch the longest bridge on the railroad just over 914 ft. and 296 ft. above Hurricane Creek and then onto Broad Pass, at 2,363 ft., it is the highest point on the railroad. We will spend the night in Denali National Park and the next day take a bus tour of the park. That evening we travel back to Anchorage for the night. The next day, the 29th,  is the end of our tour but our flight out doesn’t leave until after midnight so we have lots of time to see Anchorage at our leisure. We’ve rented a car for the day and have several things lined up we want to do. Then the red-eye home, arriving back in Pittsburgh at 1:25 in the afternoon on the 30th. I will be a tired puppy! But I’ll have lots of adventures and pictures to share with you!

We won’t have wifi on the cruise so I have scheduled a few post for while we are gone. If I can from the hotel rooms I might post pictures! Talk to you later!

The Dark Tide

by Vera Brittain
Virago Modern Classics

‘Bright, romantic and vivacious, Daphne Lethbridge is back at Oxford after a period of voluntary work. The First World War has ravaged Europe, but it has done nothing to daunt her spirit and she plunges headlong into the whirl of college dinners, debates and romances. Her enjoyment, though, is soured by her cynical contemporary Virginia Dennison, who spars with Daphne on every occasion. Beneath their surface civility seethes a deep enmity.

Daphne seems to triumph over Virginia when she makes a brilliant marriage to a rising political star. But after they settle in London, she begins to realize the bitter truth of her marriage. It takes a chance encounter with her old enemy for her disillusionment to give way to a mature understanding of a woman’s destiny and a woman’s friendship.’

This was an engaging story of friendship between two woman just after WWI, supposedly somewhat based on Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby’s friendship. There are two forwards in this edition, one by Mark Bostridge and one by Vera Brittain herself.

It pulled me in right away and I connected to the characters right away. It seemed to me that the character of Daphne, (Holtby), could have been written a little less of a buffoon type character in her youth and more of a fun loving, gregarious person without making her appear oafish. Some of the themes touched on were women going to university and finally being allowed to get a degree, feminism and friendship. The end was a little bit of a surprise for me as Virginia, (Brittain), spoke of sacrifice and likened it to that of the sacrifice Christ made for all people…

‘I’m not sure that I even profess to be a Christian, so I suppose there are some things I haven’t any right to talk about. But it has always seemed significant to me that when it was “found to be expedient that one man should die for the people,” there was no sort of distinction made between one kind of people and another. He hadn’t to die for the worthy people, or the people who tried to be noble, or the people who understood – but just for the people. Because if the best had been carefully chosen out, the ones who were left would have been more in need of a Savior than ever. It’s never for the people who deserve it that we’re called upon to sacrifice ourselves; they don’t need to have sacrifices made for them. No, it’s for the weak and the wicked and the undeserving  that we have to give things up.’

I think she summed up sacrifice well. Decent book, read it if you get a chance.

4 of #15Books of Summer



Captain Adventure Takes a Nose Dive

A house wren has nested in my one birdhouse for two years now. This year I actually got to see the babies in there! Not really sure how many there are. I heard them before I saw them. They seemed to be up high behind all the nesting material. I’ve been sneaking over and peeking in on them since I heard them. A couple of days ago I saw their tiny beaks and momma has been so busy back and forth feeding them. I tip-toed up with the camera on Sunday and got a few nice shots…

We were sitting outside a little later on and I was keeping an eye on them with the binoculars and one little guy thought he was Captain America and was sticking his whole body way out there and then it happened… he took a nose dive all the way to the ground!

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I ran over and checked on him. He was alive and so tiny. He could barely walk let alone fly. I scooped him up and yelled for Bossman to bring me a stool and we put him back in. I was so relieved when I saw momma back and forth feeding them again. I wasn’t sure if my scent on him would disrupt anything. Hopefully he doesn’t try anymore acrobatic stunts!
Meanwhile the catbird we hear in the trees finally showed up at the feeders. They really do sound like kittens mewing! He has a long tale and had it all fanned out while he was eating. By the time I got the camera he had pulled it in so I didn’t get it fanned in the shot…

The blue jays have really been a nuisance this year, eating all the seed as fast as I can put it out. One morning recently I counted eight of them out there feasting! The starlings have competition this year!
I have five feeders now and two suet feeders and we have so many birds it’s unbelievable! One day in particular the competition at the feeders was hot and heavy. A downy woodpecker and a starling were in fierce battle over the suet and the woodpecker wasn’t going to let the bully starling get away with hogging it, he fanned out his wings and squawked and fussed until the starling left!
You can see the feeders are empty all ready! I fill them each morning as soon as I get up.