Oconaluftee Visitor Center – Sam Reed with Gee

OVC - Sam Reed and Dan Payne

If you’ve been following my adventures at Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you may remember that two weeks ago, I met Gee Phillips, a volunteer who works at the Mountain Farm Museum in the fall.

I talked to Gee again this Monday as she quilted and told me about making cornbread. But something was bothering me. There’s a lot of heavy lifting on a farm, even in the kitchen. How did it get done?

A bucket of water with a ladle laid on a side table. But how did it get there?

She wasn’t going to bring it in from the Oconaluftee River close by, the way it was done at the beginning of the 20th century. A barrel hides a pump situated on a sand pipe, a tubular cavity several feet deep filled with gravel and sand. This system prevents the water pipe from freezing in winter. The pipe is hooked up to the water supply at Oconaluftee Visitor Center nearby.

But how did it get there? I certainly would not volunteer to carry such a heavy load. And then I met Sam Reed.

OVC - Sam ReedSam, a local volunteer and retired construction worker, helps Gee.

He now sports a long beard and wears blue overalls and looks the part of a farmer. He’s on the farm the same days as Gee and does whatever needs doing. He also is around so she’s not by herself on the farm.

Sam brings water to the kitchen and builds a fire. Even in the old days, great-grandmothers, like Gee, depended on others to deal with the heavy lifting. When he’s not helping Gee, Sam works on farm chores. Above, he’s with Dan, helping to cut the sorghum heads.

Working at Oconaluftee Visitor Center one day a week is like unraveling a large ball of thread or putting together a large, complicated puzzle. I learn something and then have some questions which sometimes get answered the next week.

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