‘They Call Me Aunt Orlene’

Story Submitted (mtfrontdesk@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Aug. 8, 2013 | Modified: Aug. 12, 2013
‘They Call Me Aunt Orlene’

Phyllis Stump plays Orlene Puckett in ‘They Call Me Aunt Orlene,’ coming to Hickory Ridge Living History Museum in Boone Sunday, Aug. 11.

Photo by Sue Counts

A one-woman play about the famous Blue Ridge mountain midwife, Orlene Hawks Puckett (1839-1939) will be performed at Hickory Ridge Living History Museum at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11.

“They Call Me Aunt Orlene” is written and performed by author and actress Phyllis Stump. Admission is free, although donations to the museum are encouraged. While bench seating for 30 people is provided, the public is also invited to bring folding chairs or blankets to sit on.

The show portrays the events of Puckett’s life, including the effect of the Civil War in the rural culture of Appalachia.

Orlene Puckett and husband John Puckett lived near what became the Blue Ridge Parkway at Groundhog Mountain, Patrick County, Va.

A 99-year-old widow at the time the building of the parkway claimed her home, Puckett moved out of her house and in with her daughter. After her death, the National Park Service commemorated Puckett’s influential life with a marker at the location of Puckett Cabin, which now stands within view of the parkway at milepost 190.

Although none of Puckett’s 24 children lived to be more than 1-year-old, she went on to “catch” more than 1,000 babies in southwestern Virginia, without a single loss of a mother or child, before she died at age 99 in 1939. Puckett and her own children are believed to have suffered from RH incompatibility, a deadly condition that is now easily prevented with a simple injection.

In addition to her script of “They Call Me Aunt Orlene,” Stump has written a historic novel about the last three weeks of the midwife’s life, titled “The Story of a Mountain Midwife.” Copies of the book will be for sale on the date of the performance at Hickory Ridge.

As part of the event, Hickory Ridge will conduct a raffle for a custom-framed, 10-and-a-half- by 13-and-a-half-inch photograph by Boone photographer Sue Counts of Stump’s performance as Aunt Orlene, taken at the Puckett Cabin. The winner will be selected immediately after the 2 p.m. performance.

All proceeds from donations during “They Call Me Aunt Orlene” support the educational mission of Southern Appalachian Historical Association Inc., the not-for-profit organization that operates Hickory Ridge Living History Museum and the legacy outdoor drama, “Horn in the West.” The educational programs of the museum are designed to align with elementary school curriculums in the region. Southern Appalachian Historical Association welcomes private donations.

Hickory Ridge Living History Museum is located at 591 Horn in the West Drive in Boone.

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