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Mitch Anderson Headshot

Larry Gibson, 1946-2012

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Larry, Ol' Boy.

I ain't never known a man quite like you. Hell, there may never have been a man quite like you. You're probably laughin 'bout now watching this here city boy from California trying out mountain talk, well that's 'bout right cause you laughed like the best of 'em.

Sure taught me how to laugh, laugh about myself, about troubles, about life. Ol' boy I sure did like the way you laughed though. It felt good, like everything was fixin' to be okay. Like we wasn't small. Like we was big. It sure does mean the world to see a man gone through so much pain, so much mean, so much ugly, find the strength to laugh happier than anyone else. Well goddammit, now I'm crying, got a whole river running through my eyes.

You used to cry, I remember. Good strong tears. Salt of the earth tears. The kind of tears that could move a mountain. Ohh, I'm sure you liked that one ol' boy -- move a mountain! -- damn right keeled over from laughing I bet. "Oh you're good, ain't seen that one coming." No ol' boy your tears moved the mountains within all of us. And damn when you saw those mountains move within us your eyes lit up like stars in the holler.

And your words -- your words! -- gathered fire and we all gathered around you...and you started up with stories, and you bit that front lip of yours, and you let silence reign in the night, and you went all quiet and soft, and you tilted your head, and you grit your teeth, and you picked up that earth with those hands of yours, and you talked about love for the mountains -- "My mother gave me birth, but this land gave me life" -- and your voice rose high up on the top of Kayford, and we could all tell that your blood kin buried at the cemetery could hear how tall you stood in that voice...well, I couldn't help it ol' boy...I just had to hear your voice again, so I called you on your phone -- that damn phone of yours that you couldn't seem to get to work right, carried it on your hip like a gun, well I called it to hear your voice, to hear those words of yours: We are the keepers of the mountains, love 'em or leave 'em, just don't destroy 'em, if you dare to be one, please call.

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Well, now I've got another river in my eyes. We know you ain't left those mountains, ol' boy. You're up on Kayford right now. Your with the bears and the bobcats, and those old hawks you love, and the oaks and the buckeye and the basswood...and you're walking up in those mountains with your overalls and your chest out...and you got your dog by your side, and I bet you still have your two way radio. You sure as hell wont hear 'bout no blasts anymore. Cause we ain't gettin' used to nothing here. We'll be mad. We'll hold that fire in us. You taught us well. We'll do you proud. We'll do the mountains proud. We'll love 'em. Ain't no chance in hell we're leavin 'em. You rest assured of that, Larry Gibson. You rest assured, we're all keepers of the mountains now.

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