life mt hood

I’m living proof of the old cliche: We never know what burdens others shoulder. As I wander the corridors of despair, I’ve been touched by so many people. Thank you for reaching out to my family and me during our greatest crisis.

My post today is an example of how a reader tried to cushion my fall. Thank you to Shelby, North Carolina’s Becky Love for sharing her Make a Memory story with me last night. It hit my inbox as I groped for how to tackle this day.

Before I turn things over to Becky, I’ll provide a quick update. My brother was transferred to an inpatient care facility on Sunday. He will likely be there this week, with a week of outpatient intensive care next week. Please keep texts, cards and messages coming. When he rejoins us, he needs to know he matters to many people. I can provide contact details to anyone who messages me privately.

And now, please be uplifted by Becky Love’s Make a Memory story. She worked to make this happen for months after she met me in Shelby. I’m glad to know she made a memory with an incredible human being.


Hi, Andra.  Becky in Shelby reporting in.  I’m so sorry to read about your brother’s suffering.  I’m writing to let you know that on Saturday 9/19, my make a memory moment will come to pass when my 92 year old  friend, R.C. Nanney, receives the Heritage Bridge Award for his contributions to the musical heritage of Cleveland County, NC at the Art of Sound music festival.  I wrote a synopsis of his life and creations that I have copied below.  Maybe it will give you a smile during these dark days.  I will be keep thinking of your family and praying for hope.

R.C. Nanney has exemplified the spirit of Cleveland County musical heritage throughout his long life.  Music has been the foundation of his various professional and leisure creative pursuits.  The ability to combine his natural curiosity, wholesome humor and clever innovations while adapting to changes in tastes and technology keeps his work vital and appealing, even today.

Born in Charlotte, NC on August 30, 1923, he was raised in Cliffside, NC where he had experiences that influenced his early interest in music.  He worked in a bicycle shop with his dad early on, and at WSPA on Saturdays.  He took the stage name “The Rhythm Kid” as a young man playing music around the area, and at WGNC’s Saturday Night Barn Dance at the Gastonia Armory.  He enjoyed visiting on weekends and jamming with his cousin “Whitey” (Roy Grant), one of the founders of the Briar Hoppers.  R.C. married Selma Lee Canipe, a Cleveland County native from the Belwood area, in December 1941, and they settled here to work together on many projects over the years of their long and happy marriage.

R.C. made a lifelong friend of Paul Lemmon, photographer for The Star when he came to interview R.C. and Selma as they opened Park View Rest Home on West Marion Street, Shelby in 1952.  Later R. C. became photographer at the Cleveland Times.  Paul and R.C. both can recall what they purchased with monies earned when their photographs were picked up for syndication.  R. C. tells a story about photographing Don Gibson while he was home with the first Cadillac he purchased when fame came his way.

In 1956, R. C. Nanney signed WADA on the air for its first day of broadcasting with Boyce Hannah as owner.  He hosted a country music radio show as Curly Lee (a combination of his curly hair and Selma’s middle name), and interviewed and played with many famous guests including a rodeo show with Gene Autry.   While at the station, he and Selma organized talent shows at local schools, obtaining sponsors for prizes and granting the winning bands a 15 minute spot on the Curly Lee Radio Show. 

In 1962 R.C. and Selma sold the nursing home they ran for 10 years and purchased a house on Highland Avenue to open a photography studio there.  They photographed many residents and events around the region, including many weddings.  Later in the 1960s and early 1970s they traveled for a company that inspected retail stores.  R.C. had a routine after they settled in their motel for the night to review the phone book for anyone he might know.  In one town near Nashville, Tennessee, he found Don McClain who had been Sports Announcer at WOHS when R. C. was at WADA.  He called Don and talked for about two hours.  Don told him about an opportunity that he thought R. C. would be well-suited for, a new TV show getting ready to start called “Hee-Haw”.  R. C. felt it wasn’t worth the risk of the good situation he and Selma had.  In retrospect, he uses an expression from his dad, “That’s where I dropped my candy”.

R.C.’s describes their decision to stop traveling with this adage: “When you get so far from home they don’t know what livermush is, it’s time to come home.”  Throughout the years of earning a livelihood, they always had other artistic endeavors that usually involved music.  They traveled and played gigs around the region with friends, and formed Nanco Productions to make their own movies that included their musical offerings (Clean Up in Selma County was an early one that featured the lovely Selma playing castanets), but several of their projects carried their names beyond the boundaries of Cleveland County.

R.C. says he was born acting the fool, so he just kept right on doing what came naturally.  His acting roles include several Earl Owensby movies, (interestingly Earl Owensby grew up on the same street as R.C.), the TV miniseries Chiefs, many TV commercials and his own film productions.  Some of these, such as Hyperspace, became popular in other countries. 

The TV commercials became widely popular for their homespun humor.  The most memorable involved a “Re-bait” on Pontiacs.  R.C. and Selma provided really effective advertising for local companies, appearing in some continuing segments with the byline, “The Love Affair Goes On”.

R.C. bought land near Selma’s family land close to Knob Creek and he and Selma built the home where he still lives.  This put them in the right place for another foray with fame.  The legend of Knobby, a bigfoot-type creature sighted several times near Carpenter’s Knob in the late 1970s, caught R. C. and Selma’s fancy.  In fact, R.C. gave the creature its delightful name.  In 1986, they wrote, produced and acted in a film with other friends and neighbors starring Knobby.  The film became a cult classic and was in high demand in video stores.  R.C. performed and recorded the music for the movie including the Knobby Song, describing characteristics of the creature, identified finally as the Belwood Wampus Cat.  The popularity of the original Knobby movie led to sequels:  “Return of Knobby” in 2005, and “Knobbett” in 2010. R.C. printed T shirts and hats with his drawings of Knobby on a screen printer he made.   Sightings of Knobby in more recent years brought about a revival of interest in all things Knobby.

 Nanco Productions made several other movies with local actors, and R. C. made a shorter film, “The Lizard Man”, with the help of his friend Paul Lemmon after the death of his beloved Selma.  He stays active with Outsider Art projects and also records jam sessions with his friends, including Buster Kendrick, Heritage Bridge Award recipient in 2013.  He recorded a musical variety show, Curly Lee Takes Vegas, with help from his friends at Creative Network Studios, and a paintball commercial with Buster last year.  Even at over 90 years old, he still has other projects in mind.

All of the Nanco Productions include beautiful scenery of Cleveland County and original music by R. C.  They remain as compelling evidence of the Nanney’s talents, their love for one another and their home, and how one can enrich life by using imagination, ingenuity, and wit.  And always, the power of music.

world suicide prevention dayOn the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day, my brother tried to kill himself. I won’t be pithy or trite. A suicide attempt guts responses anyway. Synapses don’t fire. Fingers won’t type. Ideas refuse to flow…..or they overflow.

My brother first tried to kill himself at fourteen or fifteen. He found a loaded gun, but he couldn’t pull the trigger. Funny how triggers become life’s highlight. The thing in the cleft of the inevitable canyon. The constant no matter the speed of the fall.

For three decades, I watched my brother claw at immovable rock and sometimes climb to sunshine. When I was lucky enough to be in his life, I never saw more joy etched into a face. He made it. Sweaty, bruised, exhausted, battered, yes, but euphoria superseded everything. He inched himself back to living, and we who loved him basked in the glory of him whole.

A body can’t scale impossible cliffs forever. It breaks down, gives out, ages beyond its ability to thrive.

Much like a troubled mind.

It whiplashes from the pit of a roiling soul, a blackness no thought can expunge, no sentiment can quash, no love can surmount, until the psyche splats against the bottom, its sides too daunting to find the unreachable sliver of light. How many times did my brother lie alone in that chasm before he dragged himself to stand, groped through blackness and scratched a path to the light?

Time passes. It’s hard to celebrate another success. Light dulls when everyone knows there will be a next time.

I’ve never known how to cope with my brother’s flirtation with death. When I was younger, I lectured him, because I didn’t understand. The depression. The endless dark. Why couldn’t he pick himself up and be strong? Like me?

I begged my parents to force him to get help. I avoided him, because I couldn’t stand the wrecking ball of his presence. Would he welcome me? Or lock himself in his room and refuse to leave? I offered to help him when he lacked the energy to lift one mental finger and accept. Through everything, I gave him a broken kind of love. It never penetrated his churning spirit, never forced its way into the lightless expanse of his soul.

I know it isn’t my fault my brother now lies in a trauma unit, his body plugged into machines to eradicate the lingering effects of his latest suicide attempt. I understand no amount of love, of begging, of connection, can stop a determined person from harming himself when he’s too broken to undertake another climb.

My brother’s only hope, shackled within the prison of his own subconscious, is to finally find a path that works. A route to the top with tools to cushion his next fall. No matter how madly I want those things for him, he has to grasp them himself.

I mourn for those who’ve lost loved ones to suicide. I sob for my brother who can’t stop trying. I cry for myself and my parents, who live every day wondering when he’ll succeed.

I don’t know how to cope with suicide. I only know how to try.


Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I pilfered links to resources from Tori Nelson Young’s exquisite post about her mother’s suicide (READ IT HERE), and I added a few more.


To Write Love On Her Arms

International Association for Suicide Prevention

It Gets Better Project

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Project Semicolon

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

postcard, multnomah falls

On September 13, I head to Portland, Oregon. Lewis and Clark country. Six events. Three days. Plus a day to mimic their footsteps. Explore a new-to-me site or two.

Travel looks glamorous.

It isn’t.

Yes, I love meeting current fans and making new ones. Yes, I adore adding destinations and making memories. Yes, I’m grateful anyone shows up for anything I do.

But I miss MTM.

A bone-crunching, heart-stopping ache.

Yes, I plow through everything and make it look fetching, but I do it while craving my soul.

I’m lucky he supports my crazy dream. Even when I wonder how anyone makes money writing books. Especially when I get another snarky review and cry for an hour or several. He keeps saying I believe when I walk through the valley of author atheism, a place bereft of belief in myself.

So many of you bolster me in ways you don’t know. You cheer and critique; you check on me and say exactly what I needed more often than you realize. In my loneliest moments on the road, when I struggle to keep up with myself and my stuff while being ‘on’ 24/7, you reach out and send me thoughtful messages, funny pictures and tender texts.

It’s my turn to give back to you.

If you’d like to receive a Lewis and Clark postcard from my trip to Portland, please leave a comment today. I’ll reach out to you by e-mail if I don’t have your mailing address. I’d love to spend part of a day at a picnic table, staring at the river Lewis loved to hate, breathing a few expedition molecules and penning notes to you.