Dolly Parton loved growing up in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, but that doesn’t mean her childhood was without hardships. She explained that she did experience some frightening things growing up, including a time when a tornado swept past her childhood home. She shared how her mother reacted to the storm, as well as other terrifying moments from her youth.
The ‘9 to 5’ singer grew up in the Smoky Mountains
Parton grew up in a one-bedroom home in the Smoky Mountains, which she shared with her parents and 11 siblings. The family did not have electricity or running water.
“Daddy bought us our own place way back in a mountain holler,” she wrote for Guideposts. “It was overgrown, the fences were down, the roof leaked, but he worked day and night and made something of it. I like to joke that we had two rooms and a path and running water — if you were willing to run to get it. In all seriousness, though, we had everything we needed. I should say, God gave us everything we needed, and almost all of it came right from his good green earth.”
Parton lived in this part of Tennessee until just after her high school graduation, when she moved to Nashville.
Dolly Parton shared that a tornado once went past her home
Parton is grateful for her youth spent in the Smoky Mountains, but she shared that she had some frightening moments with the resident wildlife.
“Life in the mountains wasn’t always blissful,” she explained. “There were scary things too. Bobcats that let out blood-curdling screams in the middle of the night. Panthers that supposedly could reach through a crack in the wall and grab babies from their cribs. I never actually saw a panther, but I knew the cracks in the wall existed.”
She noted that a particularly scary moment came when a tornado passed by her house.
“Once a tornado swept through the holler,” she wrote. “We heard the wind howling and we could even feel it through the cracks in our walls. Mama had us all on the floor, praying ‘that the storm will pass over us and leave us unharmed.’ Those of us old enough to know what was really going on prayed like we’d never prayed in our lives.”
Luckily, the family was not hurt by the passing storm.
“We — and our house — survived the tornado pretty much unscathed.”
Dolly Parton says she’ll always hold a place in her heart for her childhood home
Though Parton left just after high school, she always valued her visits back home.
“I knew there was a world beyond the Smokies — the geese and butterflies had to be flying somewhere, after all — and I wanted to see it for myself,” she wrote. “So I moved away after high school. But I always came back for what I discovered growing up there: wonder and wisdom, music and inspiration, freedom and faith.”
She shared that she would return if she ever needed to.
“Even today, in these hard economic times, I think, well, if the worst happens and I lose everything, I can always go home to the mountains, plant a vegetable garden, maybe raise a few chickens,” she wrote. “I’ll go back to God’s green earth and he’ll give me everything I need, just like he always has.”
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