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.
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.
"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!
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."
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All week I've been afraid of today because its Father's Day. I've been scared of the sadness I knew would rise up around my feet and make its way to my eyes as if it was a dense cold fog that came from deep within the earth. As time marched ever closer to Sunday, and its day of celebration, my fear was kept company by many tears.
But I have gratitude weaving its way through my heavy heart too.
Gratitude for a having had a wonderful father for a whole heck of a lot of years! Gratitude that his steering led his family through the highways and hedges of life in such a manner that even though he's gone we'll not stray from the paths he showed us. Gratitude that we have each other to love; to sit and reminisce with; to lend a helping hand; to stand beside each other looking toward a future that is brightened because we had such a father.
Recently, Paul told the audience we'd been on a whirlwind tour of the Brasstown and Blairsville area. Our grand tour hasn't taken us far away from home, yet we have kept the roads hot playing gigs the last few weeks.
Here's a quick video of us warming up before a show.
I feel like there has been part of Pap with us on every stage we've stood on since he passed away...even the one that was actually too small for us to stand on-which would have given Pap a good laugh.
If you're a father - HAPPY FATHER'S DAY FROM THE BLIND PIG GANG TO YOU.
This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn in 2011.
The Summer Daddy Found the Spring (A True Story Remembered) written by Ethelene Dyer Jones
It was a hot dry summer, much like this one has been. Water was scarce, and crops looked pitiful in the fields. To complicate matters, our well went dry. What were we to do for drinking water?
I don’t remember the exact year, somewhere in the ‘30’s after the economy, too, had fallen in the crash of October, 1929. Times were hard, and to have the well go dry was adding another angst to the already long list of woes the farmers in Choestoe Community faced.
I was old enough to remember, and to think of how serious was our situation. I remember my father, J. Marion Dyer, praying that he could find water as he went on his search.
Remembering this incident, I thought it quite strange that he went out to one of the peach trees near our garden and looked until he found a branch. He cut it, and in his hands he held a "y"-shaped limb.
With the limb in one hand and a shovel in the other, he went walking down the dirt road by our house. I was following close behind him, full of curiosity. When he got to the trail that angled up on the bank, the trail on which we drove our cows daily to pasture, he turned right. I followed right behind him, stepping fast to keep up with him and see where he was headed.
We had a v-shaped walk-through entrance in the fence leading to the pasture where people could enter but where the animals could not get through. Dad went through this entrance, and there I was, following not far behind him. He propped his shovel at the fence and moved on.
He proceeded on through the pasture, and after descending the hill we were in sort of a little valley, with a stream, now only a trickle from the drought, providing the only water our cattle had to drink, since our well was dry and we could not fill the watering troughs at the barn.
Daddy made a right turn again, and walked a distance into the glade. On each side of the now nearly-dry stream elder bushes grew. These too, looked skimpy in that hot, dry summer heat. Even in the mountains of North Georgia, the weather was unseasonably hot.
I saw my father grip the peachtree limb by its forked prongs, holding it out before him.
In my childlike way, I wondered what he was doing with the limb and why he held it at an upward angle out in front of him as he walked. On he went, gripping the limb and looking carefully down at the ground. He seemed to be concentrating in a very concerned way, and I kept very quiet, not daring to break his reverie or interfere with his strange actions.
He walked on in the low place in our pasture, many paces, the peachtree limb held upward as he gripped its forked prongs in both his hands.
Then, amazingly, the limb tipped over as if by magic, as if pulled by a gravity that defied reason. Daddy let the limb down to mark the spot where some force had pulled it. Leaving the branch on the spot, he went back to the fence to retrieve the shovel he had left there. Bringing it to the location of the peachtree limb, he began to dig.
I stood watching as he lifted shovelful after shovelful of dirt from the ground. He had dug down, maybe a foot or more, when, miraculously, a gushing stream of water came forth, bubbling like a fountain.
He had found a bubbling spring, buried underneath the soil right in our pasture. It was not long until water was flowing out. He dug deeper, smoothing and making a circular opening, and also digging a trench for the water to run away from its bubbling source.
Daddy had found a source of water. Most of that day was spent digging the spring deeper and shoring up this marvelous watering place, building a rock wall around it on three sides. He also went back to the house to get some lumber. He built a large spring box over the stream that flowed out from the bold spring. This spring box would be our "refrigerator" in the days before electricity came to our farm, the place where we would place our jugs of milk to keep them cold. Later, he would replace the temporary "spring box" by a springhouse, a more permanent building with space to set butter and other items, as well as the milk we needed to refrigerate. The water bubbling out from this marvelous spring was cold and clear, tasteful and pure. I had heard the story of how Moses in the long ago wilderness wandering days had struck the rock and water poured forth. My Daddy had dug into the earth at a certain spot and water bubbled forth.
Another necessary job was to erect a strong fence around the area of the spring so that the farm animals that were pastured in the same vicinity would not break through and trample on or otherwise molest this source for family water. As the summer moved along, he made the new spring an oasis, a beautiful place to go to fetch water, and a quiet, cool place apart where we could go and rest awhile from field labors.
When rains came again to water our valley, our well was restored to its former productivity. We no longer had to carry water in buckets the half-mile from the spring in the midst of the pasture to the house for our daily use. But we kept up the spring, kept the foliage trimmed from around it, and kept the springhouse as the place for our refrigeration until electricity finally came to the valley later on.
Today, with many seasons having come and gone since that bubbling spring was discovered that summer day in the 1930’s, I’m not sure if it still bubbles forth in the midst of that little dell near the elder bushes in our old pasture. In fact, the land has changed and been developed since those long ago days when a family was desperate for water.
In memory I think back to that day when in wonder I followed Daddy as he held his peachtree limb in front of him, and with a prayer on his lips went forth to find water. There was a name for the peachtree limb: it was called a ‘witching stick.’ And the person who held it just so to find water was called ‘a witcher.’ Thinking about it, it doesn’t sound so good, as if the person endowed with such a gift would have some power of a darker nature as bestowed by witches or seers. This method was also used to detect water deep beneath the ground as folks in our community sought to find the right spot to dig a new well. Whatever the power, whether of gravity working on the chemistry in a peachtree limb, whether coincidence, or whatever, it seemed to work.
Now there are technological imaging devices that declare a source of water before well drillers take their machines and quickly get to the source of water. But back in the days of our forefathers, they used what they knew in the ways common to their culture. And, miraculously, these ways seemed to bring the desired results. After finding the spring, we didn’t take water for granted any more. We thanked God for clear, pure water.
I hope you enjoyed Ethelene's guest post as much as I did!
I met several fascinating folks when I attended Wilderness Wildlife Week back in May. Over the coming weeks I will introduce you to all of them.
Pigeon Forge has hosted Wilderness Wildlife Week for the last 25 years as a tribute to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its heritage. There are tons of presentations and workshops offered during the week-all FREE to the public. It's a great event for people who are interested in anything related to the Smoky Mountain National Park as well as the general area of East TN and Western NC. The Deer Hunter and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and hope to attend the event again.
One of the fascinating folks we met at the event was Mark Davidson.
If you've been reading the Blind Pig and The Acorn for a good long while you'll remember how much I loved the book Dorie Woman of the Mountains written by Florence Cope Bush.
As I flipped through the brochure for the week Mark's session Living Large in Logging Land: The Fred Cope Family Working for Little River Lumber Company jumped out at me. I told The Deer Hunter "I have to go to that one because I just love Dorie and Fred and the rest of their family."
Doily made by Dorie’s oldest child, Wilma Katherine Cope - Given as a gift to Mark Davidson
Mark's session about logging and the Cope family was outstanding! I really enjoyed the subject matter covered and I so appreciated the honest manner in which Mark discussed logging in the mountains.
A few days later we sat in on another one of Mark's sessions: Family, Faith and Freedom on the Frontier - The Scots-Irish in the Southern Appalachians. At the beginning of the lecture Mark asked the audience if they already knew where they wanted to be buried. As a few folks raised their hands into the air he said "There you go that's an Appalachian trait."
I know all about the sense of place and home that runs through most Appalachians, but I had never thought about that great sense of place following us into the grave.
Mark's delivery was as entertaining as his subject matter.
Another interesting point he made was surnames traveled in herds. As people migrated from Pennsylvania down through the Cumberland Gap and beyond, they stayed in tight groups of family, causing areas of Appalachia to be heavily filled by certain surnames even until today.
Mark was gracious enough to allow me to ask him a few questions and to share his answers with you.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Maryville, Tennessee, and grew up in neighboring Alcoa. I’ve lived all my 65 years in Blount County.
In the lecture I attended you said you taught Appalachian Studies in high school. Was that your primary focus of teaching for your entire career? Overall, how did the students respond to your class?
I taught 38 years in the Blount County School System; 32 of those years were on the high school level, primarily teaching United States History, with a little World History mixed in. The last 10 years my major focus was Appalachian Studies. On the whole, students really enjoyed it. Every so often I run into one of my former students or even one of their parents. Many times they’ll mentioned something we studied and they have tucked that nugget away. Recently, a former student called me about the 1925 fire in the Tellico area during Babcock Lumber Company’s logging days . . . he was going to compose a bluegrass song on the story of the fire in the Jeffrey’s Hell section of the Citico Creek Drainage Basin.
Why Appalachian Studies? Did you always have a desire to preserve your heritage or was it something else?
In 2000 our system switched from the traditional 6 class period-a-day, 6 credit-a-year schedule to “block” scheduling. Block scheduling means only 4 classes a day, with 90-minute class periods. So you need additional course titles to occupy those 2 extra classes over a year’s time. (Each class is only 18 weeks long, or what we used to call a semester.) My department chair said, “You love the mountains so much, why don’t you teach a class about them?” So, I started the process, and added material year by year. It was just doing what you love, no grand cause, etc. But preserving the culture, sharing the heart of the people, the love of the land, the critters, etc. all come into play.
How long have you been giving lectures/workshops about Appalachia?
Going on 4 years.
Over the years I've met people who believe Appalachia is some far away place-some of them did not even realize they were living smack dab in the middle of Appalachia. Have you ever encountered this same phenomenon?
Certainly, some areas just have more folks. In settling the area, people craved fertile bottom land. There weren’t that many people who lived at high elevation. Many town and city dwellers have let the stereo-types tell them what an “Appalachian” person should be, and many therefore are afraid they’ll be called a “hillbilly”.
Since you've been teaching folks about Appalachia for so long, are there things you've noticed changing during that period of time? Maybe more or less of an interest?
In East Tennessee, I think folks are taking more interest in the study of Appalachia. Books, documentaries, museums, etc. are shedding a light on this whole idea. Knoxville’s WBIR-TV10 produced a series of 3.5 minute episodes of THE HEARTLAND SERIES. Over a thousand episodes were produced over a 25-year period, from 1984 to 2009. Originally produced to mark the 50th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, nobody ever thought these programs would last for 25 years. Episodes are still being rerun in 2016. The programs are about “a people and their land”. Thousands of people attended their good-bye event, after the last show was filmed back in 2009. I would venture to say that with institutions like John C. Campbell Folk School, Western Carolina University, Appalachian State University, and the Penland School, the same things are happening in WNC.
How often do you teach classes? How can folks find out about them?
So far, we’ve done fall sessions and spring sessions at Pellissippi State Technical Community College, located on US 321, between Maryville and Friendsville, Tennessee. But, they could be held at other locations as well. I can be reached at email@example.com or 865-809-2533 (cell).
What if an organization would like for you to come to their meeting or event how far are you willing to travel?
I would love to have an excuse to travel anywhere in WNC, NGA, ET, SEK, SC Upstate, or southwest Virginia.
Do you have writings folks could access? Have you written a book or articles?
Don’t have any writings to access. I do have an article in the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EAST TENNESSEE. It was assigned to me as part of a class project. It was an informational piece on the East Tennessee Development District, written in 1980. Nothing memorable about it at all.
One of your sessions at WWW was about the family from the book Dorie Woman of the Mountains. You have a personal connection with some of the descendants from the book, did you know the family before reading the book or did you meet them later?
I have met several members of the Cope family since 2004. I probably read the book in 2003.
I believe Dorie is one of the best descriptive books about Appalachians. Many of the customs, traditions, and dialect used in the book are still alive and well in my area of Southern Appalachia. I remember you mentioned Loyal Jones too. His book Appalachian Values, in my opinion, is the best description of Appalachian traits that there is. What books do you recommend for folks interested in Appalachia?
It would be impossible to list all the books that would of benefit to those who love the mountains. However, in addition to DORIE:WOMAN OF THE MOUNTAINS, by Florence Cope Bush, I’ll mention eight others:
1) BORN FIGHTING: HOW THE SCOTS-IRISH SHAPED AMERICA, by Jim (Senator James) Webb
2) My personal favorite, VALLEY SO WILD, by Carson and Alberta Brewer, (the story of the Little Tennessee River, from Rabun County, Georgia, to its mouth, near Lenoir City, Tennessee)
3) THE FRENCH BROAD, by Wilma Dykeman
4) MOUNTAIN HOME, by Wilma Dykeman and (son) Jim Stokely
5) TENNESSEE: A HISTORY, by Wilma Dykeman
6) STRANGERS IN HIGH PLACES, by Michael Frome
7) a story of the heart of a true citizen of Appalachia, AUNT ARIE: A FOXFIRE PORTRAIT, edited by Linda Garland Page and Eliot Wigginton
8) for fun, A BEAR IN THE BACK SEAT: ADVENTURES OF A WILDLIFE RANGER, by Kim DeLozier and Carolyn Jourdan
The back of Mark's business card reads:
A series of non-credit classes for those who
love the mountains
I hope you enjoyed meeting Mark, his love for Appalachia shines brightly through the words he uses to teach others about his home. If you live close enough to attend one of his classes I highly encourage you to do so or if you have an organization that would be interested in what he has to offer I urge you to invite him.
This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig and the Acorn in 2012.
Fishing with Our Daddy written by David Templeton
I don’t think I ever thought about it from what would have been Dad’s memory. We never had fished before. I was… oh …., about ten, maybe. My little brother was about seven and Shirley would have been six years old. I think Dorothy was with us … she would have been twelve. Patty, older yet, stayed home.
Dad worked a lot. He had no trained vocation and with no particular job skills he had to provide for a family of seven kids and him and Mom and he had to take whatever work he could find. Where there’s work men go and he had started out in the coal mines of West Virginia as the looming war with Japan and Germany had driven the mines into massive hiring and he worked the mines and took other odd jobs and overtime and he and Mom began growing a family there in McDowell County and he made enough money to provide. He was sick and didn’t go to work the day Bartley No. 2 at Pond Creek blew up and killed 87 men and he left the mines and moved us to East Tennessee where the war had made many more good jobs in defense plants up and down the Holston River.
After the war, there were Levitt towns (as they were often called) in Kingsport, too and they wanted to buy a home of their own and to have as much comfort as possible and feed and clothe their growing brood. So Dad took other work and I remember by 1948, as Kingsport was returning to a post-war economy, him working two other part-time jobs and the defense plant kept on working so we kids didn’t see much of Dad as he often was home only long enough to get six or seven hours sleep and go back to work. And we loved our Daddy and some late summer evenings Mom would let us go up the street and wait under a street light to see Daddy coming home, walking because he had no car, and we would jump up and down when he came into view and when he got to us we would cling to his hands or his britchey legs and hang onto him all the way home. It’s about all we saw of him was him coming home in those jar fly evenings to rest a while and sleep some and go back out.
So there seldom was a leisure time for Dad. There seldom was a time when Dad could play with us or take us places on Sunday drives and most certainly there were no family vacations. But, sometimes … sometimes Dad did have a car; usually not for long but when he had a car he and Mom would take us for a drive and Mom would make some sandwiches and we would stop at a shaded roadside table and have a picnic and play in the streams of mountain waters running alongside the road and try to catch the little fishes and the crawdads darting away from our jabbing hands. But we didn’t get to fish because Dad didn’t have any fishing poles and stuff and for sure not enough for each of us.
But, onetime … and it must have been a pleasureful time because it is among my best feeling memories … one time Dad went to the store and bought some of those little fishing kits you could buy back then; they had string, and a float or cork bobber and a hook and you would cut a pole and tie the string on the end of it and set the cork and you’d have a fishing pole. And you could buy a few extra hooks and split shots and corks because the first thing you did was get the line tangled in a low hanging limb or get your hook snagged on the bottom of the creek, on a rock ledge and Dad would have to jerk it loose and usually you’d lose the hook and the cork and he’d have to rig up another fishing line of the pole and we’d try again, so it always took extra hooks and split shots and corks and the rigging alone kept Dad busy with set-ups. And, he would have dug a can of fishing worms, a plenty for the time.
This one time he also bought some of those little cans of potted meat and some little cans of Vienna sausages and a loaf of bread and we could enjoy some real tasty picnic food while we fished but it usually meant that Dad would have to help us make us a sandwich or help us open the can of potted meat and spread it on our bread with his… what he called his “fishing knife” and it was like one of those knives we called a Boy Scout knife and it had… oh, maybe a can opener blade and a big blade and a little blade and a spoon and a fork-like part, too. Kind of like those Swiss Army knives you see nowadays.
I’m sure as Dad worked at his bread-wrapping machine at the Dixie Maid bakery there in Kingsport, he would think about his family and us and regret how precious little time he had with us and he would fancy what he might do to spend some good times with us and he determined to take us fishing as soon as he had a day off and in his mind at his machine he could picture the fishing trip, a sunny day, four or five of us kids, fishing poles all set on the bank and propped up on forked sticks and each kid sitting quietly by their pole waiting patiently for a bite and kids feasting on lunchmeat sandwiches and him fishing, too; and a string of good-sized punkin-seed sunfish that Mom would admire when we got home and make us a big supper of fried sunfish and fried cornbread. Quiet… peaceful… bucolic… In his day dream.
In reality, there on that creek bank, it went different once the fishing poles were made up and a worm slid onto the hook and the bobber set and the line out in the water and the pole resting on the fork. It went different very quickly, as each of us would mistake any movement of the bobber as a bite and jerk the pole and jerk the line all the way out and into the leafy tree limb and Dad would have to get the fishing line freed from the tree limb and lose the worm and the hook and sinker and he would have to rig it up again with another hook and split shot and bobber and a fresh worm and help get the line back out in the water and by then two more of us would have tangled lines or an worm-empty hooks and from then on all Dad would get done would be that of servicing everyone’s fishing set-up or getting a line loose or taking a Horney head off the hook and explaining to us that it was not a good fish to keep, and mosquito bites, and dropped vy-eenies, and Johnny has to pee, and all this before a half hour had passed and Dad’s patience became exasperation and rather than order us to GET IN THE CAR!! He would finally gently say, “Kids, this isn’t a very good fishing hole. Let’s get everything in the car and drive on up the road a piece and see if we can find a better place to fish”. And, we be happy to get in the car because “fishing must not be all it’s cracked up to be” and Dad would drive around a while and finally say, “Kids, let’s just go on back home for now and we’ll stop at the Piggly-Wiggly and get some salt Cod and we’ll ask Mommie to make us some fish and cornbread and some fried potatoes and we’ll try fishing some other time."
And, we were all happy and we had had a good day with our Daddy and he was with us and we loved him all the more. And it became happy memory, one that I recollect and think about when my grandkids want me to take them fishing. I sure miss my father and his tender heart and the patience that God gave him before he took up family fishing.
I hope you enjoyed David's post as much as I did! It reminded me of the times I begged Pap to let me go fishing with him and the boys...and then I begged him to take me home before they were finished fishing because I was bored. I love David's use of the words britchey legs. Using the word britches for pants is beyond common in Appalachia.