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Report from the Haggard Smoky Mtn. Picnic

August 2, 2009

The annual, Haggard family, Smoky Mtn. picnic, in Cades Cove,  proved to be a success.  Though many of the family members couldn’t attend this year, because SOMEONE didn’t plan soon enough, those who were able to come had a fantastic time.

My mother’s maiden name was Haggard.  It has been a tradition for decades to have this picnic with Mother’s sisters, and all of their children (me and my cousins).  There are only two sisters living, Aunt Nina and Aunt Wanda.  We enjoyed the company of Aunt Wanda this year, but Aunt Nina couldn’t make it. 

I could go on and on about how much fun we had, but you can watch the videos and see for yourself.  There are a couple of references on it to inside stories; “the golden hammer”, and “Sonny, do you have change for a dime.”  I will have to give considerable thought, and maybe a little prayer, as to when and where to share those stories.

We missed the rest of our family, but we will see you  next year.  OH!  For the most part, everyone obeyed the rules for the picnic, and nobody complained about eating dead chicken.

Donna and Sonny portrayed Sonny’s favorite joke:

A little of the natural beauty of the Smokies, and I’m not talking about the “sleeping beauties”!

Something else to know about the Haggard family, is that once you attend one of our events, you become part of the family, so make plans to join us next year!


Laugh Like There’s No Tomorrow

July 12, 2009

On top of old Smoky is Newfound Gap.  From this lookout point, on US  Route 441,  you can see North Carolina and Tennessee.  Rte. 441 is the main highway through the Smokies.  From Dolly Parton’s hometown of Sevierville, TN to Cherokee, NC it is the only highway, and it is a long and winding one. Millions of people travel this road every year, as they enjoy the scenic beauty of The Great Smoky Mountains.

Newfound Gap in The Smokies Elevation 5,068 ft.

Newfound Gap in The Smokies Elevation 5,068 ft.

It was on this road that we were driving on the 4th of July weekend.  Sonny and Reva have bought a home in the foothills of the Smokies, and Chuck and I  had been down there helping them clean up and fix up. Since Nene lives in Knoxville, it is only about a 20 minute drive for her.  She came over to go out to dinner with us.  It took us about thirty seconds to decide on where we wanted to go for dinner, so we hopped into Nene’s Lincoln and headed over the mountain.

You need to understand that my brother, Sonny, doesn’t have a lick of sense when we get together.  Reva says he changes into a different creature when he is with his sisters.  Reva was sitting shot gun and Nene was driving.  Sonny and Chuck flanked each side of me in the back seat.  Why do I have to always be the one to sit on the hump?  Because, my brother and I must sit together, otherwise it is a boring trip, and he pouts.

Reva and Nene had water or Pepsi, or some drink they were sipping on .  I was thirsty.  We had been on the road about five minutes:

Pam: “I’m thristy.”

Sonny: “Me, too.  At least SOME of us have something to drink.”

Pam: “Yeah. Maybe they will give our poor, parched lips a sip.”

I needed water!

I needed water!

Sonny: “Or at least let us smell of it.”

Pam: “Do they think because I’m sitting on this hump that I’m some sort of camel?”

Sonny:  “They think you can store water in that hump.”

Pam:  “Well I’m not walking a mile for a camel.”   “Look!  Is that an oasis up ahead, or just a mirage?”

Nene pulled in a market and Chuck bought us some water.

Five minutes down the road.

Pam: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

We laughed all the way over to Cherokee and all the way back. We ate dinner at Cherokee, loaded up Chief Fulla Bulla (Sonny), and headed back over the mountain.  The conversation went something like this:

Nene: “I’ve been on a Hershey’s with Almonds kick lately.”

Pam: “Well, sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t. You know, those Almonds can be a Joy.”

Sonny: “Hey Nene! When you get to Newfound Gap, pull over so we can get out and look at the Stars. pause  “Maybe we can get a Mars bar, and sit back and Snicker.”

Pam: “And, look at the Milky Way.”

Sonny: “Nene, you didn’t stop and let us look at the stars!”

Pam: “No, you didn’t.  The 3 Musketeers back here wanted to stop and look at the stars.”


Pam: “Would somebody hand me some of those M&M’s?  And, don’t let Nene have any.  She has Butterfingers.”


Pam: “I’m thirsty.  I need a drink from my Reese’s Cup.”

Sonny: “Someone’s had too much Laffy Taffy.”

Chuck: “We ought to Cluster up and go to the parade in Gatlinburg.”

Long pause

Sonny: “Dr. Who will probably be there.”

Pam: “Yeah, and Dr. Enuf.”                          

Dr. Enuf

Dr. Enuf

Chuck: “And, Dr. Pepper.”

Pam: “I haven’t seen him since he was Nehi.”  pause  “Didn’t he use to date Grapette?”

Reva: “I know he had a Crush on her.”

Pam: “He was a little Sprite of a thing, best I remember.”

Chuck: ” Didn’t he have a cousin named RC?”

Nene: “Maybe we can get seats in the Upper 10.”

Pam: “Or 7 Up from there.”

Sonny: “Little Baby Ruth will probably be there.”

Reva: “And Peppermint Patty.”           

Little Baby Ruth

Little Baby Ruth

Pam: “Along with her Sugar Babies, and their Sugar Daddy’s.”


Pam: “Sonny, would you and Chuck stop playing “lean” around these curves?  I’m getting in a Crunch back here, sitting in the middle.”

Sonny: “You all have Zero sense!”

Pam: “Yeah, we all sound like we’re on Coke.”  pause  “I hear it’s Dry in Canada this time of year.”

Nene: “Would you all hush!  I’m trying to drive through this Sierra Mist.”

This week I get an e-mail from Nene:

“I found out that Suz was at the parade in Gatlinburg over the weekend.  Guess Baby Ruth was there after all.  Isn’t that hilarious?” I replied, “Was she with Mr. Pibb?  He was always Mother’s favorite!”

The Haggard Sisters

June 18, 2009

I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton, but I must agree with what she said about  “It takes a village to raise a child”.  I’ve come to realize the truth to this statement as I have reflected on all the people in my life who helped to raise me.  My parents, of course, but so many more people impacted my life, and helped to shape and develop my personality, spirituality, goals and dreams, and all other aspects of my life. 

Through this blog, I am chronicling my life story.  I have mentioned my parents, grandparents, siblings, a couple of my aunts, and a high school music teacher.  A few weeks ago, my sweet Aunt Mable passed away.  She was 92.  She was my mother’s sister.  My mother and my Aunt Margaret preceded her in death.  You might remember Aunt Mable and Aunt Margaret from a previous blog post.  They were pranksters!  They are  in the picture below.

Seated -A. Margaret, Standing, L to R A. Mable, A. Wanda, A. Nina

Seated -A. Margaret, Standing, L to R A. Mable, A. Wanda, A. Nina

My aunts lived full lives.  They were fun people!  I want to be a fun person. 

I spent a lot of time with my maternal aunts, and my cousins.  We lived within a few miles of each other, so we were at each others houses often. 

Like Mother, Aunt Mable was an extraordinary cook.  She was the supervisor and head cook for a technological college in Knoxville for many years.  You talk about some good eating!  A family get-together, starring the prize winning dishes, cooked by my mother and aunts, was enviable.  I say prize winning, because they competed at the Tennessee Valley A & I Fair, and took home many blue ribbons for their baking.

Aunt Margaret was quite the seamstress.  She could sew anything!  And, she could do it without a pattern to follow.  She taught me a number of short cuts when I was learning to sew; things like how to sew in sleeves.  This tip saved me many hours of time.  She encouraged me in my sewing, and complimented me on a job well done.

Aunt Mable let me hang out with her as a teenager.  Her son, Phil, was a close friend, and we double-dated.  Mother and Daddy allowed me, on occasion, to go to Sunday evening services with Phil and Aunt Mable.  There may have been an ulterior motive in my wanting to go, since my boyfriend also went to that church.  On the way home, we would sing those old hymns we had sung in church.

Anytime any of us got together there was music, or singing, involved.  I particularly remember one incident with Aunt Mable.  Her daughter, Betty Lou, my sister Nene, my Aunt Wanda, and me in the car.  I don’t remember where we were going, but we started singing.  I unashamedly say that we harmonized amazingly as we sang “Country Roads, Take Me Home”, and a gamut of other songs.  It’s funny how a seemingly insignificant moment can create a memory that lasts a lifetime.

My Aunt Nina is one of the most unique individuals I have ever known.  She took great care of herself, long before exercise was a household word.  She could roller skate.  I was awed that she could skate backwards.  She swam and walked, to add to her physical regimen.  I love her laugh!  It’s contagious.   She was an encourager to me, too.  I was 15 years old, when she came over to the house one day.  I was sitting at the sewing machine.  She came over to look at what I was making.  “Pamela, you’re going to save some man a lot of money one day.”   she admired.  Her words echoed in my mind as I sewed clothes for my three daughters, and as I made various items for gift shops.  That one sentence gave me confidence in my sewing, a skill I was able to use professionally.

Aunt Wanda is the youngest of the sisters.  A career woman, she had a lot of wisdom to impart to my young, impressionable mind.  I look more like her than any of my other aunts.  She calls us twins.  I have many memories with my Aunt Wanda, but one that really stuck was when my husband was in Vietnam.  I was only 19 years old at the time.  All my friends were still dating; going out on the weekends.  I was lonely.   I had moved back home with my parents while my husband was gone to war.  One night, they invited Aunt Wanda to spend the night.  She loved being at our house as much as we enjoyed having her.  She slept with me that night.  We talked and laughed into the night.  She told me that she felt sorry for me, because I was so young ,and I was going through missing my husband. (We had our first anniversary while he was away.)  The tears started to flow from my eyes.  She was a strong comfort for me that night, and I’ve never told her that. 

Why am I telling you all of this?  It’s because they were mentors to me.  It’s because they believed in me, enabling me to believe in myself.  It’s because we should be aware of the kind of impact we are having on the lives of those around us.   

Are we creating memories, or are we simply existing?  Is our impact positive or negative?  What will be remembered about us, after we are gone? 

From my aunts I learned that:

1. Extended family is an important part of that village that raises us.

2. Encouraging words give hope.

3. If you don’t want to laugh, don’t hang around with the Haggard sisters.

Love Lifted Me

March 4, 2009


We had a bookcase in our bedroom that held not only books, but our games, crayons and coloring books, and an assortment of other toys.    The old, white bookcase was homemade, like most everything else we had.  I was six years old and Nene was eight.  Our ages are relevant to the story. 

As I was looking on the shelf for something to play with, I found a small sheet of white paper.  It was Nene’s “Prayer List”.  This list included people that Nene was praying for, for various reasons.  I saw my name on that list and became very upset.  I went running to her, “Why is MY name on your prayer list?” I demanded.  “Because you aren’t saved.”  was her troubling reply.  “I am too saved!  I go to church just like you do, and I love Jesus.”  I was inconsolable.

Tears blinding my eyes, I ran through the swinging screen door to the back yard, banging the rickety door behind me.  Mother was sitting in the metal lawn chair resting.  “Mother!  Nene said I’m not saved.”  I went running to her and desperately poured out my heart.  My tears fell on Mother’s apron and mixed among the tell-tale stains of suppertime.  She gently pulled me onto her lap and into her arms.

“Well, honey, you aren’t saved.”  was her answer to my agony.  “But, I love Jesus, and I go to church every Sunday!”  I exclaimed.  “I know you do, but going to church doesn’t make us a Christian.”  she smoothed my hair with her hand.  “What do you mean?”  I wanted to know more.

In the Bible, John 3:16 tells us that “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him might be saved.”  she continued.  Romans 3:23 tells us “that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  “We must each one make the choice to believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and ask him to forgive us of our sins.”  I was beginning to understand.  “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” (Romans 10: 9-10) she concluded.

Childlike faith erupted from my six year old soul.  “I want to be saved!”  I was firm in my decision.  Mother said that I needed to tell that to Jesus, so I bowed my head and prayed to receive Christ into my heart.  It so happened that we were having a revival meeting that week at our church.  I couldn’t wait for the invitation to come forward.  I practically ran down to the front to tell the pastor that I had accepted Christ.  Mother later told me that she was concerned that I knew what I was doing, due to my young age.  “When we started to sing the hymn, Whosoever Will May Come, I felt like God was telling me it was okay.”  Mother affirmed me.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this with you at this particular time, but I felt it a most important piece of the puzzle that I call my life.

I learned from this experience:

1. That my sister loved me enough to pray for me.

2. That Christ loved me enough to die for me.

3. That He loves you and wants you for himself, too.

Saturday Morning Hair Salon

February 14, 2009

The Knox County Baptist Mission was supported by area churches, and primarily First Baptist Church, in Knoxville, Tennessee, where we were members.  Daddy had been called to be the pastor for the mission.  He and Mother wanted us to enjoy the advantages of being a part of a large church, so Suz and I went to the main church, while Mother and Dad were ministering at the mission.  Nene played the piano for their church services, but  joined us on Wednesday and Sunday nights at the main church, as did Mother and Daddy.  To leave Suz and I to our own devices, probably wasn’t the wisest decision, but that’s another story for another time.

Our parent’s work at the mission was hard, and often discouraging, but they persevered and had an impact on many people’s lives who passed through there.  They picked up children on the way to church, so our car was full every time we made the trip.  We didn’t have seat belts.  They hadn’t been invented yet.  We crammed as many people in the car as we possibly could, and then some.  It was a happy time.  The car was as full of laughter as it was people.  For these “underprivileged” children, it was quite probably the only lighthearted time of their young lives, to that point.  They faced such hardships with alcoholic parents and/or abusive parents, that they were hungry for attention and love.

On Saturdays we went to the mission to help get the women and children ready for church on Sunday.  Daddy cut hair.  Mother, Nene, Reva, and I washed and rolled hair.  We had two or three hair dryers that we brought along with us.  Do you remember the ones with the caps?  They had a hose from the cap to the motor.  The motor blew heat into the cap to dry the hair.  We taught them how to style their hair, how to apply make-up, and how to act like a lady.

Minstering to the physical needs of the people was vital.  It boosted their self-esteem.  They learned skills that would serve them well when they went  to apply for jobs.  We were doing something for them that would have a lasting impact.

I was fifteen years old at the time.  I had grown up learning to serve others.  It came naturally by the time I was fifteen.  The compassion that was taught to us by our parents’ example will never be forgotten.  I was thinking today how the past couple of generations haven’t had the privilege to observe or practice serving others.  I feel sorry for them.  They have missed so much, mainly the purpose of living!

Our parents taught us well how to look out for our brothers and sisters.  Not just the ones we had by birth, but the ones we met along the way.  For this I am thankful!


Daddy Cutting Hair


Mother Styling Hair

Pam Brushing Hair

Pam Brushing Hair

The Payne Family Christmas

January 1, 2009

We met on Friday night before Christmas at the newly renovated Tennessee Theater, in Knoxville.  The 1,649 seat theater is where we went as children to see movies.   It was thrilling to see that it had been refurbished to it’s original splendor.  It is as ornate as any New York City opera house, and just as beautiful, too.

The movie playing was “It’s a Wonderful Life”, starring Jimmy Stewart.  I dont’ think any of us had seen the movie in its entirety, so we all enjoyed it immensely. 

Before it began, the grand Wurlitzer organ was rolled up from the floor, and the organist began playing Christmas songs.  The audience joined in singing.  Tradionally, the last song of the mini-concert is “The Tennessee Waltz”.  The performer did not disappoint.  It was magnificent!

On Saturday, we sat down to a Payne family feast.  We felt so blessed to get to be together another year.  We cherish these times of laugher, food, and fellowship.

I just wanted to share with you some updated pictures from the event. 

Thank you for your loyal following of this blog.  It will soon be a book, with all of the blanks filled in.  I’ll keep you updated.

Happy New Year!

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January 1, 2009