A Smoky Mountain Boyhood: Memories, Musings, and More by Jim Casada
University of Tennessee Press, 2020; 6×9 inches, paperback; ISBN 978-1621906094
Cozy up on your comfy sofa, turn off the TV, settle in, and get ready to immerse yourself in this masterfully written book reflecting the days when time moved slowly and life was centered around memorable mountain traditions and living a sustainable lifestyle. Jim Casada brings to life the remembrances, folklore, and never-ending adventures he experienced living in the southern Appalachians. His magical boyhood journey through the majestic Smoky Mountains will take you down dusty country roads, along babbling brooks full of speckled trout, and hikes on backwoods trails to lush mountain forests brimming with wildflowers, dogwoods, rabbits, squirrels, and songbirds.
Jim shares his adventures during his growing-up days as a young boy and beyond through his college days, as he prepares for an incredible future as a professor of history at Winthrop University, a prolific outdoor writer, and conservationist. He also recounts downright hilarious shenanigans, capers, and pranks he shared with his college friends, born out of attending college when there was only one television with three channels on campus. These hijinks set the bar for future generations of college kids—and yes, they included panty raids!
Along with a colorful cast of friends and relatives, Jim brings to life tales, memories, and experiences that will make you feel like part of the family. You can almost smell the apple pie cooling on his mother’s windowsill and taste the sweet tea and fresh lemonade at their annual gatherings. I particularly loved reading about Jim’s pleasant memories of his home life, especially the amazing meals prepared by his mother’s loving hands, and the important life skills he learned from his father and his Grandpa Joe.
If you grew up in the country, you will surely feel right at home reading this book as you recall your very own experiences that parallel Jim’s adventures and the innocence that simple country living offers. I could imagine the snickering of the country folk when the city slickers showed up with their eyes wide with wonder with even the most mundane moments that make up mountain living. What the author brilliantly nails is that boredom fosters imagination, creativity, and happiness so much more than modern life, filled with technology and the distractions that come along with it.
There is something for everyone to enjoy in this book. I love the way the book is divided into four main sections covering Holiday Tales & Traditions, Seasons of the Smokies, Tools, Toys, and Boyhood Treasures, and Precious Memories, where Jim puts you through a challenge to see how many of nearly 100 experiences he has listed growing up in the mountains you have also experienced. He titled this Chapter, “Have you Ever?” These experiences include milking a cow, churning butter, drinking water from a mountain spring, participating in a cakewalk, gathering grapes for jelly, skating on leather-bottom shoes on a frozen pond, and smoking rabbit tobacco, just to name a few. I carefully checked the experiences I had and scored a 32, but I beamed knowing that I had a pretty good list of my own from my experiences growing up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania.
Tempered with a longing look backward, Jim’s recollections of the Smoky Mountain way of life stir a sense of nostalgia in those who read his memoir. Surely, like a time capsule, or a vintage black and white photo, these olden days of mountain living will long be remembered, thanks to this exceptional book.
Looking for a wonderful gift for someone special on your Christmas list? I highly recommend this book! Jim will gladly sign and inscribe your copy.
The book is $29.95 + $5.00 shipping.
Jim Casada Outdoors, 1250 Yorkdale Drive, Rock Hill, SC 29730-7638 USA