Billy Mulkey

Billy Mulkey, Ypsilanti, Michigan with roots in Hazard, Kentucky, Lott’s Creek:

"I’m originally from Ypsilanti, Michigan, but my mom’s family is from Hazard, Kentucky, Lott’s Creek. 

My grandfather built (the Goose House). The last time I was actually inside, I was probably about four and I was being pushed around in a grocery cart by my grandfather and he was tellin’ me these stories on how him and a couple of his brothers and a couple of cousins had started the construction of the store. And the rocks, from my understanding, were from all over the country.

It’s basically just an old family country store that was started. Hazard was just a basic coal mining little city. You know, so it was just a local grocery store and a lot of people that went in there, stuff was either traded, bartered or just kind of put on credit.

It’s almost, not quite, oval shaped, but it’s kind of got the shape of the goose’s body, obviously. The shingles are green; it’s got a big red glass eye and everything. It’s a pretty amazing place, or at least it used to be when I was a kid.

My grandfather and grandmother, they left Hazard and Lott’s Creek to go to up north to Michigan for some of the factory jobs. So when they left, the rest of my mom’s family started following.

We used to come back every summer, so I’d spend all my summers down here. I still have a lot of family who comes down here every year. I still have a lotta family that lives over in Lott’s Creek and Hazard.

It’s still my home (despite growing up elsewhere). Oh yeah, always will be.
I think it’s amazing (Appalachian culture), you know, people are down to earth, they don’t expect anything from you other than just a friendly ‘hi’ or handshake. It’s home, is what it is.

It’s really sad (the way the media portrays Appalachian culture). They don’t take the time to actually get to know the people they paint a really dirty picture of [in] the Deep South. And they actually go for the hardest of the hardships, instead of seeing the true face of the South, in my opinion.
[The music is] heartfelt, it’s home-grown, you don’t find that up north. I’m more stuck on the old school bluegrass. It’s really hard to explain, ‘cuz when you hear the banjo or the fiddle or whatever, it just tells you that you’re home. And you hear somebody’s voice and it soothes you, unlike any other kind of music there is.

[Appalachian culture is] a wonderful experience that would be really sad and heartbreaking if you never got the chance to experience it. There’s a ton of other cultures, but when it comes down to it, what you wanna feel in your heart and soul is the South. There’s nothing else like it. I’m part Cherokee too, so I’ve spent time on reservations and it’s almost the same kind of feel. 

There’s always a sense of community, a sense of home, a sense of family, good food, good music. It’s family."