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Picture
of James Morris- Courtesy of Mary Galyon

We cannot dismiss the value of
the oral history that still fills these mountains, if we dare to ask, dare to
listen.
  As my father, Keith Parker, and
I wrote to
Stand on Solid Ground: A Civil War Novel Based on Real People and
Events,
we not only based the story on historical documents and records,
but a wealth of the story’s personal touches are reflections of oral
history.
  Personal interactions and
interviews with descendants of individuals whose ancestors founded and built
this community helped paint a more vivid picture.
  Mary Galyon, now 93, whose genealogical
research offered deep insight into facts, also added oral history
tid-bits.
  She was adamant about the vivid
red color of James Morris’ hair, as she handed me the black and white picture
of him.
  And her description of
Cagle-Blue eyes is a tid-bit that a genealogical record does not readily
reveal.
  The oral history does not stop
short of personal descriptions, but helps paint physical pictures of the
environment.
  She remembers hearing the
whippoorwills at night and how the Old Neill place sat up on top of a hill,
held back by a rock wall.
  On a drive
Mary pointed out the very rock wall that still stands along Lambs Creek
Road.
  What a delight for her to discover
that the wall still stands, even if the house is long gone.
 

Picture
of Lewis Smith-Courtesy of Kimberly S. Howell and Ian Sanders

The
importance of oral history did not only help us in building a vivid picture of
our people and community, but it also helped affirm some choices we made.  In particular, I struggled with the
authenticity of my approach to the character, Pink, a young slave in the
novel.  Although I had done a lot of
research and spoken with several descendants, I still worried if the way I
portrayed Pink’s personality was realistic or not. I wrote Pink’s personality
full of mischievousness, strength and brightness; someone who embraced the
simple joy of life in spite of the hardships. 
My worries washed away when I saw the picture of Lewis Smith, Pink’s son,
in the fall of 2019 after the plot was written and finished. Hattie Sanders,
Pinks’ granddaughter, explained that this was a picture of her father and that
he loved those shoes, always wore those shining shoes and he didn’t want anyone
standing on them or messing them up.  She
laughed at her own memory. What I love about this picture is the look on Lewis’
face. His eyes are so mischievous and joyful. 
I very much felt that this picture and my time with Hattie Sanders
before she passed away in August, at age 92, was an affirmation to me for
writing Pink’s personality the way I did. 

Oral history,
unfortunately, are gems that will be lost unless we ask those who hold those
precious memories to share them.
  We must
listen to those stories, maybe some have been shared over and over again and
may feel “old-hat” to you.
  But remember,
unless you record it, either in writing or tape it, that old story Grandpa or
Grandma told a million times, will be a story lost forever.

Oral History offers glimpses into our past.  If you or
someone you know has oral history that has not been recorded yet, please
consider writing it down or recording it for future generations.  This article was written by Leslie Parker Borhaug.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse
North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. For more information,
comments, or suggestions contact NC Room staff at [email protected]
or 828-884-1820.

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212 S Gaston St, Brevard, NC 28712