Hillbilly Highway

Folks, This morning’s post is a little different than what you are accustomed to. In this post we want to tell you a story about a photograph… A collaboration between musician, Ron Short and photographer, Malcolm J. Wilson (Co-Written by Ron Short, Jennifer Molley Wilson & Malcolm J. Wilson): 

The culture of Appalachia was carried through the mountains on the shoulders of collaboration. A hand needed, a hand extended. Whether it was help building a homestead, help storing away a winter’s worth of food from the peak of the gardening season, the passing of wrenches between shade tree mechanics on a Sunday afternoon, or the wisdom of the matriarchs, handing down cures for a colicky baby, Appalachians have always found that many hands make light work.

Collaboration is a tradition that has never waned in these mountains, especially anywhere artists may gather. So today, we want to share a very special recent collaboration with our community.

This one between a musician with a message, and a photographer who lets the eyes interpret what the musical notes carry to the ears.

The result was a photograph for a CD cover for Ron Short and the Possum Playboys newest release, “Hillbilly Highway.” Here is what the photograph was meant to represent: 

“I am the hands of a working man. In the lines and cracks and callouses there is a roadmap of a life. 

I have grubbed new-ground with a mattock and axe and I have plowed, planted and harvested the corn for my livestock and to grind the meal to feed my family.

I have planted many gardens and grown the food that we canned, dried and froze from the bounty of nature.

I dug the graves on the mountaintop to lay my kin people down to rest, and I have lowered them into the earth with a fervent hand-clasped prayer that I might see them someday, in a land better than this.

I slaughtered the animals that we ate, always with a deep sadness for I had cared for and nourished them with these same hands that now took their lives.

I held the gun my country gave me. I fired, not in anger, at another man. I held the flag that they gave me when another man fired a gun his country gave him, at my son. I don’t know if it was in anger or not, but death ends all anger and hate except for the living. I do not hate the man who fired the gun thrust into his hands by the same people who thrust the gun into my son’s hands.

I have held and felt the un-chained energy of a strong woman’s body, and marveled at the gifts she offered to me with passion and love! I have borne calves and, pigs and pups and kits but I could not hold back the tears that flowed when that little baby boy squirmed into my palms. When he held my finger and walked with me for the first time, I shook with the overwhelming desire to fall to my knees and thank God for this gift and for the woman who birthed him.

I have been soiled and stained with the dust of the earth, oil and grime from the machinery that rules this world and and the filth of hard labor from whatever menial dirty-work that a part of working hands could find! And I have fought the urge to strangle the men who treat working people as tools.

I am getting old, and you can see the wear and tear from a hard life of work. I am split and broken, calloused and permanently soiled. Though I am old, I still long for the touch of a woman, and pray each night to once again feel the strength of my darling companion who has gone on to find a home for us. A place where our boy will not not be torn and shattered, and will once again hold to me as we walk together.

These hands are the hands of Appalachia. They have caressed the mountains, they have been clenched in fury, they have been extended in friendship and peace. Someday, these hands will be folded across my chest for the final time, turning the roadmap of my soul toward my heart. They will be still, but the directions and paths I have chosen in life, will live on in the things these hands have touched.”