Terrapins in Appalachia

Terrapin in appalachia

Every time it rains Granny's phone gets filled with static. It's been doing that for years. Pap called and complained about it way back and was told their phone line was one of the oldest in the county and there were no plans to replace it anytime soon. We no longer have a land line and our cell signal is more than a little patchy. All that together makes talking to Granny on the phone a nightmare.

Granny called Chitter yesterday all excited about something, but Chitter couldn't understand what in the world she was talking about. A quick trip down the hill revealed the cause of Granny's excitement...a terrapin on the back porch. 

Terrapin is one of the words I loved to hear Pap say. Maybe I say it the same way. At least I hope I do.

My niece used to catch her a terrapin for a pet at least once a summer. She'd build a little pen of sorts to keep it in and try to feed it grass or vegetable peelings. After a few days she'd grow tired of playing with it and let it go at the edge of the woods. Before she turned it loose, she'd paint a small streak on it's shell with finger nail polish so that she'd know if it ever came back to her.

One year we saw a pink streaked terrapin way up the creek. Knowing it was one of hers I said "It's probably making tracks for Georgia hoping it's never loved to death by a skinny little girl with big brown eyes again."

Tipper

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Sing that one about that Ole Boy that went and got in Trouble

The Pressley Girls If it hadn't been for Love

The Pressley Girls - Fall 2016 Marble, NC

We've been learning the Steeldrivers song If it hadn't been for Love for the last two years. It's an awesome song and man did the Steeldrivers do an amazing job on it. Their version is just wow.

The girls and I thought we'd never get the hang of the song, but Paul kept encouraging us and Pap said Paul and the girls' three part harmony really made the song come alive so we kept at it.

We didn't even know Granny had noticed the song until one day she said "Sing that one about that o'le boy that went and got hisself in all that trouble in Birmingham and Louisiana." 

Every time we practice Granny makes us sing If it hadn't been for Love before we quit. 

Paul put up the video below a couple weeks back. It's full of mistakes-Chitter swaps two of the lines and Chatter says the wrong word at some point, but the video still ended up with a good feel to it. We filmed it just before Christmas and if you watch the bloopers at the end you can see it was a stormy day with the lights trying their best to go off. 

I hope you enjoyed Granny's favorite song. 

Tipper

p.s. Today is the last day to enter the book giveaway-go here if you missed it. 

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Blackberry Winter

Blackberry winter

1962 Dykeman Tall Woman 14 And after the cold spell, when dogwoods bloomed, there would be whippoorwill winter and blackberry winter. "Dogwood winter" happens in April, but it is soon followed by another spell of cold called "blackberry winter," which occurs in May when blackberry briars put out their delicate flowers.

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Blackberry winter is in full session in southern Appalachia. After a few weeks of 80 degree weather its been chilly this week with temps in the low 40s. In addition, a cold wind has been howling across the ridges and down through the hollers leaving fallen trees in some areas and leaves and branches littering the ground everywhere you look. 

From the time I was a little girl I knew about Blackberry Winter and Dogwood Winter too. I said I knew about them, I didn't say I always believed in them.

Of course when I was really young I never gave either any thought other than wishing they'd go away so summer, shorts, and swimming could arrive. 

During my late teenage years I was doubtful as to the truth of either of the spring winters. I suppose I thought of them as some quaint thing Granny had come up with to try and be colorful.

Once I was a mother putting my own hands into the good earth each spring as I tried to feed my family good wholesome things and save money at the same time, I began to pay much closer attention to the mountain holler I lived in. And what do you know, Granny and all those other folks who talked about Blackberry and Dogwood winter were right. It never fails, each spring when the Dogwood trees bloom there is a cold snap of weather that lasts a few days and every year when the Blackberry briars put out their white tease of sweetness to come there is a spell of cold weather that makes you wonder if spring of the year is really here.

Tipper

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Love Jerry

Love Letter From Pap 

Dear Louzine

Hope you are feeling well. Guess I am o.k. This fine wether is just about to give me spring fever. Seems every one gets a little lazy this time of year.

Louzine they put me on the second shift at work. I knew it was comming but I thought it would be another week or so. I have to go to work at 3 oclock and off at 11 oclock. I have to work sat. night. Looks like Sunday night is the only chance I will have to see you. If it is o.k. with you, and unless you send me word different I will be there about 4:30 Sunday evening. Then maybe we won't be out so late.

Darling I miss you lots. Sending this by Wayne, hope he gets it to you. Hope you can read this I am not much at spelling and writing. Don't eat supper before I come Sunday. We will eat out somewhere.

Love Jerry

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Pap sent the letter above to Granny when they were first courting. Pap lived in the southern portion of Cherokee County and Granny lived in the western portion. With today's modern cars and roads that only equals about 20-25 minutes driving time, but in Pap and Granny's courting days the distance was farther in more ways than one.

A few months back I asked Granny when her family first got a telephone. She couldn't remember the exact year, but she did remember having to walk across the road to use the neighbor's phone to call Pap's mother and tell her to let Pap know she was sick and and that he shouldn't come out to see her one evening. Pap and Granny only dated a short 3 months before marrying so I'm guessing it was about 1963 when she borrowed the phone. 

Only one or two houses in the neighborhood having a telephone is a huge difference from today where everyone you know is walking around with one in their pocket. The difference almost boggles the mind.

Pap's Uncle Wayne and his wife Violet lived across the way from Granny's family. As often happens in large families, Pap and Wayne were closer in age than most uncles and nephews and since they grew up near each other they were more like cousins.

Back in the day Pap and Wayne drove wagons from the Harshaw Farm to Murphy, worked in the fields, swam and fished in the Hiwassee River and slipped off to play when they both knew better.

After they were grown and Wayne married Violet he introduced Pap to Granny.

Happy Valentines Day!!

Tipper 

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Recent Grannyisms

Grannyisms

If you look in the right side-bar of this page (scroll down a little ways) you'll see a link to my Grannyisms-page. I've been collecting memories that are precious, funny, and inspiring about grandmothers on the Grannyisms page since I started the Blind Pig and The Acorn.

Below you can read a few of my favorite Grannyisms left by folks over the last several months.

Tipper:

Granny is always worrying about somebody taking a bad cold. Today the girls went to the gym to swim and Granny is convinced they will be sick. She said "Nobody ought to swim in the wintertime." I said "It's inside they have a dome. They cover the pool with the dome during the winter. It keeps it really warm." She said "That don't matter nobody ought to go swimming in the winter or they'll take a bad cold."

Ron Stephens:

Oh my, oh my, such a host of spunky grandmothers remembered here. And so many memories.

My Grandma Della Carter Stephens Bruce (she was married twice) was only about 5 foot 4 inches or so tall with brown eyes and dark brown, nearly black hair which she wore in a braid wrapped around her head. We think she was part Indian. As a single mother during the Depression she walked miles through the woods to do people's laundry for fifty cents. To help feed her four children she took up squirrel hunting, carrying the overalls she wore under her arm until she got out of sight in the woods. Besides being a hunter, she was a gatherer of wild fruits and herbs of all kinds, walking a mile or more from home to gather huckleberries, blackberries, peaches, walnuts, hickory nuts and greens. And then she had about a half-acre of garden which she tended with just a hoe except for the initial plowing. It was far more than she needed for just herself but she gave it away first as fresh vegetables then as canned goods.

My two favorite things that she fixed was a chewy gingerbread and dry apple stack cake. One or the other, sometimes both, could usually be found under the cake cover on top of the old wooden Gibson ice box. But she also made the grandboys shirts out of the cotton feed sacks. She wouldn't give just one of us one. She had to have one for both my brother and I before we got it. I was baptised in 1966 in a blue and white gingham shirt she made for me.

One of her expressions was to say of someone's bad judgment that they would "suck sweet sorrow" as a consequence. She said "hope" for "help" as in "Law, if I'd a knowed you was a doing that I'd a come over and hoped ye."

She hoed her garden in the mornings for two or three hours. Once when a visiting preacher was staying with us, across the hollow from her place, she was mistaken and hoed the garden on Sunday morning. When we told her, she looked thunderstruck and said, "Law, don't tell the preacher." In the main though, she was rather quiet and unemotional.

When she died at age 92 I think it was, her hair was still not yet completely gray. I miss her. She was as good as gold to my brother and I. God grant than I may leave as many and as good memories with my own grandchildren.

Frank Waller:

My granny Minnie Daniels built their own cabin in eastern Kentucky, she made her own medicines and when we got sick she took care of us. I remember she mad something that we called 'poo poo' salve because that is what it looked like. If you got any kind of wound she would smear that on and next thing you know the wound would be gone. She drank only Sassafras Tea and she called buttermilk "clabbered milk". I used to sit on her lap and comb her hair, which reached past her waist. She had the greatest stories that she would tell me. She smoked a clay pipe and sometimes corncob if we didn't have the money. She wore sunbonnets and made the greatest quilts which we would take to town and sale to the people there. There wasn't much my granny couldn't do and I am not young anymore but I still think of her.

Eldona Ashley:

I seen and I never seen were common phrases when I was growing up. Teachers tried to teach us not to use them, my grandma W and my mommy never stopped using them,

If we got a new toy, perhaps a hula hoop, we would take to the farm on Sunday afternoon. We would show my Grandma W. Her response was invariably the same, "Why, I ne'er seen the like,"

I wonder what she would think of all the games and apps on our tablet and phones. Music, CDs, DVDs and so many things would astound her!

Dedra Cook:

Tipper as I get older and my Mother gets older I think of my dear sweet Granny more often. I miss her sweet little round face. Her little black curls and big beautiful brown eyes. She always made you feel like you were her favorite grandchild. We lived about four hours away when I was younger from my Granny. But when we would go to the mountains to see her she always had a double layered chocolate cake made just for me. I remember waking up in the morning smelling bacon cooking and her humming a gospel song. I wish I had appreciated that special time when I was younger. I wish I would have really listened to all of her stories. She was a wonderful Grandmother and I can't wait to see her again when I get to the other side of glory. If we can teach our children anything about growing up, it is to enjoy the little things in life because those are usually the most important things in the world and it is the small things that you remember the most.

Tipper:

Unusual for me to be home alone especially all night, but I will be tonight. I was down at Granny and Pap's earlier. When I was leaving Granny said "Now I'm going to walk out on the porch so I can see you get home. And you call me as soon as you get in the house."

In years gone by that would have annoyed me to no end, but not now. I said "OK" and started up the hill. I smiled all the way home at Granny watching out for her 45 year old daughter and believing she could stop anything that tried to harm me by simply watching when she can't hardly get out of the house anymore. What a blessing to be loved.

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I hope you enjoyed all the comments. There are many more on the Grannyisms page-so jump over there and read them. And please leave one about your grandmother or mother.

For those of you who have already left a Grannyism-there is no limit. Please just keep posting your memories as they come to you.

Tipper

p.s. Mark Davidson will be speaking in Bryson City, NC this Thursday night at 6:30 for the monthly meeting of the Swain County Genealogy and Historical Society. The meeting will be held at the Swain County Business Education and Training Center. If you live close enough, go out and hear him-I know you'll be glad you did!

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Appalachia Through My Eyes - The Girl can Crochet

My life in appalachia the girl can crotchet

Chitter made me the afghan in the photo for Christmas. I'm telling you the girl can crochet , well actually both girls can crochet. Chatter gifted me with a beautiful scarf she made out of the softest yarn.

Granny's mother Gazzie loved to crochet and she passed that love on to Granny. I've told you plenty of times before, Granny is crochet crazy. She spins out things faster than we can keep track of them or find a place to put them.

Granny taught the girls to crochet and they've stuck with it. Pap used to get so tickled at them. We'd go somewhere to perform and while we were waiting to go on stage they'd pull out whatever they were working on and start crocheting. He said "They really are like two little grannies."

Granny is always telling me I'll be sorry I never let her teach me to crochet and someday it'll be too late. Even though I never picked up the skill, I sure am glad the girls did. Three generations of crocheters is pretty cool if you ask me. And if you count my cousin Tina who is my age and learned from Granny Gazzie-that makes 4 generations which is even cooler.

Tipper

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

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It’s Almost Time for School to Start

  Jenkins family Culberson NC
Geneaieve, Louzine (Granny), and Mary - Culberson NC

County Schools are gearing up to start a new school year. Most of the colleges in the area have already started their fall semester.

Even though I no longer have children in the K-12 school system, I still feel the excitement of getting ready for a new school year. I’ve been hearing other parents talk about buying school clothes and rounding up the supplies on the class lists for a few weeks now.

A few months ago the local school board published a book:  A 90 Year Historical Journey of the Cherokee County Board of Education February 11, 1926 – February 11, 2016 compiled by R. Gregory Chapman.

The book takes a fascinating look at the history of public education in Cherokee County NC. It brings to light many schools that no longer exist, most of which I’ve never even heard of.

Since 1859 there have been 75 established schools in the county. 

Soon after the book was published, Paul purchased a copy and while we were looking through it I was reminded of a story Granny told me about school.

Granny loved school like nobody you’ve ever seen. Homework was a joy for her-she couldn’t wait to get home and get her lessons each night.

When Granny was in third grade she went to Walker School (one of those 75 established schools-I've never heard anyone mention it but Granny). For homework her teacher asked her to make an apron. Granny wasn’t really capable of making the apron so Granny’s mother, Gazzie, helped her make it.

Granny didn’t want to go to school and admit her mother did her homework and she didn't want to lie about it either. Granny said she hardly slept a wink, tossing, turning, and worrying about what she was going to do. 

The next morning as Granny stood at the bus stop with her sister Geneaieve and her niece Mary she prayed something would happen to keep her from going to school that day.

As the bus came into view and begin to slow down for them to get on Granny dreaded seeing her teacher even more.

Just as they were about to step up on the bus the driver said “No school today girls. The school house burnt down last night.”

When Granny tells the story she says “Was I ever happy!” Of course she wasn't really happy the school burnt, but as a third grader who didn't want to lie or admit she couldn't complete her homework she did feel immense relief. 

After things were sorted out Granny’s school moved into the Ranger Church for a while and then into Colis Church which was on the road to Hiwassee Dam. By the time Granny was in 5th grade the Ranger School had been built and Granny finished out her elementary years there before moving on to Murphy High School.

If you’d like to purchase A 90 Year Historical Journey of the Cherokee County Board of Education February 11, 1926 – February 11, 2016 compiled by R. Gregory Chapman you can find it on Amazon here.

Tipper

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When You and I Were Young, Maggie

When you and I were Young Maggie
Granny and Pap Thanksgiving 2015

I've always had a great fondness for the song When You and I Were Young, Maggie. Who wouldn't enjoy the words that speak of a long and lasting love between Maggie and her man? Pap has always entertained me with stories of the mills his family used when he was a boy, so I suppose those memories swirl around in my like for the song as well.

In my mind the song fits into the Bluegrass genre of music because that's mostly the type of bands/performers I've heard do the song over the years. I was surprised of the lack of traditional bluegrass videos that popped up when I did a quick youtube search of the song the other day. I quickly noticed the variety of names used to title the song as well. Even our video of Pap and Paul posted some 7 years ago has the wrong title - I Wandered to the Hill Maggie

A quick google search for the real title gave me the history of the song. Apparently a lot of folks list the song as a traditional Scottish tune, but that isn't where the song was born. The song was written by a Canadian, George Washington Johnson.  

The Glandbrook Heritage Society website tells the story of the song:

In 1859, George Washington Johnson, recently graduated from the University of Toronto, came to teach at S.S. #5, Glanford. A native of the adjacent community of Binbrook, George, twenty-one, dark and handsom, soon found himself in love with his student, the fair Maggie Clark who was just eighteen.

She reciprocated his affection and the two shared many hours together. Fond of music they would often sing together at the Clark homestead or in the local Glee Club of Glanford; and frequently summer strolls along the maple lined banks of Twenty Mile Creek took them to her father's mill, a short distance north of the Clark homestead. It was on one these romantic walks that George Johnson was inspired to begin a volume of verses entitled "Maple Leaves" which would contain the poem "When You and I Were Young, Maggie".

Much in love, the couple became engaged. However, a storm loomed on the horizon. Maggie who had contracted tuberculosis, then known as the "Great White Plague" made both aware of the threat it held for their future.

During one of his financee's more serious periods of illness, George made a solitary walk to the hill which overlooked the mill. Here in the "green grove - where first the daises sprung", George Washington Johnson composed the verse that would provide lyrics for the song.

Unfortunately, they would not grow old together. Whether the lyrics were a denial of reality, a touching pretense or an expression of faith in their future, the couple made plans for marriage.

But first there was a period of separation. Maggie went to the Wesleyan College in Hamilton and George to study at the Fort Edward Institute on the Hudson River in New York State. Distance only increased their love and on October 21, 1864 they were married at the Methodist Church in Glanford Township.

George had now settled on a career of journalism with the "Courier" in Buffalo, New York. His ability as a journalist soon became recognized and he was offered a position with the Cleveland, Ohio, "Plain ' Dealer". Once he was secure in his new post, George and his bride took up residence in Cleveland. Then suddently, the tragedy they had feared struck. Maggie's tubercuolois failed to respond to medical treatment. She passed away on May 12, 1865, at twenty-three, less than a year after their marriage. She was laid to rest at the family plot in White Church cemetary near Mount Hope. Overwhelmed by his loss, George resigned from the "Plain Dealer" and returned to Canada and to teaching.

The following year, George visited an old friend in Detroit, Michigan, J.C. Butterfield, who at his request, set the words of "When You and I Were Young, Maggie" to music.

When I read the information regarding the song on the  Glandbrook Heritage Society website I was surprised to learn the song wasn't written exactly for the reason I had in my mind. I thought "Well there was no aging couple who'd spent the last 60 years of their lives together."

But then I reminded myself, songs mean different things to different people. There's no doubt Johnson wrote the song thinking of his deep love for his Maggie and there's no doubt the words do fit perfectly for couples who last through the test of time.

The words below are the ones Pap and Paul sing, to see Johnson's original words go here

When You and I Were Young, Maggie written by George Washington Johnson

I wandered today to the hill, Maggie,
To survey the scene below, 
To see the creek and the creaking old mill, Maggie,
As we used to, long ago.

But the green grass is gone from the hill, Maggie,
Where first the daisies sprung;
And the creaking old mill is still, Maggie,
Since you and I were young.

They say I'm feeble with age, Maggie,
My steps less spry than then,
My face is a well-written page, Maggie,
And time alone was the pen.

But the green grass is gone from the hill, Maggie,
Where first the daisies sprung;
And the creaking old mill is still, Maggie,
Since you and I were young.

They say we are old and grey, Maggie,
Our trials of life nearly done
But to me you're as fair as you were, Maggie,
When you and I were young.

I hope you enjoyed the song of love on this Valentine's Day. I think of Pap and Granny when I hear it these days. They're both feeble, grey, and old - yet their love for one another is still as strong as when their daisies first sprung and they were young.

Go here to read about another Maggie. A Maggie that lived just down the road from me and had a lasting impression on Brasstown.

Tipper 

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*Source: Glandbrook Heritage Society