Coffee with Loyal

“Make sure to fix yourself some coffee. And bring out those cookies.”

What else would I expect from one of the most prominent figures of Appalachian Studies? Loyal Jones was sure to provide genuine hospitality and a hot cup of coffee to sip on while we kicked back and discussed anything from politics to religion to why so many people coming along US 25 have terrible mufflers.

I never questioned who lived in the houses tucked off to the side of Forest Street, but when I pull into Loyal’s driveway for the first time I’m not a bit surprised. It’s as though the man has sliced off his own piece of mountainside and dropped it into the middle of the city of Berea.

Loyal is donating his personal collection of books to Hutchins Library. I’m one of the Appalachian Center employees with the honor of helping him clear everything out. He tells us that he attempted counting all of the books, but lost count around 1,400.

Loyal’s bookshelves, upstairs and downstairs, are overflowing with names of inspiring Appalachian writers and titles that would make anyone raise an eyebrow. There’s a shelf of books about war, a shelf dedicated to cookbooks including a favorite of mine “White Trash Cooking”, one shelf is full of nothing but hymnals, and another is entirely filled with autographed copies of works by authors like Silas House, Amy Greene, Jesse Stuart, and Gurney Norman.

It’s a wonder the density of all this knowledge, history, and art packed into one household hasn’t caused a dip in space and time. The place starts with a weight to it, but soon we stand surrounded by empty bookshelves of what once was and a stillness sets in.

With the books all packed up in the trunk of my car we join Loyal on his screen porch for coffee.

“I’m already reaching for books that ain’t there.” Loyal laughs and tells me.

The rest of the World seems to stop on a dime. The cumbersome July heat fades away. The hour of storytelling and cutting up with Loyal slips away faster than the breeze creeping through his screen porch.

Article Written by Richard Childers