Have You Ever Had The Weak Trembles?
March Fourth (Forth)

Appalachia Through My Eyes - The Hoe Down

My life in appalachia the hoedown

hoe down noun A type of lively dance or music; by extension a noisy, lively square dance, usu with a string band supplying the music, the event occasionally accompanied by drinking. Joseph Hall participated in and recorded a number of these events varying from just good fun to hilarious occasions, providing excellent recreation and graceful creativity for both the musicians and the dancers. They are an outstanding part of traditional mountain life. 

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

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The hoe down tradition is still going strong in my area of Appalachia. Last Saturday the girls and I helped out at a hoe down at a nearby elementary school. Fun was had by all!

Tipper

Appalachia Through My Eyes - A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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Leilani-thank you for the comment! I dont know why its called a hoe down but your suggestion makes perfect sense to me : )

Do you know why it is called a hoe down? Is it because you must set down your hoe to dance?

Speaking of hoe downs, we would hoe corn in the Cove all day long. But our reward for such effort was to 'put the hoe down' and being permitted to go to a SQUARE DANCE on the SQUARE in Hayesville. WHAT A NIGHT! WHAT A HOE DOWN! Made us better baskerball players!!

Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD

I can remember in the 6th grade they made us learn to square dance, I hated it. I thought me touching a Girl yuck, but, they used a record album that I remember to this day, Gordon Terry Square Dance Party. Little did I know that years later I'd marry his Niece. Funny how things work out.

The hoe down was at Martin's Creek. I can read it on the wall. "Martin's Creek Hornets" I couldn't read the Hornets part and while searching for it I came upon brother Paul's Principal's Corner. After reading it, I guess I need to call him Mr. Wilson. I already knew Mr. Wilson was an educator and a principal. After reading his resume I am even more impressed. You folks (and we as Appalachian natives) have every right to be proud of him. What impresses me most is that he chose to give back to the community from which he sprang. That is noble!

Tipper,
Yesterday evening I met Susan and Don Casada at Nabor's before going to Don's Cemetery speech.
I had told them that if something happened. I'd save the Bill for them. Odd thing is Susan beat me there, and she had to drive over from Knoxville. After we ate a snack and caught up with lots of talk,
I followed them over to the Genealogical Building where Don was to speak. That was a beautiful place nestled way back off Old Highway 19. I knew when it got dark I'd have to follow someone back to get out of there, that's where Bill Burnett came in. My buddie Don introduced us before the meeting started, and we found we knew some of the same folks.

Don started the meeting and I could tell he had put a lot into it, because he stated that he thought Benjamin Franklin penned the phrase: "Show me your Cemetaries and I'll tell you what the people are like." That line stuck with me! After the speech, I noticed how proud Susan was of
Don, and I looked at her and said "I don't know hardly anyone here." But these are my people too, some coming from Chattanooga and other places. I was glad I was there. ...Ken

Don't ever put your hoe down. Dig the blade into the ground and step on it to pack the ground down so that the handle stands up. Saves you bending over to pick it up. Now a rake you can throw down because you can step on the tines and stand it up. Be careful that it don't hit you right between the eyes.
A broom is a little tricky. Most people stand it in the corner. I just stand it up in the middle of the floor so it is right there when I need it. I believe I showed you that in a picture one time, didn't I?

Tipper,
It is beautiful here today!
Makes one want to take the "hoe down" and "dance a jig" down newly planted rows of green peas!

Wish I could dance like I used to do...Now all I do is sit, watch and wish! Bettern' the alternative I suppose...Ha

One more thang....
Are "hoe-downs" and "barn dances" all the same?
Do the folks just "square dance"?
Can the "line-dance", "two step". "waltz", etc. be included in the definition of a "hoe-down"?
Also, most of these types of dance parties I remembered did not include "spirits" served.
The spirit came from the lively music only! HA
Not sayin' that back in my day, that some folks didn't make trips to the old rattle-trap in the parking lot, for a sip out of the glass under the front seat! Ha

Great post Tipper

Tipper--Pinnacle Creek's comment about church strictness, lack of musical instruments, and the sinfulness of dancing bring back a memory I can't resist sharing. Her thought takes me back to my undergraduate days at Presbyterian-affiliated King College (now King University) in Bristol, TN. While students were permitted to enjoy square dancing and other folk dances, anything else such as slow dancing or waltzing was absolutely taboo.

In fact, one of my most powerful memories from those four years was a comment the college's president made one morning in chapel services (which were mandatory). "Dancing," he said, "is a vertical position for horizontal desires." Today that's chuckle-inducing for me, but he was earnest in the extreme on the matter.

Jim Casada

Hoe downs must have been very popular when my mom was a young woman. The ones she attended were held in a neighbor's barn or yard. She used to entertain her kids by doing the hoe down, meaning the dance and the get-together had the same name. Later, sock hops became the trend and now they are just called dances. I don't think hoe downs are still being held here in Kentucky.

Even though there is a strong tradition of folk music in Appalachia, it seems less so where I grew up in southeastern Kentucky. For example, almost none of the churches have music to this day. I am not sure how that tradition came to be. From bits and pieces I think I understood growing up, it seems that music was associated in the mind of most people with gambling, drinking, fighting and injury. Why that correlation should be particularly strong in that part of the world though I've never understood. The area may have been particularly rough at one time because it is surrounded on three sides by rivers and on the fourth by the TN state line. Though no longer true, at one time to be associated with music and dancing would have resulted in being disciplined by most of the churches. Even as that stance moderated in my lifetime, playing music, even at one's own home, was viewed with a degre of disapproval.

I always heard about hoedowns, but only on radio or television. This is possibly due to the ole timey Baptist church so entrenched--some so strict they did not even play musical instruments with their singing. According to my Mom most couples met at church. We, as teens, were permitted to choose our own church, and we made certain played lots of music. Playing instruments is a heaven sent talent, and thankful most churches have lots of music.

A hoedown sure would have been fun, and would love to see more recreation such as hoedowns for our youth. Good clean fun might help solve the drug problem so rampant in our young people.

I always wondered how this dance got it's name, did the farmers put their hoe down to go to the dance? Research project for you Tipper.

Tipper--The ultimate recognition of the hoe down as a part of mountain culture came through the amazing long-term efforts of Bascom Lamar Lunsford, the "minstrel of the Appalachians," and his Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. Although in recent years his efforts don't seem to be getting as much notice as those of Hall, perhaps thanks to publication of the "Dictionary of Mountain English," they are in their own way of great significance. In the same context one might also mention Cratis D. Williams, often called "the perfect mountaineer," who was in many ways the godfather of Appalachian Studies.

Jim Casada

Tip, do you know the origin of the expression hoe down? I wonder if it is something like working in the fields all day and put your hoe down in the evening and play.

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