In the early 1970s, or thereabouts, Johnny Cash had come to the singing. He had long loved gospel music, and it was a big deal for him to come to perform. He drew the largest crowd ever at the singing, and today the Morton clan can still remember the long lines of cars backed up on mountain roads. This was before Jack’s time, but he knows the stories as if he had been an eyewitness.
“Johnny Cash did his thing,” Jack says, “and he was in all black, of course, and afterwards he rode with my Grandad to the top of the mountain. And he was looking at the flag that was flying, and then he just looked at Grandad and said, ‘Hugh, may I have this flag?’ and Grandad said, ‘It’s yours, if I can take your picture with it.’ And so he took his picture [which appears above]. Grandad loved to take famous people to the top of the mountain. Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams both hit baseballs off the top of the mountain, for example.”
Hugh Morton might have been perplexed by the request from Cash, because Grandfather Mountain had to change flags right often.
“The weather was pretty rough up there sometimes,” Jack said, “and I don’t know how often they replaced the flag, but this one was rather worn at the time. He told Grandad he would like to put it behind himself in concerts.”
And this was something Johnny Cash did for a while thereafter.
Oh, yes. Now we bring you to the end of our story. Everyone is free to speculate on whether this notion is true: It may be that the Grandfather Mountain visit had a role in this famous singer’s spectacular poem. For it seems that as Hugh Morton and Cash were riding down from the top that day, Cash kind of patted the Old Glory he had resting on his knee, and at one point, he looked over at Morton and said, “Hugh, this sure is a ragged old flag.”