Rainbow over Pap's house after his funeral
It was a little before 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday April 19, 2016 when Granny called and told me I better come Pap was in a bad way. I told her I'd be right there. I was disoriented because of the time and because of a dream I was having that was so real that I couldn't seem to break free from it. I was dreaming about Pap and his best friend L.C. who died the previous year. In my dream L.C. and Pap were laughing and having a big time just like they always did.
I hurriedly splashed water on my face, brushed my teeth and threw some clothes on. I told The Deer Hunter I'd let him know if I needed him and ran down the hill. As I rushed down the road in the darkness I thought to myself "L.C. you can't have him yet." Silly, ridiculous, and slightly crazy I know, but that's exactly what I thought.
Pap was thrashing around trying to get away from the awful pain he was feeling. I administered the meds the hospice folks had taught me how to use, but nothing seemed to help. Granny said he'd been up since midnight, but wouldn't let her call me until it got real bad.
Pap cried out to God "Why won't you let me die Lord? Please have mercy on me even though I'm so unworthy."
Granny paced and I gave him more medicine once the allotted time rolled around, but nothing helped. Pap kept changing positions from standing to sitting. He said laying down only made it worse although he continued to thrash and throw himself backwards in a desperate attempt to evade the pain. He was eating nitroglycerin pills like they were candy. He was shaking and thrashing so that he kept asking me to put them under his tongue. His lips and mouth were ice cold.
Pap cried out to God again saying "I'd curse you like Job's wife so you'd strike me down if I wasn't so afraid of your might. Please have mercy on me."
The minutes seemed to crawl and time seemed to stand still as the helplessness of not being able to comfort Pap surrounded Granny and me. You might asked why in the world didn't we call someone-an ambulance or the hospice folks? We didn't call because Pap had decided months before he was done with prolonging his life. He knew death would soon receive him and he made his own personal decision that it would receive him from the comfort of his own home instead of in a hospital room among strangers. Pap had signed all the necessary papers to prevent a resuscitation initiated by any medical person or even by his own family. I didn't even know such a thing existed until my experience with Pap. It is often referred to as a DNR.
Gradually as the medications begin to take affect Pap begin to feel a little better and was able to at least get a breath as the intense pain abated slightly. He went ahead and took his morning medications in the hopes that might continue the improving trend he seemed to be on. Thinking I would take his mind off the pain I said "You'll never believe who I was dreaming about when Granny called." I told him what I had been dreaming and he said "Well Tip I wouldn't leave you for nothing if it weren't for this pain, but I'd gladly go along with L.C. to escape this torment and I'd go right now."
His comment about L.C. made me wish I hadn't told him about the dream. I was so afraid of losing Pap.
He continued to improve and decided he was going to put his pants on. Pap was a fiercely private person. I believe his worst fear was that he'd end up in a sick bed dependent on someone to take care of his every need. I said "I wouldn't start stirring around too much maybe you ought to wait a little longer before you try to put your clothes on. He said "Oh don't you worry I'm going to go so slow nothing won't happen."
Pap got his pants on and in the next little while he'd managed to get his long john shirt and his flannel shirt on over his undershirt. He was feeling better all the time-not good, but better. It was getting close to 6:00 a.m. I texted The Deer Hunter and told him I thought maybe the worst was over and that I was planning to go on to work. He said okay and that he was about to leave for work himself.
Granny laid down on the couch to get some rest and I sat watching Pap debating whether I should leave or not.
I said "Could you drink a cup of coffee?" He said "Yes I think I could." I got him a cup and then set back down for a few minutes.
As he stood by the heater warming he said "Tipper I think I'm alright you can go on to work but go in there and get me a candy bar out of that drawer before you go. I said "What kind?" He said "A three musketeers."
I walked into the kitchen with something bugging me, I figured out later it was the fact that Granny doesn't buy three musketeers. Before I even pulled the drawer out of the old metal cabinet Granny keeps her candy in I heard a horrible crash. I ran back into the living room and there lay Pap between the stove and the bottom of the day bed. He was already gone. He never even looked at me. Not one time. Granny started hollering and all I could do was cry "My dear old Daddy is gone. He's gone."
I might have felt a pulse one slow beat and that was all. I think he was dead before he even hit the floor. I called Paul not knowing he was in the shower and left some panicked rambling message. I called Steve and can't even remember if he answered or if I left a message for him. I called The Deer Hunter and said "Daddy died oh Daddy died." He said "Oh no! Oh no! I just opened the gate. Let me tell Brian and I'll be right there."
Paul burst through the door wanting to do something. I said "It's too late he's gone." Paul said "Call somebody!" I said "He didn't want us to call nobody and he's gone anyway."
I laid on Pap's chest and sobbed. I've never felt so sad in all my life. I cried and sobbed until The Deer Hunter came and pulled me off of him. Steve and his wife Kim rushed in but there was nothing left to do but call the funeral home and we didn't even know how to do that.
Steve called 911 and asked them what to do. They said a deputy and a medic had to come to declare the death then the funeral home could come.
We set and cried. Steve worried about Pap laying in the floor and wanted to move him but finally settled for putting a pillow under his head. Granny and I told the rest of them that he prayed to die, that God answered his prayer. It suddenly occurred to me, not only did God answer his crying plea for mercy He let Pap put his clothes on before he took him.
When the EMS folks arrived it was a gentleman and a lady. The gent took over the job of documenting everything that had happened and completed the necessary paper work. The lady set by me on the couch and talked quietly with the rest of us. After a moment of silence she said "I feel a lot love in this room. You're a lucky family. He was a lucky man. All the calls I go on don't have that feeling of love, actually most of them don't. You're lucky. Even though its sad you have much to be thankful for."
The deputy came next and since Pap had already told us he wanted his funeral conducted by Ivie Funeral Home they were called. In the mean time someone did call hospice and Pap's nurse Shawn came out. She said she had to be the one who officially declared Pap dead and by that time it was after 8:00 a.m. She said we should have called her first but it was okay not to worry.
The next step was moving Pap's car so the funeral home could get close to the door. The keys were no where to be found. We looked everywhere including in Pap's pockets but finally gave up on the keys and left the car where it was. Later in the day when we went to the funeral home the keys were with his clothes. I guess they had been in his pocket but when he fell backwards they came out somehow and became tangled inside the three layer of shirts he had on.
Who knew the funeral home process took so long? By the time we left there my teeth were chattering even though I wasn't cold and I thought my head was going to explode from the headache I had. We split up, I can't really remember why but I went with the ones who were going to pick out the place for Pap's grave at church. I could go no further than a picnic table at the edge of the parking area. I laid on top of it and said any place they picked would be fine with me.
Once we got back home I laid on the day bed while people brought food and The Deer Hunter and the girls mowed the yard. The chaplain from hospice came, he had visited with Pap and Granny on several occasions. He told us the price for great love is great grief.
Just before we left the house to go to the funeral I told The Deer Hunter to wait I forgot something. I jumped out of the car and ran to my closest flower bed. I picked a handful of lavender snow drops to put in Pap's hand. I don't know what made me think of getting the flowers, but I think Pap would have liked knowing they came from my yard and that his Tipper put them in his casket. Granny made sure he was holding his favorite Marine hat too.
Tons of people came to the funeral as I knew they would. The church parking lot was over flowing with cars parked up and down the highway in the grass. Pap was known far and wide from his many days of coaching baseball, singing and picking the guitar, teaching Sunday school, delivering oil, and building houses. The Deer Hunter always said "If your Daddy and me went to New York City I guarantee he'd run into somebody he knew in the first 15 minutes of being there."
John Ivie could not have been nicer to us during the whole ordeal. Once he found out Pap was a Marine he arranged for Military Rites at the graveside. Granny rode across the road to the grave leaving Paul, Steve, and me to walk together. With arms entwined we held each other up and shared a smile when we heard a man playing Amazing Grace on bagpipes. The song was lonesome and beautiful all at the same time, the reason we smiled was we wondered what Pap would have said about the man's kilt. We have no idea who asked him to play, but sure are thankful they did.
Pap's pastor of many years, Paul Ray Morgan, conducted the graveside service. He said Pap had recently told him "The Lord's waited on me my whole life now I'm just waiting on him." Two sharp dressed Marine's folded the flag a top Pap's casket and presented it to Granny. It made me wish Pap could have seen them.
After we were home my nephew Mark took the picture of the rainbow over Pap's house.
The rainbow seemed like a sign that everything had worked out just like Pap wanted it to and that we would be alright until we meet him again on the other shore in the shallow water where he told Granny he'd be waiting.
p.s. To read Pap's obituary go here: Jerry Marshall Wilson 1937 - 2016
Pap - April 2016
I've been studying about this day last year-April 18, 2016-the day before Pap died. It was a Monday like most any other Monday with the only difference being I left work after lunch to take Granny up to Hayesville to see the eye doctor. There wasn't anything wrong, it was just her yearly check-up.
The exam went great. Granny's eyes hadn't changed from the previous year and she didn't need new glasses. I actually saw the doctor that day too.
Back in January of 2016 when Pap had his second heart attack my left eye was so red and irritated one of the emergency room nurses at the VA even asked me if it was okay. Granny said she'd had enough of seeing my red eye and that I was going to go with her the next time she went to her eye doctor. I swear Granny made that April appointment before Pap even got put out into a room.
Between January and April my eye cleared itself up and a quick eye exam showed I needed glasses, but the doctor said my eyes weren't bad enough to switch from my walmart readers to a prescription strength just yet.
Feeling good about our eyes Granny and I headed for Brasstown. Once we were home I followed her into the house to see what Pap was up to. He was sitting in his chair watching tv. We talked about Granny's eyes and my eyes, the weather and the coming garden season. Pap also talked about how he had been feeling better. He said "I probably shouldn't even mention it, but I've had a pretty good stretch of days."
I headed home to make supper with a light heart, never thinking my world would change forever by morning.
I can hardly believe Pap's been gone a year. I never thought I could make it without him, but I have made it, just like he told me I could.
Grief is a funny thing. I was so heart broken after he first died I could barely make it through the day then seemingly overnight my grief turned to a weird detachment of sorts. I found myself wondering if he really existed? Was he real or was he some hero we all dreamed up to make ourselves feel better?
My weird questioning doubt always brought to mind a story I'd heard a blue million times about my older brother Steve. One day he ran in from playing to ask Pap and Granny if he was real or if he was just a toy. I'd start thinking of Steve being so curious that he wanted to know if he was a real boy and that would cause me to think of stories about Paul, about me, and about all the grandkids and then I'd know for certain Pap was real for without him there'd have been no stories to tell.
After Pap died I was so afraid of dreaming of him that I kept myself from doing so until I began to worry I'd never dream of him. Of course I finally did and it was real and comforting. Since then I've dreamed about Pap several times but its all of the silly variety. One night I dreamed we were down in Hanging Dog on the lake when the water was down and Pap was driving The Deer Hunter's big brown Chevy truck he had when we were first married. Pap was a determined man in that dream-he was trying his best to drive that truck straight up a red clay bank with me holding on for dear life and begging him to stop. As he shifted into second gear for another go at the bank he told me to hush and before I knew it he had Nadine (that was the truck's name) out of the lake bed and back up on level ground.
The girls dream about him often. I can usually tell because they'll be teary-eyed of the morning. Chitter told me about one of her Pap dreams the other day. While she was in tears about it I actually found it funny. She dreamed she was talking to Pap down at his house, but she knew he was dead and hated to have to tell him he was a ghost. She said "I just kept staring at him and he asked me why I was staring at him and I just couldn't tell him he was a ghost."
If you've not had enough of my memories of Pap's passing come back by tomorrow and I'll share the rest with you. If that sort of thing isn't your cup of tea I totally understand, but I feel like I need to tell Pap's death story for those who've told me they want to hear it.
Today's guest post was written by Jim Casada.
Ruminations on Ramps by Jim Casada - Copyright 2016
The humble ramp, a traditional wild mountain vegetable of early spring which is fairly widely dispersed in the forest understory at higher elevations, today often garners mention in menus of restaurants famed for haute cuisine. Rest assured any usage involves the vegetable after it has been cooked, for the high-brow epicures who frequent such establishments have no idea of the true nature of the ramp. In its pure, undefiled, raw state, the way hardy mountain folks have enjoyed it for generations, the ramp is at once a delightful delicacy and the embodiment of gag-inducing noxiousness.
Though mild tasting, even in its raw state, when eaten uncooked the ramp has a pungent after-effect that by comparison makes garlic seem a pantywaist pretender in the odiferous sweepstakes. Moreover, raw ramps are a potent purgative, once widely favored as a spring tonic and with properties guaranteed, as my Grandfather Joe used to put it, “set you free.”
My initial experience with ramps came when I was a 5th grade student at Bryson City Elementary School. A classmate showed up on a Monday after having enjoyed, in his words, “a bait of ramps” on Saturday. Never mind the passage of a day and a half, the lingering after-effect of his weekend feast was of a potency defying description. He literally emptied the classroom and sent the harried young teacher, whose educational training apparently omitted the chapter on how to deal with this particular disciplinary dilemma, scurrying down the hall to the principal’s office.
The result was one which would be repeated numerous times over the course of my educational experience. As was the case when some poor soul showed up with a “case of head lice,” the smelly offender was sent home for a three-day vacation. No rules had been violated and no laws had been broken. It was simply a situation where the welfare of the community--his classmates and indeed anyone who happened to be downwind for an appreciable distance--took precedence over that of the individual.
This sort of situation happened with increasing frequency as I entered high school, with the offensive offender invariably earned a temporary reprieve from the educational process. Some of the enforced absences were intentional while others involved nothing more than a family indulging in a long-established gustatory rite of spring—one that ranked right along spring tonics such as drinking sassafras tea or taking a dose of sulfur and molasses.
Eventually yours truly became involved in the consumption side of the ramp equation, albeit my first time was a matter of self-defense. A group of us boys who were avid fly fishermen decided to celebrate trout season’s opening day with a weekend camping trip. As we backpacked to our campsite one member of the party noticed a hillside covered with ramps and stopped to harvest several dozen of them. In camp he cleaned and chopped the ramps, scattered them over a plate of branch lettuce (saxifrage) he had found growing at creek side, and dressed the salad with hot grease and bacon bits. He proclaimed this “kilt sallet” delicious.
Truth be told, it didn’t matter whether the offering from nature’s abundant bounty was supremely tasty or odious to God and man alike. All of us were sharing a big tent and had no choice except to follow our companion’s dietary example. Once you have eaten ramps the noxious odor that seems to permeate the atmosphere for 30 yards in every direction magically disappears. We knew that, and soon enough all of us had a nice ramp salad to go with our trout and fried ‘taters. It provided the necessary refuge from an aroma that falls somewhere in the nasal spectrum with unwashed athletic socks, stump water, skunk cabbage, or a mid-summer garbage dump. One is almost tempted to wonder if that explains why ramp festivals have long enjoyed such popularity--everyone in attendance consumes the featured vegetable in sheer self-preservation.
For all my numerous personal adventures with ramps, my favorite tale connected with the wild vegetable comes from a stunt perpetrated decades ago by the editor of the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch. He had his printers prepare a special batch of ink that included the juice from raw ramps and use it on a run of newspapers to be mailed through the U. S. Postal Service. Postal authorities may have persevered with their motto stating “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers form the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” but they were not at all amused with this situation. Indeed, eau de ramp stopped them in their tracks.
Cooked ramps are perfectly fine, and when scrambled with eggs or included in a batch of hash-browned potatoes they proved first-rate breakfast fare readily passing the smell test. But for the pure of heart and brave of palate, with ramps the raw route is the only road to travel. Just be advised that if you opt for this exercise in culinary adventure and wish to retain friends or keep your marriage intact, the slender, onion-like bulbs are best consumed with kindred spirits or somewhere back of beyond where you won’t return to civilization and the company of others for at least 72 hours.
I hope you enjoyed Jim's post as much as I did!
I've known the legend of the Dogwood since I was a small child, whether I learned it in Sunday school or from Pap and Granny I couldn't tell you. But I can tell you, I never look at a Dogwood bloom that I don't remember.
Wishing each of you a blessed Easter.
bloodroot noun A perennial wild plant (Sanguinaria canadensis); the red juice from its root is used to make a medicinal tea and a dye. The plant is often grown for sale. Same as coon root, puccoon, red Indian paint.
1901 Lounsberry Southern Wild Flowers 197 To the Indian the plant was known as the "red puccoon." They used its highly colored juice in war time to paint their faces and also to dye many materials for their baskets. In medicine it it still employed domestically as an expectorant. 1937 Hyatt Marthy Lou's Kiverlid 99 In them days most persons got poke berry juice fer writing' with, or sometimes they'd use puccoon root-blood root they called hit-but hit would soon fade down. 1940 Caton Wildflowers of Smokies 2 It derives its name from the fact that the juice of both stem and root is reddish, the stems "bleeding" when broken. 1962 Brewer Hiking 59 Trailing arbutus, Dutchman's breeches, bloodroot, trillium, violets and several other wildflowers bloom there in April. 1962 Dykeman Tall Woman 169 But she would spy out their secrets-bloodroot and yellow ragwort, snakeroot and wild ginger, the cohoshes and lady's slippers, and most particularly that root of the gineseng. 1970 Campbell et al. Smoky Mt Wildflowers 18 The roots contain an orange-red sap, which accounts for the common name. 1971 Krochmal et al. Medicinal Plants Appal 226 [The juice] is an emetic, laxative, and emmenagogue; and because of its expectorant qualities, it has been used to treat chronic bronchitis. This plant is used both as a pain reliever and a sedative. When combined with oak bark, the roots give a red dye. In Appalachia, a piece of bloodroot is sometimes carried as a charm to ward off evil spirits. 1972 Cooper NC Mt Folklore 12 Yellow dock, mandrake, poke root, blood root and black cohosh were used as alternatives to tone up the system and establish a health condition. 1982 Stupka Wildflowers 39 The rootstock that gives this plant its name is 1/2-1 in. thick and up to 4 in. long, and contains a bright orange-red juice, said to have been used medicinally as a tonic and stimulant....Among its other names are "puccoon-root" and "red Indian paint."
If you missed my post about the bloodroot that blooms around my mountain holler go here.
I have several stories about wart removal for you today. If you missed the first post What to do for Warts go here.
The ability to remove warts was on both sides of my family. My people were mostly from the foot hills of Appalachia in North Georgia. My dad's grandmother removed over a hundred warts from my uncle one day. She made him go collect as many smooth stones as he could find and bring them to her. She was waiting with a paper bag. She took the stones and took turns rubbing the stones over the warts until a stone had been rubbed on every wart. As she did it, she whispered something inaudible under her breath. After she rubbed a wart, she dropped it in a paper sack. When all warts had been rubbed, she told my uncle to close the bag and place it on the side of the street. When someone came by, the warts would jump on them and my uncle wouldn't have them anymore. About three days later, all of my uncle's warts were gone. My mom's grandfather could just rub a wart and whisper something under his breath and it would go away soon. People always argue the placebo effect but he even made seed warts on live stock in the town go away.
Austin ~ October 2016
Just came up on this site. My Papa buys warts as well, even to date, and has as long as I can remember, (early 60's). He requests the patient give him a dime for each wart to be removed. He has never told me exactly how it works, but I have witnessed numerous people who have visited for this reason, and later witnessed that they no longer had warts. He rolls the dime around the wart two or more times, hard to say, then lays it flat on the wart and removes it quickly, gives it back to the patient, and tells them to spend it, and forget where it was spent. One in particular I remember well, was one of my first cousins from Augusta, GA. He had terrible warts on both hands, and I didn't count them, nor hear the number, but it had to be upwards of 60, because he brought a brown paper bag in which he claimed to have $6.50 worth of dimes, and he wanted to sell all of them to Papa. Next time he visited, he was ranting on and on at how my Papa had made all his warts disappear, (and they were all gone). Papa told me that his grandmother, who passed in '59, also did this, and had taught him. He also learned to "talk fire out" from this same grandmother. This I did learn to do, by virtue of him teaching my mother, who in turn taught me. His grandmother told him when she taught him, that it had to pass from male to female, female to male, etc. My GGrandmother, who was a typical Matriarch of the family, and all our family since have lived in NE Alabama, foothills of the Appalachians, and mostly migrated from N. and S. Carolina before settling here.
J. Steele - August 2016
My dad is 80 years old now, so I don't know if he still claims to be able to do this. However I know firsthand that he has this ability and we've never been able to explain it. He said that he got it from his grandmother who told simply told him "you will have the gift too". When I was a kid, I had a wart on the back of my right hand. A cat scratched me through it and left a trail, and the length of the scratch turned into a puffed up wart-like scar.My mom told me to go to my dad with it and he gently rubbed it without any medicine, home remedy, or other "witch doctor" action. About a week or two weeks later, I noticed that the wart and cat scratch scar were gone. Would love to know if there is any scientific reasoning in his body chemistry for this.
Jason Fuller - July 2016
My wife Trish grew up in NE Arkansas in a family with old Irish roots. Kitchen Witchery was just part of the heritage. She told me a story of her having multiple warts on her hand that wouldn't go away. Her uncle took a string, tied the same number of knots as warts. He spit on each knot rubbed a knot on each wart then threw the string into a fire. The warts were gone in a few days.
John Olex - May 2016
I know this is an old post, but I wanted to share my experience with warts. When I was little I had warts all over the back of both hands. I lived in a small farming community in SE Arkansas. My great aunt gave me some kernels of corn and told me to touch every wart with the corn, say a phrase (no idea what it was anymore), and throw the corn to the chickens. I did what I was told and within a couple of weeks all but one of them were gone. My mother told me later that she had wanted to tell me that it was just superstition, but after my warts disappeared she knew I wouldn't believe her. I just wish I knew what it was Aunt Jean told me to say!
Avilldr - January 2016
As a youth my fingers were covered with warts around each nail. An old German neighbor lady had me take my mothers dish rag, wash my hands and then hide the rag where it would not be found. Some time later the warts all disappeared. I also seem to have been blessed with this power. I rub a copper penny over the wart, then use the same penny to buy the wart from the person who had it. So far it has worked on several occasions. The usual routine is that the person usually forgets all about the wart an one day they look and it is gone. Don't ask me why ... Perhaps faith .. God gives us each different gifts!
Glenn Anderson - September 2014
I realize this thread is a bit old but I had to post my experience. I am from Missouri and I'm not sure of any of my ancestors living in the Appalachians but I do know that we have Blackfoot blood in our family. I had a wart on my wrist that popped up out of nowhere. I went to the dermatologist, had it burned off, and it came back. I was at my Uncle's house and he saw it. He grabbed my hand rubbed my wart with his thumb and asked me why I wanted that thing on my arm. I went into this rant about how it was burned off and came back. He told me not to worry that it would fall off soon and never come back. Sure enough, a few days later it was gone. That was 15 years ago and it has not come back. Many other family members have similar stories. We've always joked about the possibility that he takes the wart from us and his rear end is covered in them. Joking aside, I'm amazed that there is an entire thread on this phenomenon. I've got some crazy looks from people in the past 15 years when I tell them my story.
Bonnie Colson - June 2013
My wife tells of the cure that they used. They would prick the wart to make it bleed, then rub grains of corn in the blood. The corn was wrapped in a rag then buried at a fork in a path. The next person to pass would get the warts.
Gary Powell - October 2011
The mountain people love it.
All of it.
And most of 'em
love all kinds.
They do a lot of dancing.
Lorene Dickson, 1908 Ashe County - Snowbird Gravy and Dishpan Pie
Today's guest post was written by Ethelene Dyer Jones.
I just now accessed Charles Fletcher's delightful "New Ground," and it brought back memories of my Daddy, Jewel Marion Dyer, of Choestoe, GA, Union County, clearing "new grounds" in our 200 acres of land when I was a child. I must have been about 6 (the same year I went with Daddy as he used the "Divining Stick" to find the place to dig for the spring when our well went dry.) Daddy wanted an acre or more patch to plant beans "for market." The bean patch was to be still another of the several "money crops" we raised on our Choestoe farm. The large fields along the Nottely River were mainly planted in our main crop, corn, and in "Blue-Ribbon Cane" for making sorghum syrup which my Daddy made at his syrup mill in the fall for all the farmers in a large radius from us who brought their cane for him to make into sorghum syrup "on the shares."
But back to the bean patch: Daddy and some neighbors (who always helped each other in such endeavors) cut trees off the measured-off acre of land. Some of the trees were big enough to snake to the sawmill and have sawed into timber. The tree-cutting and clearing of the land happened in the late fall/early winter after all the crops were safely in. It would take awhile to clear the land. First cutting the trees. Then, small as I was, I had the job of "piling the brush" on top of stumps. This would be set afire to get rid of the brush, but also to "burn down" the stumps of trees, and eventually get them removed--one of the hardest jobs of clearing the new ground. It seems like it took two or more years, ridding the trees, first; then the brush; then the stumps and roots.
Finally, finally, Daddy thought the acre was in good enough shape to "turn" (with the turning plow, both horses hooked up to it). He still discovered roots aplenty, and more digging and grubbing had to be done. But finally, he was "satisfied" (a good mountain word he used to approve of an operation like this big "land-clearing") and the ground was read to "lay off" in rows, scatter the fertilizer in rows and "stir it into the ground" and plant the bean seeds--seeds that would yield green beans to be picked, measured into bushel hampers, then put into feed sack bags and hauled to market, all the way to Gainesville "across Neal Gap" on the new highway that came in sight of our farm even before I was born (road finished in 1925).
I liked everything about our "new ground" except one thing. Well, you expected me to say "the hard work," didn't you? Not the hard work, because we were "brought up" to work; and if we needed a reminder, we were quoted scripture to the effect "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Ecclestiastes 9:10). But some days, my mother would send me to the "bean patch" to pick a "mess" of beans so she could cook them for our family and whoever the work hands were my father had doing farm jobs. I took my pail and obediently walked through the woods to the wonderful, well-producing bean patch. But lo, I couldn't help but be scared the whole time I was there picking beans, and I hurried to fill the pail and get safely back home to my house.
Was I afraid of wild animals that might spring forth from the woods surrounding the bean patch? No! Daddy had thoughtfully put a good fence around the acre patch to try to keep wild animals out (although I think some could scale the fence with relative ease).
The fear came to the young child (I was maybe 7 or 8 years old by this time) because, just northeast of the bean patch, lay a tract of land that somehow I had a deep-seated fear about. You see, Old Choestoe Cemetery where many of my ancestors were buried (early settlers to Choestoe even before the Cherokees were removed on the "Trial of Tears") had their resting places in that cemetery. Looking through the trees and up to Old Choestoe Cemetery, I could see my Grandmother Georgianne Hunter Collins's white tombstone. I could also see several others' stones, whose names I will not mention here. My Grandmother had died before I was born, and my mother gave me the name Georgianne Ethelene after my Grandmother, and her sister, Ethel. Somehow, in my child's over-active imagination, I thought Grandmother might want to come forth from the grave and get acquainted with me, who worked so hard within sight of her burying place, to pick a mess of beans for "dinner" (what we called our noon meal on the farm in Choestoe).
Well, I really did want to meet my Grandmother Georgianne, for I had been told beautiful tales about what a sweet, hard-working woman she was, stately and a good wife, mother and neighbor to all. But somehow, I didn't think I wanted to meet her in that beanpatch, with me the only one to see. And after all, she had already been dead since October 3, 1924, and I was picking beans in the summer of 1938. Fourteen years had been a long-time gone for a dear grandmother.
Such is the imagination of an 8-year old child. I did remain to fill my bucket, left the bean patch, remembering to latch the gate behind me, and hurried through the woods trail to my house where I helped my mother string the beans and get them ready to cook for our family's noon meal.
The New Ground was a place that yielded well through many years, as long as my father was able to cultivate the "cleared acre." He was still growing beans on that acre and taking them to market the year before his stroke that debilitated him. My mother, Azie Collins Dyer, died February 14, 1945 at age 49. My father died September 4, 1974 at age 84. I grew up happy on our farm in Choestoe, and am grateful for my Appalachian heritage.
Ethelene Dyer Jones - March 2017
I hope you enjoyed Ethelene's memories of clearing new ground as much as I did!
A few of my past posts continue to be quite popular. Even though it may have been years since I shared the posts here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn, internet search engines bring people to visit them on a regular basis.
One of the old posts that is still garnering attention, as well as comments, is one I wrote back in 2011 about the mystery of folks who are able to remove warts by seemingly magical ways.
I've never had a wart before, but I did have some hideous growth on the inside of my thumb when I was pregnant with the girls.
My pregnancy was filled with one complication after the other. The weird growth was the most annoying and embarrassing. The condition has some long hard to say name, but I can't remember what it was. The doc who removed it explained it like this: I had injured my thumb in some small minor way-maybe I got a splinter or pricked it on a straight pen. My pregnant body went into over drive sending way too many resources to fix my thumb which resulted in a growth full of blood that bled all over the place at the slightest touch. A plastic surgeon removed the disgusting mass. He said it might come back, but thank goodness it didn't although I do still have a scar.
I've heard about folks who could remove warts all my life. I thought about going to see such a person for my weird growth but since it wasn't really a wart and I was at the doctors office practically every single week I let them take care of it.
The most common methods of magically removing warts are related to rubbing, buying, and counting. Here are two examples straight from the mouths of two long time Blind Pig readers.
I had numerous warts on my hands. Everyone told me that they were caused by playing with toads and letting them piss on your hands. I remember thinking that wasn't right. I knew that I hadn't touched any toads. I remember trying to keep my hands in my pockets so that people wouldn't see my warts. My parents tried any number of homemade potions to no avail. Some things from the drugstore were tried, but again no remedy for my warts. I remember going to the doctor and him telling them that I was too young to have them "burned" off.
We carried my 'Granny' Salmons to Yadkin County one Sunday afternoon to visit some friends. I remember that it was late in the day and Daddy was ready to leave. She told them to wait that she was going to take me to get my warts "witched". She led me for a long distance (probably not that far, but to a little boy, quite a distance) down a path through the woods. We eventually came to a log house. An old (again, old is relative to my age) woman came out and talked with my grandmother.
Granny gave her a sack that she had brought. The old lady sat me down on the stoop to the cabin door and started touching the warts on my hands. She then took a piece of cord and tied a number of knots in it (I later realized that she was counting the warts and tied a knot for each one.) She then hung the cord around my neck and led me by the hand around the yard. She then took the cord and went into the woods. She returned and told me that my warts would leave me to look for the cord. She said if I ever tried to find the cord all my warts would return. We left and went back home. Within a few days, all my warts, except one, disappeared. I still have that one wart on the knuckle of my ring finger and have had it my whole life. I always figured that she missed counting it.
When I was around 10 years old I had a wart on my left thumb. It was on the side of my thumb at the knuckle. The wart measured about 3/8 inch across. That's fairly large on a 10 year old hand. My folks took me to the doctor for removal. The doctor burned it off. It wasn't long till it came back, so it was back to the doctor. This time he cut it off but again, it came back.
My cousin, Zoolie also had a wart. Hers was on the thumb also but it was on the side growing partially into the nail. It was about the same size wart as mine. Her folks took her to a dermatologist. They were really concerned because of the way it grew into the fingernail. The dermatologist removed it several times, several different ways. Each time it grew back.
My dad finally said "enough, get in the car, both of you". He took us to an old man in Henson Cove above Canton, not too far from my grandmothers house. I think the man's name was Mr. Hall. He looked at both warts, rubbed them and sent us on our way.
I looked down a couple of weeks later and it was gone, I called Zoolie and her wart was gone as well.
I don't know what to tell you happened.....the warts were gone and never returned.
When The Deer Hunter and I first met, he had two or three warts on his hand. After dating him for a few months I was so head over heels in love that I paid the warts no attention and didn't even notice they were gone until he pointed it out. He said he'd grown up hearing about folks getting their warts rubbed by someone with special powers-so every time he thought about it he rubbed his. In a few weeks they were gone. I still tease him about having magical wart removing powers.
Drop back by in a few days to read comments left on the original wart removal post I published in 2011.
Today's guest post was written by Charles Fletcher.
While hunting in the mountains of North Carolina, I saw ramps very often but never gave any thought as what they were used for. I had heard some of the men folks talk about eating them when they were in the mountains for several days. They jokingly said that they smelled so bad that no wild animal would dare get close to you.
The popularity of the Ramp began to get attention and there were Ramp Clubs being formed in different towns and villages. The clubs began gathering together every spring and having what they called a Ramp Tramp. They elected committees for this annual Get–to-Gather. One group would make a trip to the mountains to dig (harvest) enough to feed the big crowds that attended on the big day of the tramp.
Another committee would contact Bluegrass bands and country singers to entertain the crowd. The next assignment was the main and most important one-the cooks. This was a very demanding job. Every cook had to know how much meat to cook with the ramps, and how long to cook before cooking the scrambled eggs. All the other fixings were prepared at home and brought to the celebration. There would be plenty of cornbread, fresh buttermilk and you could bet your last dollar that some Good Old Boy would secretly bring a jug of liquid corn. Of course this wasn’t for everyone. Just his close buddies and maybe a little for the music makers.
The celebration started early with the music and singing. While this was going on the cooks were busy getting ready to feed everyone.
After a good meal of ramps, ham, scrambled eggs, corn bread and a big glass of buttermilk to wash all of this down there would be more music and then the dancing began. For those that didn’t dance they would gather in small groups and catch up on the news from their last meeting. Everyone enjoyed these Ramp Tramps.
The Sunday school class that my brother, TJ, and I belonged to at Oak Grove Church located in the community of Thickety decided to have a ramp tramp of our own. This was after we returned from WWII in the late 1940s. The women of the class were to do the cooking and the men were to go to the mountains and dig the ramps.
As soon as the Sunday services were over several of us loaded up in a couple of cars and headed for the mountains above Crusoe located at the foot of Cold Mountain. This was where we were going to dig the ramps for our Ramp Tramp.
We took a couple of big burlap sacks to put the ramps in. The place that we found the ramp patch was a good one. It didn’t take us long to fill the sacks and head back down the mountain, load up, and head back to Thickety. We were about half way back when it started raining. "We’ll have to cook under the Thickety Community Shed about a mile from the Church" TJ said “A little rain is not stopping us from having our Ramp Dinner”.
When we arrived at the community shed the women were already cooking the meat to get the grease for the ramps.
Some of us were cleaning the ramps and others cutting them into small pieces for cooking. The women soon had everything cooked and on the tables along with the cornbread and buttermilk which they had prepared the day before. After the blessing by one of the men we were ready for our Ramp Meal and none too soon. We all were hungry as a wolf.
By the time we finished eating and cleaning everything it was time for the evening church service. We washed up a little, combed our hair, loaded up in our cars and headed for church.
We all went to our regular seats where we were in a habit of setting. Heads began to turn. People began taking their handkerchiefs out and wipe their eyes and nose. Some even coughed.
The preacher took his place up front and began clearing his throat. "It seems that someone has been to the ramp patch, smells like onions in here. I believe it is worse than onions, more like garlic."
The preacher was looking directly at Howard, TJ’s brother in law. "It ain't me preacher", Howard said. "I only eat one helping but TJ and some of the others eat two or three helpings. It’s them preacher, not me", Howard said.
"Now wait just a minute Mr. Dotson. You eat as much as I did and you know it."
The preacher cleared his throat and said "Lets all stand and sing the first and third verse of page 224 in the hymnal on the bench where you are sitting." The piano player started the music, the song leader stood and we all began to sing The Lily of the Valley.
There was no more talk of how we smelled. It has been many years ago that I went to the Ramp Tramp. It was my first and also the last one for me.
I hope you enjoyed Charles Fletcher's story about the Ramp Tramp that nearly cleared a church service as much as I did. Leave him a comment and I'll make sure he reads it.
Be sure to drop back by next Monday for another guest post about ramps.