Mullins’ Reunion: one institution worth saving

Larry Webster
Larry Webster

Hero McCain got to lie in state at the Capitol. Anti-hero Donald Trump is lying in statements down near the mouth of the same holler.

For John McCain, the burden of high expectations visited upon him by accident of birth has been lifted. Oh, he may have a little bit of explaining to do over the Sarah Palin thing. That was his worst non-torture decision.

Down the holler, another mortal born to wealth and privilege has entitled himself to attack the fundamental institutions of our country to save himself. I suppose the real reason people mourn McCain is that he seemed to be one of the last Republicans willing to respect those institutions — except for the Palin thing.

If democracy fails, the blame can be apportioned among many, not the least of which is an Australian media giant who seems hell-bent on destroying America. Blame Rupert Murdoch, and sadly, a Kentucky senator perfectly capable of protecting the country but who won’t.

The only American institution that seems safe is the Mullins Reunion, which is today in the deep forests where Pike County kisses Martin County and you have to mark trees to get out of.

Mosey and Lucille Mullins had 14 children and about 13 of them are still alive and they have been having the Mullins Reunion for dozens of years and not a single one of those children has ever missed a single reunion on the Sunday after Labor Day.

They, and dozens of the rest of us, will gather behind the old log house on Lower Big Branch of Brushy Fork of Johns Creek. That old log house is not a remnant, but yet a functioning home for a Mullins. We look forward to that gathering like it was Mardi Gras and the State Fair rolled into one.

There will be Freewill preaching in a tent, too much of it if you can smell meatloaf. One of the older children will tell stories about the old people, which usually mentions that a family of 16 would find a place for a homeless child or an uncle with no one to take care of him. Folks in turn declare how they have been blessed and ask for prayer for themselves and loved ones.

There will be a few square yards of food then, food after the mountain fashion, heavy on chicken and dumplings served on either side of a wide table where one always finds oneself on the wrong side of the table from the best looking kettle of half runners. They have to be cooked down, and not all that water in them. Maybe with new potatoes on top.

Then the music. Mosey was an old-time banjo player and his descendants mainly play upbeat gospel and old bluegrass. “Go Rest High on the Mountain” has become mandatory at such gatherings.

The men will gather under a shade tree and retell the story about the time a young woman called Lucille on the phone and told her a person with the same name as Lucille’s husband had gotten her pregnant. To which, Lucille, mother of 14 dismissively replied: “He can’t do nothin’ to me. I don’t see how he could do anything to you.”

Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at websterlawrencer@bellsouth.net.