Course the Bees

Papaw Wade Earl Wilson

Papaw Wade blowing his fox horn

course verb To trace or follow (esp bees to their hive).
1926 Hunnicutt Twenty Years 73 I told him I was going to course the bees. 1950 Woody Cataloochee Homecoming 13 He could "course" a bee with an unerring eye, and he seldom got a sting. 1976 Carroll and Pulley Little Cataloochee 18 He was an expert in searching out bee trees and had the ability to course bees into hives for the purpose of producing honey. 

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I’ve always wanted bees. When I first started wishing for them several years ago, Pap told me keeping bees was a lot of work. He knew because when he was a boy he had to help his father, my Papaw Wade, with his bees.

Back in those days most folks didn’t order their bees like they do today, instead they found the bees in the wild and managed to capture them. Sometimes the bees were in a swarm and they were easy to capture, other times the coursing method described in the definition above was used.

You can read about some of the items that were used as bee gums or hives in those days on this website. Pap said Papaw Wade used a hollow log for his bee gum. 

One time I was talking about bees when we were down at Pap’s big garden. Pap said “If you really want bees you can find your own.” I said “How in the world would I do that?” Pap went on to explain how Papaw Wade would wait by a stream of water, usually a creek. As he sat patiently he kept his eyes open for honey bees that were visiting the water source. Once he saw a bee he began following it back to where it came from, hopefully to it’s hive.

I said “That sounds impossible.” Pap said “Well it does but if that’s the only hope you had of getting bees and you knew it would work and you were determined then it is possible.”
Still disbelieving the possibility of coursing bees, I said “But how in the world would you follow them?”

Pap said sometimes his father would carry a bucket of water into the woods where he last saw the bee and sit patiently until the bees found his temporary source of water and begin coursing the bee from that point. By continuing to move the water he came closer and closer until he eventually found the hive. 

Even after hearing of Papaw Wade’s bee coursing experiences I still found the process hard to believe. Pap understood my skepticism by saying “You’re right it’s a mighty hard job to do and not a job that can be done quickly. You have to have patience a plenty. Patience, good eyesight, and quick reflexes. Why the only one of us that could even attempt it now would be Mark.”

My nephew Mark was still in high school when Pap and I had that conversation. Mark graduated from Yale in May-not bad for a boy who grew up in a holler in Appalachia.

I still wish I had bees or at least the determination to try and course them myself.


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Paths in Appalachia

Paths in Appalachia

From house to house he goes
A messenger small and slight,
And whether it rains or snows,
He sleeps outside at night.

~Riddle from The Frank C. Brown Collection Of North Carolina Folklore 


The answer to the riddle is a path.

The photo above, shows the path that leads from about midways along our driveway down to Pap’s big garden. Actually the path doesn’t begin in our driveway, it starts at the steps of Granny and Pap’s back porch. The path goes along through their yard and when it reaches our road it splits.

One path leads off down to Paul’s house, one leads up alongside our driveway to our house, and the other that you can see in the photo, goes on across the road, down to the big garden and on out to Steve's house.

Paths are very thought provoking. There are paths everywhere in this world, even in the largest cities you can find paths that cut through grassy areas or unused lots. People and animals make paths which lead to their daily destinations. I find it fascinating that paths made by feet traveled in years gone by can still be seen today, even though no one has walked them in ages.

Way back in the day before I was even married, a fellow visiting our mountain holler made fun of the paths which led from house to house. At the time I felt embarrassed or slighted by his comment. All these years later, looking at the paths with older eyes, I see the paths which travel between mine, Pap’s, Paul’s and Steve’s houses as a source of great wealth.


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Larry's Fruit Salad and the Book Winner

Easy summer fruit salad

Larry was a friend of Miss Cindy's. He gave me the name for the Blind Pig and The Acorn and he gave me the recipe for this fruit salad.

It's basically a recipe for Ambrosia, a recipe many folks associate with Christmas, but it's the perfect dessert for hot summer days.

Larry's Fruit Salad

  • 2 cans pineapple chunks
  • 1 can mandarin oranges
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1/4 bag sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 to 1/2 bag miniature marshmallows
  • optional - 1 cup of nuts

Pineapple salad

Drain fruit.

Mix fruit and all other ingredients together and let chill overnight or as long as you can wait to taste it! 


The winner of Grandma Gatewood's Walk is...Wesley Bossman who said:

I am often amazed at what "old folks" can, and have accomplished. I, too, thoroughly enjoy this blog, and never fail to read it through. Thank you, Tipper, for going to the trouble to give us some inspiration every morning!

A big thank you to everyone who entered the book giveaway. I have another one coming up soon-so be on the look out for it!


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Down in a Little Green Valley

As I spent time outside over the last few days I was reminded of this post I wrote back in 2013. With summer's bright green coat shining brightly this time of the year always makes me feel like I'm living in a little green valley.

Carson Robison

On August 4, 1890, Carson Robison was born in Oswego, KS. Robison had many occupations over his lifetime, most of them centered around life on the prairie. He was a farmer, a cow puncher, and an oilfield worker. Robison was also a song writing musician who had a unique whistling talent-he was able to whistle in 2 part harmony at the same time. Robison was nicknamed The Kansas Jaybird.

In 1904 he penned his first song Anthem. By 1924 he made his first recordings with Victor Records laying down the tracks Songbirds in Georgia and Whistling the Blues Away

Throughout the coming years, Robison formed his own band, Carson Robison and His Pioneers. The band traveled throughout the US and abroad even performing for King George and Queen Elizabeth. 

In 1971 Robison was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

To see a discography of Robison you can go here: Nashville Song Writers Hall of Fame. A quote shared on the same website gives us a glimpse into Robison's mind:

"Nature and tradition have been my best sources for material. I've learned plenty of things from her and I reckon most people could write songs about the odd characters, odd happenings right in their own backyard. I'm not aimin' to hand out any advice on how to write songs. I don't think there's a set formula for the work. My heritage and tradition has come down to me from the covered wagon days and I suppose there couldn't have been a better background for my efforts. I just hope they keep that tradition alive long after I'm gone and I hope my son carries on after me."  

Paul and Pap learned one of Robison's songs from Granny's uncle, Henry Truett. Other than Uncle Henry, Marty Robbins, Doc Watson, and Fret Killer (of Youtube fame)-they've never heard anyone else sing it. The title of the song is Little Green Valley-its a great song take a listen and see if you don't agree. (Pap-my father, Paul-my brother, and Mark-my nephew, can be seen playing in this video-off camera Ben-my nephew is hitting some licks on the guitar too)

I hope you enjoyed the old song-it's got a catchy tune. And who wouldn't like to live in a Little Green Valley like the song describes?


*Source: Nashville Songwriters Foundation

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Breakfast - Dinner - Supper

Pinto beans

dinner noun The midday meal, traditionally the main one of the day.
1924 Spring Lydia Whaley 1 Pap let the county build a school house free on his land which was nigh enuf for 'em to go home to dinner. And he was "powerful to send us to school." 1940 Oakley Roamin'/Restin' 128 Its dinner in the mountains at 12 noon and supper at night. 1959 Pearsall Little Smoky 91 "Let's get us some dinner" may be said any time from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. 1972 Cooper NC Mt Folklore 159 I want to go back where they eat three meals a day-breakfast, dinner and supper, where the word lunch will never be heard again. 1996 Houk Foods & Recipes 7 Before noon, women headed home to fix "dinner," the main meal of the day, consisting of hot cornbread, beans, pork in some form, and possibly a dessert. Duly fortified, they went back out to the cornfield for the afternoon. What appeared on the table for supper often closely resembled what was left over from dinner.

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Half of the T knob on Granny's well faucet has been broke off for a good long while. Pap didn't have any trouble turning the water on, but Granny said it hurt her hand when she tried to turn the lopsided knob when she watered the garden. 

We bought a replacement piece a couple weeks ago and yesterday morning The Deer Hunter decided it was time to take care of the knob.

As often happens with small jobs, the knob replacement turned into a more complicated project after The Deer Hunter accidentally broke the pipe going into the well while trying to loosen the knob that had been on there since the well was drilled in the 80s. 

Between our house, Paul's house, and Pap's basement we scrounged up enough plumbing fittings for The Deer Hunter to re-plumb the well top. By the time we finished Granny had made a pot of spaghetti and said we might as well stay for dinner so we did.  


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Overheard in Appalachia

"Son don’t worry about the mule just load the wagon."


Don't forget to enter the giveaway for the book about Grandma Gatewood-it ends today!


Overheard: snippets of conversation I overhear in Southern Appalachia

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5 Things

Andy griffith show from pap to granny

1. Pap was better at running the tv than Granny. They both love to watch the western channel and they love the Andy Griffith Show too. Pap had the tv programmed where it would switch over to Andy every evening. Granny is usually watching the show when I come by after work to check on her. She said she thought it was so sweet that Pap fixed the tv for her since she didn't know how to fool with it like he did. One day she told me "Every evening when it turns to Andy and Barney I think how he's still looking out for me even though he's gone."

Dewberries in peachtree nc

2. The Deer Hunter was out working in a field the other day when he spied some dewberries by the side of the way. He cut the top off a plastic water bottle and picked some for me. There used to be a few dewberries down at Pap's big garden, I need to go see if they're still there.

Little middle folk school at jccfs

3. Brasstown is a buzz with the sound of children this week-it's Little Middle Folk School at the John C. Campbell Folk School. The girls are too old to attend as students, but they are volunteering. Chatter is helping with all sorts of things from finding out the needs of instructors to directing traffic. The lucky dog Chitter is helping out in the jewelry studio as an assistant. I used to write about the classes the girls took when they were students. You can see the old posts at the links below:

Two Blacksmiths are Living at My House
Two Knitters Moved In Last Week
Two Jewelers Moved In Last Week

Paps college id

4. Since Pap died Granny has about drove herself crazy going through old pictures and papers. She found Pap's college ID card a few weeks ago. I knew he went to college on the GI Bill, but had never seen the card before. Back then the community college hadn't been open for all that long. The college was started on the site of an old prison and in those days it was mostly technical programs that were offered. Pap took electronics and learned how to wire the house he was building for him and Granny at the time. 

When the roses bloom again

5. Paul and I are slowly making progress on the dvd I told you about a few weeks ago (if you missed that post go here). I made a playlist on Youtube of our top 22 viewed videos-you can go here to see/hear it. I've been letting it play in the background as I work. I find myself being amazed at the wonderful music even though I was right there when it was being made. I've especially been enjoying When the Roses Bloom Again


p.s. Don't forget to enter the giveaway for the book about Grandma Gatewood-it ends tomorrow!

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The Pear Trees

The pear trees homeplace brasstown nc

All my life an old homeplace up the creek has been called The Pear Trees. No pears there in my lifetime, however there were pears there when Pap was a boy.

Pap School Pic

The settlement that was once up the creek lived large in Pap’s mind. The Stameys, Hickeys, and  Robersons, were people Pap knew and had fond memories of.

I would sit spellbound as a little girl when Pap told me about the houses that used to be up the creek, the people who lived in them, and the cars, wagons, and sleds that used to come right down by our house when he was a boy.

While Pap could remember when most of the houses were inhabited, like the folks who kept their cow in the cellar, there were a few places that had already been deserted by the time Pap was old enough to tramp through the woods on his own.

One of the places is just beyond Steve’s house. Pap's father told him a family of Cherokee Indians lived in the house that once stood there.

The other place was The Pear Trees. Pap said there were still a few outbuildings standing and maybe a portion of the house when he was a boy. He remembered one time his best friend LC and him were caught in a horrible storm and they took shelter in one of the old buildings till the storm blew itself on down the road.

Imagining a treasure trove of old glass bottles I asked him if there were still stuff in the house or buildings. He said no someone had taken anything of value, even taking some of the better wood to use for whatever building needs they might have had. Pap said “But I did find one treasure there, well a treasure to a overall wearing barefoot boy, I found a nickel laying in the top of the corncrib. Can’t even remember what I was doing or looking for but I laid my hand right on top of that nickel.”

What Pap remembers most is the bounty of fruit that could be gotten from the old homeplace. There were the pears that gave the site its common name in addition there were plums, apples, chinquapins, a sort of bush with edible things on it that reminded Pap of grapes but wasn’t grapes, and there was a mulberry tree.

Pap said one time Harold Kernea, the Crisp boys and him climbed high up in the mulberry tree and ate to their hearts content. Well everyone but Pap ate to their hearts content. After eating for a while Pap noticed the mulberries had little mites on them and that turned his stomach from eating them.

I asked Pap if they harvested the fruit from the homeplace every summer. He said most every year Papaw and Mamaw would go get some or his grandmother, Big Grandma, would get him to go with her and help gather. Pap said any time he was going by the place during a fruiting time he’d take his shirt off and make a sack out of it and take his mother and Big Grandma back anything he happen to find that was ready to be picked.

Old chimney at homeplace

Old chimney at The Pear Trees

Today the only thing left at the The Pear Trees is remnants of the chimney, a portion of the rocked spring house and a few other piles of rocks left from clearing fields for new land. It’s a beautiful place with a good peaceful feeling about it.

Rocked spring at old homeplace

Rocked spring at The Pear Trees

My whole life I’ve wondered about the people who lived there. Having such a bountiful fruit garden makes them seem like they were well off. They certainly had an eye to the future, since many trees take years to finally produce the way you want them to. Yet they disappeared without a trace by the time Pap was harvesting the fruits of their labors. Not even a memory left to be passed down from Pap’s father or grandfather like the one about the Cherokee Indian family.


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Have you heard about Grandma Gatewood? And a Book Giveaway!

Grandma gatewood 2

Several weeks ago Chicago Review Press sent me a copy of the book Grandma Gatewood's Walk written by Ben Montgomery. When I was first contacted about the book, I thought I had heard of it a long time ago and figured they must be doing a re-release or something. Turns out I was totally wrong. The fascinating story of Grandma Gatewood is old, but the book was published in 2014 with the paperback edition sliding out earlier this year.

The story of Grandma Gatewood pulled me in from the start. A grandma walking the Appalachian Trail by herself…without telling anyone where she was…WHAT???

About the time I got over the surprise of a grandma slipping off to walk the trail alone I realized she didn’t have any of the typical hiking gear with her. No sleeping bag, no tent, no real supply of food. It was just her and the walk.

The book is hard to put down and that’s really saying something coming from a fiction junky like me. The story weaves around Gatewood's life story and the obstacles she overcomes on the trail.

Here's a short excerpt from Chicago Review Press's overview of the book:

Winner of the 2014 National Outdoor Book Awards for History/BiographyEmma Gatewood told her family she was going on a walk and left her small Ohio hometown with a change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars. The next anybody heard from her, this genteel, farm-reared, 67-year-old great-grandmother had walked 800 miles along the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. And in September 1955, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine's Mount Katahdin. There she sang the first verse of "America, the Beautiful" and proclaimed, "I said I'll do it, and I've done it."

Throughout the book I found myself cheering Gatewood on, in the same manner people of that era did after they heard about her on the nightly news or read about her in the newspaper.

The generous folks at Chicago Press Review also donated a copy of the book for me to giveaway. For a chance to win leave a comment on this post. *Giveaway ends Friday June 24. 


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How to Make Mulberry Juice - It's good!

How to make mulberry juice

Last summer I tasted a mulberry for the very first time, actually that was the first time I ever even seen a mulberry other than in a book or on tv. Unbeknownst to me, I had driven by a huge mulberry tree for practically my entire life. I probably still wouldn’t know it was a mulberry tree if Miss Cindy hadn’t become the owner of the tree when she moved to the area to be closer to us.

When the mulberries ripened a couple of weeks ago I made mulberry juice with some of the berries. The process couldn’t be easier and the juice couldn’t be better.

Using mulberries for juice

First I washed the mulberries; then I placed them in a large stockpot; added water until I could just see it coming up through the berries; and then cooked them for about 20 minutes.

Next I ran the mulberries through my handy dandy ricer. Once I had extracted all the juice from the berries I discarded them and poured the juice through a fine sieve a few times to remove all the mulberry seeds.

I poured the strained juice back into my cleaned stockpot and added sugar to taste.

I googled around and found a few mulberry juice recipes, but the amount of sugar they called for seemed like the sweetness would take over the mulberry taste. So I added sugar until I decided it tasted right.

After the sugar was added, I cooked the mixture until it thickened slightly then allowed it to cool to room temperature before pouring it into quart jars to store in the frig.

Mulberry juice is good for you and easy to make

The juice is actually a concentrate. About a quarter cup of mulberry juice (more/less depending on your taste) mixed with cold water makes it just right-and it makes the juice last longer which is a good thing since it tastes so so good.

Come back in a day or so and I'll share a story about Pap and mulberries with you.

To see how to make mulberry jelly go here


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