29 January 2009

I'll be halfway to heaven with paradise waiting, just five miles away from wherever I am.

Donny and Paul Taylor's House, Sweeney Hollow, VA

I've known Donny and Paul most of my life. They make their livings with folk art, laurel branch carvings of men in overalls holding stringers of catfish or delicate birds or roosters and hens. They also make little houses/country stores similar to William Christenberry's work--not quite as detailed, but close. And I'm 99% sure they've never heard of William Christenberry, since they rarely venture beyond Sweeney hollow. They still get their water from a spring behind the house, and they usually have a family member travel into town to buy food, etc. The woman who sells their art drives to Sweeney hollow to pick it up, and brings them a check once it's sold.

I'm not sure if it's still there, but when I was a kid they had an tv antennae on a hill about a mile above the house. If they wanted to watch a different station, one of them had to hike the narrow path up the hill and turn the antennae. I suppose they knew which direction it needed to be pointed to pick up certain stations. My grandmother's place was close to their antennae, which is how I know them. My grandmother and I used to look for morels in the hollow behind their house, and sometimes we'd bring them some catfish after we'd been fishing. I was always fascinated by their carvings, and the old soda bottles they'd painted with their own designs. Although I was fascinated, at the time it kind of upset me that they had painted them. I also collected old bottles and I liked to leave them intact.

My grandmother died when I was 10, and I haven't been around Sweeney hollow much since then. A few weeks ago, since I was living in Fries, I decided to drive down to Donny and Paul's and talk to them, maybe buy a couple carvings. At different points, I've thought about attempting to make a documentary about their lives or at least document some things with photos, but they're very private, so I've been somewhat reluctant. On the day I took this photo, they didn't answer the door. I believe they were home, because there was smoke coming out of the chimney, and, as I mentioned before, they don't really leave home. I plan to get my aunt to go with to visit them soon, since they know her better. I hope to get some photos and stories, maybe a few morels if I visit later in the spring.


tema said...

By the looks of that house and your description, they sound pretty magical. Brought to mind Grey Gardens and some fairy tales. I'm intrigued ...

Valentine Massacre said...

Your love for all things Appalachia disturbs me, Mr. Burnette.