Brilla Tate

Brilla Tate, Runs Flea Market Business and Collects Old Cars; Big Stone Gap, Virginia:

"I help out elderly people, mostly; flea market and go out and look at old cars. I like helping the elderly; I go and sit with them. We’re going to have a car show and I’ll be cooking some hot dogs for everybody and stuff like that.

[Growing up in the mountains] has changed a lot [since] growing up. It’s a lot different than what it is now. You had just good neighbors and good folks. Things have changed than what it used to be. We were happy just to get out in the woods and go fishing, ride little motorcycles or little bikes like that. We would go down to Big Stone Gap park and go fishin’ all the time. That was our favorite spot [to go] fishing. 

There are a lot of new houses that come in, and a lot of people selling out. The coalmines and stuff are ‘bout gone. It ain’t like it used to be. All the coalmines has sold out, and everybody’s moving. Coal mines [are] what kept everybody around here. 

[We need] to get somebody here to make better jobs. There ain’t no jobs here for young people. Everybody’s moving away to try to get jobs. They ain’t hardly no jobs around Virginia here. They need better jobs and stuff for young people to try to keep family and people here. It’s put a hurtin’ on our people; cause coalmines was mostly the roots here in Virginia. 

[Cost of living is going up and income’s going down. You see food banks around. I tell you, when you go by them it's packed. There’s little kids don’t have things like kids need. There’s a lot of poverty here, kids and stuff. You see a lot and it wasn’t like it was when we grew up. Things were hard then too.

I’ve got one [daughter], she’s nineteen. She’s a little sweetheart. She was born December 6th, 1994. She weighed five pounds and four ounces. That was the best time ever ‘cause you love your kids when they’re born. 

She was a good kid and very respectful to others. And I’ve raised her; me and my husband have took care of her. She went to school and graduated and she was always a straight A student all the way through school, thank God. She was a real good kid, and stayed on honor roll, too. 

Now, she works at the Huddle House in Big Stone and then she’s got a job through AT&T. She does phone calls. Hopefully, this coming week, she’s going to end up getting a manager position. So I’m excited. But, she’s a good kid. Now these days when you get a good job, it’s hard to keep a good job. She’s been there two and a half years so far. She stuck with it. 

She won Miss Big Stone when she was three years old; which I won Miss Big Stone three or four times growing up in school. Those are the good days. 

There are a lot of friendly people here. Everybody knows everybody. It’s a small place and a small town. You’re not a stranger. Lot of people you went to school with and a lot of people has left here; they’ve moved back. 

The mountains; when you’re used to growing up on the mountains, you get to go fishing and seeing this, you go out of town, it’s not like being home. You know, my mamaw and papaw always says, ‘When you leave home, you’ll always come back to home.’ Home is home. I left here for about a year and moved to Bristol and nothing was like home ‘cause I missed the mountains. I missed the fishing and the hunting. That’s the good part about it. 

As I [grew up], my papaw,, my mamaw,, my mommy and daddy, they always helped others. Growing up, everybody was there for each other; and I grew up to be taught to help others also. If you know anybody’s in need,, and I know a lot of people ‘round here, that will help somebody if they need help. There’s a lot of family and that helps people. There’s a lot of people, the elderly, ain't got nobody or family around. I’d love to see people my age and the younger generation to pitch in and do more for the elderly, too. I really would. It would help a lot. 

Oh, yes [I’m a hillbilly]. I’m just a country girl and I like to fish and I like to hunt and we like our country music; and that flatfootin’. I’ve been doing that] a long time. I learned that from my papaw. Flatfootin’. He used to play fiddles and stuff like that. 

A lot of my family was farmers in Big Stone and places. Most of us lived off the garden, and we’d can stuff and put stuff up for the winter growin’ up to help save on food. My papaw used to have chickens as I grew up. My mamaw and papaw practically raised me, so I lived with them most of the time. Chicken or eggs and all that stuff; they had their own farm for everything. They would kill them and wring their necks. Before then, I couldn’t [eat chicken], but I like Kentucky Fried Chicken now. And soup beans, cornbread, I still eat that today. My daughter, if I tell her I’m cookin’ soup beans and cornbread, she says, ‘Mama, you better bring me some.’ ‘Cause you don’t get tired of it. 

I like old cars; my favorite thing is old cars. And I like animals, let me tell you, I love animals. If I see a stray animal or something I’ll take it in and take care of it. I’ve got a Boxer, I had three Boston Terriers, and I had one when she was at six weeks old and she was sixteen years old and I buried her in the backyard and I even got her a tombstone. I named her Ladybug. She was precious. She had two [babies], and I’ve got them; I kept them. I wouldn’t take anything in the world for my animals. 

My brother started me out [liking cars]. The newer cars ain’t like the older ones. The older stuff is, well, more built than these newer ones. My first cool car, and I’ve still got it, was my 1979 Smokey and the Bandit; and it ain’t going nowhere and I love it. It’s black and [its] interior has T-tops and it’s got a 455 in it. It had a 400 motor in it, and we put a 455 in it. It will fly. I baby it; just like my daughter, I baby it. “

[Outsiders] they think we’re hillbillies. I don’t know, they think we’re old hillbillies or something because we don’t have much here. But if they were raised like we [were]; we might not had a lot of money growin’ up and everything, but we respect what we have. We’re thankful for what we do get. We don't think ourselves better than nobody else. If they had to live here, I think they would love it. 

We got the mountains, we got the beautiful animals and we do have a lot of freedom here. We ain’t got a lot of crime issues like you do other places. I mean, no matter where you go, you’re gonna have crime but it’s not like out of town and out of state. 

Everybody knows everybody here. That’s the good part. You can be driving in certain places where I live at in Big Stone, everybody knows everybody, if they’ll be outside they’ll throw their hand up at you and wave. If you’re out of town, places like that, you don’t see that. 

[Grandparents legacy] To be loving and caring; and go to church. Now they were good church going people. They’d want me to do other stuff growing up that I’d wish I’d done. Went to college and done a lot. Everybody makes mistakes. I took care of my family and I took care of my grandparents. So that means a lot when you do that. 

[Happiest times] Spending time with my papaw and mamaw. That was the happiest. Something you never forget. [The saddest] was when I lost them. That was the hardest. When you’ve got good grandparents, you miss them. I stood by them when I had them, you know, and took care of them. I tell you, you lose them, it’s hard. If I could go back and do all over, I would. It just hurts. I lost my grandmother two years ago; that was hard. That was the hard part. They were good people. My grandad, when he worked, he took care of me; anything I wanted he done for me. 

I wish, if they were alive and stuff now, there’d be a lot more I wish I had done for them before they passed away. Anybody would, ‘cause you don’t know what you’ve got till they are gone anyway.