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Volume 26, Number 6 — June 2018

Daughter Pens Book In Honor Of Her Mother

The book spins tales of Elk Creek, a Grayson County community.
The book spins tales of Elk Creek, a Grayson County community.

"Under a Blue Bowl" based on tape recordings and letters.

By JOE TENNIS | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER | May 17, 2009

*** Published: April 30, 2009 in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier. ***

For years, Scottie Pritchard's mother, Olive Scott Benkelman, sent tape recordings of herself to Pritchard.

"My mother was a marvelous storyteller," Pritchard said.

And those tapes?

Well, that's just how this mother and daughter communicated, while living apart.

For years.

They sent each other tape-recorded messages while Pritchard was living in New York, California and Germany in the 1970s and 1980s.

All the time, Benkelman remained at Elk Creek, Va., a place she loved.

"She thought the sky was a big blue bowl that God had turned upside down and rested securely on the mountain tops," Pritchard said. "It was a perfectly secure world that we cannot imagine now."

Pritchard's mother died in 1996. But, even then, this daughter, an only child, had a way to remember her mom all those tapes.

Only, this would turn out to be more than that.

"When I went to Radford University in 2000 to complete the degree I started in 1966 at Emory & Henry College, my sociology professor became my advisor," Pritchard recalled. "Dr. Peggy Shifflett nudged me towards writing a book when she read my final project, which turned out to be the start of "Under A Blue Bowl.' "

This recent self-published book spins tales of Elk Creek, a Grayson County community.

The title comes from Pritchard's mother, and much of the book is based on the tape recordings she left behind.

In all, Pritchard has about 50 hours of tapes "and tons of letters between my mother and my grandmother, and from her brother during World War II," she said. "The book is mostly written in my mother's voice, except for one chapter which is directly from a tape she made of her brother, reminiscing about his time in the Army during World War II."

At first, Pritchard had a hard time pursuing the project.

It was "very difficult" listening to her late mother's voice again, she said. "I just couldn't do it. Finally, I realized I could listen to that first tape as I drove the hour and a half to Radford. Once that first tape was listened to a couple of times, the tapes became a true gift and joy to me, and a wealth of information."

Today, Pritchard and her husband live on a dirt road in a hollow at Elk Creek.

Whenever she can, she talks about "Under a Blue Bowl," the book that came to be thanks to the encouragement of Dr. Shifflet, who "nagged me to just do it," Pritchard said. "My mother and I had joked for most of my life about "that will have to go into the book,' referring to one old family tale after another."

And now?

It's all "Under a Blue Bowl."

Locally, the book is for sale at The Treasury in Independence; Davis-Bourne Inn at Independence; and the Wythe County Historical Society offices in Wytheville. E-mail hillsofhome@gmail.com or call (276) 655-4799.

A! ExtraTopics: Literature