Being A Joines:
  A Life in the Brushy Mountains

Study guide for a film about traditional storyteller
John E. "Frail" Joines and
his wife Blanche Clanton Joines of Wilkes County,
North Carolina






I grew up in the Brushy Mountains of western North Carolina. My father loved to grow things. My mother loved flowers. He would bring her wonderful presents from the woods--bouquets of tiny blossoms, a story of a colony of leeches that swayed upward to meet his hand held over a creek and then contracted when he moved it away in a rhythmic dance of blood lust. My parents passed their love for the earth on to my brother, sister and me. Some of my earliest memories are of long Sunday afternoon family walks beside a river near our home. We children filled our own and then our parents' pockets with sticks, feathers, moss, stones--anything we found interesting. Later we spent endless summer hours playing in the creeks and "hollers" and woods--wading in water, swinging on grapevines, exploring mysterious places like the Devil's Smokehouse Rocks where there was a cave that sheltered men like my great-grandfather who hid there to avoid conscription by the Home Guard during the Civil War.

By necessity we had an intimate relationship with our physical environment--we grew and preserved most of our food, sawed and split firewood for warmth, carried water from a spring for our daily needs. We learned to be closely attuned to our physical world and minute changes in it--the beauty of a hillside of apple trees in full bloom under a full moon, the pungent odor of smoky honeycomb cut from its wooden frame, the sound of a single oak leaf falling from a tree on a sunny autumn afternoon.

Having my hands in dirt is necessary to me--it heals my grief, re-creates my joy, keeps me connected to my family and myself. I believe that the earth and sky and their health are fundamental to the survival of human beings. This web site is dedicated to my parents, Frail and Blanche Joines, who loved me abundantly and taught me the importance of respecting other people and the wonder and beauty of growing things.

                       Joyce Joines Newman, MFA, May 2004