Through lending others my technology access, I was able to share the stories of many of the people and events that put the Appalachian hamlet of Coker Creek, Tennessee more prominently on the map. These include tales about the oldest Coker Creek citizen, Mamie, who retired from fifty years as postmaster of the tiny town, but still, at the age of ninety-four, raises chickens and sells their eggs. She and I became so close while I was writing about her that I now call her my “Mountain Mama.”
I am now working on a book about Mamie's and her family’s affect on this area, which has quite a rich history in the annals of rural American life. This is made possible partly by the access I have to books of local lore maintained at the public library in Tellico Plains and micro-fiche records of old newspapers available at the library in the county seat of Madisonville. It’s a slow way to go, but it can be richly rewarding when we take life one bite (byte?) at a time and chew on it a while.
Taking technology to him finally gave mountain man Jack the ability to share the stories he wrote for his the beloved Appalachian people. Jack grew up in Coker Creek and still lives with no plumbing in his home. He is proud of how tidy he keeps his outhouse and loves to have company as he walks the two hundred steps each way to dip drinking water from his mountain stream.
When I went to interview him for a newsletter article, I found that Jack had been writing children’s stories longhand and then typing them on a manual typewriter for thirty years. Because his home had no electricity, his source of light was kerosene lamps reflecting light from a mirror back into the room. Because I was able to share my access to technology, he now has his work in print.
Around the world, many people believe that all of the United States of America is flowing with milk, honey, and access to technology. Having lived in cities all my life, I believed this to be true. I found out, after moving to this remote area in the Cherokee National Forest, that communication can still be challenging, even in the twenty-first century United States.
I had been used to working from home as a writer, publisher, and fundraiser and assumed that I would be able to continue doing the same in my new home. Two technology surprises awaited me. Cell phone service is only available in a line-of sight pattern. In the mountains, there are few clear line-of-sight areas. People who had gotten used to my constant availability by phone could no longer reach me on demand. This became problematic in many relationships because my contacts felt abandoned. They soon sought others with whom to communicate when they wanted to talk, not when I was available.
The next major affliction in my employment was the lack of internet access, other than with dial-up speeds. The telephone service, without internet access, was already unreliable; dial-up was not the answer to access. I am fortunate that I was able to afford satellite internet service. Though it was still too slow for online voice conversations, I was able to load digital files to send to clients and printers. Snow covering the satellite dish could also be a problem.
After several years of suffering through the expense and other satellite internet issues, I was informed that my local phone company was able to provide people within one mile of the state highway going through Coker Creek with DSL service. I felt as if I had hit a jackpot, as my home is exactly one mile from the hamlet’s highway. Between this major leap in home access to the internet at reasonable speeds and the great gift of technology available through the public library system, I’ve been able to entertain, enlighten, and empower others in this area of Appalachia.
By-the-way, and Jack now has a solar panel on his roof with which he powers one LED light bulb, but is still refusing my offer to convert him from his manual typewriter to a computer.
Jack’s books are available at Amazon.com, as are mine: