Visiting the Georgia mountains, I celebrate family past and present

Sunrise from Bella Vista cabin, Helen, Ga.

I have lived in more than a dozen places around the country and abroad, none of them in the Appalachians. But each time I visit these mountains, especially in the South, I know I am getting close to my roots.

My father’s people came from the mountains of eastern Tennessee. The mountains around the Chattahoochee River in northwest Georgia are some 200 miles to the south, but somehow this feels like our family belongs here. And indeed we are here for a Buttry clan celebration, the wedding of my nephew, Jon Buttry, to the love of his life, Jamie Mayo. Dad was a country boy who grew up in Chenoa, Ill., but we knew the “can’t hardly” that occasionally snuck into his speech was a reminder of his family’s backwoods roots in Sneedville, Tenn. He went off to seminary in Chicago, got a master’s degree and saw the world as an Air Force chaplain. But he always was a country boy at heart.

Perhaps in the same way that my son Mike loved the Dukes of Hazzard when he was growing up in a Midwestern city, I feel drawn to these mountains I have only visited. (We did see signs for Dukes Creek on our drives this weekend, and would not have been surprised to see Bo and Luke — that was Dad’s name — shoot past us in the General Lee.) Continue reading