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Appalachian Access

Mountain Mama and Her Chicks

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, as are mine:

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Kerosene Powered Mountain Man



Precious M's picture

So revealing...

Y, these words are so correct:
"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."

Who can imagine that even in the United States, some people still have limited access to technology. This is the kind of issues that doesn't get attention in the mainstream media.

And I hope Jack finally leaves his typewriter for the computer.


My pen speaks

Y's picture

No it doesn't, and some in

No it doesn't, and some in these areas actually want it that way. Unfortunately, their young often turn to drugs because their minds don't have access to the intellectual challenges that technology can bring to even remote areas when we are creative about access opportunities.

Jack likes his life the way it is. I did have to put my foot down about being his transcriptionist. The typed text is not well understood by scanning to text programs, so I spent several months one winter typing his first book into a word processing program, and doing all the edits along the way. For the second book, I hired a typist/editor for him.


olutosin's picture


I love it when ordinary people are doing extra ordinary things to show the world that we do not need to become a political robber in order to (oppress the poor) show the world that they are doing good. We can do small good things repeatedly and we can start small and allow it to grow too. In the long run, we can help people to achieve their aims in life through persistent support.

I will raise chicken too, I have started this week, who knows, if it will become another source of income generating activities to support my effort in the communities where we work.

Thanks for the post, thank you for raising mamma's voice too.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


Y's picture

You are so right. Even the

You are so right. Even the ordinary among us can sometimes do the extraordinary.


pelamutunzi's picture

appalachian experiences and riches

Hi y
As always I totally enjoyed the narrative descriptions of the Appalachian life. the main reason is I connect with the experiences described here. Whilst it is truly shocking that there can be a place in the US where there is no electricity or internet, I feel the carefree attitude of the people and their intense happiness living a fulfilling life untainted by modern life. thank you for bringing the stories to life and for bridging the technological gap by bringing these wonderful stories to life.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.

Y's picture

Thank you for your

Thank you for your encouragement.


Soumya Vilekar's picture

The other facade of US

Dear Y,
Thanks a lot for sharing such a rare information about Appalachians. Its really touching the way you shared the experiences and problems Jack faced. The way you fought and tried to bring a new life into the lives of people living there is a very nobler task. Its hard to believe as everyone else here also has commented, that noone can realize that an area in US can face such a problem,which is common in almost all teh other countries at some place or another.
Hats off to you and Jack,for your efforts,
Best wishes,

susa's picture

Thanks for drawing back the curtains

Dear Y,
I so enjoyed your narrative. Thank you for sharing very personal experiences and drawing back the curtains on a way of life that many might think might not exist in the USA. I believe others around the world will enjoy reading your narrative and will connect to it in very personal ways. I would like to add the comment that you not only shared your technology, but your time, friendship, generosity and professional skills -- all to advancing the well-being of others.Now that's a connection! Thank you for it.
In solidarity,

Y's picture

Thank you, Susa, for your

Thank you, Susa, for your affirmation.

Blessings to you.


cassie_levy's picture

Thanks for sharing this! I

Thanks for sharing this! I too live in a big city and forget that the luxuries we afford are not always as accessible to others as we might think. Keep up the good work!

Y's picture

Thank you so much, Cassie.

Thank you so much, Cassie.




Dear Y i;m so enjoyed about your narrative thankx so much for your good will by telling true story like that and sharing your experience and telling life in your area about Appalachians people; my dear i understand you about doing that work without electricity;and your source of light was kerosene lamp even if it was hard but it was very important because it was make you to be with access of technology then like you are write;publisher;and fundrainser please continue we are with you we are interested with your work or your activitie even if in USA many people thinking that all country have connection to the internet as i know it can be some area which can be exceptional for the people who live in rural area ;in their area there is no connection because of no electricity so in that situation is not easy to get connection as you zas living in cherokee national forest you was living in my dear i like your mum with chiken and cooker so continue to help your mum and write about her she is doing good work ok good luck


Y's picture

Thank you for your

Thank you for your encouragement, Masoso.


Kit's picture

Mamie, Y, and Jack

Thank you, Y, for sharing the stories of how access to technology made the lives and gifts of Mamie and Jack more visible, and at the same time, made your life more challenging as you struggled with less access after the move to Coker Creek. Your journal post illuminates the mixed blessings of the internet as well as the differences in our expectations regarding connectivity, which in part, arise from where and how we live. I am sensing that there is a considerable amount of adjusting and adapting taking place in Coker Creek. Some are becoming used to the marvelous portal that has thrown open the world, while others, such as yourself, are dealing with issues of less immediate connectivity. Thank you, for sharing these important stories.

In kindness to all of you in Coker Creek,

Y's picture

Thank you, Kit, for your

Thank you, Kit, for your affirmation.

I am honored by the people of Coker Creek that they have allowed me into their lives, and have actually allowed me to assist them in their efforts to fulfill their dreams. It is even more amazing that they have trusted me to share their stories. I am blessed beyond belief.


Kit's picture

Back to you!

It seems like they, the people of Coker Creek, are sharing their gifts with you and you are sharing yours with them. How lovely!

Y's picture

Yes it is lovely. I hope to

Yes it is lovely. I hope to spend some time with them soon.


Julie.Desai's picture

Interesting & very surprising

Being part of a developing country, we always believe that the basic facilities like internet has to be available through out United States of America. I was in fact so surprised at reading this as I never thought that these would be the challenges faced at least by Americans.

I am so happy and thankful to you for sharing this brilliant piece about the technology empowerment in that part of the world as if it is almost unthinkable. After I started reading this piece I felt as if I was reading about some country in remote part of the world. My best wishes to people of Appalachian hamlet of Coker Creek, Tennessee and your wonderful work sharing it with the rest of the world. After reading this somehow the internet problems faced by us seem too small.

Good luck with your new book and best wishes to Jack & Mountain mama

Y's picture

Thank you so very much,

Thank you so very much, Julie. I will pass your best wishes on to Jack and Mountain Mama Mamie.


aimeeknight's picture

Y, You’re a wonderful

You’re a wonderful storyteller. I enjoyed getting to know Mountain Mama and Jack, through their struggles and triumphs. Your story always brings light to an important issue, that even here in the US there are technological obstacles.
I look forward to reading more of your posts.

"One shoe can change a life" ~ Cinderella

Y's picture

Thank you so much, Aimee. You

Thank you so much, Aimee. You can read the blog based on the people and place of Coker Creek, TN at

I also have two books published that are collections of these blog posts.

I look forward to hearing from you again.


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