The thread that runs so true

If you’re interested in knowing what’s going on in W-Hollow and in central Greenup County’s World of Jesse Stuart, make plans to attend the free Jesse Stuart Weekend set for Friday and Saturday, Sept. 22-23, in the lodge at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park.

You’ll want to put on your hiking shoes for a Friday afternoon event when Bud Vanzant will lead a trek up along Seaton Ridge to Old Opp’s Cabin, the setting for Stuart’s novel, “The Good Spirit of Laurel Ridge.”

The hike through the center of the 714-acre Jesse Stuart Nature Preserve climbs a gently sloping trail to the top of the ridge.

Participants will meet Vanzant in the lodge at 1:30 for the five-mile journey by automobile into the hollow.

The events begin much earlier. Vanzant and James Shoup will meet Stuart fans at 9 that morning in the lodge for a tour of Jesse’s first secondary teaching experience at “Winston High School” in Warnock. They’ll also go by the site of the Taylor Home where Jesse boarded while teaching there.


Jesse’s experience there is told in his 330-page book, “The Thread That Runs So True,” his longest-lasting of nearly 60 books he authored during a 50-year writing career.

The Jesse Stuart Foundation reprinted the hardcover book in 2006. It will be one of a number of his books offered for sale in the lodge during the weekend, along with those of other authors published by the foundation.

Vanzant, of Tennessee, and Shoup, of Michigan, are both associate members of the foundation and both have impressive collections of Stuart works.

Friday night, at 7:30, Ron Cartee will be speaking on his reflections as a lifetime follower of Jesse’s career, including those as a McKell High School student while Stuart was principal there. Cartee recently donated, or loaned, his collection of nearly 60 first-edition Stuart books to the Greenup County Public Library.

The Thread has a forward written by Dr. James Gifford, the foundation’s ramrod, director and CEO, and an afterward by Dr. J.R. LeMaster of Baylor University. It also features a preface written by Jesse himself in 1958 in explaining why the book stayed so long in print.

The title comes from a game played by the students at recess:

“The needle’s eye that does supply, the thread that runs so true…”

The book also tells the story of Jesse’s very first teaching experience at the one-room “Lonesome Valley School.”

He was 17 at the time and had finished three years of high school. He passed a teacher’s exam and was given a second-class certificate to go teach the 35 or so rural students there, none of whom wore shoes to school, since it started during the summer months.

Guy Hawkins, a first-grader who was two years older than Jesse, hung around outside the school until all the students had gone home. Then he came in where Jesse was working on some papers at his desk. He told Jesse he was about to get the whipping of his life.

After trying to avoid the fight, Stuart waded into his attacker and moped the floor with him, pounding him with lefts and a right “strong enough to knock two men down.” Hawkins’ blood from his nose and mouth stained the pine wood board floor.

After that, Hawkins addressed Jesse as “Mr. Stuart.” He returned to school to take an immediate promotion to the second grade.

Surprisingly, news of the fight spreading through the farming community gained Jesse respect as a teacher. He taught the school six months, instilling in students not just the three Rs but in lessons and games that helped to develop their character.

Jesse, who was known for mixing a little fiction in with his facts in his published works, told me in a mid-1970s interview that the fight with Guy Hawkins happened just the way he told it.

The Jesse Stuart Weekend includes a 9 a.m. Saturday bus tour of W-Hollow, past the home of Jesse and Naomi Dean, where their only child, Jane, now lives. It will be led by David Palmore. Participants will meet him in the lodge at 8:45.

The event concludes at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when Jean Ritchie, the “Mother of Folk,” will perform on the dulcimer.

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Piatt Submitted Photo

By G. Sam Piatt

PDT Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.