CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- He grew up "a lifetime ago" in a rural Appalachian culture that valued the inherent mountain skills of self-sufficiency. He learned how to live, almost totally, off the land.
Part of that culture was traditional mountain music. He grew up with it. He plays banjo, guitar and fiddle. He believes the music is in his blood, a genetic thing.
Unlike the rest of his family, Jim Mullins went off to college, and, thanks to a couple of dedicated mentors, he earned a doctorate in educational psychology. At 64, he still works at a job he loves -- lead psychologist for Kanawha County Schools.
He's soft-spoken and gentle. His eyes light up when he talks about the technological advances available now in his field. But nothing moves him more than his music.
Always and ever, he's a proud and grateful mountain man at heart.
"I grew up on a farm between Fairmont and Grafton. My childhood was in the '50s and early '60s, so it was a different world.
"We raised everything, cattle, hogs, chickens. We cut hay and plowed with horses. We didn't bale the hay; we stacked it by hand. Any meat we had, we raised on the farm or got through hunting. Things we bought from the store would be salt and coffee.
"I am incredibly thankful for that experience. I am privileged that my father came from a generation just one removed from people who were born during the Civil War.
"In my father's generation, if it needed done, they just did it. I can remember many times when cows were calving, they would have some kind of difficulty and my father would be right there.
"I have a visualization of him having his arm in a cow up to the elbow because the calf was backwards and they were both going to die, and he got that calf turned around. I was about 8 or 9 and I've never forgotten that.
"Our farm was quite rocky. One of my jobs every summer was clearing rocks out of fields. Being ever resourceful, when we tore down the old farmhouse and built a new one, those rocks were used on the outside of the house.
"Our property was very snaky. Copperheads were everywhere. Cows got bitten. Dogs got bitten. One cow got bit on the nose and her nose got as big as a basketball. There was a purple liniment my father would buy and he slathered that all over her nose and a few days later it was fine. I thought she was going to die.
"I grew up in a culture that loved music. It was always around. I had uncles who played traditional music on the fiddle and the banjo. I would give anything to go back and spend an hour playing with those folks.
"Nobody could read music. They sang a lot of early country music songs, Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family. It was pretty much constant. We had radio but not television. Music was the entertainment. It was an archaic type of existence.
"My dad grew up in the Richwood, Greenbrier, Nicholas County area. He was born in a cabin in western Greenbrier County. His dad made his mother a loom, and they were caretakers on a farm that a Lewisburg doctor owned. They would shear sheep, and they grew flax, and she would make clothing. The doctor would buy the kids a pair of shoes for Christmas, all the shoes they had all year.
"Dad worked in the timber industry. Before we built a new farmhouse, in the winter, it would snow through the walls. When I would go upstairs to go to bed, there would be an inch or two of snow on the stairs.
"It was a wonderful life. We didn't have anything but we didn't want anything. The lifestyle was, if you needed something, you made it. Dad could make anything. Steel. Wood. I learned a lot from him. I didn't realize how much I knew until we built a house about six years ago. I did all the woodwork myself.
"I went to high school in Grafton. Nobody in my family had gone to college. The men had never finished high school. I worked for about eight years before I decided I wanted to go to college.
"I worked primarily for a company that built power lines in Indiana and Michigan and Ohio, a job that was 300 feet in the air on a tower. It was an amazing thing, but that was a lifetime ago.