Fail Not

Fail Not

"When I was helping clean out my great-aunt's house after she died, we found an envelope with a lock of auburn hair in it. On the envelope, she had written, "my mother's hair." It was especially touching because her mother had died suddenly of the "apoplexy" when my aunt was 8 years old. There must have been something special about a lock or strand of hair.

I really loved the last two words in the not. I'm sure their life was hard with all the back-breaking work of living in 1870. But, what encouraging words. Fail not."

Donna Wilson King - January 2016


Since Donna left the comment above, I haven't been able to get the simple phrase out of my mind. 

Fail not.

When studying on the phrase the first thing that comes to mind is: don't fail! You know like: "Don't mess up." or "Do it exactly like it's supposed to be done and it will be right and if you don't it will be wrong."

The other thing that comes to mind, which is what I've been thinking about, is a hopefulness or a source of encouragement. Fail not: "I know you can do this and you will. or Fail not: "I know you will make it through to the other side and everything will be alright."

How could so much meaning be conveyed in such two little words?


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Hello Andy!

Today's guest post was written by David Templeton.

Gizmo advertised in magazines

Hello, Andy! ….… Hello, Davo! … Le’me outta here!. Le’me outta here!

By David Templeton

Like most kids in the 1950s, I dreamed about getting every gizmo advertised in the back pages of just about every funny book I picked up. What kid didn’t? Think of it: A Polaris submarine of my very own; six feet long and room for a bunch of kids inside it. Who wouldn’t wish they had that little HIT miniature spy camera, not that there were that many miniature spies around. How about Sea Monkeys depicted as little human or primate-looking creatures? How do Chia pets grow that green fur?

How about those X-Ray specs advertised in comic books? The ad intimated that with those glasses maybe you could see through clothes and flesh all the way to a body’s skeleton or the bones in your hand? Some mischievous guys probably had even more prurient fantasies.

For just twelve cents you could become a regular Charles Atlas. I wasn’t going to be one of those skinny wimps, sand kicked in the face at the beach, never getting the girl, and getting bullied by guys who themselves were probably Charles Atlas graduates.

I could get the money. Sometimes I went up and down the road finding pop bottles (they were commonly called “dope bottles” back in 1950 Kingsport.) and taking them to the store and getting the deposit back and I could eventually garner enough from the 2-cents-each deposit refunds and save up till I could buy one of those comic book fantasies. If I helped my brother Ed with his GRIT newspaper sales, sometimes he would give me a quarter. If I worked for Missus Christian across the river pulling weeds out of her tobacco plants I could earn a whole half-dollar a day.

So with a little ambition I could get the money.

The hardest thing was to decide which thing to buy. I wanted just about every one of those gags and gizmos. Well, no, not really. It wasn’t a hard decision. I always had only one real, continuing dream … one wish … one fantasy: To be able to throw my voice.

Remember the picture in the comic book ad? A man walking around kinda slumped over, lugging big box on his back and apparently a voice coming from somewhere inside the box saying “Le’me outta here!! Le’me outa here!!”

That would be the coolest trick, the funniest trick I could ever play: To be able to throw my voice, like it was coming from that box, or the next room, or from inside an outside toilet.  “Help! Le’me outta here! You know, like those, uh, what do you call them? Ventricles … or something like that … ventriloquist, that’s it; like they do.

You could order instructions for twenty-five cents “Learn How to Throw Your Voice. Become a Ventriloquist”. The better ones were a dollar, twenty-five and with those you got pictures and instructions but you also got the main ingredient, the central device that would work to throw your voice when you placed it in your mouth on your tongue and sqwenched up your voice and talked like you were somewhere else. A little round, paper disc, about the size of a nickel, with a little metal clip or something on it, and that’s what you would put on your tongue to cause your voice to be thrown as you spoke but tried not to move your lips.

So, I sent off my dollar, twenty-five in coins along with a SASE and ordered me a ventriloquism kit. Excited … Didn’t tell nobody. I wanted to puzzle people when it came; puzzle them as to where that voice was coming from once I got the hang of ventriloquism and started throwing my voice. It was hard to keep from laughing when I thought about it.

Ran to the mailbox every day. One day it came. I didn’t rip it open and put it in my mouth right then. I already knew how it worked. I got me a big pasteboard box and went out to the front yard and waited for people to walk by. 

I put the voice-throwing disc in my mouth, put the box on my shoulders and when people walked by I would walk up and down and say “Help! Le’me outta here! Le’me outta here!  Saying it through the special disc, you know.

And, my buddies would walk by and I would say, “Help! Help! Le’me outta here!” And, they’d say, “Huh? What’re you talking about?” And I’d say, “Don’t that sound like somebody’s in this box?” And, they’d say, “No, Just sounds like you talking!” I could tell they were determined not to let me have my fun nor admit that I could throw my voice. But I put the box away and went in the house and began to practice in front of the mirror, and learn how to talk without moving my lips and how to disguise my normal talking voice.

My little sister had got a “Raggedy Ann” doll and also a matching “Raggedy Andy” doll for Christmas. Remember those? Cloth dolls. And, hers were big dolls, come up almost to your knee.

We didn’t have a TV yet, didn’t get one till about 1955. We listened to the radio in the evenings, Mom sewed our clothes, Dad nodded from a day’s work, and my brothers and sisters just played around the house. Maybe did homework.

So, that evening, while we all sat around the living room, I got out Raggedy Andy and sat down with him on my knee and I slipped the magic disc onto my tongue, and I wiggled Raggedy Andy and I said “Hello, Andy!” and then I said with my disguised voice “Hello, Davo!” Not real loud but kinda sharply … Hello, Davo!!

And, Mom said, “David, Honey, you need to be quiet; Patty’s (my sister) trying to study.”

And, I’d shake Raggedy Andy again and say, “Hello, Andy!” and, with my (I thought) disguised voice, “Hello, Davo! Hello, Davo!”

“Mom, would you make David shut up!” Patty yelled. 

“Be still, David”, scolded Mom.

“That’s not me.  That’s Andy. Don’t that sound like Andy … like Andy’s talking?”

“It sounds like you, being a pest!” scolded my sister.

That night, next day, in the house, out in the yard in front of my buddies, nobody could be made to think that voice was coming from anywhere but me. Not from the box, not from Andy, not from the outhouse; just me sounding dumb.

After weeks of trying to get the hang of ventriloquism, the art of throwing my voice, I finally threw the magic disc in my dresser drawer with the miniature camera, and the X-Ray glasses, and the Charlie Atlas lessons, and finally conceded that I had been hoodwinked by another page of funny book gimmickry.

But …

I still think it’s just a matter of practice. Where is that magic disc? 

Hello, Andy!  Hello, Davo! Le’me outa here! Le’me outa here!


I hope you enjoyed David's post as much as I did! While the gizmos I remember are slightly different, I do remember being a kid and wondering if any of those things would really work. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

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Finding A Place To Quit In Junaluska - Cherokee County NC

Alvin Yonce and Tipper - Junuluska - Cherokee Co - 2017

Alvin and Tipper - September 2017

A few days back I had the great good fortune to spend a little time with Albert Yonce. Albert is 95 years young and as you can see from the photo he's still spry as a young man. I can assure you he's pretty charming too. 

Albert told me he came from a family of long livers. He said his daddy lived to be 92 because he just couldn't find a good place to quit along the way.

Albert said his daddy was a logger and he moved the family all over Long Branch until he finally moved them to Junalusk'ie and the children told him they weren't moving again! His daddy was also an old time Baptist preacher who quoted long passages from the Bible right up until his death. 

Albert's family is famous for another thing besides longevity - growing Yonce Beans. If you missed my post about Yonce Beans you can go here to read it.

After that first year of growing the Yonce Bean we fell in love with it. We grew two plantings of the bean this year. The first planting produced at least four good pickings. The second planting didn't do as good and we only got one picking from them because it was during the driest part of the summer.

Alvin told me his grandpa was the first to have the bean seed that he knew of.

Five generations later, the family is still planting the Yonce Bean and saving the seed from year to year. And if you hadn't already guessed, Alvin is still growing the Yonce Bean and saving the seed for next year too. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

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Appalachia Through My Eyes - Yellow Jewelweed

My life in Appalachia - Yellow Jewelweed

The orange colored jewelweed grows all over my mountain holler, but I've never seen the yellow variety until this past weekend. Let me tell you it is beautiful! Especially when its growing right beside a patch of the orange as it is at my friend's house. 

I was pleased as punch when my very young tour guide showed me how to pop the small seed pods by gently touching them. I love it when I see kids who know the same little tricks I took joy in as a child.  

You can go here to read about the orange jewelweed that grows at my house. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

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

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Harricun in Appalachia

hurricane noun
A variant forms harricane, harricun, herrycane
1942 Hall Phonetics 42 [harik'n].
1 A severe windstorm.
1834 Crockett Narrative 150 In the morning we concluded to go on with the boat to where a great harricane crossed the river, and blowed all the timber down into it. 1966 DARE = a destructive wind that blows straight (Cherokee NC). 1969 GSMNP-38:135 A windstorm, we called it the young hurricane. 1982 Powers and Hannah Cataloochee 421 He said that he wished they'd come a herrycane and blow the cranberry bushes out of the ground. 1995 Montgomery Coll. (Cardwell, Shields).
2 A growth of cane or other plant in an area where trees were appar leveled in the past by violent windstorm.
1834 Crockett Narrative 151 We cut out, and moved up to the harricane, where we stop'd for the night 1918 Combs Word-list South 34 = a thicket of cane or other underbrush. 1996 Montgomery Coll. (Adams, Cardwell, Ledford); = also refers to laurel thicket (Ellis).

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Pap said the word hurricane like the noted variation harricun. I've heard other old timers say it like that too. A man I worked with back in the day in Haywood County NC said it that way and now that I think about it he was about the same age as Pap. 

When The Deer Hunter and I were first married and still living with Pap and Granny harricun Opal screamed through our surrounding area. 

With all the talk of hurricanes during the last few weeks the subject of Opal's damage has come up more than once at work. One lady's husband works for the electric company, she said Opal was a 500 pole event for Blue Ridge EMC. Pap's power was off for several days after the storm and if I remember right it was in late September or early October. 

I'll never forget the first time I walked up the creek after Opal. The trees were just laid over in places like a giant pushed them as if they were weeds in his way. There wasn't nothing to hurt up there, but down in the settlements a lot of trees fell on houses, cars, and of course power lines. 

Our area isn't expecting a lot of damage this go around and I'm thankful. But my heart sure goes out to all the folks who have been in the path of the recent hurricanes. I send them all God Speed. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

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Some Pretty Guitar Picking

Pap and ben

Pap and Ben

I'm going way back in the history of the Blind Pig and The Acorn to share this week's Pickin' and Grinnin' in the Kitchen Spot. The video is of my oldest nephew Ben picking out a great tune written by David GrierEngagement Waltz. The video was filmed over 9 years ago. 

I've had Ben on my mind a lot this week. He and his sweet wife gave birth to a beautiful healthy girl, Margaret Evelyn. Month's ago she was given the name of 3 of her great-grandmothers so she was bound to enter this world a little bit ahead if you ask me. To say we're all crazy about her is an understatement.

Way back when Ben came along he was Granny and Pap's first grandchild. His birth made Paul an uncle and me an aunt for the first time. We were all wild about him!

You've probably heard the saying about how the first child gets a picture taken of every little thing they do while the children who follow mostly get school, birthday, and Christmas pictures taken of them. That was sure true for Ben. If his mother wasn't taking pictures of him Granny or I was. 

Ben was the center of all our lives. With Pap, Granny, Paul, The Deer Hunter, and me he had a whole tribe of adults to spoil him-not to mention his momma and daddy. Similar to the first baby picture overload phenomenon we remember all sorts of things Ben said that we thought was cute yet I can't hardly remember anything his sweet sister and brother said. 

Every time we eat a bologna sandwich The Deer Hunter or I am likely to say something about ba-bonie and kook-aid because that was one of Ben's favorite things to eat and drink. And even if I'm alone and notice it's coming a down pour of rain I think to myself 'it's a yaining it's a yaining' because Ben said that too! Somewhere along the way he started saying his name was Be-bo so we all took the cue and started calling him Be-bo. I taught him to feed his riding horse Ole Paint grass and I taught him all I knew about grasshoppers. 

I don't remember if it was when Pap died or later that summer when Ben's other grandfather Robert died, but we were all gathered up watching old home movies. We came to Ben's first birthday party. The house was full and he was opening one present after the other. Just a few minutes later the scene changed to another first birthday party...for Ben. His brother Mark said "Are you kidding me??? He got two parties???" As Mark fussed about the injustice of the way Ben was treated as a child compared to how he was treated we all got a good laugh. Truthfully Mark and April are just as precious as Ben. There is just something about our human nature that remembers and recalls that first baby that first grand-baby or for me that first feeling of becoming an aunt or in this case an Auntie Titter for the first time. 


Ben was still in high school when we filmed this video. Now he's the daddy of a sweet little girl who made me a great aunt and Granny a great grandmother for the first time. At the very end of the video you can hear Pap say "That's pretty good Be-bo." I think Pap would say the same thing about little Margaret. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

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Overheard in Appalachia

"All I had to play with was a stick and a pile of dirt and that was enough."



p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing TODAY Saturday September 9, 2017 @ 11:45 a.m. at the Cherokee Indian Festival in Marble, NC and on Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

Overheard: snippets of conversation I overhear in Southern Appalachia

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Feeling like Fall

My life in appalachia fall is afoot

Late summer days make me long for the first heavy frost. The cool air the mountains of western North Carolina has enjoyed for the last several days lets me know that wished for frost is getting closer and closer.

I love all the seasons, but by the time one is almost over I'm ready for the next one to start. If I had to choose my least favorite time of the year it would be late August and the first of September. I've always thought of this time as the dying of summer. 

I feel smothered by the jungle of weeds that have taken over my garden and hug the sides of the road as I drive to and fro. I dislike the green when it takes on a dull brown around its edges and I feel oppressed by the wild tangle of overgrowth that fills in all the empty spaces. The feeling makes me want Old Man Winter to come with his frosty breath and handle the work of cutting it all down.

Every year The Deer Hunter drags us out on the porch on the first cool morning so that we can enjoy the change in temperature with him. While he inhales the brisk crisp air the rest of us are wishing we had a blanket to wrap up in. But I'm glad he pulls us outside to see and experience the first sign of fall in our mountain holler. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Saturday September 9, 2017 @ 11:45 a.m. at the Cherokee Indian Festival in Marble, NC and on Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

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Labor Day Labor

Laboring in Appalachia

The Blind Pig family spent Labor Day laboring.

The girls have several landscaping jobs in Brasstown. They maintain the yard for the folks and do everything from mowing/weed-eating to planting. Their good friend and mentor Tim Ryan played a role in the girls getting the jobs. They worked for Tim a few years back on larger landscaping projects. He recommended them for one of the maintaining jobs and that lead to the others. The girls enjoyed having flexible jobs that allowed them to concentrate on their college studies and once they graduated they kept the jobs. 

The girls stay busy with their various part-time jobs, their own entrepreneurial pursuits, and of course their music. Add in the need to stay with Granny during her first days at home from the hospital and their filled plate over flowed. 

The Deer Hunter and I volunteered to help them get one of their jobs out of the way before the owner came for a visit. It's a beautiful old house in a pretty spot...a pretty shaded spot. To say the house is in the woods is an understatement. The woods come right up to the edges and all those trees make a huge mess. Fallen leaves, sticks, and bark everywhere. So there were a blue million sticks to pick up not to mention the mowing, weed-eating, trimming, leave blowing, and sweeping.

By the time we finished I was exhausted, but I was also amazed and more than a little proud. As The Deer Hunter and I sat and rested for a minute I said "I can't believe they do all this by themselves, that they've been doing it all this time by themselves." The Deer Hunter had been to the house before when he was dropping off stuff for the girls. He said "This ain't nothing you should have seen how overgrown it was when they first started taking care of it." 

Once we finished we headed over to Miss Cindy's to help her dispose of a tree that The Deer Hunter cut well over a year ago. He kept meaning to go back and clean up the big pieces, but first one thing and then another kept him from getting it done.

We got it done by working together. The Deer Hunter sawed while Miss Cindy, the girls, and I moved the wood. 

I did more work on Labor Day than I've done all summer long. I was so tired, but it was a good tired-does that make sense?

There is something so rewarding about using your hands, feet, back, and entire body along with your brain to get a job completed. Most days I sit at a desk and while I'm working the entire time, there isn't the same satisfaction that comes from hands-on phyiscal work like we did on Labor Day. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Saturday September 9, 2017 @ 11:45 a.m. at the Cherokee Indian Festival in Marble, NC and on Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

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Adam's Needle

Adams Needle

Miss Cindy's blooming Adam's needle

Adam's needle noun A yucca plant (Yucca filamentosa or Yucca smalliana). Cf bear grass
1940 Caton Wildflowers of Smokies 65. 1964 Stupka Trees Shrubs Vines 32 During some years Adam's needle begins to bloom at the end of May. [from the sharp points on the yucca plant]

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I thought I remembered Don Casada telling me the yucca plant could often be found around old homeplaces. I sent him an email and asked if my memory was correct and he sent me the following information.

"Yes, yucca is often found at old home places and at cemeteries. I know there's yucca at the Hannah cemetery over in Little Cataloochee, and it seems like there might be some at the Little Cataloochee Church cemetery as well. I've heard that the leaves were used for hanging hams to cure. That's certainly believable - the stuff is really tough and fibrous. There is some in the Bryson City Cemetery, and a grass trimmer won't cut it - the stuff just sort of shreds. The stuff pops up in unexpected places, and once it has a foothold, it is hard to get rid of.

I've found it growing at quite a few home sites, usually accompanied by other plants like boxwoods, iris, japonica (flowering quince), yellowbells, mock orange, daylilies, daffodils, etc. There is one place where I found a few scattered plants that was well away from a home. You may remember that there was no yucca at the Casada home on Juneywhank Branch; the non-native plants there are mock orange, japonica and day lilies (Daddy called them cow lilies). But probably a quarter of a mile or more away, in a holler off to the NE of the home and well away from where there were any buildings, there are a few isolated plants. The leaves on them seem sparser and maybe a little smaller than on others I've found. It sort of makes me wonder if they might be native. The USDA map below indicates they are native to NC, but if they're native to the mountains, they're sure not common (except at home sites), at least in my woods-wandering experience."


Granny never had any Adam's needle growing around our house. She said they were too sharp and she was afraid someone might get cut on them. Miss Cindy's house has them growing in several areas and her house was built in 1937 so that goes along with the old homeplace connection. I wonder if the common name Adam's needle was used not only because of the sharpness, but also because of the thread like fibers that are on the sides of the sword like leaves. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Saturday September 9, 2017 @ 11:45 a.m. at the Cherokee Indian Festival in Marble, NC and on Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville