Outlaw Poet

The Mama Interviews Excerpt

i’ve started rough editing The Mama Interviews which will be the 3rd, and final, chapter in the paperback edition of MAMA: a poet’s heart in a kentucky girl. The Mama Interviews will run approximately 50 pages. Here’s the 1st 3 pages.
Thank you to Angela Wass for the transcription work!! and Thank you to Luke Kiesel for loaning me the recorder for the interviews and for hooking me up with Angela. hopefully there will be a cd or cassette of the recordings to go with the book. Mama and her sister Jo Carolyn sang several old time songs as part of my interviews. plus Mama and all us kids sang Will The Circle Be Unbroken at the end of the final interview.

(singing) ….How they linger ever near me, and the sacred past unfolds.
Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul.
In the stillness of the midnight, precious sacred scenes unfold.

RON: This is Ron Whitehead. Today is Wednesday, July the 16th, 2014. I’m in Beaver Dam, Kentucky, visiting Mama. Mama and I are sitting at her kitchen table here looking at a banjo and a ukulele, and a lot of memorabilia, photos and recordings.

I drove down from Louisville today. I took the back road, the way we used to drive when we traveled from our farm outside of Centertown and drove up to visit Grandaddy and Mamaw in Valley View in Valley Station, Kentucky.
We drove up through Hartford and Dundee and Fordsville and Hardinsburg and Irvington to Tiptop, down Dixie Highway, down Muldraugh Hill until we landed in Valley Station, which for the longest time I thought was Louisville, all of Louisville.
I’m here to interview — to do an oral tradition conversation — have a conversation with my mother, with Mama for this — my new book and recording project, which is titled MAMA.
So the focus of this entire project is on my mother. And so let’s get the ball rolling.
Mama, will you please tell us –

MAMA: My dog has fleas…okay, Ron, let’s go.

RON: Mama, please tell everybody your full name and your date of birth.

MAMA: I was born Greta Render. And I was born May 23, ’32. And my mom, she loved the movie star Greta Garbo. So she named me after Greta Garbo, but she wanted to just say Greta because it didn’t sound — she didn’t want me to be exactly like — sound like Greta Garbo. So she named me Greta.
Anyway, I was born in Matanzas to a handsome couple, very talented musician and a writer. And, you know, my mom and dad could do anything.
And so what else do you want to know?

RON: You were born in Matanzas. Matanzas is outside of Centertown, towards the Green River. Centertown is a little community, population 323 now, but at one time it had up to 2,000 population.
And Matanzas is towards — what road is it on?

MAMA: That’s — you go toward — out of Centertown, you go toward — it’s called Big Rivers now, toward the Green River.

RON: Toward Green River, and Island and Livermore, McLean County. And the town is in Ohio County where Bluegrass music was birthed, where the Monroe brothers grew up.
And Mama, you were born in Matanzas at what, home? Were you born –

MAMA: It was in a little house close to my Grandmother Igleheart and my granddad. And Jo was born in the same house.
It was a — it was a little coal mining house. When the coal mines — some of the underground mines went out of business, and a lot of people bought those little homes, and they built onto them and fixed them up real nice.
Well, my mom — that’s how talented she was. She could decorate a house of any kind in a matter of a couple days. And it looked like — it went from nothing to like somebody had been living there for years.
And anyway, we wanted to move out of that little place where we were by our grandparents. So back then it wasn’t hard to move a little house. And my dad, well, he could figure out anything.
He got his friends, and they put that little house on a type of lowboy and a tractor and pulled it up the road, probably two miles, at least, or three, and parked it in our grandparents, Herman and Lola Bennett Render’s farm. Pappy gave Daddy part of his farm.
And it was close to the Montgomery Brothers, they were always so talented, and Marjorie, their sister.
Well, that was in the afternoon. And Daddy and Momma fixed that little house up real quick, and it looked like a home already.
One night. Then the next morning the Montgomery brothers and Marjorie told us about this:
They went to the mailbox. They lived just a few feet from where we had moved this house to. And they said they looked up the lane and saw a house with kids out front, and they said my goodness, when did that happen, what’s going on here.
And I can see them now with the smiling from ear to ear and telling about Dick Render moving his family up the road a piece. And we lived there for years until we moved to Centertown.

RON: Well, and the Montgomery Brothers, we will talk some more about them, they were special. When they smiled they all smiled together, they were all teeth.

MAMA: So wonderful to live by.

RON: Yeah, wonderful people, and incredible musicians and singers.
Okay. Now, tell us your parents’ names.

MAMA: Momma was — name was Louverine Igleheart, of course. And she met — I forget how she met Daddy. His name was Raymond Thomas Render.
Anyway, she was a cute little thing, and he was handsome. He was kind of Greek looking — I think that’s where we come from, anyway — dark complected.
And they got married, she was 16, and went to Rockport, Indiana, and married, where a lot of people went back in those days, and made them a home at Matanzas by my — well, we didn’t call that a home.
Our first home was really when we moved up there by the Montgomery Brothers on Pappy’s farm. That was our first real little home, because in Matanzas we were back and forth at our Grandparent Igleheart’s house. And then — anyway.

RON: Was that the same house Mammy and Granddaddy Igleheart — was that the same house that I used to visit when I was a little boy way down –

MAMA: No, no, no. Un-un. No. See, that was — no. That was — Daddy Charlie built that house that you remember.
He was — oh, he could — he was an artist in a way. He was a carver. He carved out a lot of things, and he — they built that little house, that’s the one you remember, and had the stone front, like a fence around the front yard, and the gate. You remember the gate.

RON: It was beautiful.

MAMA: It was just a cute little house. And he had a little barn, and he had one cow, and he had bees.
Oh, gosh. I remember him taking the honey out. And they were so — well, like most people back then, they had to save. Mammy was — she taught me to save.
She would — I would be at her house a lot. She had a little old sweet little kitchen and an iron stove. And I remember — one time I remember best of all where I learned how to save.
She would pour me half a cup of milk. Not like they do today, run things over. And she said if you want more, I will give it to you.
And so that’s where I learned how to save and be thrifty like she was.
And but I remember Daddy Charlie — a lot of people had to leave. They would go north. And Daddy Charlie, he went to work at the Ford plant in Michigan.
And he got to talk to Henry Ford. He learned to like Henry. Well, Daddy Charlie come home. He had another job to do back home.
He come home and he carved a cute little Model T out of wood, of course, and he sent that to Henry Ford. And Henry sent him a letter back saying how he loved it, and what a good wood carver he was and how talented he was.