American Mountain People / Confed flag

Previous Home Next

Confedby by Bruce Dale, © Nat Geo Mag

I was on my way to visit Vance Mosley, a friend of mine in Kentucky when I drove past this cabin on the with three men on the porch. I was already a couple hours late and Vance was going to introduce me to a moonshiner who had consented to let me photograph his still. There was a light rain falling and I was on a winding mountain road in Harlan County, Kentucky. I kept driving. I thought to myself, I'm late, it's raining, we'd never use the picture. I know of three photographers that were shot in this county...And I kept on driving.

Well, I went a few miles farther down the road and said to myself__ if I don't at least try, I'll be sorry the rest of my life. So, I turned around and went back. I couldn't park in their yard because junked cars and parts were blocking the driveway. I parked about 100 yards down the road. I grabbed a camera, walked back toward their house and announced myself as I walked up their drive, "Hi there!"

They answered, "Howdy! Come on up__ have a beer."

So it goes__ they were some of the friendliest guys I met.

That was almost 25 years ago.

I passed through the area on the way to John Caldwell's funeral a couple years ago and stopped at the Post Office to see what happened to these men. The postmistress said "Well, if you shot it up on the mountain top, them's Browns boys."

"I shot it a long time ago," I explained.

"Don't matter. Them's still Brownses. There goes one of them now." as she pointed at a young 13 year old with a black eye. "Aint you a Browns boy?" she called him over.

"Yes Ma'm." he replied.

"Do you know these boys here?" the postmistress asked.

His eyes lit up and he almost shouted. "Yea, them's my uncles. They's all driving Cadillacs now." He explained they were all married, owned their own homes in nearby towns and drove coal trucks for the mines.