Saturday, April 19, 2008

HISTORY OF THE MOUNTAIN WOMEN


Land ‘o Goshen, where do I begin? From the beginning of my life I have always had a love for West Virginia, it’s people and it’s culture. It is more than my home; it is in essence an integral part of me. I am West Virginia and Appalachia is in my heart. So in 1994 I was working at the South Charleston Public Library as the Children’s Assistant. The scheduled summer reading program for that year was “SPIN A YARN, TELL A TALE”. My first thought was wouldn’t it be wonderful for the children of our area to experience stories from our heritage. I spoke with the Library Director, Pam Coyle, and the Children’s Director, Linda Heddinger, and they encouraged me to create the program myself. I asked my daughter-in-love, Sandy, and our dear friend, Jenny Robinson, to join me as Appalachian Storytellers. Both Sandy and Jenny had always been very gifted in working with the children of our church. I would do all the collecting and writing of stories and the girls would add their wonderful humor in our practice sessions…BINGO! It worked. We presented our program to local libraries and the word spread fast throughout our state of THE MOUNTAIN WOMEN.
Then, shucks, less than a year later my son, Shannon, Sandy’s husband, accepted a position at a church in Cincinnati, Ohio. That left me 250 miles away from my son, my daughter-in-love, my grandbabies and it left THE MOUNTAIN WOMEN without a “yarn spinner”. Replacing Sandy was going to be difficult. She was brilliant at adlib and added such a spark to our trio. I let it be known in my area that I was searching for a new Mt. Woman. Several ladies spoke with me about filling the part but no one seemed to fit.
Our church, the Maranatha Fellowship, is a large church for our area. It has a congregation of around 1800. Our Pastor, James Wright, is a dynamic speaker and visionary. We have a Praise and Worship team consisting of 6 to 10 excellent singers. One Sunday after worship one of those singers, named Carrie Newman, approached me about being a Mt. Woman. I didn’t mean to be harsh in anyway but I giggled and said, “Not you, Carrie, you’re too prissy.” And Carrie was, I thought! Her auburn hair, flashing eyes and mile wide grin made her the most striking member of our Praise Team. Never a hair out of place…dressing like she just stepped out of Vogue…and she wanted to be a MOUNTAIN WOMAN! I think not. Carrie said she felt that God had told her she was to be a MOUNTAIN WOMAN and would I; at least, allow her to read a part. I agreed to having her run through a couple of stories with Jenny and me at a practice and it was love at first cite! She was wonderful. Carrie had actually been born in North Carolina but was raised most of her life in the hills of West Virginia. She attended Cumberland College in Cumberland, KY and graduated with a teaching degree. Even though Carrie, Jenny and I had long ago lost our mountain accents, through education and travel, it was so much a part of us that we fell into it naturally. We were truly mountain women. In 1998 Carrie, Jenny and Mama, with Sandy sitting in the audience, THE MOUNTAIN WOMEN, won the NATIONAL STORYTELLING CONTEST in Hillsboro, OH.
We were on “Cloud nine”…then came the problem with Jenny. She just kept havin’ youngin’s! (Six at last count) Try as we might, we could not stop her! After regurgitating her way though 6 states, Jenny had had enough.
Carrie and Mama, the old woman and her “prissy” daughter, became the tandem storytelling team THE MOUNTAIN WOMEN.
Ann Busse joined the group in 2005 when Carrie began teaching fulltime and traveled only part time as a Mt.Woman. Ann is a natural born comedian and character. Since Ann owns her own dog grooming business and does clowning on the side she fit right into the scheme of things.
Today MOUNTAIN WOMEN performance consists of Mama and Carrie or Ann. Mama, also, performs alone, telling family stories told to her by her dear, 95 year old, Aunt Louise, about her life growing up in Wild and Wonderful, Almost Heaven West Virginia

2 comments:

Linda said...

Oh my gosh cousin Suzi,

I am so thrilled you are now "bloggin"
Great way to spread the love of all those stories you have gathered through the years.

To be able to share for other's is such an amazing talent you have. And blessin's to you !

Looking forward to maybe a story about my wonderful Momma, Daisy ?

Gather your thoughts, and share her knowledge &talent too that she may have passed on to you ?

love, love you
cousin Linda :)

Carol Yvonne said...

Suzi... so glad to read the story of Mountain Women...the Good Book says "laughter does us good like medicine..." You're bringing healing to many through this ministry...May your rewards be more than fulfillment and accolades... Yvonne