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  11 Poor Valley Pilgrims July 31, 1927 July bore down like the devil’s thumb, thunderheads crouched on Clinch Mountain, Queen of the Meadow and Ironweed dozed in dusty ditches and fencerows, heat shimmers swam with swallowtails, and tiny white butterflies fanned at near-dry puddles on the rutted wagon road where Black-eyed Susans gave sly winks to A. P. Carter’s folly. He packed a borrowed car with his wife, Baby Joe, Little Gladys, cousin Maybelle, and a borrowed guitar to seek fame in song. They fled Poor Valley for Jett Gap to ford the Holston River before rain trapped them in grease-slick mud, then twenty-six miles of gravel road hell, the car tires, in summer molt, shed twice on the way. The desperate pilgrims arrived jolted and rattled at sister Vergie’s door, a soggy squalling baby, his milk-wet mother, cranky sister, a pregnant guitar player, and a dreamer ready to score the soundtrack for a nation. ...

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