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Title: Oral History Interview with Sam Parker, December 5, 2000. Interview K-0252. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Parker, Sam, interviewee
Interview conducted by Amberg, Rob
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 124 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-04-10, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Sam Parker, December 5, 2000. Interview K-0252. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0252)
Author: Rob Amberg
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Sam Parker, December 5, 2000. Interview K-0252. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0252)
Author: Sam Parker
Description: 162 Mb
Description: 34 p.
Note: Interview conducted on December 5, 2000, by Rob Amberg; recorded in Marshall, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
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Interview with Sam Parker, December 5, 2000.
Interview K-0252. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Parker, Sam, interviewee


Interview Participants

    SAM PARKER, interviewee
    ROB AMBERG, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ROB AMBERG:
[unclear] downtown Marshall. It is Tuesday the 5th of December, and it is approximately 9:30 at this point in time. Sam, could you just introduce yourself?
SAM PARKER:
Sam Parker. Presently, Madison County Probation Parole Officer. Madison County resident—. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.].
ROB AMBERG:
First of all, how old are you?
SAM PARKER:
I will be sixty my next birthday. I was born April 19, 1941 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
ROB AMBERG:
So you were born right in the city? Right in town?
SAM PARKER:
Yes, I was born at the old Knoxville General Hospital, which no longer exists. Interestingly enough, I found out later that Dr. Otis Duck of Mars Hill was one of the residents at the old Knoxville General Hospital at precisely the time that I was born. That's a connection!
ROB AMBERG:
Dr. Duck is certainly a county legend.
SAM PARKER:
A county legend. And he and I talked about that on some of my visits to him. He was in fact a resident there at the time.
ROB AMBERG:
Tell me a little bit about growing up in Knoxville. What did your parents do?
SAM PARKER:
My father worked for the Knoxville Utilities Board almost fifty years. My mother held no regular job outside of being a homemaker. But of course, that's a regular job in itself. I have two sisters, one older, one younger. I was born on what is now University of Tennessee campus. The house that I was born in no longer exists because

Page 2
of the expansion of the University of Tennessee. I was within a half a mile—less, probably between a quarter and a half a mile—from the University of Tennessee stadium.
ROB AMBERG:
Where did you go to college?
SAM PARKER:
I went essentially to get away from home. Both of my sisters attended University of Tennessee. I went to East Tennessee State in Johnson City, I guess being kind of rebellious and wanting to get away from home.
ROB AMBERG:
What did you study?
SAM PARKER:
My major was History. A minor in psychology. I suspect the history major came from taking history courses and enjoying them, and really enjoying the courses more than having in mind what I was going to do with the history major once I graduated.
ROB AMBERG:
I'm envious. I wanted to major in History, and my father insisted that I major in business, because, "You'll never do anything with a History major!"
SAM PARKER:
You're right, unless you want to teach.
ROB AMBERG:
Well, that's exactly what he said, but I point out to him now that this is what I'm doing. I'm a historian! I'm just a photo historian. And we laugh about that now. There were times when it was a struggle because of that. So you were in Johnson City. Is that how you wandered down here?
SAM PARKER:
I don't think so. The last semester that I was in school, I met—well, actually, I met Paula in Knoxville. She had already graduated from the University of Tennessee, but was still hanging around Knoxville. I met her there in Knoxville. We got married; I came back to finish the last semester at East Tennessee State. I had, during my meetings—during my living in Johnson City—met a fellow by the name of Don Ledford. Don Ledford at that point in time worked for a fellow named Bud Edwards. Edwards was

Page 3
from a fairly wealthy family in Kingsport, Tennessee, and had at one point developed a ski area around Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Don Ledford had been his sales person in Gatlinburg. My connection to Gatlinburg was my wife Paula was a native—born and raised in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. So, my connection with Don, then, as simply as a friend—he lived in Johnson City and of course, worked in Gatlinburg. I ran into him in Johnson City. I had known him for some time there. Upon my graduation from East Tennessee State I went to work for State Farm Insurance Company. They moved me to Morristown, Tennessee to do that, so Paula and I went to Marstown. Don at that point in time had been working for Bud, developing the ski area around Gatlinburg. Bud had found Wolf Laurel in Madison County, and had decided that he was going to spend some of his money developing a ski area and housing complex in Madison County, North Carolina. Don then moved—as his sales person—from Gatlinburg to Madison County. Don came by my place in Morristown one afternoon, and asked me how I liked the job of working for State Farm Insurance Company as a Bodily Injury Adjuster. I told him that I didn't like it worth a hoot, and he said, "Well, how would you like to move to North Carolina and into a housing development? Get yourself a sales license—real estate sales license—and go to work for me." I said, "Fine, let's go look at the spot." So, in 1967 we—one summer day—drove to Wolf Laurel to look at the project. At that point in time there were few houses, no golf course, no ski area. 2,500 acres of virgin land, basically. Of course, Paula fell in love with the place. I quit my job at State Farm Insurance Company, [and] we packed up and moved into one of the log houses at Wolf Laurel. I got a real estate license and commenced to attempt to sell land—houses—for Wolf Laurel.
ROB AMBERG:
So at that time, in '67, had that 2,500 acres already been purchased?

Page 4
SAM PARKER:
Yeah, it had already been purchased. Now, it was all still raw land. Wolf Laurel—the thousand-acre section of Wolf Laurel—was the only area that had roads in it. There were a few houses built, maybe ten or twelve. The road to Wolf Laurel was not paved. The main road from the gatehouse to the top of the mountain—at that point in time a restaurant—was paved. But the rest was not. So we had to drive on four or five miles of unpaved road to get Wolf Laurel.
ROB AMBERG:
But there was a restaurant there?
SAM PARKER:
There was a restaurant at that point in time. Now, it was unadvertised, it was new. There were essentially very few people coming up to Wolf Laurel at that point in time. So what we had—Paula and I, and Bud and Don and a few others who worked there—we had basically 2,500 acres of absolute gorgeous mountain land. It was really our run. We had a beautiful Ball Mountain. We had springs; we had the whole works and very few people to deal with it. In the wintertime, there was no ski area, no golfing, no anything. We were essentially there by ourselves living in the mountains unbothered by civilization, basically.
ROB AMBERG:
That's pretty amazing. Now, let me backtrack for a minute. Was Donald Ledford kin to John Ledford?
SAM PARKER:
No. He's originally from Johnson City. Now there could have been some Ledford connection, who knows. But at this point in time I don't believe that there's a kinship there. He's no longer here. He's in fact back in Johnson City. He left here probably in '72. I see him occasionally.
ROB AMBERG:
So at that point you were living in a log cabin?

Page 5
SAM PARKER:
Living in a log cabin. 2,500 acres of just gorgeous mountain Eden. And very few people around.
ROB AMBERG:
What was it like being a person who was trying to sell home sites then in, basically, this almost wilderness area? That must have been pretty much of a challenge.
SAM PARKER:
It was tough. Now, we did get sales, and it kept us alive. And it got almost to the point, Rob, where you really didn't want to see people coming, because what you were going to do was sell a portion of this Eden to essentially a stranger. We were infected with the pioneer mountain spirit at that point in time. I think that's the word—we were infected with it. Here we were working with people—the laborers who worked there at that point in time—the Abby Hunnicuts, the Ponders, Aaron Ponder, Clay Jenkins. These people had essentially seen frontier mountain-living in reality and had grown out of that. So they knew. They still cooked on wood stoves. They still milked cows. They still did the things that the pioneering folks of this county have done for centuries. Now, they were one step above it, maybe a half a step above it, but they infected us with that pioneer feeling. The old back to the earth feeling.
ROB AMBERG:
How did you respond to that? Did you want that for yourself?
SAM PARKER:
We did. It's interesting. It made you want to get back to the earth, to do canning, to do hog raising, to do cattle. It's that frontier feeling. And we were infected, no question about it. Infected to the point that we asked Clay, who was the foreman on the job up there, blue-collar workers, "Start looking for us a place." We wanted a place of our own.
And about '69, I guess, Clay took my wife and I on a little tour of some of the outlying areas and found a place that we believed was for sale, over on across the holler from where we were. He told us who owned the place. We found the owner,

Page 6
which was a couple named Bonnie and Ed Willis, and they were probably seventy-eight, eighty. They were old at the point in time. They had lived on the place, but no longer lived on it. Had moved down to civilization, basically—not much civilization, but they'd moved down. Didn't want to sell it. Ed at that point in time still went up to the place and raised potatoes and raised corn for cattle and so forth. Didn't want to sell it. Somehow my wife, I suspect, had convinced Bonnie that we wanted [the land]. We would love to do that—to live as they had—if you will. And she convinced Ed to sell it, so we bought it. Bought about a hundred acres right on top of the mountain there. That was at the head of East Fork. We came in actually, from the Bear Branch side. There was a road down the East Fork side, which we used occasionally. But the best way in was from the Laurel side, up going up toward the Big Knob fire tower, which sets and joins the property. So we bought it, and in 1970—by that time—Paula had had our first child, Dillan. Dillan was about—well, from April to June, so that'd be about three months old. We decided that we would move to the mountains. So I at that point in time found that the fire tower which joined the property needed someone to man it. So I took a job manning the fire tower. I could walk to work, basically. We moved in with Dillan, three or four months old. The house was just a run down shack. Hadn't been lived in in ten or fifteen years, probably by anybody. Three rooms. I got one of the guys who had worked at Wolf Laurel—a mountain man who understood carpentry as good as anybody I've ever known. He came over and we quickly slammed together some insulation and some—one thing and another. Made it not habitable, really. But for people who were young, which we were, it made do. Had that whole summer then. We canned up food; we cut up wood. We did the whole nine yards, and wintered it out. First winter. There were

Page 7
people who were making bets that we wouldn't make it, we found out later. But we did [Laughter], and it was wonderful. I remember one night late I had to walk to the spring to get water. And here it is January, probably from zero to ten degrees. Blue snow blowing, getting dark. I'm walking out [to] the spring with a bucket to get water looking back at the house and thinking, "My God, what have you done? Here you have a wife and a child less than a year old." [Pause.]. It's still emotional.
ROB AMBERG:
I certainly recognize that situation from my own experience. Was there a sense, when you're asking yourself "what have you done" that, "I don't have the skills, that I don't have the knowledge that the Willises have and they lived up here?"
SAM PARKER:
Yeah. It's a feeling of being put in jeopardy. Of you stupidly—maybe unknowlingly—of putting yourself and your family in jeopardy. Anything can happen. My nearest neighbor was probably two miles away, and that on a jeep road. Well, at that time probably impassible because of the snow. But you think, and we thought, "Look, this has been done before. It's been done by hundreds." Now, there also have been hundreds who have not made it, but it's been done. No big deal. And here youth steps in with its impestuousness, and you do it. Of course, my mother and father, Paula's mother, they just couldn't understand what we were doing, and it was a battle with them. "Why don't you move? Why don't you blah, blah, blah?" But we didn't; glad we didn't. It was an experience that you long for somehow. It's a creativity. It's something that steels your independence. Not "s-t-e-a-l-s," but hardens. Somehow brings you to the point that, "Hey! You can do this." And we did.

Page 8
ROB AMBERG:
What was it doing for you? You'd go out and spend part of the day at the fire tower, and you'd come back to your cabin. What were you doing around the place? Were you raising crops?
SAM PARKER:
Yeah, we raised basically what we ate. We had beans and potatoes and the typical mountain fare. Pumpkins. What one would grow around here. We canned a lot of things. Green beans, corn, that kind of thing. We did for the first while—probably a year and a half we didn't have electricity. I remember Dillan, who was our only son—Dillan's bottle to bottle—and it late at night and it in the wintertime. We used the potato masher, and set the potato masher on top of a kerosene lamp with a little protective surface to heat the baby bottle. [Laughs]. And I'll tell you something else. We decided that electricity would be the thing to do, so we petitioned. Went down to Doug, who was head of the French Broad Electric at that time, [and] told him, I'd like to have electricity. He said that he could do that. It'd cost me a minimum—I had to pay a minimum bill—of ten bucks. That brought electricity to the place. My friend Vann Ramsey, who lived below me there—he and his wife were just prince of peoples. He was just a wonderful man. He came up. He had been in his youth sent to Chicago on a training situation—around the war—to become an electrician, and had succeeded and had come back. At that point in time he was the electrical inspector for the county. So, he came by and told us what we needed to do to electrify our house, and we decided that's what we would do. The day that the power was turned on was a day that we knew—we'd both felt, and we've talked about it since—something went awry on the day that the power was turned on. It made it a different place. It was almost as if it's some sort of alien force had come into

Page 9
the situation. Here you could turn on the electric lights now, and it was almost an inexplainable—it was an alien force. It was something strange.
ROB AMBERG:
Prior to that, what was your sense of things? You talked about this idea of the frontier and the pioneer spirit. Those kinds of things. Did you—both of you coming from more urban areas or suburban situations—what did you think you were doing? What were you thinking back then? I guess I'm asking the same question that your parents might have been asking.
SAM PARKER:
That's an interesting question, and I'm not sure that I can answer that. I'm not sure that I can answer that. What we were doing was some sort of inner [pause]—we were doing it for some sort of satisfaction. I'm not sure what the urge was that we were trying to—the itch that we were trying to scratch. I know we did. Where it came from, I don't know. It had something to do with self-sufficiency. It had something to do with, "I can carry the whole burden." Now, where that came from I can't answer, but it was satisfied by what we did. And on occasion, I think that the mistake was made by leaving it. I'm not sure of that. But I do know that youth plays a major portion in it, because I'm not sure I could do that now. Now, I do know that there are other people who have and have done it successfully. But I'm not sure how far you take it.
ROB AMBERG:
Was there a sense, Sam, of rejection in terms of upbringing?
SAM PARKER:
That's entirely possible. In fact, maybe probable. I suspect there was some of that in it. There was some rebellion. Of course, I was a 60s person. Maybe even a 60s hippie, when it comes to that. So that feeling of rebellion, I'm sure—or the act of rebellion—.
ROB AMBERG:
So the "back to the land" idea was real prominent?

Page 10
SAM PARKER:
Yeah, it was indeed. Now, the '60s rebellion certainly played a part in that. We came here early in our relationship. One of the first people that we kind of ran into—and I think it was because a mutual kind of understanding of what we were doing and what they were doing—-was Peter Gott and his wife. Peter had been here a year or two before we got here, and Peter is the kind of person who has huge drive to get things done. To get things completed, to do things well. He's really a much more organized person than I ever would be. And Peter certainly had some influence on Paula and I, because he at that point in time had completed the first house that he lived in, which is a little masterpiece. A little piece of art, if you will. And that's Peter. He does things with that kind of finality. And so, we spent some time together over the years, back and forth. And he was influential in almost teaching us, "Hey, do it a little bit more structured." We didn't, and that's simply the personalities, I think. Certainly his influence was fairly powerful. But the greatest feelings we had, the greatest input to our psyche on the thing, were local folks.
ROB AMBERG:
That was my next question. My experience is that most of the new-comers that have moved in—especially people who moved back in back in the late '60s [and] early '70s—were to a person always adopted by one or two people.
SAM PARKER:
It's true, and it's interesting how that happens. You get a kindred spirit. Now, there are other people who are real standoffish. But like you say, mine—I suspect I had two. Well, I had more than two, but two major ones. Van Ramsey, who lived below me, was a second father. Van had grown up into what I was doing, had been part of it. Van was an intelligent guy, had been away, had been back. Knew the old customs. Knew how things operated. Knew who to talk to, knew what to do. He knew. He was a

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major loss, like losing family. But Mr. Willis, too. He and his wife were, as status in the community, were not of the elite. They were the more common folks. Wonderful people. Knew everything about their environment. Knew what was good, what was bad. Knew what to do and when to do it. She was a local kind of a doctor. She was called when the regular doctor couldn't come. Ed had been—had made some whiskey, had done some other things that of course didn't bother us. In fact, it was kind of interesting and exciting that he had done that. Ed told me soon after we bought the place. He was up on the place and we were walking around, and he was showing me the lines. We had to walk the boundaries. That's part of the deal. You've got to walk the boundaries. And Ed said to me, he said, "How you getting along?" "Fine, I'm getting along fine." And he said, "I've got some advice for you." First time he'd ever said this or anything about advice. And I said, "What is it?" And he said, "Let me tell you something about Madison County." "All right," I said, "What is it?" He said, "If you're a son of a bitch, that's all you're going to run into around here." That's all he said. But when you think about it he said a mouthful, because we found that most of the folks in the count—if not all—were precisely that way. If you approached them with respect, with interest, that's what you got. If you approached them with anything else, that's what you got. And I never had any sort of threat. Now, I've been called a son of a bitch or two. In fact, Preach Davis, who was one of my favorite people—who owned the service station down here, and who is now dead—Preach Davis had worked in the service station business all his life. Had made a lot of money doing that. Was very close with his money. Had the best grip of anybody in the county. In fact, could put you to your knees just on doing it, and is alleged to have the best grip in the county. In fact, it was said that when he was a

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young man he could pick up an anvil by the horn in one hand and move it from floor to bench or bench to floor. I don't know whether that's true or not, but he certainly had a big grip. He stopped me one day down at the service station. I was working for the social services at that point in time. He said, "There was a guy in there talking about you a while ago." And I said, "Who was he?" He told me who it was, and we had in fact taken the man's child away from him, because he was abusive. And I said, well, "What did he say, Preach?" And he said, "Well, Sam, he said you were a revolving son of a bitch." And I said, "Wait a minute, Preach, what's a revolving son of a bitch?" And he said, "It's a son of a bitch any way you turn." [Laughs].
ROB AMBERG:
That's a good one.
SAM PARKER:
Preach Davis was quite a character. Quite a character.
ROB AMBERG:
How did these relationships with Van Ramsey and Mr. Willis—how did that mentoring kind of play out on a day-in, day-out basis? What kinds of specific things were they showing you?
SAM PARKER:
Well, I got some chickens. Wanted to have some eggs, and I started building a chicken house. Well, here I am not knowing anything. I start up on my chicken house, and Van came by. He had a place that joined me, and he had a little fishpond and a little cabin that joined my property. And Van used what he called his camp. He'd come up to spend the night. He'd come up to take a drink or two. He'd come up to fish. He'd come up to see me. You know, he spent his leisure time at his camp. So he came by, and I'm building a chicken house. And he said, "What are you building?" And I said, "Chicken house." And he said, "Poplar poles?" And I said, "Yup." And he said, "Now you know that poplar pole won't last. Next year, you're going to have to build another chicken

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house." "Well what do I use?" I say. "Well," he said, "go over here and cut you some locust post. Put them in the ground, and they'll be there longer than you're there!" So it was his, "Hey, you're doing a good job, but why not do this? If you want it to last, do that." Things like that, you know. "Have you tried canning your sausage?" "Canning my sausage? Canning my sausage?" "Sure!" So, he'd send his wife up, or she'd come up with him. "Paula, here's how you can sausage. Here's how you cure a ham. It'll last two years! Here's how you do that." They knew how to do that, and were willing to tell us.
ROB AMBERG:
And you were willing to listen.
SAM PARKER:
Oh, absolutely! We were just sponges for this kind of stuff. We were interested in how it was done. Bought a cow, milked a cow for two or three years. A milk cow is kind of like getting married, though. You've got to be there. You've got to do that.
ROB AMBERG:
You mentioned going out that one night to the spring. Was the spring set off far from the house?
SAM PARKER:
Yeah. It was off from the house. There were a spring or two around this house. This one was the one that they had traditionally used. And it was maybe 50 yards from the house. Up above the outhouse, where it should've been. We used that for a year or two. Later, I came in with a backhoe [and] dug out a spring that had spread out all over the hillside. I dug it back to the rock, put in a rock cover over the head of the spring, and piped it down to a concrete reservoir that I had then. I had water that ran into the house.
ROB AMBERG:
So those early years, though, you didn't have water in the house?

Page 14
SAM PARKER:
No, we carried it in, in buckets. We had a couple buckets. We'd go out and fill the bucket and bring them in.
ROB AMBERG:
And what did you do for shower or bath?
SAM PARKER:
Well, I had a wood-burning stove at that point in time. Now, this wood burning stove I got from Mr. Jarvis, over on Jarvis Branch, for twenty-five dollars. It's copper-clad; in fact, I still have it. In it was a grate, I guess you'd call it, called a water jacket, that if you put water into it, built a fire on the stove, you had hot water. Now, at that point in time—which led me to say, "Hey, we've got to have water into the house." Because at that point in time there was a reservoir with it that stood alone, but you had to have a little bit of water pressure to fill up the reservoir. Up until that time, we'd simply put a bucket on the stove. We had a washtub. Put water on the stove, heat it up, dump it in the tub, sit in the tub, take a bath. Once I got water into the house from up on the hillside, I had an outside shower for the summertime. Inside, we had the standing reservoir for the hot water that would be created by the stove. So then, you'd just turn on the spiggot and hot water into the tub. That came after we decided that that's what would make things a little bit easier.
ROB AMBERG:
Did you and Paula both just plug into the romance of this?
SAM PARKER:
Oh, no question! It fed on itself. Do you know what I mean? It fed on itself, and it'd turn you into a salesman for that lifestyle. And I mean, we did. Lionel is here partly because of us. Bob Selwin, who was here for ten or twelve years, came simply because he was friends of ours. He and Annie, who is dead. [Knock on door]. Come in!
ROB AMBERG:
So you were talking about different people, of Lionel and Selwins. You'd become kind of a salesman.

Page 15
SAM PARKER:
Yeah, they'd come to visit. And you're out walking in the woods. Here it's the springtime. It's the most gorgeous place on earth. You're living not an easy life, because you trade your labor—your physical activity—for what you've got rather than for money or anything else. The first time I saw Lionel, Lionel was headed to somewhere in Central America. He and his wife. Ecuador. And he came through. He knew Selwin from [unclear], New Mexico. They'd been in some sort of commune back there in the middle 60s, early 60s. Lionel came through and stayed a day or two. Of course, Lionel at that time, was on his way to Ecuador. Went to Ecuador, stayed and came back and then moved here, and has been here since. Lionel has been a great friend and is just a prince of a man. There's no better, and [I'm] glad he's here. He certainly added a calmness. My friend Wayne Roberts, who I ran into—architect in Mars Hill—I've known Wayne almost since I've been here. I met Wayne, interestingly enough, through music. But Wayne has an interesting term for us people who've moved into this county from outside—he calls us "stockers," and he got that from fishing and wildlife people who come into a creek and instead of a native trap, they put in stockers. So, I'm certainly a stocker.
ROB AMBERG:
The local people that you found yourself hanging with. You mentioned that a few of them were placing bets on whether you would make it or not. But also was there almost a sense of amazement in terms of "what are you doing here"?
SAM PARKER:
Exactly, exactly. They had worked themselves to the point of getting away from what we were trying to get into. They were trying to work themselves into the house on a paved road. They were working themselves into a television set. They were working themselves into grocery stores that you have your own meat cut up and you go buy it. And essentially, they were trading back into the money end of the existence rather

Page 16
than trading back into the personal, hands-on, "labor for food" idea. We found it as strange that they were doing that as they found it strange for us going back to what they were essentially trying to get out of.
ROB AMBERG:
Their children were, I suppose, even farther along.
SAM PARKER:
Even farther along the path, no question. In fact, the path of no return at that point in time. At least of returning anywhere in the near future.
ROB AMBERG:
I remember wondering, "Why would you give all this up?"
SAM PARKER:
Exactly. Here is this beauty. Here is this pleasant existence. Now, it's hard work, no question about that, but the mental salve that it soothed us with was just—it overcame any sort of work situation. The pleasant living was essentially what we were after. And I suspect we got that.
ROB AMBERG:
I would go visit Delly Norton, and what was immediately recognizable was how integrated her life was. It was like it was all right there.
SAM PARKER:
Indeed, indeed. Right on the spot. Indeed. That's an interesting point, but true. It was all right there. I had been playing some guitar at that point in time with a friend of mine. Up at Ball Mountain we had played a little bit. Ran into, of all people, Byard Ray—Byard, the fiddle player, and Byard and I got kind of a kindred spirit situation. I got to playing some rhythm guitar with Byard's fiddle playing, and Byard introduced me at that time to a guy named Obray Ramsey. Being an old 60s hippie I guess you could say I had run into some people who were odd. And I don't mean that in a derogatory sense. I mean, just different from others. But Obray was just a wild man on the loose. He and I hit it off immediately. We played a lot; we sang a lot, drank some. Obray wasn't bad to drink, but we both liked to drink a little. And one of the first things I

Page 17
got involved with locally that was not above board was—I asked Byard, "Byard, I understand that white whiskey is still made in this county." Bard said, "Would you like some?" And I said, "Well, I don't want to be poisoned." And Byard said, "Fine, I know where some is. Let's go." The fellow [who gave us] the white liquor is still alive in this county. He doesn't do that anymore; he's too old. But I do remember him very well, and I do remember exactly where we went to get it. I think we paid eight dollars for a half a gallon. Byard was not a drinker. Obray was a drinker, but Byard wasn't. And so took it back, and of course that was one of the highlights of that month. I took it home and set it up on the counter, and here's a Ball fruit jar—half a gallon—with this clear liquid in it. Illegal, homemade—and that was the key. Homemade. It made it just another step in our direction of finding things that were homemade. And of course, Paula was upset. [Imitates Paula being upset]. But drinking it and of course giving it to other people of course added to the mystique of the mountains.
ROB AMBERG:
I'm hearing that "homemade" is almost synonymous with the word, "real."
SAM PARKER:
Yeah, I think that's right. I don't know that it's any more real than anything else. But the fact that it is done by you or your friends, as part of the place where you are, really makes it important somehow. I think you're getting back to that independence, to that almost revolution from dependence. That played a major role in that.
ROB AMBERG:
Moving on, you stayed in that situation. After a couple years, got electricity, and you felt like that was really the point where things started to change.
SAM PARKER:
Yeah, they did. They started to change a little. Of course, we had another child. We had Brett.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Page 18
SAM PARKER:
The roads were still passable. I only had a jeep road in and out. I had a winch on the front of my jeep, and a lot of times I had to winch in. I had certain little spots that I knew I could go out with the winch, get in, get out. In the wintertime, certain times, you couldn't do that. Sometimes it'd snow up there and drift up into the road, and you simply could not get out. Fortunately Brett was born in the summertime, so we could get in and out at the right time to get him into Asheville and born. There was snow on the ground when Kate was born. She was born in March. Again, no trouble. We weren't concerned with that, somehow. We believed that, "Hey, doesn't make any difference. We can do this. We can get in; we can get out. Don't matter what it takes." Of course, our parents were going, "Whoa! [Imitates voices of parents]. Here you are with a two-month-old child." We still had this feeling, "Hey, Bonnie Willis had eleven children in that house." You know? Now, dog-gone, if she can do that we can do it. Maybe we were better equipped, having seen both sides of the coin. [Pause]. Interesting time. I think Kate was eight years old when we moved out—eight or nine—when we moved off the mountain down to Gabriel's Creek. Bought the house on Gabriel's Creek because it was a good buy, and thought we were going to rent it and have us some income. Turned out that we didn't. We moved into it and essentially were trapped on a paved road with conveniences and no trying to get in and out in the wintertime, which is impossible to do. [Phone rings].
ROB AMBERG:
And total—especially with young kids—.
SAM PARKER:
And you had baseball games. I wore out a land rover or two on the road getting in and out.

Page 19
ROB AMBERG:
Where were you working at that point in time?
SAM PARKER:
Well, I worked five years in the fire tower, which was just a wonderful job. Learned how to play the mandolin in the fire tower. Dropped Peter Gott's mandolin off the fire tower, which I've never been forgiven for. [RA laughs.].And shouldn't be! I mean, it was a total accident, but still, it happened. I then went to work for the social services here in Marshall. Francis Ramsey was the director. Anita Davie, who is now the County Manager, was a social worker there.
ROB AMBERG:
Francis Ramsey, Liston's wife?
SAM PARKER:
No, this is a different Ramsey. She was a very good politician; she was a very good manager. She was just a decent woman.
ROB AMBERG:
I'm just curious how you managed to get that job, given the way things happen in this county.
SAM PARKER:
That was in '72 or '73. There was one man, Mr. Wallin—a small little guy, probably weighed 115 pounds—who was the only male working in the social services office at that time. He retired. They had used him for various investigations, kinds of things that the women didn't want to do or wouldn't do. I found out about it through Obray Ramsey. Obray said, "Hey, you're looking for a job. Go down there and talk to Miss. Ramsey. Talk to Francis Ramsey." So I went down there and interviewed with Francis Ramsey. Obray was the one who, I suspect, had some say-so in that, too. He and Byard both, maybe. Since I did have a college degree at that point in time—and it required that—she hired me.
And I went to work for the social services. I investigated two or three child abuse situations, one of which I got called a "revolving son-of-a-bitch" on. That's probably what she really wanted me to do, because that was coming into

Page 20
vogue at that point in time. Madison County, at that point in time, though—by gosh—was still a very patriarchal society. And a closed society. I mean, gosh, there were six or eight families in this county. Almost a closed society. "Who's boy are you? Who's your daddy?" So it was kind of tough to get out here. One of the first investigations I did was up on Spring Creek. Pulled in—the guy was sitting on the porch. The son had been seen in school and had his legs strapped up or something, and Miss. Ramsey wanted me to go and see what was going on. Interestingly enough, pulled into the guy's yard. Here I am, not known from Adam's house cat in Madison County. Pulled in the yard, pulled up to the porch, ran over the guy's pup and killed it. The pup, of course, before it died, ran around the place a time or two screaming and yelping. [Laughs.]. And I thought, "Boy, I'm off to a perfect start here!" [Laughter].
ROB AMBERG:
That was a $500 dog! [Laughs.]
SAM PARKER:
But you know, dogs in this county were important parts of the county. It worked out. I don't remember exactly how, but it worked out okay.
ROB AMBERG:
We were talking about getting electricity, and you felt like for you and Paula, personally, that was the beginning of a change. And you talked like maybe not really being sure whether that was the right thing to do. But I'm curious about things that evolved, not just for you and your family but for the whole county. Things have really moved forward in a way. Forward, I guess, is really a question. But they've moved in a way that are so remarkably different than when we moved here back in the early 70s.
SAM PARKER:
No question about that. And of course, the value of that movement—certainly is not for me to say whether that's good or whether that's bad, or whatever it is. I don't know about that. You get into the philosophy of some of the people like who I've

Page 21
worked with, who say, "These people need some income. These people need jobs. These people need to blah blah blah." The whole progression of development. Certainly, the judgement, I think, has to rest on the fact of, "What do you want to trade." Do you want to trade your intelligence and your need for things? Do you want to trade that for bucolia? Do you want to trade that for a strange peace of mind that comes with being part of the earth, if you will? Do you want to trade that? Now, whether that's good or bad, I don't know. But the question is, "Do you want to do that?" And as it goes along it seems to me that, yes, they want to trade that. They want to move away from the hard physical labor, from the "I can do it" feeling, into an area that's more dependent on others. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know. I do know that I wouldn't trade my years for that. Now, it kind of brings around the thought that I somehow eventually did trade that. I did decide that, "Hey, I'm moving into something else, and therefore I need to change the way I'm living." Sure, I needed to do that. I'm not sure I did the right thing in that move. I could still be doing both, essentially, but it's difficult. When the divide comes—of moving from the independence to the dependence—it almost has to be a clean sweep, or else you bring that dependence into your independence, and it muddies it. I've tried it. You've got a place here that you have to be master of. All of it. Then to connect it with the threads of the independence is a difficult process, because you've almost got to change your psyche, change your clothes, change your whole works to move from one to the other. And to do that two or three times a day, or to do that weekly, it's disconcerting to say the least.
ROB AMBERG:
Well, it's very scattering.

Page 22
SAM PARKER:
It is. It is, indeed. You lose all focus. You lose focus on both. It's almost what you're trying to get away from.
ROB AMBERG:
You're doing both of them kind of in a half-ass kind of way. Not doing either one very well.
SAM PARKER:
You get back into that frantic. It's frantic. The other is not frantic. It's calming. The life on the mountain is calming. Now, the frantic may be that the cow's out. Or the frantic may be that the pig's dead. But it's not that zigzag frantic that you get at a traffic stop, or it's not that lightning bolt kind of thing. It's more of a calm approach.
ROB AMBERG:
And I'm not asking you to judge good or bad, right or wrong. It seems to me that the whole county has made this transition. There's certainly individuals in the county that—well, you know, Lionel comes to mind in many respects. And he's a newcomer. There's still people who were born here, who live very much in an old fashioned way.
SAM PARKER:
Yeah, there are. Now, those are dwindling, too. It's interesting, I've been noticing that some of the—and I'm not sure what television genre it's called—some of the exposés have been addressing themselves to the very kind of people we're talking about, who still live, if you will, the old way. They're so few now, that they focus in on these few. And these folks are still holding on. I noticed a story on a storyteller the other night who is still living the old way, if you will. It's an interesting story. Still interesting to me. But there are fewer and fewer and fewer of those, and I guess it's simply because that they're dying out. Face it, I've been here over thirty some-odd years, and the people that I've known who have been directly involved with that directly—most of them no longer exist. I mean, they're dead.

Page 23
ROB AMBERG:
That's certainly my experience also. And it's almost like when you start doing TV exposés on them, it's a sure sign that it's dying.
SAM PARKER:
It's almost a historical notice. This is it. We want this recorded.
ROB AMBERG:
"Let's put them in a museum now, because they have basically no real usefulness in our society." And I wonder how a place like Madison County, that really has had that history and had that kind of lifestyle probably longer than most any other place on the east coast—.
SAM PARKER:
It's true, and it's because there's been no major development here. And one of the reasons, too, I think, is there's no flat land. There's no place to put Acme Sock Company. There's no place to put these other things.
ROB AMBERG:
But access, also, in and out of it has really changed it, where it's been a major thing, too. As you were talking about, getting electricity felt like a personal change for you all. It seems to me that getting the Weaverville/Marshall highway—it's really changed things. It's allowed people in; it's allowed people out.
SAM PARKER:
You know, speaking of roads, Rob, once upon a time, Zeno Ponder and some other—James Ledford and the other folks in this county who were in leadership positions at that point in time—some still are. We were involved with the road—the new 19-23— from essentially the high school into Weaverville. And so there were board meetings, and there were meetings on that road, and it was going to bring major changes to Madison County. It's interesting, and I don't remember who had the analogy. What they said it was going to be like a funnel that was going to funnel all this economic development into Madison County. And what happened was that the funnel was turned end-to-end the other direction, so that essentially Madison County funneled out into

Page 24
Buncombe, Yancey, wherever these businesses were. Interestingly enough, that helped somehow preserve Madison County independence. It didn't demand that there'd be jobs here. It simply provided a way for those people who could and would to go into those other areas.
ROB AMBERG:
What it has done, though, it has funneled a—and this is certainly taken a period of time, but you go on that quarter now and—.
SAM PARKER:
It's coming. [Laughs.].
ROB AMBERG:
It really is moving this direction! And the funneling is not so much economic development—jobs—but it seems to me that there is such a wealth of new people and new ideas that are coming into the county. I know you've experienced this back twenty-five, thirty years ago. I could guarantee that you knew not only most people that you passed on the road. You knew their cars, you knew their dogs.
SAM PARKER:
Absolutely. You could say, "That's John" at midnight, driving by your house. You know what I mean? You knew the sound of his car or his truck or whatever. You know, I tell you another interesting point, too, Rob. The further down the road you go, if you will, and the more people we lose who have had direct contact with the past, then the people coming in are not having direct contact with the source. They're having direct contact with the source maybe twice removed. Since I've been here, there have been basically two generations of people. The kids who were not born when I got here sometimes now have grandchildren. And so the people who are coming in and saying, "Hey, what's going on here?" are not talking to the source anymore. They're talking to the filter. "Well, my grandmother raised—." It's not "I raised." It's not "I know what pb id="p25" n="25" />this does." It's, "My grandmother knew what that was." And it's almost a diluting effect, as we go further and further.
ROB AMBERG:
Jemima made an interesting point when we were talking about all these things. I asked her, "What's your experience with having a girlfriend over to spend the night? That has got to be an interesting dynamic for a seventeen-year-old girl in this day and age." She said, "Well, you know, it's really curious. My friends will come over here, and they find it absolutely amazing that I was born on the other side of that wall, first of all. And they have concerns about what would happen if something went wrong. There's those kinds of concerns, but my mother bore all those children and Lionel basically helped."
SAM PARKER:
Was the midwife. [Laughs.].
ROB AMBERG:
And there was never any problem. So, they kind of get by on that, but "we go out—my friends and—we'll go out camping." And she said, "I'm the only one who knows how to build a fire."
SAM PARKER:
Exactly.
ROB AMBERG:
She says, "I get the real feeling that my friends who were born in this county, who's families were born in this county, feel that I'm the person who is teaching them. I am the filter." And I find that to be just an amazing circular kind of thing. But you're right on the money with that whole idea.
SAM PARKER:
See, I believe that there's not very many people in this county who could live without electricity. Now, when I came here electricity hadn't been here long. Telephone—gosh. So you were really talking to the source. You were talking to the sources there.

Page 26
ROB AMBERG:
Yeah, I interviewed Jerry Plemmons, and he for the first seven or eight years didn't have electricity.
SAM PARKER:
Jerry's a very interesting character. Jerry's almost an intellectual anomaly to the county. I don't mean that from the standpoint of IQ. I mean that from the standpoint of he's almost got an innate outside-county intellect that he developed somehow.
ROB AMBERG:
Yeah, I was shocked by that also. He's always struck me that way.
SAM PARKER:
You almost think, "Hey, he's not native. He's moved in." Not so. He's right from the ground of Madison County. Interesting fellow. I think what makes it interesting is he can see both sides of the coin quickly. Now, there are a lot of folks in this county who can't see both sides of the county. By gosh, Jerry can. Wham, there it is.
ROB AMBERG:
What was your sense about the new highway—about I-26—and what that was going to mean for the county. How did that strike you?
SAM PARKER:
I had the same feeling, Rob, after I'd gone to work for Wolf Laurel. We had been there probably a year, year and a half. Nothing much happening at all. Oh, you'd build a house occasionally, but it was a kindred spirit. They'd invite you in, you'd stay with them. We had some people from Kingsport, where Bud was from. Wonderful people, who built fairly expensive housing in Wolf Laurel early on just to get Bud kind of started. But they were kindred spirit type of folks. Interested in the country, not living here permanently. But you got the same kind of feeling when you saw the thing commence to take hold. When you saw more people coming in. When you saw water lines going in. When you saw roads being paved. When you saw lots beginning to sell. You had the same kind of feeling that you were losing something here. You were

Page 27
gaining something, there's no question. But you were losing that natural—[Pause.]—I'd guess you'd call it soma, almost, of being out maybe in 200 acres and not another human around. Now, a lot of people can't handle that, but by gosh, a lot of people can. And it's a cleansing kind of thing, with a soma that somehow nature—and you felt it leaving. You felt it going, and you could see it. Now, there are those who say, "Hey, that's what it should be. We should be in this process." And maybe there's no stopping; maybe there's nothing we can do about this. But yeah, you can feel it going. I could feel the same thing. When I go down and see the high bridge, I've got the same feeling. I used to know Jack Jenkins there very well. I used to go in and eat at Edna's. I used to know Edna's husband. I knew all the stories of Edna's husband. Shelby—just a wonderful guy. But I know all the stories on him and what he's done and what he hadn't done. I knew Edna back thirty years ago, when "Edna's" was a four-star restaurant. Shelby grew the stuff, raised the hogs, did that. She cooked it. Just four-star! And you see the high bridge now, and you think people will go over the high bridge and "Hey, it's the high bridge." Again, it's that filtering process. It's thinner and thinner as you go away from it. And the same thing with the highways. Certainly there are advantages to the highway. There are disadvantages. But if you're looking for that bucolia. If you're looking for that dense woods feeling. If you're looking for that "back to the earth" independence kind of thing, certainly it's on the way out. Now, it may take some time to do that, but it's out. It's got its advantages and disadvantages.
ROB AMBERG:
Yeah, and the highway by itself is not the cause of those things.
SAM PARKER:
No.
ROB AMBERG:
I think it certainly will accelerate the problem.

Page 28
SAM PARKER:
[Pause.]. I really don't know. I don't have anything bad to say about the highway. I suspect it's probably there whether we like it or whether we don't. What I do hate to see, though—it essentially funnels what little we have left of what I really enjoyed about the county. It put those people into a different medium—into a different place—so that they bring back more change than they take out. They bring back things that I think help accelerate the loss of that innate mountain society. And that's good or bad? Lord, I don't know.
ROB AMBERG:
Yeah, I'm not sure either. I had a sense, too, of—again, I've been here twenty-eight years. Not quite as long as you have, but there was a different—the people who were moving in here twenty-eight, twenty-five, even twenty years ago—there was a different sense of who they were. Thirty years ago, you really had to want to live here. You really had to be willing to plug into at least some of those—.
SAM PARKER:
Yeah, I don't think you would have made it, Rob, had you not plugged into it. I don't think you would have made it very well had you not plugged into the old time. That made that spirit strong. You know what I mean? It was as if the second generation from the real "no electricity, down to earth" folks—that second generation hadn't filtered out enough. They still couldn't remember what you were doing. There was some sort of respect for that, that you weren't in trying to make major changes. And I don't think they wanted to be at that point in time. I think there was some respect for that, and help those that came in to make it. We had a lot of help from locals. "Hey, let me show you how to do that."
ROB AMBERG:
Right. Let me show you what wood to cut.

Page 29
SAM PARKER:
"Now, don't cut that; that won't burn. You couldn't light that. Don't cut that water oak!"
ROB AMBERG:
Black gum. [Laughs.].
SAM PARKER:
Black gum won't split. I've got a big black gum by my place as you start in, and Van said, "Let me tell you what's very good for that tree right there." And I said, "What is it?" He said, "Take a limb about the size of a grapefruit." And he said, "If you cut off sections of that limb and drill a hole in it," he said, "it'll make the best wagon-wheels you've ever had!" You know, for a kid's wagon? It won't split!
ROB AMBERG:
But you know, there's a different sense now. There is not the need for people moving in to plug into anybody from the county.
SAM PARKER:
True, true.
ROB AMBERG:
They can be totally autonomous, and I find that all the time. I meet people, and they haven't got a clue. They know nothing of the music tradition.
SAM PARKER:
It's astounding. That's maybe, Rob, what this road is going to do. You know what I mean? You come in off of this road, bang, find you a spot. Bang, you're there. And then in order to get anything happening, you don't go down stream, essentially. You get back on the road and go into Asheville. You get back on the road and go somewhere else rather than dealing with the local folks.
ROB AMBERG:
That almost speaks to the idea of communities, first of all becoming more homogenous. But also communities being less local, more broad or global in a sense.
SAM PARKER:
Yes, that's it. Of course, you've got the television now. You've got internet. It's really interesting. In 1976—no. Gosh, I can't remember my—. Getting old. I—on Obray Ramsey's advice, and Byard, some of the other folks—I had been around at that

Page 30
point in time enough to run for political office, which I did in '78. I did very well, and I essentially carried everything in the upper end of the county very well, including Mars Hill. Got down to this end of the country—and I'll tell you why I'm telling you this in a minute—got down to this end of the country, and I did fairly well in Laurel. Out of all the votes cast in the Hot Springs precinct, I got twenty-one votes. Ron Howell, who was running for Superior Court Judge at that point in time, who I had thrown in with, basically based on the fact that Ron had been the person here in the county. Had been County Attorney and so forth. I didn't know that he had fallen out with the local politicals. But I lost the election basically in Hot Springs. And what happened was, at that point in time, in '78 there was still enough left in this county of local political servitude, I guess is what you'd say. Because they were servants to the population, to the politicals. As I was told by a fellow, "You didn't lose this election, you just got out-counted." But what it goes to show is, even as late as '78 there was still this network in the county—almost a community network—of various people, various communities, who still would call and say, "Hey, what are we going to do?" You know what I mean? "What are we going to do?" And you had a couple of people who'd say, "Hey, here's what we're going to do." Now, that I think, too, is somehow lost in that road situation and in the communication situation, in that you lose that community-based—I guess, patriarchy—I don't know what it was. Of saying, "Hey, I'm in Hot Springs, and you're in Mars Hill. What are we going to do on this?" It's simply vanished. It's almost—like you say, you've got people who live in little isolated spots with real no connection to the communities.

Page 31
ROB AMBERG:
When you think of Madison County when you think of the word, "place"? What has that meant to you? What is being here? I know that's a broad, vague question.
SAM PARKER:
Well, first of all, the reasons that we essentially settled here in our final settlement—the first Wolf Laurel adventure we didn't come to settle. We came to see what was going on and so forth, but once we found our place here—it's basically home. We found the place we like. We found people that we can deal with. We found a non-hostile environment that took us in as total strangers, into almost family. Well, hell, into family. I mean, the Ramsey's—into their family. I mean, hell, everybody was kin. And we found a community, a family, a living place, a communal pleasantry. That's what everybody looks for, I think. A lot of other folks haven't found it, but I think we did.
ROB AMBERG:
It's curious to me, because I've had the same experience, too, Sam, where you move into a place, and you move into family. But yet, you've also moved away from family. I remember my grandmother coming up the road on time. This was when I was living over at Jim and Libby Woodruff's place on Big Pine. My grandmother was raised in Southern Italy, born there. She comes up this road and she just looks around like, "How in the hell did you find this place?" [Laughter.]. And at that point in time, you know, I had this real odd feeling. I was really close to my grandmother, but there's this sense of, "You're my family. You're my kin, but I really have moved in a totally different direction. And I'm very much unlike you also."
SAM PARKER:
Exactly. It's a very—family. "Family" is an interesting word in this situation. I think the newcomers now, Rob, are not going to find that. They're not going to find that family, because essentially that family is gone. And now the new family that's here is almost like what you're moving away from. You're not going to find that,

Page 32
and it's sad. Now, will the road affect that? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. But it's a shame that that's not here. It's interesting that we've moved into that family situation. I mean, I had a very close family. My wife had a very close family. And it's strange that you should want to be in this other family. It's not that you want to be, and you want to be after you've been in it a little while. And yet, your point is very clear that you still have another family here, too. It's a different feeling, though.
ROB AMBERG:
Taking that to the next logical step, where are your children? And what are they doing?
SAM PARKER:
Interesting. All three remember, of course, living on the mountain. I still have the place. In fact, I intend to—I'm in the process of planning me a getaway up there. A little log house that we can do that.
ROB AMBERG:
The Vann Ramsey remembrance place?
SAM PARKER:
The camp, right. [Laughter]. That was my daughter from Durham on the phone. She is in a different environment—living in Durham, working for American Airlines, going to school. My son Brett just got out of Savanna College of Art and Design. I don't know what he's going to do. He's twenty-five. Dillan, my oldest son, works for Saint Joseph's Hospital, soon to be a nurse. Soon to go further than that, go on to be an anesthetist of some description. They all frequently say, "Hey [whispers], let's go up on the mountain." It's kind of like a magnet. I don't think any of them would do what we've done. I just don't think they have the wherewithal to do that. I may be wrong, but I don't think so. I think they're more into the new world, if you will. It's interesting that Peter and his family have all gotten essentially back to their point of origin. I think that's good.

Page 33
ROB AMBERG:
One of the points I try to make with our two children is—kind of instilling in them what the real value of that piece of land is. It certainly can be viewed as a monetary, financial asset. On the other hand, I very clearly learned from Delly that the real value of the land has to do with one's ability to be able to live on it. That land will provide for you. With that in mind—those ideas, those kind of contrary ideas in mind—I'm curious about how one deals with that issue with one's children? How one looks at that. And my immediate thing is to say, "Well, I'm going to fix this and sell it." [Laughter].
SAM PARKER:
Yeah, I know what you mean.
ROB AMBERG:
And I sense that that would be fine with them. Well, we can rent it. We can make an income on it, if that's what you want. Have it there to live on . But I'm curious about you're saying that your kids come back and say, "Let's go back on the mountain." That definitely is a connection. But how do you see that connection being played out maybe after you and Paula are gone?
SAM PARKER:
Interesting question, and I can't answer that, Rob. I don't know. It's interesting. It just struck me. I've had offers on that property up there, mucho offers. And I've never really wanted to sell it. I haven't spent too much time up there since we moved off. But I've spent quite a bit of time, particularly by myself—particularly Paula and I go up. But I've always had in the back of my mind, "Hey, whatever happens, I can raise my own food." Now, that may be some sort of wild dream of mine or thought that should something drastic happen anywhere, that I could do that. Probably. Who knows. But it's always been there; it's important to me because it's a safety valve. It's a lifeline. I don't know, Vann and those boys always had one hand in the earth. They always kept

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that soil there, which I thought was interesting. They didn't want to get away from there. Now, they'd do other things, but that one hand was always there. And it's a powerful image to keep in your head. "Hey, got that." I don't know that young folks see that, nor do they care. I don't know.
ROB AMBERG:
That's interesting. I've always felt the same thing. Just that safety valve, that security. Knowing that you can. Obviously, it'd be very difficult to have to be self-sufficient.
SAM PARKER:
Oh, I'm not sure physically I could do it anymore.
ROB AMBERG:
Exactly. The older I get, the more I start thinking about propane heat instead of wood. I was out cutting wood yesterday, and I was like, "Why am I doing this?" But I wonder whether that feeling in me doesn't jump back a generation to our parent's generation. Being raised in the Depression. Coming through that period of time. Whether stories that my father or mother told me that have continued to resonate. I mean, I was raised in the suburbs. I never knew any need to do these kinds of things. But yet, knowing that I know how to do it is—there's something that's secure. Whereas our children—God, my son—the thought of getting out of here.
SAM PARKER:
Raising beans.
ROB AMBERG:
Well, this is—.
END OF INTERVIEW