Deep, Dark Hollows
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by Frank Shortt
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As a young lad in the Appalachian Mountain region of Virginia, I often wandered far and wide with my brother, or one of the neighbors as companions. We either sought the illusive groundhog, or whistlepig, as some old timers call it, or for ginseng, yellowroot, or mayapple. These areas were heavily forested at that time with projections of rocks, downed logs, poisonous vipers, stinging nettles, and a haven for bees, wasps, and yellowjackets.
Most of what we sought lay hidden in deep hollows, called hollers by the locals, carved out by eons of water runoff from small creeks seeking the sea via the Levisa River which flowed all the way down through our county called Buchanan.
As my mind wanders back to home, growing up in a semi-savage environment, I recollect many deep ‘hollers’ I have had to encounter and cross. In these dark hollers I have had to sort out the roots I have dug. Some of these hollers were very difficult to climb out of causing deep despair sometimes lasting for many days. Like the time I got word, while serving Uncle Sam, that my uncle who was only thirty-six years old had put a twenty-two rifle with a hollow point bullet in his mouth and pulled the trigger. I was not told about my favorite uncle for several weeks afterward and this left me in a funk for quite a while. There was a feeling of helplessness like trying to climb the steep, wet bank of one of the hollers over in the Hurricane section of Buchanan County.
Then there was the time that I received word as a young man that another young man who I had played with only a week before was killed by having the tractor he was riding on turn over and crush him underneath. He must have been about eleven years old. I must have questioned the whys and the wherefores which only led to a deeper, darker holler. There was no rhyme or reason for one so young to be snapped out of life by such a tragedy! But, I was left and had to carry on the best way that only the young can.
When one reaches firm footing after slipping and sliding on the steep bank of a holler, there is a feeling of relief as if that person had a rebirth. During the climb out of one of these situations, all one can think of is, “What if I slide, falling on my face and come in contact with a viper? What if I land in patch of stinging nettles? What if I happen to land on a large hornet’s nest?”
It is not good to dwell upon ‘deep dark hollers’ for very long! The only solution is to conquer by striving toward the horizon, and light! It is always a great consolation to me to read where that the Creator said, “Let there be Light!” And there was light! Sometimes humans refuse to go into the light and would rather stay in the deep, dark, hollers!
It seems that America is in a deep, dark holler! When one looks at the helplessness on the many faces, one encounters each day in a city of over a million residents, one wonders how they will ever climb up the slippery side of the crevice. There are pitfalls, wet clay, and other obstacles to overcome. These come in the form of bad news, fake news, rumors, threats, and seemingly, a government that has gone completely haywire! It will take a lot of determined and dedicated people to pull us out of this holler! It will take a lot of digging footholds and handholds, sometimes one step upward and two steps back! I see a light on the horizon!