Raised in Altamahaw-Ossipee, North Carolina

By Seth Walker

Seth Walker


I was raised in rural North Carolina in a town called Altamahaw-Ossipee. Yes – hard to pronounce and hard to find.

My parents and another couple, Jim and Susan Walton, met at a Quaker retreat and made a plan to live communally in a log house built with their own hands.

Before they had time to think about it, two families had merged as one family of nine, and the logs were coming off the truck.

Willie Nelson records, UNC basketball, chicken coups and crops of corn were just some of the themes of the day back in the ’70s. Life was good on “Sweetwater” farm.

We were all swollen with pride to be a part of this beautiful place and situation. Twelve acres of land wrapped around all of us, along with a mysterious pond that flanked the south side of the house. Corn, tomatoes, watermelon, squash, green beans and many other crops flew out of the red dirt. Blackberry stained hands and buckets meant one of Susan’s cobblers would soon be on the way as well (I still need to get that damn recipe).

Big mossy rocks, tall Frisbee-catchin trees, a basketball goal and rolling yards of grass were my playground as a kid. My mind ran wild as did our pets.

My father would play frisbee or hoops with me ’til the sun went down. He would always make time for me, and I loved trying to beat him. There were also forts, race tracks, walking trails, imaginary football fields as well as players (I would tackle myself in the mud for an extra entertaining effect), poison ivy, black snakes that would scare you indoors, tree swings, a fire pit, a bee hive and a worm farm for God’s sake.

Our brand of country living had it all. Mom would cut my ‘then’ hair on the back porch after sweeping away the chicken shit land mines. The back porch was also a great place to listen to the rain throw down.

I really loved the greasy red tractor that lived down by the pond. As a kid, I would prop myself up in the torn seat, shifting the gears with purpose, imagining the roaring engine and the earth tumbling below the giant tires. When Jim would
take me on the occasional plow ride, it was literally a dream come true. I remember the smell of the exhaust and the cigarette smoke from his shirt. Jim was a gem.

There was a long dining table where a meal was served pretty much on a nightly basis – usually something fresh from our garden with some meat or fish. The handmade stained glass light shade hung over us as we thanked our lucky stars in a silent blessing. I just remember feeling the love and laughter – two of favorite my things besides music.

In the evenings my Mom and Dad would teach my sister and me violin and cello. I reluctantly sawed at the cello, waiting for the future to hand me a guitar and microphone. These were great lessons learned, and I am very thankful that music was instilled in me from such an early age.

Out in rural Guilford County, the nights were actually dark – no dull glow from street lights. The only thing shining were the stars. Late at night from my room, I could hear the record player and mumbling conversation coming from the downstairs den. I wished I was a grown up.

The punctual roosters would remind us of a new day, and we would live the dream all over again. If only I could rewind and get a whiff of that blackberry cobbler just one more time.

This post was submitted by Seth Walker.

4 thoughts on “Raised in Altamahaw-Ossipee, North Carolina

  1. Seth

    I have great memories of my family’s life in A-O from 1947-55. We lived in the second house from the Bur-Mill office in Ossipee where my dad worked–both since torn down.

    I remember fresh vegetables from the garden, blackberry cobbler, Brunswick stew suppers at the A-O school, and riding my bike everywhere as I played with kids in the neighborhood. As an 11-year old, it was hard to leave my friends there when we moved to Virginia.

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