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The Dogwood Alley Legacy (part one)

My journey into writing began many years ago as a fourteen-year-old girl, riding in the back of a large sedan, listening to conversations between my grandfather and great-grandfather. My Pappaw, as I called him, was living in a nursing home, and my grandfather, who lived three hours away in Nashville, would come into town on weekends and take me and Pappaw around town. We’d visit cemeteries, old home sites, churches, and go to the cafeteria-style restaurant located in the mall—my Pappaw’s favorite place.My Mammaw had passed away, and with my Pappaw having Alzheimer’s and diabetes, the nursing home was the best situation for him. Fortunately for us, it was an excellent place that provided quality care. Even still, getting out and about with family always trumps bingo with other elderly people who forget what they’re doing or ramble on about illnesses and grandchildren.So, on our weekend adventures, we re-lived our family’s past. I heard stories about my great-great grandparents, my Pappaw’s twenty-four siblings, hunting squirrel, bluegrass bands, and hopping coal trains. It all sounded like some grand fairytale to me—a kid raised as an only child with television, cheerleading, and Russ Taff’s Medals cd on repeat while I danced around in my room. Maybe that’s why the stories stuck with me into adulthood. Those tales seemed like a foreign land in a distant time, and they intrigued me to no end.Another thing intrigued me…my grandfather and great-grandfather referred to each other as “Buddy” and “Joe.” Neither one of them have any version of those two names! My Pappaw was “Joe” and my grandpa was “Buddy,” and everyone seemed to accept it as perfectly normal. Finally, one day, during our weekend run-around, after calling each other by these pseudonyms, Pappaw asked, “How do I know you?” I’m sure I saw tears in my grandpa’s eyes as he realized his own father didn’t recognize him.“I’m your son,” he said, with his voice cracking. “We took to callin’ each other Buddy and Joe a long time ago. I don’t even remember when exactly. But, I think it was ‘cause we have the same first name, Fred, and it got confusing.” They both chuckled, but it was a sad moment that even laughter couldn’t truly lighten.My senior year of high school, I submitted a short story about those excursions titled “Buddy -n- Joe,” and it won a gold medal. The judge, a professor from the University of Tennessee, gave it a perfect score; and she told my English teacher that she had never given a perfect score before. I don’t share this to pat myself on the back…honest! I share it because it demonstrates how the story resonates with people. It wasn’t my writing—it was the story of a bond between father and son, and the passing on of experiences and wisdom. It was the legacy of Dogwood Alley, and I am so blessed to have received it.

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