Monday, April 30, 2012

A-Z Challenge - Z is for Zany Appalachian Writer

It's been an amazing and exhausting blogging month. So I leave you with this home-grown video.

Thanks you'uns for stopping by and letting me spin a tale or two. Let me know if you're ever in the area.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A-Z Challenge - Y is for Yard Sales and You'uns

When you live in a rural place, it's not like you can drive around the subdivision searching for the yard sale signs. No. Yard sale-ing is an art form and here's how you do it right.

  1. Load up your horse trailer and take all your crap down to the highway.
  2. Find an empty parking lot and unload. Right there next to the highway.
  3. Pull out your lawn chairs and make a day of it.
  4. Wave at your friends and neighbors as they drive by and honk. 
  5. Only go on Fridays and Saturdays because it is most certainly a sin to yard sale on Sunday.
If you're a yard sale enthusiast, you might try the town-wide yard sale in Bakersville, NC in June. Everything from chickens to saddles. Or, if you're a huge yard sale enthusiast try The World's Longest Yardsale - 127 highway miles of crap you may need.

Now, here's a tip if you're yard sale-ing and want to seem like a local. Yes, this is the south, but 'round here, we don't say y'all. We say you'uns. And depending upon what holler you're from, you might say You-uns, You-ins, or Y'uns. All are correct.

A typical yard sale conversation might go like this:

Customer: How much do you'uns want for that there shovel?
Seller: Why I ain't sure. I reckon give me five dollars.
Customer: Five dollars, why that's a fair amount of money. Would you'uns throw in that flyer pot?
Seller: Why, I'd throw it in, but I reckon I'd have to get seven for the two of them.
Customer: Seven dollars, you say? Well, what about we throw in this here bunch of ramps and call it a trade. And would you hold on to it for me till I finish my tradin'?
Seller: Why I wouldn't care to a bit. I reckon that'll work. I'll see y'uns when you stop on back.

(Note, if you've been following my posts, this should all make perfect sense to you - if you haven't see the letter A, R, & T for clues)

So, do you like doing some tradin'?

Friday, April 27, 2012

A-Z Challenge - X is for Xenophobia

Xenophobia - The fear of people from other countries.

One of the things people often make reference to when moving in to Appalachia is how hard it is to "break in" to the local culture. For us outsiders, sometimes it feels like we're unwanted, disliked, maybe even hated.

But over time, I've learned there's more to it than this.

Example A:
My good neighbor (the letter P) and I were talking. She talked about how in olden days they would look to wildcrafting and herbs for medicine. They ate fresh from their garden and kept things simple. Then folks moved in and introduced over-the-counter and prescription medications, processed foods, and soda, all the while touting how much more sophisticated and less backward these new items were. Now, with an epidemic of obesity and a huge problem with prescription addiction - the outsiders are touting whole foods, natural healthcare, and cold, clear spring water. What the locals had going for themselves all along, before outsiders moved in and made them feel "less than." There are many trust issues like this that run deep in the community.

Example B:
Another neighbor, after a terrible incident with our dogs, made small talk with me at the mailbox, telling me how she understood what it was like to not "be from here." I asked her where she was from, she named the neighboring county. Yeah. That's how insular people can be.

But now that I've been here for going on fifteen years, I understand even more. What finally allowed me to "break-in" was getting a job in the local school system. I love the kids and the kids are their kids. Now I see there's more to it than the been heres and the come heres. The been heres don't really need us. This is still a multi-generational community. People have whole huge extended families along with church families that keep them occupied. It's not they don't want to know us, they just don't need us because they haven't moved away from their home places. The been heres are warm, generous, kind people, but they're also wary of a world that makes fun of mountain folk and is quick to point fingers at their way of life. Think of the movie, Deliverance, and what that did to the image of mountain people. Or all the horror movies that show redneck mountain people preying on college students. It just isn't that way. Mostly what you'll find in these mountains, is people who put family and faith before everything else. Before the Jones'es, before the shopping malls, before new-fusion restaurants, or the latest I-pad. Good, simple folk. And okay, maybe a touch xenophobic.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A-Z Challenge - W is for Waterfalls and Where's the Bathroom?

No great waterfall stories  - They're just so beautiful and this one is a road away from my house on the way to the swinging bridge (see the letter S).  Don't you love waterfalls?

But the real story here has to do with the lack of, er hmm, facilities, when you travel down rural roads. So many little gas stations have closed in this economy, that some mornings, if your stomach is doing a morning dance, you find yourself kind of like a bear. I made this little stop motion video to illustrate the problem. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A-Z Challenge - V is for Volunteer Fire Departments

Paid firemen are few and far between in rural Appalachia. Each community typically boasts a volunteer fire department made up of local men and women willing to give their time and energy to helping their neighbors.  It comes with some advantages. They are the first to know all the gossip (see the letter "G") which is a commodity around these parts. They get to ride around in a shiny red truck and help with the annual Ramp supper fundraiser (see the letter "R"). Property taxes include a portion that goes to your local volunteer fire department but it's really never enough.

But I think the biggest advantage to volunteering (aside from being an amazing person) is the chance to be as close to a superhero as mountainly possible.  I say this because of a recent incident at the high school where I teach. A transformer blew, knocking out power, and setting off the fire alarms. Because it came from the school and wasn't a scheduled alarm, gossip flew that the high school had blown up. (I kid you not).

Volunteer firemen and women poured through the hallways while we herded the kids out to the football field. There was no fire, but the power was fried. Teachers shepherded students through darkened hallways to retrieve their belongings then we all left for the day. Amidst all this, the firefighters directed traffic with magnum flashlights, spoke into crackling walkie talkies and clomped around the school in big boots.

Once they were given the all clear, a couple of those helmets and emergency vests came off and I realized there were students under there. With just a quick costume change, those high school kids had elevated from one of us to one of them - the heros, come to save the day. Real life super heroes. Or as close as you can get in Appalachia.

Have you ever volunteered as a firefighter? Ever wanted to?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A-Z Challenge - U is for Uncanny Resemblance

Along with being a skunk spray magnet, Bosco is a natural poser.
I swear, I didn't pose this. He sat next to the little sculpture on the front porch then when I pulled out the camera -- perfect. We have four dogs, but this dude is a charmer.

What does this have to do with Appalachia? Not much, except Bosco is an Appalachian Love Hound. They are a rare breed, often found at about 10 months old running down the highway in the rain. Sometimes, they carry shrapnel like a BB buried deep inside, only discovered during an X-ray for something else. They are sweet, and kind, and loyal. This version is a combination of Boxer, Shepherd, and perhaps Black and Tan Coonhound. We hope they are long-lived. At nine, he's getting up there for a big boy.

Fortunately, the number of strays in the area has decreased radically since I moved here. Spay and neuter grants and organizations are doing a great job at helping folks get pets fixed. Thus, cutting down on unwanted litters. Plus one of our local human societies coordinates with a shelter in Rhode Island and many awesome Appalachian Love Hounds find their way north, where spay and neuter laws are in place.

Do you have a love hound in your life?

Monday, April 23, 2012

A-Z Challenge - T is for Tires, Pyres, and Flyers

Not long after moving here, I had a conversation with a neighbor. He was out walking with his daughter and saw me messing with my horses.

Him: I didn't know you was in the horse business.
Me: Well, I'm not really. I just have them.
Him: Ah, well, I do a little fooling with the horse business myself. You see 'em tires up there.

He pointed toward a set of hills in the distance. I wondered what his vision was like because I sure as hell couldn't see any tires.

Him: Yeah. You can ride clear on up to them tires.
Me: Uh huh. *nodding*

Then he left. For the next week I forgot about it till the UPS driver came. She started talking about her route and how she wanted to stop by after she'd gone to the pyre company. Wait. We don't burn people on pyres in the United States. Do they export these pyres to India? Are they special pyres?

Fast forward another week. I was at the dump taking my trash. The fellow that works there is extra friendly.

Trash Guy: Hey - you need any of these here little pots for your flyers?
Me: (Thinking - Don't you need planes for flyers?) Um, no, that's okay.
Trash Guy: All ladies like some pretty flyers.
Me: (Thinking: Well attractive pilots are nice but I'm more concerned with their skill) Uh, yeah, I suppose.
Trash Guy: My wife, she loves her flyer bed. Always out there, every afternoon, weeding, picking, pruning. It's real pretty, her flyer bed.

Oh. Tires. Towers. Pyres. Power. Flyers. Flower.

Got it.

Have you ever had a total language misunderstanding?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lucky Seven Meme Tag- Y'all just want to watch me run like a goofy chicken.

So this week, the blogosphere has pointed at me, not once, but twice, demanding, insisting, begging to know what goes on behind the wizard's curtain.  And, if you are so desperate, anxious, foolish to want to see my scribblings, well here you are. But first, who tagged me?

Veronica Sicoe, the mad, witty, and brilliant blogger over at Building Character
Cortney Pearson, the effervescent, humorous, and pink! blogger at Writer by Day, Mommy Always

Be sure and check out their memes.
The rules are as such:
Go to page 7 or 77 of your current MS/WIP, or go to line 7 (for short fiction)
Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences or paragraphs and post them as they are written.
Tag 7 authors and let them know.

The manuscript you're sampling, is Marks of a Horsekeeper, an upper Middle Grade horse girl adventure story that's tag line is National Velvet meets Road Warrior. In this scene, Roan my protagonist, has stumbled lost out of the woods to the outlier camp of an elderly woman named Fay.

“You like dog?” Fay asked.

Roan remembered a story Papa had told her about animals once used in the Community for herding and hunting. He’d teared up when he spoke of the fever that had spread through the beasts at around the same time as the last human outbreak. The community had been forced to kill every last one of them.

“Dog?” she asked and looked around the room to see if she’d missed one of the creatures.

“Yeah. Loathsome beasts, tear around here in vicious packs. Some say they make pretty good friends. I say they make good eatin’.”

And now for my victims (remember, this is a voluntary activity.) I'm picking my newest Twitter followers with blogs.

Be sure and let me know if you post so I can read your meme!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A-Z Challenge - S is for Snakes and Swinging Bridges

This beauty is less than a mile from my house (as the crow flies). All through this part of western North Carolina you find swinging bridges joining neighbors from county to county, remote to a little less remote. This particular swinging bridge allowed neighbors on the west side of the river access to the east side of the river and the train siding.

You see, before it become a Methodist parsonage, this house on the rock was the station agent's home and the station itself. But there's an old tale around these parts that I imagine happened right here.

A young couple, newly married, made their way to the mountains. They found a fine flat rock to be the foundation for their new home. In that rock was a hole, the perfect spot to set the fire place, for the ashes could be swept away. The neighbors came and raised the walls, adding a tight roof, and a glorious front porch. The newlyweds were in their home just as the first snow began to fall. The husband, a stout fine lad, banked up the fire and they took to their wedding bed.

In the night, the wife woke and heard the oddest sounds. Scrapings and slidings, but it was dark and her new husband slept soundly, not waking when she tugged on his sleeve. The wife, scared witless, lay awake until dawn broke the windows. At first light, her scream was heard for miles around. For, you see, that hole was a copperhead den and in the night with the warmth of the coals, they came to life, their venom striking the husband dead.

John Ehle writes about this story in his novel, The Land Breakers, but I've heard it from other sources and my hunch is it's a tale as old as these hills themselves. I've made good use of it, telling it round bonfires to my children's friends, then dragging them down here in the light of day to show them "The Snake House." 

Do you like telling scary stories round a campfire?
And as a note - This Saturday I'm attending a SCBWI master workshop with Cheryl Klein and won't be responding until Sunday - Just know I love your comments!

Friday, April 20, 2012

A-Z Challenge - R is for Ramps

Springtime in Appalachia brings a welcome (or unwelcome) sight. Wild onions, known as ramps, start popping up in fields, by streams, and near trees. Folks around here love them and you'll find people out along the roadside selling them off the hoods of their cars for a few bucks a bunch.

Now the story I've been told is way back in the day, when ramp season would start, they'd sometime have to shut the schools down because the children smelled so bad. Ramps have a particularly strong odor, unique onto themselves, that is hard to get off your breath. One of my students swears if you drink vinegar after you eat them, it will wash away the smell.

A few years ago, big city folks, decided to take a shine to ramps, and even Martha Stewart featured them in her Living magazine. But they work best as a local food, fleeting in availability and time frame available to pick. (Here's a link to a high-brow ramps recipe)

How do you eat ramps? Well most folks like them cooked in eggs or taters, but some folks make a recipe called drunken lettuce.  For it you need:

Branch lettuce grows near the sides of streams (branches) in higher elevations, it, like ramps, is a springtime delicacy
A mess of branch lettuce
Bacon fat or fatback
Cooked crumble bacon

Sautee your ramps (cut them like chives - you eat the white part up into the tender green) and saute in fat. Wilt the lettuce in the hot grease. Sprinkle with cooked bacon. Sop up with biscuits!

Have you ever tried ramps?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A-Z Challenge - P is for Peeping Toms and Post It Notes

So, we have these neighbors, two sisters that live together, neither ever married. They are good old girls. Sister G (on the left) is a hunter/fisherwoman. She is always wearing camo and sports a classic rat tail mullet hair style. Sister T (on the right) is never seen without a chaw of dip in her cheek [Author's note: There are three sizes of tobacco plugs, jib (small), dip (medium), and chaw (large)]. They're good neighbors, there when you need them and keep to themselves the rest of the time.

For two years we'd been saying (when we stopped to gossip on the hard road), "Why don't y'all come on down to the house sometime. Just stop on in."

For two years they'd been saying, "Well we might just do that."

Of course, it never happened. Until the peeping Tom incident. It was rumored that someone was stalking around looking in windows in the dark. What to do? Why learn to shoot the 22 rifle we'd been given. But how do you shoot a gun?

I swear, before the words "teach, gun" had left our mouths, the sisters were on our doorstep, rifles and shells in hand, empty diet coke cans in a sack. We spent a pleasant afternoon, deafening birds and killing aluminum cans.

When they left, we looked at the gun. It was covered in Post-It notes. Step 1. Step 2. Step 3. Somehow, it didn't seem a burglar was going to stop to let us figure out directions.

So we got rid of the gun.

Do you have any neighbors that don't fit the mold?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A-Z Challenge - O is for Opossum and "Oh, let's just put a rock on it."

Appalachian Engineering can often be a matter of finding what's at hand out on the farm. It's a long drive to town and the hardware store, so many residents have perfected the technique of "Oh, let's just put a big rock on it."

Such was the case in our house when we first moved in. Under the kitchen sink was a hole. This hole was mostly covered by a big rock. Note use of the word mostly.

A little further explanation of the old kitchen (now remodeled without really big rock or hole) - the cabinets were a U-shaped configuration, but between them were no barriers, so behind the cabinet doors it was just one long continuous space. Enter the demon opossum.

I'm in the back when I hear a blood-curdling scream. I run to the kitchen. My significant other is babbling incoherently and pointing at the silverware drawer (which is shut). Tentatively, I reach forward and pull it open (cue sinister music), when:

Two of us were then screaming incoherently and babbling at the silverware drawer. The demon opossum took one look and hightailed back around the cabinet U and out of the hole through which he came.

Moral of the story: Make sure you get a big enough rock for the job!

Any close calls with wildlife in your house?

Monday, April 16, 2012

A-Z Challenge - N is for Not From Here's

When an isolated area opens up to tourism and people looking for a different life, or a swank vacation home, it inevitably causes some strife. Appalachia is no different. The Been Here's are multi-generational, their families shook hands over property lines, they've roamed on each others land. Then when the Not From Here's move in, the No Trespassing signs start popping up. People get testy.

So when I had this conversation with a neighbor, I knew I'd arrived.

We were hanging out at her trailer, talking about this ultra-fancy golf resort/neighborhood up on a hill outside of town. She went into a rant about how people were moving in, driving up real estate prices, and just generally causing a nuisance for the Been Here's. Then she stopped. Her mouth dropped. She waved her hand no and said:

"No I wasn't talking about you'uns. You'uns act more like old-timers than some old-timers. You raise stock, put in a garden, you live like us."

I've never received a compliment I liked more.

Local singer/songwriter, Chuck Brodsky, did a great song about this very issue and I'll share it with you here. And if you like baseball, check out his baseball ballads CD, it's a winner.

So where you live is there a divide between locals and non-locals?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I've Been Tagged - Doubly So! - in the 7-7-7 Challenge

I've been tagged twice this week by friends in the blogosphere.  My friend and sometimes beta reader, Lora Rivera at her blog of the same name and Donna McNicol, a new friend from the A-Z Challenge, at her blog, My Write Spot.

The 7-7-7- Challenge:
Flip to page 77  or page 7 of your current WIP.
Find line 7.
Post the 7 sentences that follow.
Tag 7 more writers.

The WIP I'm choosing is my contemporary young adult novel, working title Through Hiker, but I'm pretty sure it's going to have a different name when it's all said and done.  Keep in mind this is a first draft, so this might not even end up in the final to-do.

“So, Hot Chocolate, you taking my friend, Amber, here to the dance Friday?”

“C.A.!” My mouth drops. She will truly say anything.

Sean just laughs. “Sure, Jennifer, my girlfriend is so hawt. It would be like, so stupid, not to take her.” His Clueless inflection is spot-on perfect.

C.A. looks confused. “Jennifer?”

“Generic name for a white girl. Especially a blonde, blue-eyed one.”

C.A. thinks for a second, then snort laughs and slugs Sean on the shoulder. “That’s awesome.” 

And now to tag seven more writers:

How About this - if you follow me and want to be tagged, you're tagged (Sorry Lora and Donna - but I'm burned out from A-Z and can't run around linking up - please forgive me!!!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A-Z Challenge - M is for woMan versus Mud Bug

It's like the scenario from some really bad dystopian novel. It's summer, you're hot, all you want is a glass of water, when sputter, sputter, spit, oh Crap! The spring is dry.

For the past two summers we have been living through the nightmare of a fickle spring. Can I take a shower? Check the spring. Can I water the horses? Check the spring. You get the picture.

I don't want to trade my mountain spring water for a well, nor do I want to pay to have it dug, and the weird thing is, every fall, the water returns to fine.
This is a mudbug chimney

Finally, we figured out the culprit. Culprits as it turns out. Mudbugs, crayfish, teensy little arthropods that taste good in butter and spicy salt (if you can catch them). But catching them is a job for eight year old Tom Sawyer-ish boys with a lot of time on their hands. Time I do not have.  But bleach, I do.
Turn away PETA people, I'm about to murder some mudbugs.

And bleach, it turns out, will kill them. You just have to be sure to only pour in holes that are downstream of your spring. (And this information came from a gardening sight - the bleach is diluted - I'm usually a fairly chemical free organic person)

So here's hoping I will be toasting you all this summer with a plentiful glass of cool mountain spring water, after I've done two loads of laundry, watered the garden, and showered!!

How do you deal with first world problems?

Friday, April 13, 2012

A-Z Challenge - L is for Least'uns, Loafin', and Loafer's Glory

What I would give to be able to loaf my days away. Loafers Glory would be a good place to do it. Pretty scenery, a mountain river, the gentle chunk-a-chunk of the passing coal train.

You say you're not familiar with the term loafin'?  Well, this falls back to those Scotch-Irish roots of the Appalachian mountains and a language steeped in Old English and Southern vernacular. If you're just chilling out, relaxing, not working hard like you're supposed to, you're loafin'. Mountain folks are hard-working people. So when you ask someone what they're doing and they answer, "Why I ain't doing much but loafin'." It's usually said with a wry smile and a wink.

Sometimes it's the oldest in the family that's the loafer and sometimes it's the least'in (least one). What the heck is the least one, you say? Why it's the youngest child, the littlest one, the least one. The first time I heard this term, I was clueless.

"The what?" I asked.
"Why, the least'in."
"The who?" I asked.
"The least'in, the baby of the family."
"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh." And I finally got it.

Where's your favorite place to loaf? And are  you the least'in in your family?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A-Z Challenge - K is for Kerosene (or how not to act like you're from NYC)

Todays tale is one borrowed from a friend, but it's a good example of when you move into a place it's best to get the lay of the land before acting out of turn.
Most houses around here are heated with kerosene. These tanks are filled by big gas trucks that beep up the driveway.

So my friend, we'll call her Curly, was originally from Virginia. A larger city in Virginia but still south of the Mason-Dixon line. Curly moved to New York City fresh out of college and struggled to lose her Southern gentility and circular way of getting to what she needed. In New York, she found her voice and learned how to go straight for something and let her needs be known.  Fast forward to her move to Appalachia.

Curly got settled into her new home and realized she needed fuel and fast because a cold snap was coming. She called the fuel company to find out when they could deliver.

"It'll be a day or two afore we can get out there."

"A day or two?" Curly asked.


"I need that fuel today," Curly said, practicing her newly found New York assertiveness. "Any later is just not good enough."

Two weeks later her fuel showed up.

The pace of life in Appalachia is way different than cities. I remember going to get my oil changed shortly after I'd moved here from Atlanta. It was close to noon and I walked in, the bell ringing. A voice called down from the loft. "Hello there. We're up here eating our dinner. Could you come back in an hour?" I was amazed. Unheard of in Atlanta, because of the competition. You took your customers when they came not when it suited you.

Over time, I've learned to love the pace of the mountains. I think I'd find myself hard-pressed to move back to the hustle and madness of a big city. Waiting in lines? I don't think so. Traffic? No way.

What about you? City mouse or country mouse?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A-Z Challenge - J is for Jars and Jugs

Now get your mind out of the gutter. I'm not talking about those kind of jugs. I'm talking about these kind of jugs. Moonshine jugs.

The fellow in this photograph is none other than Popcorn Sutton, probably the most famous and flagrant moonshiner around these parts. Though Tennessee was his home, he lived just close enough that we claim him, too. 

It's only been within the last five years that our county legally sold alcohol. If I wanted a glass of wine, I'd have to drive a minimum of a half hour to get it.
My thoughts exactly, Popcorn!

So the locals were ingenious. People became modern day moonshiners. Certain garages around town held makeshift beer stores. For an inflated fee, it was possible to get cases of cheap American beer and worse wine. Liquor, well it was still made Popcorn's way. As you can imagine, the sheriff's office was none to happy about legal liquor. Why let the state get the tax revenue when it could all come under the table?

Like I said, customs changing, ways of life dying out. Now beer-making is an artform and liquor comes from the ABC store. And I am so happy I can pick up a bottle of Malbec at the grocery store.

What's your favorite beverage? Ever tried good old Mountain Dew (and I don't mean the kind made by Pepsi-Co.)?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A-Z Challenge - I is for Initials, Scotch-Irish, and Iris Dement

The Appalachian mountains were settled mostly by the Scotch-Irish. This term is a totally American confection because most of the immigrants were not from Scotland. They were Protestants transplanted from England and Wales to the Ulster plantation in Ireland during the 17th century. When they immigrated to America in the colonial era, many made their way inland from the coast to Appalachia. It was during the surge of Irish immigration after the Irish Famine in the 1840's that the earlier immigrants took to calling themselves Scotch-Irish (to distinguish themselves from the newer arrivals.) People around here still call themselves Scotch-Irish.

But rather than argue semantics, let's talk about what they did bring. Music and language. Old ballads and old English still find their way into the local dialect. (See the letter "H"). One of the stories I love is that a prayer said under a beech tree goes straight to God. We have an enormous beech tree on our property.
And on it are a pair of carved initials. The letters are so worn they're not distinguishable anymore. I often wonder, did these lovers say a prayer under the tree to make their relationship last?

A great movie about the tradition of music in the Appalachian Mountains is Songcatcher, a drama about a musicologist sent to record the old ballads. The soundtrack of this movie is incredible. In the spirit of the Scotch-Irish sent journeying from their homes I give you one of my favorites, Pretty Saro, as sung by Iris Dement. Enjoy!
(Unfortunately Youtube wouldn't let me imbed this one - but it's worth the watch, such a beautiful song)

So tell me a story about the initials above, what do you think they say?

Monday, April 9, 2012

A-Z Challenge - H is for Hit and Holler

So, we live in a holler. Sometimes we holler in the holler. But mostly we're back in a holler. What's a holler? Well, I think the technical definition is a valley off of a main road that you have to wind to get to, often surrounded on three sides by natural boundaries, like mountains, or rivers, or creeks. When people ask, "Where do you live?", I actually describe the road, the turn-off, and then, for real, I say "Back in the holler on the river side."

Now hit. Hit's another story.

This is actually me, about age 2. Ain't hit sweet.
I had gone to see about some insurance. The place I went was a trailer on the main road in town. I waited on one side of a chipboard partition and finally the woman insurance salesperson could see me. We talked about insurance. I filled out forms and I commented on the photo of a toddler behind her desk.

Me: Is that your grandchild?
Insurance Lady: Why lord, yes. Ain't hit sweet.
Me: Hit?
Insurance Lady: Yes, hit's spoiled rotten, going on near five now, that sweet little thing we just love hit to death.

Now where I grew up, young children were Johnny or Becky or Suzie Q but never were they to be Hit. Here, it's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

In Wikipedia under the definition of Appalachian English (yes, there is such a heading) it says below the phonemic incidence heading:

H retention occurs at the beginning of certain words. It, in particular, is pronounced hit at the beginning of a sentence and also when emphasized. The word "ain't" is pronounced hain't.[11]

There are so many things I love about this area, but I must admit, calling your children "Hit" is just one I've never gotten used to. 

So, do you "hit" your children or just call them by name?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A-Z Challenge - G is for Gossip

Appalachia and gossip go together. Way back when roads weren't as good, phones weren't as prevalent and Internet was unheard of, the human chain was the way news was passed. Often you see folks leaning out of cars at mailboxes, or two trucks side by side stopped in the middle of the road, filling each other in on family, neighbors, and friends.

Gossip is sometimes malicious, sometimes of the "bless her heart" variety (as in "Bless her heart, she couldn't help it that her husband fell for someone else.), or a friendly exchange between friends.

Just last week, one of my neighbors (who'll you'll hear more about in the letter P) and I ran into each other at the gas station. We hugged and caught up on family stuff. Her father's moved in ("Damn, I can't wonder nekked through the house no more"), her sister has a new dog ("We got the wide ass open variety of Weimeramer"), and she's getting knee surgery. We parted ways but caught up to each other on our crooked road (see the letter C). She pulled over in the volunteer fire department parking lot and flagged me down. That's when I got the real juice.

A few of our neighbor's up on the hard road (paved versus my 1/2 mile gravel drive) have been in a legal dispute. One family's pre-teen boys have been driving four-wheelers and even the family trucks back and forth, loudly and dangerously. A big fight ensued and apparently the family putting the charges on record, caught the daddy of these boys on video tape yelling for the other father to come out into the street so he could "whoop his ass." Just another day down in the holler.

Update: Since I pre-wrote this post, all hell broke out. There was a sure enough pounding that took place in the middle of the hard road. Sheriff came out. Ambulance, too. One neighbor ended up in the hospital, the other with warrants. Ah gee. Country Living.

So, heard any good stories lately? Anyone in your life a gossip?

Friday, April 6, 2012

A--Z Challenge - F is for Fiddlers and Family Tradition

One of the things that makes this region truly unique is its heritage of old-timey music. I remember one day while out riding my horse, I heard music. On a porch was a whole family playing together and making sweet music. Family bluegrass bands are multi-generational and multi-instrumental. They've also been around for a long time.

And since fiddling is better heard than talked about, I give you this video on Red Wilson, a North Carolina legend from round about these parts. He sure does make sweet music.

Are you an old-timey music fan, or not?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A-Z Challenge - E is for Eggs (Fresh from the Farm)

One of my favorite yard sale finds - $5 for a folk art rooster with nails used as feather patterns

Okay. True story of a couple of city folk. Not long after moving here my significant other asked me, "Do you need a rooster to have chicken eggs?"

It took a couple of head scratching minutes before I had a blinding moment of enlightenment. "Um, I don't think so. Women have eggs. We only need a rooster if we want children. So maybe you only need a rooster if you want chicks."
Something about having real chickens makes you buy cool chicken art

So we bought our first batch of chicks from the feed store and lo and behold, even though it was supposedly a straight run of chicks (all sexed as hens) who ended up with the cutest little banty rooster named Boots. Poor handsome Boots fell victim to a fox (we think) and now we're down to just five hens.  Three Rhode Island Red/Buff Orphington crosses, one Dominickeer, and one Barred Partridge. They're good girls and even though two are getting up in hen years, we still get fresh eggs. Once you've experienced backyard eggs, you'll never want to go back. (Though sometimes in the winter, we're forced to when the girls are just too dang cold to lay)

So, here's your question. The above bowl contains fresh from the hen house eggs and grocery store organic/free range eggs. Which are which? 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A-Z Challenge - D is for Decoration Day

Appalachians have a cool tradition that I'd never heard of before moving here. Much like the Hispanic tradition of Dia de los Muertos, many families celebrate what is known as Decoration Day. Once a year, the same weekend each year, families gather together to spruce up their family burial plots. Live flowers, plastic flowers, plants and shrubs are planted. Weeds are cleared. Grass is cut. The musically inclined play banjos, fiddles, and guitars while reedy-voiced women raise their voices in praise.

When the day is done, it's time for the feasting. And since Decoration Day is much like a family reunion, it is a joyful gathering.

Sometimes church recipes can be downright strange. Here's one for sharing. Next time you go to a church supper, tell 'em your mountain friend recommended it! 

What's the strangest potluck dish you've ever experienced?


2 Cans(15oz) Corn with Peppers/Fiesta Corn or Southwestern Corn, drained
1 Bunch Green Onions
1/2 Cup Mayo
2 Tablespoons Veg. Oil
Frito Corn Chips, crushed

In a medium bowl empty your corn and peppers. Chop the green onions and then combine them witht the corn and peppers.  Use as much as you like. Add the mayo and veg. oil to the corn mixture and toss to coat the
vegs well. Cover the bowl with a lid and ref. for 4 hours or overnight. Sprikle the crushed Fritos on top of the corn before you serve this. Add as much Fritos as you like as this it what makes it so good. But do not add until you are ready to serve this as they will get soggy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A-Z Challenge - C is for Crooked Road Commuting

When you buy a place way out in the back of beyond, sometimes it takes a local perspective to realize just what you've gotten yourself into. Not long after moving in it was time to put up a horse fence. When you live in Appalachia, it's not like you run to the 1/8" thick yellow pages and find just what you need.

So what do you do? You run an ad. One that might read like this: Wanted, someone to put up a horse fence. xxx-xxxx

Then you wait. And you might get a call like this.

Fence Dude: "Where you at?"
Me: "I'm on Anonymous Road."
Fence Dude: "Anonymous Road. That's a crooked road."
Me: "Yes it is."
Fence Dude: "Well, do I got the job?"
Me: "Um, I'm getting estimates."
Fence Dude: "Well, if I ain't got the job, I don't reckon I'll ride on out there. That's a crooked road."

Now, fifteen years later, six miles in, six miles out, fifteen full minutes each way, new tires at least once every nine months, I realize the wisdom of his words. I might not reckon to ride out here either if I'd known I'd eventually have a day job that took me out of the house five days a week. But it's a pretty commute and it's helped me learn more about the region. Here's how:
 If your twelve mile road has four Baptist churches (two of which are pictured above), it's a pretty good indicator that folks didn't get along too well and found the need to break up their congregations into separate factions.

One man's trash is another man's treasure. This fellow owns a roadside worth of Ford vehicles, but with more and more appliances and trucks being winched up off the sides of mountains (due to the now high price of scrap metal) where they've been dumped, he's sitting on a gold mine. But you're likely to come round the bend and find his tow truck in the middle of the road like he owns it. Not good when you're in a hurry.

Cows are kind of cool. Did you know that when the calves are young, cows will assign one cow to hang out sleeping with them, while the rest of the cows go off to graze. Calf Sitters. Occasionally I get to see one being born when I'm driving to and fro.

(P.S. - All photos taken from the driver's seat)

So, that's my commute. How's yours?

Monday, April 2, 2012

A-Z Challenge - B is for "Baccer"

The Appalachian mountains of western North Carolina have a history of hard scrabble farming and making do. For many years, tobacco (or "Baccer") production was one of the main farm crops in this region. It was hardy and could be grown on just about any little patch of land. Whole families would work their fields, planting the young tobacco off the backs of plows, often pulled by draft horses. Even in the last decade I've seen people working their fields with mules and horses. Mules, unlike tractors, don't roll off the side of a hill.

In the fall, the tobacco would be cut and hung in the field on baccer sticks to be transported to big baccer barns like the one falling down on my neighbor's property.

These tall airy barns (well not this airy - this one is a few winters away from being a pile of rubble) with poles crisscrossed through the beams were built specifically for curing baccer.
After curing, it would be transported to someplace like the Big Burly warehouse in Asheville to be bought.
In 2004, the Federal Tobacco Buyout bought most small farmers' tobacco quotas and marked the end of major tobacco cultivation in Western North Carolina. As much as I detest smoking, I miss the beauty of the tobacco harvest. It's a tiny bit of the culture of this area that has all but disappeared.

Do you live in a place where the actions of farmers point to the season or time of year? Is there a harvest rhythm in your life?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A-Z Challenge - A is for Appalachia

When I first saw this challenge in the blog-o-sphere, I thought, what will I choose for a theme? And then it hit me. This crazy place I've made my home for the past fifteen years would make a fine topic. You see I came from Alabama with a banjo on my knee (not really, but a banjo would fit in swell up here), by way of a year in Arizona, by way of some years in Atlanta, and ended up an hour north of Asheville, North Carolina in the heart of Appalachia.
The dictionary definition of Appalachia according to Wikipedia: Appalachia is a term used to describe a cultural region in the eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York state to northern AlabamaMississippi, and Georgia.

But it's wrong. Appalachians (Apple-a-chuns NOT Apple-ay-chee-uns) will not claim anything above the Mason-Dixon line and it must be mountainous. And as a pure-bred south Alabamian (now there's a lofty distinction) - there's no way I would have claimed being Appalachian  prior to moving here.

But what is right is the word, cultural. This region is one of a few left in the USA that stills hangs on to culture created by isolation. It's twisted, and odd, and lovely, and beautiful, all at the same time. It's taken me a long time to get over my own xenophobia, but bad people are bad people and good people are good people and they exist in every faction, doesn't matter where you live. I've moved beyond my hillbilly fears and occasionally you might even catch me saying "yalla" for yellow or "flyers" for flowers. And if you need a favor, "Why, I wouldn't care to a bit." (P.S. That means I'll do it)

In the summer, when this tree is blooming, the whole place smells like apples. And that's a good thing.

So, because I want to know you, have you ever moved some place with scary preconceptions only to have them pleasantly shattered? What did you find?