Sending A Letter Back Home — I’m Glad That I Grew Up in the Rural South

When I was a kid, I HATED country music. Nonetheless, every morning before dawn, my dad would blast country music from the kitchen radio. I despised country music, and I hated waking up to it. I could almost say that I hated my dad for invading my morning tranquility with his cacophonous musical preference. Oddly, life has brought me almost full circle now, and it has softened me and enlightened me and changed me. I rather like country music now, and I love the fact that I grew up in the rural South, which is the place out of which Country Music is extracted.  I’d give anything to be awakened by my dad’s blasting Mother Maybelle Carter from my kitchen once more, and I absolutely LOVE Iris DeMent’s version of Will the Circle be Unbroken? I like the tune now. I like the singing, the musicians, and the message. I like everything about this song. It is a music that resonates within my bones now. This song is home now, and I appreciate the fact that I have begun to reap the harvest of the seeds that  God planted in the mud of my childhood, which is the same soil from which country music is distilled.

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, lord, by and by
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, lord, in the sky

I do hope that there’s a better home a-waiting for me, but today, I want to sing a song to the home of my past. I guess every kid goes through a phase when they wish that they had grown up ANYwhere else than where they did, and I passed through that phase, too, but I am thankful that I have been granted the peace of understanding that the memories and the relationships of our youths are the experiences that become the framework for who we become–That is, they are that framework, if we allow them to be. Today, I’m sending a letter back home, and I’m saying that I’m glad that I grew up in the rural South.

Country Mailbox – Jacki Kellum Colored Pencil
Original Sold to Barbara Heyliger – Prints Are Still Available

Janis Joplin – Jacki Kellum Watercolor
Original Sold to Vikki Ransom Hudson – Prints Are Still Available to Buy

Anyone who is familiar with my watercolors will readily see that my Country Mailbox has a totally different feel than my watercolors–and yet, both are me. I am not such a narrow person that I feel the need to be only a this or a that type of art. Alluding to the famous saying, “I am part of all that I have met,” and although I currently live in the Northeast, on the Shore of the Atlantic Ocean, I grew up in a cotton patch in the Bootheel of Missouri, high and dry, in the Southern tip of the Mid-West.

I grew up with a guy who graduated from our rural high school and was drafted to play pro baseball, first for the Kansas City Royals and second, for the St. Louis Cardinals. Because our families hung out together and vacationed together, Mark Littell and I were almost like cousins, and our bond is even greater because we both remember and cherish our childhoods in the Bootheel.

Mark has written two books, and the second of his books, Country Boy Conveniently Wild, is about our mutual homeland. Mark asked me to contribute some drawings to his book, and I decided that pencil drawings of things that remind me of home would be the best for that purpose.

Cotton Harvest – Jacki Kellum Graphite Pencil
Original: $150 – Prints Are Also Available

Cotton Picking Blues – Jacki Kellum Colored Pencil
Sold to Jerry Caulder – Prints Are Still Available

I have also rendered some of the graphite pencil drawings as colored pencil drawings, and even those are unlike my loose and spontaneous watercolor paintings, but both are me.

Soon after I illustrated Mark Littell’s book, I decided to pursue my art full-time, and my old friend and sorority sister became my business manager. We were talking about the differences in my styles, and I said to her that I want to do all kinds of renderings of the rural South, and why shouldn’t I? It is my home.

I went on to say to Vikki Ransom Hudson, my business manager, that deep down within myself, I’ll always be a redneck–and perhaps my greatest problem is that I don’t want to be anything but that–at least, I’ll always want that Rube to be part of who I am.