Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Aster Lewis

A new day dawned over Johnson City, Tennessee. On this spring day in April 1994, my brother John and I were about to embark on a journey that we would have thought impossible a few years before. We were actually going to see “Pigeon Roost,” the near-legendary place where our father, Isaac Walter Tipton (1920-2000) was born. Our “tour guide” would be Aster Lewis (1919-1997), our grand uncle. Aster was our grandmother Hester Lewis’ (1894-1944) half brother. We had never met Aster before this day, nor did we even know of his existence. It was only through inquiries through a now forgotten relative that we learned of Aster’s name. The previous night I had called Aster from the hotel where we were staying in Johnson City, Tennessee. We made plans to meet at Aster’s humble home in Erwin, Tennessee. Erwin is near by Johnson City at the foothills of the mountains that form the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina. After breakfast at our hotel, John and I got in our rented van, checked our map for Erwin, and headed for Uncle Aster’s home that he shared with his 21 year old younger wife, Mary. Uncle Aster apparently was following in his father’s footsteps in marrying a younger woman the second time around. We had no trouble finding Aster’s home. “Uncle Aster” came out to greet us as we got out of the van. Again, like his sister Daisy, Aster greeted us as if he knew us all his life. This was Southern hospitality firsthand. Aster escorted John and I into his house to meet his wife. After the greetings, we settled down to our purpose of the visit, to glean as much as we could from Uncle Aster about the Tiptons still living in the near by North Carolina mountains. I set up my video camera to record our interview. I still have those 60 minute VCR video tapes. John and I interviewed Aster for over two hours. We learned that Uncle Aster was a pastor like my brother John. However, Uncle Astor was a “traveling pastor”, traveling the circuit of churches in the mountain area. He was a free lance pastor not associated with any one particular church. My brother is the care pastor of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina. Now it was time to make the trek to the mountains and Pigeon Roost. Aster bade his goodbyes to his wife Mary, and the three of us loaded ourselves into the van. Aster would now be riding in the shotgun seat. John would be driving. We could see that Uncle Aster was looking forward to giving us the Grand Tour. Both of us, my brother and I, were so appreciative that his kind gentlemen would be so generous as to give of his time to two relatively perfect strangers who claimed to be his nephews. The moment had arrived; we were going to see our “roots.” To be continued……………….

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