What Does A Holler Look Like?

Home In A Holler

I cannot begin to try to count the times I’ve closed my eyes and thought back, with the most peaceful recollection, to the little mountain holler where I spent the first several years of my life.

Some memories are clearer than others.

I remember sitting on the hillside near our home, amidst a blanket of blooming moss. There are fond memories of rushing out to that same hillside to gather freshly fallen snow. Mama would take it and make snow cream for me and my little sister.

I remember sitting on our front porch, looking down the holler. Even sitting there all alone, I never knew what “lonely” felt like. For some reason, the mountain was like an old friend. I was never alone in those hills.

Not really.

We were constantly moving and back and forth between the mountains and our other home in Central Kentucky, in Hardin County. I actually never finished a whole grade in the same school until the sixth grade.

And yes, I know the word “holler” is actually supposed to be “hollow”. But you’ll never hear me call it that. That may be how it’s written, but it certainly isn’t how it’s spoken. Not by anyone that’s actually from there, anyhow. It’s a place, and there are lots of them. And when you speak of them, people just know what you’re talking about.

Generations Go Back

I took my children up there for the first time not long ago, and I have to laugh when I think back on it.

As we started up the mountain, it was so steep that all the things I had laid on the dash slid off and hit me right in the chest. My daughter cried out, “Stop! I think the truck’s turning over!”

I was able to take her mind off of that though. I started telling her stories of my going up that same holler when I was her age. Before you know it, we were all laughing as we slowly ascended the mountainside.

I could go on and on about how beautiful it was, especially to me, as a child. Of course, I didn’t have the grown up worries that my parents did at the time, so it was a little easier for me to see the beauty, I suppose.

What It Was Like

The “mouth of the holler” (where the road started up the mountain) opened up into a very small little neighborhood of only a few houses.  My cousins lived on one side of the road, at the foot of the hill, and my great-uncle on the other side.

Going up the holler, about halfway up on the left side, there was a creek that ran parallel to the road. It came from a spring at the top of the mountain and was the coldest, sweetest tasting water I’ve ever had!

Daddy and I would often walk down the holler and he taught me, when I was very young, how to drink from it. He showed me how to get down and put one hand on each side of the little stream – it was very small, so even at the age of three or four, I was able to do that – and then gently sip from the fast-flowing water.

If you crossed that stream and went on around that side of the mountain, that was my great-grandmother’s home place. The snowball bushes are still there to this day if I’m not mistaken.

On up the holler was somewhat of a flat place where Daddy built our house. Off to the side, he had also built a small log cabin for storage. He put a porch, as long as the house and that porch is where I would sit and stare down the holler.

Every once in a while, you would see family walking up to visit. And if someone happened to have a Jeep or some other four-wheel-drive – preferably with “bulldog” in it – they could drive up.

Progress Comes To The Holler

Nowadays, though, you can get up the holler with pretty much any vehicle, unless it sits really low to the ground. The family has had gravel laid on the road all the way up past the home place.

On up the holler from the home place is the family graveyard. Of course, unless you ARE family and know where to look, odds are you wouldn’t even know it’s there.

It’s where I have a handful of cousins laid to rest, some LONG before their time. It’s where some of my great uncles are resting. Off to the right, there is a huge drop off that overlooks Jones Creek. I have a great deal of family that still lives there to this day.

Standing there on the edge of that mountain is one of the most beautiful sights I believe I have ever had the fortune of seeing with my own eyes…

Beautiful View
Looking off the mountain, with the family graveyard behind me.

You can go further on up the mountain, but the holler ends there, at the graveyard.

Missing Home

I don’t get to go back nearly as often as I want. But when I do finally make it, this holler is the place I want to be the most. It’s the place I want to stay the longest.

It was and always has been, home.

The sun starts to set over the mountains about three or four o’clock in the evening. It’s right about then that the mountain cats start hollering. They sound like a baby crying. Even then, it’s all that I can do to turn and leave.

There are SO many memories and SO much love for this land in my heart. I’m probably four counties away before the tears dry on my cheeks.  Do I miss it, or the memory of it?  It’s hard for even me to tell.  But it’s a kind of feeling that words don’t do justice.

It’s a holler… my holler…

Harlan Holler
The holler going up to our old homeplace.  The creek mentioned earlier was just off to the left in this picture.

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