Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Early Days (Chapter 1)

I am beginning a new blog series entitled, "The Early Days." This work was originally published in 2006, as a requirement for my undergrad degree at Antioch University McGregor. I am offering this to my readers because I believe in order to understand where we are going, we must understand where we have been. So, if you are a follower, it is my hope that sharing with you my roots will give you some insight as to what has made me the man I am, today.

I am Michael David Gibson. This is the story of my early childhood. It is a discovery of who I was. It is a search for the influences that have made me the man I am today. What influence did my family have on me? What influence did society have on me? What influence did human nature have on me?

A Star is Born! :)

I was born Wednesday, September 30, 1959, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. My parents were Roscoe Gibson, Jr. and Lorene Gibson. I was my father’s first and only child. My mother had another child by a previous marriage: my half-brother and only sibling, Charles Denny Cannon. I lovingly called my big brother “Brother” until I was in my teens and forced myself to break the habit. Funny to reflect, I have never really known what to call him since then: Chuck or Denny. Perhaps he should still be just “Brother.”

Dad and Mom - 1958

As I grew, I realized that my parents were a little older than the parents of most of my friends. Dad was thirty years old when I was born. And, mom was thirty-one. They both had been married before they met. And, they had both been victims of painful divorces.

Mom and dad were born and raised in Appalachia. My dad was born in a coal mining camp in Anthras, Tennessee. Anthras is a small community nestled in the mountains about fourteen miles east of Jellico, near the Tennessee and Kentucky state border. My grandpa Gibson was an electrician in the coal mines. I have heard dad talk about his own work in the coal mines when he was a young man. One day he was in the mine eating lunch. He momentarily got up from the rock upon which he was sitting, leaving his lunch pail behind. And, lo and behold, as soon as he got up, a huge boulder fell from the roof and landed right where he had been sitting. When he turned around and saw his lunch pail crushed under the rock, he left the mines - never to return. On his way out, he met grandpa at the entrance. Grandpa asked him where he was going. Dad said, “I’m leaving and I won’t be back.” Grandpa simply replied, “Good.”

Great Grandparents Daniels

Mom was born and raised in Sparta, Tennessee. Sparta can be found in the Cumberland Mountains Basin. My grandparents, Dillard and Lizzie Ann Rice, were sharecroppers. Mom has shown me several homesteads where they lived and raised tobacco. It is safe to say that mom’s upbringing was of a poorer economy than that of dad’s. To pass the time, she and her siblings learned to play the guitar and sing. The musical influence in their lives came through mom’s maternal grandmother, Grandma Daniels. Grandma Daniels was a circuit music teacher. She traveled to the neighboring communities around Sparta and White County and taught music. Mom always said that Grandma Daniels looked like, acted like and had the same fire as the character “Granny” on the Beverly Hillbillies.

The roots of my Appalachian heritage are strong roots. My earliest memories include being in the back seat of our 1953 Ford traversing winding country roads traveling from Dayton to Tennessee. Those earliest trips in my life were made before the interstate system was complete. A memorable highlight of those long drives was being able to stop and eat at a restaurant chain called Jerry’s. It was very similar to the Big Boy chain. I remember always getting a coloring sheet with crayons while I waited for my food.

Donna, Grandparents Rice & Me

Another fond memory of mine was traveling to my maternal grandparents’ house in Sparta. In their early retirement, Grandma and Grandpa Rice had bought a small house in town. In my earliest memories, they did not have an indoor bathroom. I remember being taken down “the path” to the outhouse. Man, did it ever stink in there! Grandma and grandpa had a five-room house. The only heat in that house in the wintertime was an old coal stove. The living room, where the stove set, got unbelievably hot. Then, you would go to another room and freeze. Whenever I would go to bed at Grandma Rice’s house, I would crawl under a stack of at least five homemade patchwork quilts; along with a cousin, or two.

Sunset Rock, Sparta, TN

I have vivid memories of the visits to Sparta. I can remember driving past Sunset Rock. Sunset Rock is located five miles east of Sparta. The bluff-line stands 75 feet above the highway and on a clear day you can see Sparta nestled in the valley below. Momma told me about being out in an old crank-style pick-up truck with her boyfriend and her little brother, Willard. Unfortunately, they had a minor wreck at Sunset Rock. And for many months after that, mom’s little brother bribed her, threatening to tell grandpa about that accident.

Stay tuned for Chapter Two!


  1. Uncle Mike, you are truly blessed when it comes to so many things. I enjoyed this as it brought back many memories for me and to learn even more is wonderful. Look forward to more about our family history in your future blogs. HUGS

  2. Thanks Sherry! I'm glad you are enjoying it. ILU!