Hazel Creek was a place where life was simple. Where families helped one another make it when times were hard. It was a place where community prevailed and God was present in the hearts of the town’s residents that lived there. Most of the mountain folk dwelt in the deep rich older forests of the Great Smokey(sic) Mountains and owned an abundance of land. They had learned to live off the land and the assistance of families until the railroad came to town.
With it, they saw opportunity for money and riches in swindling families out of their land in hopes that money would be the motivator that spoke volumes. Times were changing, but families like the Randolph’s wanted to keep things the way it had been for generations. It’s in the novel by Walt Larimore that we, the readers, get to meet a very interesting lady, Abbie Randolph. Now living in a retirement home at the young age of 100, I had the opportunity to talk with her about those times of living on Hazel Creek with her family and here’s what she had to say:
1. What is the best part about growing up in Hazel Creek?
It were a simpler time when I was a child—life swirled around family and friends and church. And, I always loved the community frolics—like on July 4th and before Christmas. Sure there were a lot of chores, but me and my sisters even found fun while doing ’em.
In my quiet times I always loved walking in the forest above our cabin and I found deep joy in the fern grotto below our home. That’s where I’d go to pray and read my Bible.
And then there was Ramp Holler. My favorite walnut tree was up there. She was a massive ol’ tree and my sisters and I used to love to play under her and climb her huge branches.
2. What attracted you to Bobby Lee?
What didn’t? I mean I ’member my heart a-fluttering the very first time I saw him when we were kids. And growing up, he always protected me and my sisters. Sheriff Taylor, his pa, always taught Bobby Lee what was good and right. And, he weren’t bad-lookin’, neither.
3. How much of a role does your faith play in your life?
It’s key … central. I cain’t imagine our life here on Hazel Creek without our church and our family’s faith. Mama and Pa would read to us from the Bible before we were even big enough to understand it. Mama helped us memorize Scripture and taught us how to apply those Bible verses to our lives and decisions.
But, even more important, was when Jesus became my friend, and I became His. I guess He knew I’d need Him as I grew up. Times on Hazel Creek could be tough and I cain’t imagine walkin’ life’s journey without Him by my side—and even a-carryin’ me from time to time.
4. How did you know that something would happen to your mom, Callie?
She wasn’t carryin’ Sarah Beth like she carried the others. She’d need to sit and rest a lot, and she’d always been able to keep on goin’ and goin’ before. Then she started havin’ a lot of swellin’ and pain. I jest knew in my heart somethin’ were terribly, terribly wrong. Then came the birth. Mama was so happy to have Sarah Beth in her arms. Then … well, that’s all I wanna say about that.
5. What did you admire most about your mom?
She was the wisest and most wonderful woman I ever knew. Only Miss Maddie even came close to her wisdom. She loved us girls with a passion that showed in everythin’ she taught us, everything she did for us. Even when she disciplined us, it was only because she loved us. She’d always ask me, “Abbie, what’s one thing you could do to make me love you more?” I learned the answer to that question since I were a small girl.
6. Which was?
Nothin’. There were nothin’ I could do to make her love me more. Nothin’. Growing up with that kinda love from a mama is special.
7. What do you admire most about your dad?
His love for his wife and his girls. He had a special name for each one of us. He called me Punkin. He took care of us, taught us the ways of life and the land, and he protected us and our family property. I like the way he wouldn’t let that mean ol’ L. G. Sanders walk all over him or us. Pa is stronger than most any man in the valley—and I mean stronger physically and spiritually. I cain’t ’magine a better man.
8. Did you ever resent having to step into the role of a mother in raising your younger sisters?
I would’ve had a lot more time to do better in school and write or draw in my journal if’n I hadn’t had to do so many of Mama’s chores while she was sick. But, it’s what Mama wanted me to do and what I needed to do. I did it for her—and for Pa—and for them.
9. What things do you hope to teach your younger sisters?
What Mama would’ve taught ’em. How to be wise like she was, how to love people like she did, and how to love Jesus with all their hearts, minds, souls, and might, just like Mama did.
10. You said you don’t think you learned enough from your mom before she died, what else would you have wanted to know?
How to love Bobby Lee well. How to be a good wife and mama. What to do when our first baby won’t stop crying. All those things . . . and more. So much more that I can’t even begin to tell you.
11. How would you sum up your character in Hazel Creek?
I’m introspective, but I also love to have fun with the people I love. I love a good surprise. I want to do well with what Jesus has asked of me: I want my sisters to grow into women who love Him and whose husbands love them more than life.
Thanks Abbie, for taking the time to share with the folks who are interested in your life and times on Hazel Creek. If readers want to know more about your story, they can pick up Walt Larimore’s book, Hazel Creek and get to know you and your family more. You can click on the link below to pick up an autographed copy today: Hazel Creek by Walt Larimore
You can also get a jump start on the series now, just in time for Walt’s sequel in the series due out in the fall, Sugar Fork!
Trust me folks, you’ll want to pick this one up and sit a spell to get to know these lovely folks!
By the way, the book is getting terrific reviews at Amazon.com. You can see the reviews here.