Tag Archives: Tazewell County

Day 132: Kiran Bhatraju, author of Mud Creek Medicine

Photo: Kiran Bhatraju

Photo: Kiran Bhatraju

I met Kiran at an event last October here in Washington, D.C. He’s the co-founder of Arcadia Power, a business and residential utility provider that invests in clean energy. In addition to his entrepreneurial ventures, I learned that he had authored a book about a healthcare pioneer from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky where he grew up. He mentioned a place called Greasy Creek – which was not unfamiliar to my ears. My mother, who grew up in the coal-mining hills of Virginia’s panhandle, used to talk about Greasy Creek. I thought for a moment that it was the same place, but I now know that it’s not.

Kiran told me about how a woman named Eula Hall overcame tremendous challenges to establish a much-needed health clinic in the area. He talked of the miners, the poverty and the isolation from the rest of the country. And while he was talking about Kentucky and not Virginia, the land and the people sounded the same.

Eula married McKinley Hall pictured here. There's something about this image of him that reminds me of my family from Richlands. Photo: Mud Creek Medicine

Eula married McKinley Hall pictured here. There’s something about this image of him that reminds me of my family from Richlands. Photo: Mud Creek Medicine

I read Mud Creek Medicine and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you are interested in that part of the country, have family from there or have just driven through, you will identify with Eula’s story. And if you don’t have a connection to Appalachia, all the more reason you should read it. The story that Kiran shares is quintessential to a part of America that seldom finds its way into the minds of people in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.


Day 132-2


The stack of books on my “to read” shelf was reduced by one recently. I finished reading Mud Creek Medicine – a book that touched me profoundly.

You see, my mother grew up in Richlands, VA – a sleepy Appalachia coal-mining town less than 90 miles southeast of Mud Creek on route 460. Through your words, you brought life a familiar yet foreign place that I’ve heard about all my life. One of six children, my mother grew up the daughter of a coal-miner. Her relatives were a cast of colorful characters right out of Mud Creek Medicine who lived “down in the hollers”, “around the bend” or “over the bluff” in Tazewell County. I grew up listening to stories of my mother’s aunts Carmie and Okie and uncles Ralph, Byrd, Ulys, Trinkle, Otis and many others. And of course my grandparents Flora Belle and Gillis. The photographs of McKinley on page 185 remind me of photographs of some of the men I mentioned above – a few of which were no-good drunks like McKinley.

Day 132Eula’s story and the struggles of Appalachia are important stories to be told – they go to the quick of our nation. Eula’s stubborn commitment to make a difference in a time and a place where women weren’t welcomed to do such a thing is inspiring. Thank you for telling her story so beautifully.

Reed Sandridge

P.S. I’d love to get together for coffee or a beer sometime, talk about the book and get you to sign my copy.

mud creek medicineMud Creek Medicine is available on Amazon.

Day 56: Aunt Patti

Mom (left) and Aunt Patti circa 1951 In Tazewell County, Virginia.

Mom and Aunt Patti circa 1951 In Tazewell County, Virginia.

My mother used to talk to her siblings regularly on the telephone. When I was a kid, I’d wake up on Saturday mornings to the sound of her laughter coming from the kitchen as she talked to one of them on the phone.

Mom was one of six children. She died in 2006 and she had a brother, Jack, who died in 1980. The remaining four live in Southwestern Virginia and Tennessee. I had planned to make a trip this weekend down to see all of them – but Winter Storm Remus had other plans for us so I’m having to postpone it until later this spring.

I called my Aunt Patti to check on the weather conditions there before deciding to postpone the trip and we ended up talking for almost an hour and a half. It was wonderful to catch up.


Dear Aunt Patti

Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed talking with you tonight. With email and Facebook – sometimes we forgo picking up the telephone (and actually dialing instead of texting!) because we feel that we know what is going on in a person’s life, we see all their status updates on social media so we think we’re up to date and don’t need to know more. Well, what that leaves out is knowing how the person is truly feeling, not just what they are broadcasting to the online world, hearing the joy or uncontrollable laughter…and the tremors of fear and pain that can be masked by lifeless letters typed on a screen.

The only person I really have long phone calls with anymore is Dad and occasionally Aunt Sue. Before Mom died Dad would always get on the phone – but he wasn’t much of one to chat on the phone back then. Things have changed. I think he’s lonely now and as a result is much more prone to longer conversations that go beyond, “Hey kiddo – everything ok with you?”

I’ve made a commitment to write more letters this year – Mom used to write me regularly. I miss it – I miss seeing her handwriting. He voice, southern accent and all, could be heard in every stroke of the pen. In addition to my letter-writing, I hope to call loved ones more often. I look forward to calling you and hearing your voice more often.

Thank you again for taking time to talk with me tonight. It made my day – hell it made my whole week! I’m sorry I won’t get down to see you this weekend – but anytime the National Weather Service names the storm that is coming through I’m betting it’s going to be a doozy! Stay warm and safe.