Jo Ann’s inheritance didn’t force him to live within a budget
and eventually he depleted their assets entirely, she says.
“I don’t believe Mother knew the money train was about
to crash,” Debra says. “TL, on the other hand, knew he was
digging a hole deeper than he could get out of. That’s why
we lost the ranch and sold the grove.”
I observe that Kathy had many of Jo Ann’s qualities while
Debra was more like her father, charming and analytical.
Debra is not necessarily flattered. Though it’s been more than
a quarter-century since her father died, Debra still is resentful
toward him because of what her mother endured and how
she had to live the final years of her life penniless after her
husband went through an estimated $11 million estate.
The final lost asset was the 220-acre Tellico farm and
farmhouse, which was sold in the 1990s in a break-even deal
that paid off Jo Ann’s debts but yielded no money to sustain
her in retirement. In the transaction, Debra got to keep the 10
acres of Tellico where she was living and had built a house
after paying off the mortgage.
Atlanta businessman Michael Macke bought the farm from
Jo Ann for $660,000 and Macke continues to own it. “I’m
glad Mike owns Tellico because he loves it as much as I do,”
To visit her house, Debra takes us up a winding drive to a
spot overlooking the valley. We take a short walk around her
house and she tells us she once raised goats on the property
and also tried her hand at raising koi.
Later, sitting on her porch, she offers to pull out some
moonshine that she says she only drinks on special occasions.
We each take a shot and toast our mothers, the birthday
twins, Jo Ann Raulerson Sloan and Catherine Duster Enns,
the women who brought us together.
In our conversation that day visiting Kathy and Debra
and in several subsequent phone conversations, Debra asks
me, “Why do you think Aunt Katie wanted you to write
I didn’t have a good answer. At first I think I told her, “Because
she thought it was a good story.”
But knowing what a romantic my mother was and having
all those conversations with Jo Ann over the years, I think she
was amazed that Jo Ann stayed in love with Tommy until her
death despite his betrayals and the loss of her fortune.
It was an unusual love story because it involved a litany of
losses for Jo Ann, the loss of her parents at an early age, the
loss of her husband’s fidelity, the loss of her beloved Cow
Creek and the loss of Tellico.
I think my mom was also impressed that, as unconventional
as it was, Jo Ann lived life on her own terms and always
with the utmost grace.
“My mother lived her life with such grace, no matter what
happened to her,” Debra says. “She was pretty amazing. I
don’t think other people could do what she did.”
Like Jo Ann, Tommy also lived life on his own terms.
Though flawed, Tommy was charismatic and was good at
enlisting people and making them believe in his causes.
And while he seemed to grow apart from Kathy and Debra
in his later years, he developed a strong bond with two of
Diane’s children, Robin and Darren, who considered him a father
and credit him with many of their important life lessons.
When I started the Cow Creek Chronicles, I wondered whether
Jo Ann, emotionally vulnerable because of her upbringing,
was victimized by Tommy. But my research revealed that Jo
Ann was always in majority control of their assets. The Cow >>
Debra Sloan, front, and sister Kathy Sloan Blanton, back, at Tellico farm.
A view looking up a white oak said to be the largest in North Carolina. Debra holds a jar of moonshine she pulls out for special occasions.