About Hill & Holler
Nothing Worse than a Stuck Up Hillbilly
I'm the product of a hill and a holler. My daddy was raised on a hill outside of Linefork and my mama's from a holler up in Turkey Creek. I hail from the Letcher/Harlan County line and was one of the last few classes to attend Cumberland High before everything went to consolidation. If you're from a small town you probably get what a big deal that was at the time and what it meant for the area. After high school, I did a couple years at community college and then, like so many other eastern Kentuckians, made the pilgrimage to good ole UK in Lexington. I was a smart kid, but I wasn't very bright when it came to life choices. Actually I was downright stupid. Chased the wrong boys, chased the wrong career, chased the wrong interests. I spent the better part of a decade making mistake after mistake. One of the biggest mistakes was regrettably distancing myself from my roots to try and fit in with everyone around me in the "big city.” I instantly lost my accent, my heritage, and pretty much the entirety of who I was for the better part of a decade. I spent 13 years away from eastern Kentucky until one day, home caught up with me.
KYforKY started up with their message of "Kentucky Kicks Ass". If you've met me, you know what a HUGE fan I am of those guys. I love their message, their uniqueness, their branding, and style. But the Kentucky they preached most often, the Kentucky I'd lived in for a decade with basketball and thoroughbreds, was different than the one that I knew in my core. The Kentucky I knew was a bit more unpolished. It was full of grit and faith. It had haunting mountain mist and hollers that stretched so deep the sun barely touched the ground. It was full of a rich, unique history with generations of invention and story and song. The Kentucky I knew was rural, wild, and definitely Appalachian.
Here in eastern Kentucky, we get a bad rap. I admit, we can be a little rough around the edges. All the unique and positive things we offer somehow take a backseat and there are times I get the feeling we're viewed as the black sheep of the KY family. Basketball, horses, and bourbon. That's the Kentucky that's all shiny and marketable; the Kentucky that is pristine and celebrated. I strongly stand by our Wildcats, our thoroughbreds, and our glorious limestone but in my opinion, it ain't so bad being the black sheep. Who likes shiny and perfect anyway?
On a Mission to Take Back Hillbilly
Now this hillbilly thing really riles me up. In an era of inclusion and tolerance, it's somehow still okay for big media to continually promote a stigma about our region that's not only hurtful but damaging to our people. To continue the assumption that our intelligence is linked to our accent. To focus on the stereotype that all our people are violent or ignorant. To concentrate on our flaws instead recognizing the strives made towards self-betterment. I'm frankly sick of it. You want to call me a hillbilly like it's a bad thing. Fine. I'll OWN that word. I am intelligent. I am driven. I am informed. I am tough. Hell yes I’m a hillbilly! I hope you are too!
For pretty much a decade I made one poor decision after another, but back in 2013, I finally made a pretty damn good one. I fell back in love with EKY. HARD. Started reading anything I could get my hands on about the area. Remembering stories from my youth and hearing tales from the old timers. I even moved back to my hometown. I also started making some pretty sweet tees celebrating that new found love and turns out y'all kinda liked them too! Six years later and I'm still going strong. I'm learning new things about our area everyday and I'm desperate to bring new life to some of these old traditions. Each item is still hand-printed by me, away from any semblance of a fancy commercial press or factory. This little passion project is turning into something special and I love that I can still call it handmade. One of the worst things anyone ever said to me was, "You can't make a living selling arts and crafts". The best part of my day is waking up and proving them wrong.