Today's post was written by Paul.
We are declaring November to be Train Month on our Blind Pig and The Acorn Youtube Channel. There is no national train month that we could ascertain. Once upon a time, Amtrack designated May as National Train Month, but they discontinued the designation after a few years.
We got the idea of doing a video series from Gary Chapman, who does a hymn per week on his Youtube channel. I didn't want to copy him completely by doing hymns, although I know enough hymns to keep me busy for years. I asked myself, what's another subject that is widely covered in Appalachian music? I soon thought of trains.
I quickly realized after doing a count, that I probably know at least 30 or 40 train songs. Originally, I wanted to do one a day for an entire month. I then realized that even though I have enough material for that, I don't have enough time to film and upload every day. We decided to just do one per week, and that way, we can do the train series annually.
We also decided that every song would be filmed and uploaded in just one take. This would leave some mistakes, but would save time and might lead to performances that were spontaneous. We also decided it would be fun to feature some of our other musical friends and acquaintances, having them join us on songs that they knew of but perhaps had never played before.
Tipper and Chatter had never heard this song before. I told them the chord pattern and the number of beats in each chord and they took right off on it.
We hope you like the series. If you're not a member of Youtube its free to join. Once you have an account on Youtube you can subscribe to all manner of channels, including the Blind Pig and The Acorn Youtube Channel for free.
Here's info on the first Train Song - The Wreck of Old Number Nine
Performed with one half of the Pressley Girls (Chatter) on guitar, and her mom Tipper on Bass in E flat.
I heard Doc Watson do this song in the mid 90's on Wayne Erbsen's "Country Roots" radio program on WCQS in Asheville, NC. It is one of my favorite train songs, mostly because of the lyrics. Doc picked the verse very similarly to how I pick it in this video. He or Jack Lawrence also played the chorus the last time around, which I meant to do in this video but forgot. According to Wikipedia, it was written by Carson Robison in 1927. Other than Doc, the only other version I've heard is Jim Reeves (just heard tonight on YouTube). I don't know if this song documents a real event or if it is completely fiction.
Lyrics: On a dark stormy night, not a star was in sight As the North wind came howling down the line. There stood a brave engineer with his sweetheart so dear And his orders to pull old Number Nine.
She kissed him goodbye with a tear in her eye, And the joy in his heart he couldn't hide. As he left there that night, his whole world seemed right for Tomorrow she'd be his blushing bride.
The wheels hummed a song as the train rolled along, As the black smoke came pouring from the stack. The headlight a-gleam seemed to brighten his dream Of tomorrow when he'd be goin' back.
As he sped around the hill, his brave heart stood still For a headlight was shining in his face. He whispered a prayer as he threw on the air For he knew this would be his final race.
In the wreckage he was found, lying there on the ground He asked them to raise his weary head His breath slowly went as this message he sent To a maiden who thought she would be wed.
"There's a little white home that I built for our own Where I dreamed we'd be happy, you and I, But I leave it to you for I know you'll be true Til we meet at the Golden Gate, goodbye.".
I hope you enjoyed the post from Paul and the video to! Even though I hear his guitar picking at least once or twice a week it still blows me away sometimes.
Be sure to check out the month of the train over on our Blind Pig and The Acorn Youtube Channel. Song number 2 is already up!
The good doctors at the VA Hospital in Oteen took good care of Pap's medical needs over the years. Whether you're going for a doctor's appointment in the outpatient area or visiting the inpatient floors going to a large VA Hospital is always a humbling experience.
By far the majority of patients at the Oteen VA are elderly men. There are some women sprinkled in and some younger vets too, but mostly it's old men. I was always struck by their voices. Some grown shaky with age; some so strong and vibrant it was easy to visualize them in their soldier boy uniforms standing at attention.
It's funny how the different branches of service seek each other out and sort of eerie how they seem to know if their neighbor in the waiting room is a leather neck, a ground pounder, or fly boy.
Due to Pap's health, I've been at the VA in Oteen for extended periods of time over the years. As I sat in the waiting rooms I would listen to snatches of conversation as families and friends talked of their loved one who were sick.
I also listened in as the Vets talked one with another. You could always hear a man or woman asking the others where they were stationed and what year they served. The answers always brought about talk of rations or meals, of memorable Sergeants, and trips to distant lands. Often the good folks who work at the VA joined in the conversation as many of them are Vets who are still serving, now taking care of those they used to stand beside in the chow line.
After every visit we made to the VA there were always folks who stood out in my mind over the days and weeks that followed. Like the gentleman from Franklin who was discharged at the same time Pap was. We all joked about how we were going in the same direction once we left Asheville for home.
There was the patient in the bed across the way who looked so frail and weak I wonder how long he made it, but knew his wife and daughter would be there to comfort him and each other no matter what happened.
There was the young tattooed janitor who entertained Pap and me with his out going personality and obvious gift for gab. He was in awe of Pap because he was a Marine. He told us he'd never get over having his childhood dreams of wearing Marine dress blues crushed by type two diabetes.
One Vet stands out in my mind from several years back.
He was a tall gangly old man who could barely walk. His daughter helped him shuffle along with a walker. Once he got seated in the chair by Pap they began to compare stories of service. The old man told Pap he was at Normandy and that all four of his siblings had served too. Even his two sisters had been nurses in the war. He said they all come back home except both the sisters' husbands.
What gifts of service the man and his family gave! What sticks out in my mind till this day is the way he talked to Pap about it. He talked like it was just yesterday or last week; like he and his siblings were all still young; like they were recently home after having marched off to war for the good of me.
At Oteen I looked at the old veterans and thought "They made it." Every one of them came back home and the loved ones who hovered around them in hopes that their pain would be lessened is evidence that most of them went on to have a good lives.
My wish for all those who are serving now is that they come home and live long lives surrounded by family and friends who love them and that someday they become the old Vets at the VA talking about their past service with their comrades.
To ALL Veterans young and old - I THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.
p.s. Since Pap was my favorite Veteran it seems only fitting that I would giveaway one of his cds as part of my Thankful November. Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win the last cd Pap made Shepherd of My Soul. Giveaway ends Tuesday November 14. To purchase your own copy go here.
p.s.s. The winner of The Pressley Girls cds is...Gloria Strother who said: "I enjoy Blind Pig so much! I would love to have the girls' CD!" Gloria send your mailing address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you some music! If you're interested in picking up your own copy of The Pressley Girls' cd go here.
Appalachia is famous for its beautiful mountains. I can assure you we have some beautiful graveyards too.
Excerpt from Fred O. Scroggs' writings about the community of Brasstown
After the threshing season was over we baled lots of the wheat and rye straw. This we sold to lumber camps in Graham County and elsewhere where it was used for bedding material for their stock, and in the bunk houses where their men slept.
I had an Uncle by marriage, (Uncle Henry Green who lived at Mayesville Ga., who was a Veterinarian Doctor.) He obtained an order for me for a car load of baled straw for the Boney Allen company of Buford, Ga. I filled the order. 1200 bales in a box car. Probably the only car of straw that was ever shipped from Murphy. The price was good and we made money on the deal. Boney Allen owned a large tannery, a shoe factory and a harness factory. Also a horse collar factory. This straw was used as filler in the horse collars. They made large quantities of these a great amount of which was used by the U. S. Government for use in the army calverly services.
In trying to work with my neighbors and customers, I kept on the lookout for a market for anything that we might supply. Most every farm had some apple trees. The apples just dropped off and rotted. I made a trade with a jelly making plant in Atlanta to sell them a shipment of these "cull" apples. Any variety but some apples. The order was for 50 barrels at $1.00 per bushel. So I bought the barrels from Fain Grocery Co., in Murphy, and made a trade with Floyd Clayton and Frank Hampton to go around and trade for the apples and fill the barrels. They could pay .25¢ per bu., but most of the folks didn't charge anything. The boys went about buying apples. I paid them .50¢ per bu. and furnished the barrels and did the hauling. We placed a little straw in the bottom, and some on top, taking off the top hoop and covering with a piece of burlap bag and replacing the hoops. We shipped 30 barrels or around 90 bu. So this brought in around $90.00 for a product that would otherwise have been wasted. I did not try and fill an order the next season as these neighbors who had given their apples away or sold cheap, got an idea that we were making too much money on them and asked $1.00 per bushel.
One time my good friend, Mercer Fain of Murphy, who operated the Fain Wholesale Grocery Co., contacted me and said that he had an order for 50 or more bushel of wild crabapples. Could I fill the order? The price would be $1.00 per bu. He said it didn't matter if they had rotten places, half rotten or what not. I said that I would try but was skeptical. Asked what he wanted them for. He said they they were going to a Nursery company at Cleveland, Tenn. They would let them rot and save the seeds which they planted to grow root stocks on which they grafted improved varieties of apples and sold to orchardist. I put out a call over the section and was able to fill Mr. Fain's order complete. For some unknown reason this order never repeated.
At this time there was a demand for walnut kernels. We bought from any who would bring them in. I could never get enough to fill my orders. A hand operated walnut cracker had appeared on the market. I bought one maybe around 1926, and began buying walnuts. Stored them in the blank-shop building I had built, near the Elmer Sales House, the present Chas. Hedden Home. I paid .50¢ per hundred pounds and accumulated around 2000 lbs. They came in as far away as Shooting Creek, N.C., Ivy Log, Ga., and elsewhere. I then made a trade with a number of folks to crack and extract the kernels. Those who did the work would come and crack a quantity which they could carry home if they wished and extract the meats. I sold these meats at .50¢ per pound and paid the workers .25¢ per pound. It was just and experiment, but paid out for all of us. At the same time I bought kernels from others over the area. I marketed these kernels in Gainesville and Atlanta, also to the Sears Market in Atlanta. I remember selling to a creamery and ice cream supply house in Atlanta, (Bessire & co.) 700 pounds at one time. They would have bought several thousand pounds. We continued to work this market for some years.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into the thriving metropolis of Brasstown in the early 1900s. Be on the lookout for another installation from Fred O. Scroggs detailing the way he worked with his neighbors to put a little money in all their pocketbooks.
cross a letter - to write over and at right angles (136)
I notice you have acquired the very annoying habit of crossing your letters, which in these days of cheap postage and paper is very abominable. If you cross anymore of your letters to me I will neither read or answer them (Sept. 25, 1859 R. Goelet, Washington)
Tarheel Talk - by Norman E. Eliason
I was reminded of the quote above when I published the post about being ill last Saturday. I'd say he was most defiantly ill about the crossed letters he was receiving.
It's that time of the year again...the time to host a variety of giveaways as a way of saying THANK YOU to Blind Pig and The Acorn readers. If you didn't know it, you're the best blog readers in the whole wide world!
There'll be a variety of giveaways throughout the month so be on the lookout for any that you might like to enter.
In years past a few readers have emailed saying they would like to donate something to be given away during the month. If you have something you'd like to share send me an email at email@example.com with the details.
Bet you could guess my first giveaway would be...
a Pressley Girls cd! All you need to do to be entered in the giveaway is leave a comment on this post. Giveaway ends November 11. If you're interested in picking up your own copy of the cd go here.
"Apples was scarce one year. Real scarce. My grandmother had a half bushel of apples. She canned the apples, and then she taken the peelings and canned those. Washed 'em real clean and canned 'em. My mother said, at the time, "I'll never eat those." But then later on, she was down in the hayfield, and when she came in, my grandmother had baked two wonderful pies from those peelings. And my mother ate three pieces. They used so many things that we throw away. I remember Grandmother peeled the potatoes real deep and planted the peelings. Raised our potatoes that way!"
Winnie Biggerstaff, 1904 McDowell County - Snowbird Gravy and Dishpan Pie by Patsy Moore Ginns.
I've never had applepeel pie but I'm betting it would be pretty tasty after a long hard day of working in the hayfield.
A few weeks back I told you about the John C. Campbell Folk School's newest cd Nighthoots and Morningsongs Volume 2. The two part anthology features live music from various artists at the Keith House and Festival Barn on the JCCFS Campus. We were tickled pink to find out track 8 was a recording of Pap, Paul, the girls, and me playing Rock of Ages at a concert at the folk school.
The news about the cd jogged Paul's mind to another Rock of Ages song. I'll let him tell you about the other song.
One Rock of Ages deserves another. Last week, we uploaded a live recording of trio-version of Rock of Ages recorded at the JCCFS. My mind drifted back to an old reel-to-reel radio broadcast by Pap and his brothers of another song, I believe the official title is Hide Me, Rock of Ages, but I've always thought of it simply as the other Rock of Ages. I copied the cut onto a cassette tape around 25 years ago, but a friend of mine lost the copy, and the reel-to-reel player that I used died while I was finishing up all the media transferring that I was doing. A week ago, I was able to buy a functioning reel-to-reel from someone on Ebay. It came yesterday, and last night I found the song and made a digital copy. The volume comes and goes due to tape deterioration. This recording is 50-55 years old, I think. I love my Uncle Henry's guitar work on the cut. Most guitarists don't particularly enjoy playing in the F position, partly because the high chord is B flat. Somehow, F position seemed to suit Henry just fine. The vocals on the recording are completely "dry," with no reverb. Henry's guitar amp seems to have been set with generous reverb, which helps it cut through the muffled come-and-go audio on this old tape. I let Chitter listen to the recording, and it was interesting that it took about 15 minutes to explain to her what a reel-to-reel recorder is. I sometimes forget that people in their early 20's have always lived in a digital world. I do not know who played upright bass during the radio broadcast, but he did a good job. In the group photo, Pap is on the left, holding Tipper; Ray is in the middle; Henry is on the right. I believe they are leaning against a '64 Impala that Pap had at that time. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the old song from "the archives."
I hope you enjoyed the old recording. As Paul went through the old reel-to-reels from Pap's early music he found all sorts of gems. Most of the finds are music, but the recordings captured more than a few conversations and other tid-bits of talking. Pap and Granny would go in the back room to sing and get away from the racket of us kids. On one recording Paul found you can hear a little Tipper come into the room to tell them she's worried a storm is coming. They assure me it will be fine and tell me to go back out and shut the door. In a few minutes I'm back telling them I hear the wind a blowing and a storm really is coming.
"You'd be ill too if you carried all your stuff down the mountain
in the cold and then your ride didn't show up!"
Ill adjective Of a person or an animal: Angry, vicious, harsh (esp in phr ill as a hornet); also used in compounds, as in ill-tempered.
1886 Smith Southern Dialect 350 And there are still others which have not, so far as I know, the authority of Old English: ... ill (cross, vicious, "some rattle-snakes are iller'n others"). 1895 Edson and Fairchild Tenn Mts. 372 The cow is ill when she is pestered. 1917 Kephart Word-list 413 = ill-natured, vicious. "That feller's ill as hell." 1939 Hall Coll. Gatlinburg TN He was a awful ill teacher. (E. W. Dodgen) ibid. Tow String Creek NC we understand your ill way of talking. (Grady Mathis) ibid. White Oak NC "He's as ill as a hornet" [said of a person who's been on a drunk or had a bad night of an kind].
I live with three people who can be ill as a hornet on occasion and I must admit I can be ill myself. The use of the word ill in reference to someone who is in a bad mood or is grouchy is still alive and well in the Southern Highlands of Appalachia.
Houses don't have lives of their own. They have an accumulation of parts and pieces of the lives of all who lived within them! Anybody who's never read "The House With Nobody In It" by Joyce Kilmer should, anybody who's ever read it ought to read it again.
-Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I've passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.
I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn't haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn't be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.
This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside.
If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.
Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.
But a house that has done what a house should do,
a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.
So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart. -Joyce Kilmer
Joyce Kilmer also wrote "Trees" and has a National Forest named for him over in Graham County!
Ed Ammons ~ April 2017