The Old-Time Herald Volume 10, Number 11

Feature
Old-Time Music from Lick Creek, Virginia: Hick and Sue Edmonds
By Shay Garriock

In the spring of 1986, my fiddle instructor Mac Traynham invited me to go visit some “old-timers.”  I was a student then in Dublin, Virginia, and had been playing fiddle for about a year. Being a Virginia native and newly enthralled with old-time fiddling from my home state, I was excited?\no, overjoyed—that I was going to experience, first-hand, the roots of old- time music. It was a sunny Saturday morning when Mac picked me up in Radford in his dingy, sunburnt Subaru wagon, and we headed to Smyth County, Virginia, listening to cassette tapes of the Hilltoppers, Ivan Weddle, and Uncle Norm Edmonds all the way, I’m sure.

Hick and Sue Edmonds photo by Shay Garriok

Interviews and music from Hick and Sue Edmonds
Download this MP3 (4.3mb zip)

About an hour later we had crossed two primary ridges, leaving New River Valley, crossing Walker Mountain into Rich Valley. While gazing in admiration about the open landscape, we headed south on Route 42, a winding, minuscule road that traverses the valley. The verdant countryside along this road is beautiful, yet foreign looking, with its copious wind-swept fields grazed flat, sloping up to distant, hazy ridge tops; its unnaturally straight, yet craggy ridges stretching to infinity; and decrepit, yet picturesque old homes and barns, icons of an ancient and mysterious Appalachia. The valley is very remote, the active dwellings hugging the road as though protecting them from something unknown. What I didn’t realize then, but do now, is that there is connection, an intangible tie between the ancient, rough-hewn mountain landscape of that valley and the music that I was learning about.

After what seemed to me a very long time and many miles, we turned off Route 42 and headed north along a little trout stream called Lick Creek. We went about a mile and a half down the narrow road, which got even narrower and turned to dirt. I wondered where we were going, but we soon arrived at the aged homeplace of Beverly and Mildred Thompson. We had dropped in unannounced, and they weren’t sure who we were, so they were a little suspicious at first.  But when they recognized Mac and understood why we had come, they welcomed us eagerly, and we talked and played music (I mostly danced) on their porch for hours. Beverly and Mildred’s home lacked all modern conveniences; in every way they were remnant of yesterday’s mountaineer folk. Yes, this is what mountain music must have sounded like long ago…and here’s proof! Visiting them was like stepping back in time and then back out again.

From there we went back down the road to see Hick and Sue Edmonds, whose home we had passed earlier. Though Hick and Sue now live in a new home, the homeplace that Hick’s father built, and where Hick grew up, is still bravely standing just 200 feet away. As had Beverly and Mildred, Hick and Sue welcomed us into their home, then asked questions, caught Mac up on the latest news, and even fed us. After lunch and settling down in the living room by the wood stove, Sue said, as she always does, “Well, get out your music!” Now, for the second time in one day, I was about to experience something that has been part of my life ever since:  old-time music from Lick Creek. It was like finally someone had told me a long-held secret, one that I had wanted to be told all my life. And it was good!

 

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