Fascinating Memoirs from Southerners

Look Unto the Hills: Stories of Growing Up in Rural East Tennessee

by Dennis L. Peterson

“Tell us a farm story, Daddy!” That was the almost nightly request that we kids had of our father when we were growing up in rural East Tennessee. Sometimes Daddy obliged, and we enjoyed a session of storytelling from his childhood. As I grew up, I amassed experiences for my own arsenal of tales, which I, in turn, told to my children. And so it goes, from one generation to the next. That’s how traditions and family values are preserved. They get handed down from one generation after another. Sometimes serious, sometimes hilarious, each of the stories in this volume carries with it valuable lessons about growing up, maturing, and living life. They teach important values such as a solid work ethic, the importance of education, the benefits of healthful play in the outdoors, and faith in God.

The stories are categorized under play, school, work, people, animals, and values, and they demonstrate the benefits of growing up in a rural setting, where work was the norm, education was a privilege, and faith was a necessity. They emphasize family as the central focus of life and community. And they underscore the importance of a sense of humor to life.

My Thoughts: This is a fine memoir written in the form of 51 essays, divided into seven sections: Farm Stories, Play, School, Work, People, Animals, and Values. Among the compelling stories is one about what wearing a “hideous sport coat” reveals about a man.

Dennis’s compelling 8-minute story from his memoir aired over Our American Stories, called “Nanny’s Hands.”

The first part of this two-part Mother’s Day post on Our American Stories is also from Dennis’s memoir, about his crafty mother. I especially enjoyed the part about the ugly sports coat!

Here’s his 10-minute story about “The Dangers and Joys of Having a ‘Make Do” Dad.”

Website for Dennis L. Peterson.


Coming Clean: Stories

by Betty Moffett

I am a born and bred Southerner successfully transplanted to the Midwest. Very early in my life I learned to love the stories I heard on my grandmother’s screen porch. Soon after, an intense love affair with ‘Black Beauty’ taught me the power of stories to transform and transport.

All my life, when someone says, Let me tell you a story, I have known I will soon learn more about that person than the most thorough recounting of historic detail could ever reveal and I will have more fun on the way.

I offer you these stories about what growing up meant to four different generations; about neighbors, horses, prejudice, sweethearts, students; about moving, marriage, grandchildren and dogs. I hope they remind you of your own stories. I wish I could hear them.

My Thoughts: What a mesmerizing collection of eclectic stories. Betty Moffett shares watchful insights, from her childhood to the elderly years of her father and favorite uncle. Among other vignettes, readers experience quirky friendships, angst of teaching college English, a celery fight during her teenage years, and a women who pierced her own ears. “Coming Clean” is a fascinating interlude, thoughtful and amusing. A delight.

Betty admits that these stories are all based on memories, but that she’s embellished them.


  1. Thank you (again!), Joy, for the plug. Storytelling–mine, Betty’s, YOURS, and others’–is critical for passing eternal values on to subsequent generations.

  2. I just listened to Dennis’s two stories and really enjoyed them. My mother also sewed our clothes to save money–and she made my dad an ugly sportcoat, which he wore when he wasn’t wearing his clerics. It was blue and white houndstooth polyester doubleknit. *shudder*

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