Monday, June 8, 2009

Kentucky Bluegrass

This past weekend my husband and I took a trip that turned into one of our most memorable trips. Early Saturday morning around 3:00 am we hit the road and headed West on 40 to the bluegrass state of Kentucky.  After a few stops here and there we found ourselves in Berea.  We called Ben and got directions to the church where the Isaacs bus had just arrived and the guys were busy unloading their gear.  

I guess I should start my story by telling you that on Tuesday April 28th of this year, Charles Isaacs, brother to Joe Isaacs passed away at his home in Big Hill, KY.  Some of you may know the story and the history of Joe Isaacs who is the youngest child of 17 born to Godfrey and Bessie Isaacs.  Joe and his siblings were raised way back in the hills in a cabin that is still standing and is occupied by his sister Edna.  Charles and his wife Callie lived on the mountain too.  Even farther up than the old homeplace.  They live a very simple life and Charles' wife Callie needed some help paying for the funeral expenses.  The Isaacs along with other family members and other groups got together and held a benefit concert on Saturday night in a church in Berea and raised quite a bit of money to help Callie with the expenses.  The concert was great but let me tell you a little bit about our day on the mountain.

When we got to the church we talked to Ben for a bit and I asked how far it was to the old homeplace.  Ben said we could be there in about 30 minutes and he gave us the directions and I hurriedly scrawled them down on a slip of paper.  He couldn't remember the exact road names but he told us landmarks where to turn and what to look for.  We headed out and about 30 minutes later we turned off a main road and travelled for miles on a narrow, one lane road that leads to the holler.  We did miss the last turn that leads to the homeplace and we were stopped by a burley lookin mountain man that probably thought we were messin around on his property where we shouldn't be.  We asked him if he knew where Joe Isaacs' homeplace was and then he grinned a big toothless grin and pointed us in the right direction.  We made a right and the road got even more narrow and we wound around until we came into a clearing, passed a barn on the right with a rolling stream running by it and then we spotted the cabin.  It's nestled in the side of a hill, between two hills really and it's the most calm, peaceful setting that I've ever seen in my life.  

We climbed out of our truck and started walking toward the house and then we spotted the lady out in the yard.  She was bent over an old plow of some kind with paint brush in hand and was painting it bright red and yellow, it's original colors.  The colors really popped in their surroundings of old barn wood and the gray of old metal wash pots.  She straightened up and squinted in the bright sun looking us over and I was thinking Oh My!  She probably thinks we've come to rob her or something.  As soon as we told her who we were and that Ben had sent us she grinned and the rest is history.  She took us on a tour of every inch of the old home place.  Her name is Edna and she is 81 years old.  She gets around better than I do and she was the sweetest, most gracious being.  She moved down to the homeplace after Godfrey and Bessie passed away.  She still lives there with no electricity and no running water, except that from a spring.  She makes her own soap...pretty peppermint scented soap and she helps birth babies when she's needed.  She makes her own brown dresses and head scarves. She chips away wood from a Sassafras tree and boils it into this fantastic, refreshing tea, sweetened with just a bit of brown sugar.  She cans her own vegetables and meats and lard that she says makes the biggest, fluffiest biscuits you've ever seen. 

We enjoyed our time there so much.  It was hard to leave that peaceful place and return to the busy lives we live.  It took us just a little closer to God and made us thankful for each and every blessing that we have.  She wanted us to stay for Supper, but we needed to get to the church for the concert that started at 6:00.  She wanted us to come back and stay the night but we had a room at the Marriot.  We told her we'd be back though and we will.  Just as soon as we can.  As soon as my husband opened his eyes on Sunday morning at the Marriot he said "let's go back to the holler!"

I have a great love and respect for The Isaacs.  I have for many years.  I had never met Ben, Sonya and Becky's dad until this weekend and hearing the history of this family gives me an even greater love and respect for them.  Joe and Lily have raised some great kids!

That night at 6:00 there were more Isaacs in one place than probably I'll ever witness again.  Do you know how many children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and more that Godfrey and Bessie started with 17?  There was only a small hand full of them there Saturday night and it was still a lot.  It was great to see and hear Joe perform with the family and to meet many of the family members.  It was an experience I won't forget for a long time.

Edna made this clock from a saw blade
and she put each of the 17 children's 
names on it in the order they were born

Edna's kitchen

beautiful gourds hanging on the side porch

Edna with her peppermint soap

walking down the hill toward the cabin

Joe Isaacs with his sisters 
China and Madeline

Edna's dog Lucy was never far
from her side

Joe Isaacs performing with his family

by: Lisa Hildreth


Gina said...

What an awesome report, Lisa! And what an amazing time you must have had. The Isaacs continue to surprise us. It was a joy to hear about their extended family and the old home place. I am sorry for their loss and pray for Callie and her children. I am looking forward to seeing this place for myself. Thanks for the words and pictures that took me there in my mind.

The Wintons said...

Wow, what an amazing heritage and fantastic story.

Don and Martha Peck said...

Lisa, what a wonderful story about a great Kentucky family! The Isaacs are never far from our minds. Being present when they sang with Joe had to be very, very special! Thanks for sharing!

Margaret Jackson said...

This is an amazing account of this multi talented family. The pictures are wonderful and it is really good to see the family together again.

karla said...

Thank you for this awesome peek into the Isaac family. I am so sorry to hear of their loss and will lift them all up in prayer.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, thanks so much for a look into one of the Isaacs' beginnings. Your pictures are again just awesome. I have been away from this website for too long after I won that beautiful paint horse. This afternoon I plugged in The Best of the Isaacs video. I was eating supper in bits and pieces as I began crying out of joy and compassion of this wonderful family. Their singing at Carnegie Hall and introduction of their mom...well the delicious pot roast had a difficult time getting past that lump in my throat. Plan to see the Isaacs in Tatum Texas this weekend. Sorry I missed you at Family Fest as I could not attend.
Ken in Lake Charles, La.

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! I want to visit Edna! What a cool place. I didn't think wonderful people and places like that still existed.