My roots run deep in these mountains. My dad grew up in Bristol, Tennessee, the son of a shoe salesman for the L.C. King Mfg. Co. My mom grew up not far away in Glade Spring, Virginia. Her mom Mavis Hatfield (those Hatfields) moved there from Coalwood, West Virginia, to marry Sanders Oury McCready, a man who fed his family bartering vegetables and hunting quail and squirrels during the Depression.

My dad moved the family east to Portsmouth, Virginia, after returning from France at the end of World War II. That’s where I grew up. But we spent weeks each summer visiting family back in Bristol and Glade Spring. I went north for college and spent most of my adult life in Manhattan. 

 In 2018, family brought me here, to Madison County, in North Carolina. Now I live on the Sevenmile Ridge below the Pisgah Forest, bordered by the Appalachian Trail, across the mountain from the Cherokee Forest and East Tennessee. New state, same mountains. Same people.

I did not expect to live here in these mountains. But they feel familiar, and welcoming, and that surprised me. Now I have sunk my own roots here in Madison County. And I’ve spent the past several years trying to dig deeper into this area, better to understand why I feel such a strong kinship with a county and a state I never called home until a few years ago. The kallitypes you see here are an essay through which I’ve come to gain a more intimate understanding of my new home.

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