Vander H. Atwell is my father. He is soon to be 84, and pretty spry for his age and downright puts me to shame. Longevity runs in the family, the oldest member of his family is 90 years old, my Aunt Pluma, then there is Aunt Oleta, and Uncle Billy. Daddy, is the third born. He is a widower, and now a newlywed by about a year at the writing of this. He is an amazing man, not perfect, and there are a few things we don’t agree on, but he is and will always be my ‘hero’. He’s a writer, philosopher, professional quality mandolin player, retired logger and mountain man, and more. I love him with all of my heart, and if you can’t tell I’m bursting with pride.
He writes an opinion piece called ‘View From the Bottom Rung’, at least twice a month for a local paper in Arkansas, The Press Argus. Though it can sometimes be political in nature, he most often writes about life, and especially how it was days past. He was born in Arkansas around 1933, the third born out of four siblings, two older sisters and one younger brother. His father, Roland Atwell, a Baptist Preacher, and his mother Minnie ‘LaRue’ Atwell, were also farmers and lived in Crawford County, in the vicinity of Mountainburg, Arkansas. In those days they would have been called ‘Hillbilly’s, which was not considered a compliment by many. Today, it’s often associated with Bluegrass music and good ole, down to earth country folk, pot lucks and so forth. In fact, I am quite proud of my ‘hillbilly’ roots and the wonderful people I call ‘the salt of the earth’ kind of folk.
My father, upon finishing the 8th grade, did not return to school, though I know not why, I would assume it was to help out at home and the family farm. I think it always bothered him that he had not continued on in his education at the time, but it actually spurred him on later to take educational courses through the mail. He is a natural born story teller. When he writes, he often paints a vivid picture of how it was as a young ‘lad’ back in the early days of his childhood. His lively hood until he retired several years ago was that of logger, timber faller. He grew to love the mountains of California, and much like a professional sailor longs for the sea, my daddy still , at times, longs for the mountains. My siblings and I were able to visit the camp sites at times growing up and I still love the smell of the pine trees in the mountains. One day I hope to compile many of my fathers writings and stories and put them in book form. He’s a brilliant man. I will share more about my mother and father in the days ahead. It will be random as there is so much. I will highlight my fathers various articles, and other writings on my blog as well as feature video’s of his musical past time.