The Devil went BACK to Georgia

Today's guest post was written by Keith Jones.

Keith Jones Mountain Story-teller

The Devil went BACK to Georgia written by Keith Jones - Mountain Storyteller

Most folks have heard the song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band. You may not know that the song was written by members of the band: Vassar Clements, Charlie Daniels, Tom Crain, “Taz” DiGregorio, Fred Edwards, Charles Hayward, and James W. Marshall.

Toward the end of the song, Johnny says, “Now Devil, just come on back if you ever want to try again, ‘cause I’ve told you once, you son of a <bleep!> that I’m the best that’s ever been!” (Well, he said that on the broadcast version of the song. There’s no <bleep!> in the album version!)

            As broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, this is the rest of the story…

Time is a grindstone, and lives are its grist. After Johnny won the contest with the Devil, there was still a living to be made. No matter how many Saturday night dances and play-parties Johnny fiddled for, there was never enough cash money in it to make a real living. Sure, he was famous far and wide as “that fiddlin’ boy from up in the hickory woods.” That didn’t keep Johnny from having to plow a mule, cut tops and pull fodder, and put up hay for his scrawny livestock.

No, Johnny never prospered as a farmer, he just hung on…barely. Maybe it was that fiddle of gold. The Devil’s prizes never come without a price, and that fiddle seemed to bring blighted corn, swarms of grasshoppers, and late or early frosts at just the wrong times.

Johnny finally made the long trek to the nearest town that had a pawn shop, but the broker took one look at the fiddle and said, “Gold, huh? Whoever told you that was a tee-total liar. Sure it’s got a thin—a very thin—coat of gold plating, but the fiddle itself is made out of brass. It won’t play worth a toot, and it’s not even worth melting down.” Johnny trudged home, disappointed once again. On the way, a thunderstorm broke, pelting him with hail. When he got home, his wheat crop was beaten to the ground.

Johnny’s life wasn’t all terrible. There was Mary. Daughter of the local hardshell Baptist preacher, he had a hard time courting her, for her Daddy was of the persuasion that a good person was one who didn’t “smoke, drink, cuss, nor chew, nor run around with women that do!” Johnny made the great effort to quit smoking and chewing, and his cussing was reserved for work times far away from anyone else when his stubborn old mule wouldn’t respond to anything else. He’d never been a skirt-chaser, in spite of lots of girls swooning and swanning over his fiddle playing. Drinking he never totally gave up, but he limited it enough so that finally he was able to marry his beautiful Mary. After a few years they had a houseful of kids. It was a good thing that Mary knew how to sew, otherwise those kids would have run around the woods naked.

Johnny was a better man because of Mary, but his ‘reform’ only went so far. He’d still go off on Fridays or Saturdays and play his fiddle for barn dances, box suppers, and the like. He’d come dragging in of a Sunday morning, just in time for Mary to sigh, “Oh Johnny!” with a shake of her head. But he’d hitch up the wagon and haul Mary and the kids to his daddy-in-law’s church. Never went in himself, mind you, but he’d pull to the edge of the church yard, or up the hill into the old cemetery where the mule could graze a bit, and where he could half-doze himself. Of course in those pre-air-conditioning days, Johnny couldn’t help but get a pretty big dose of the ‘old-time religion’ with the windows of the little white church house opened wide to snare any passing breeze.

Like I said before, time is a grindstone, and lives are its grist. Before he could reckon how it had happened, all the kids were grown up and had moved off in search of jobs. They’d come home at Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or sometimes for vacation time in the summer (but usually at lay-by time, Johnny noted grimly, not when heavy work was needed.) Finally the worst day of Johnny’s life came. Mary died on him.

Neighbors brought a bait of food, and they laid her to rest in the cemetery’s new part, since her daddy’s square was full of other family graves. Johnny was bothered a bit by that, since two of their babies who’d not lived to be toddlers were buried near the old preacher and his wife. It chaffed him that they weren’t near their momma, but nothing could be done.

In a day or two, the children and grandkids and neighbors went back to their lives. Johnny went back to his broken-down farm and his empty house. He noticed that now arthritis had swollen his hands so badly that it hurt to even play the fiddle—not that his heart was really into fiddling anymore. His back was bent from years of hard labor…and so the Devil picked that moment to come back.

Johnny was coming back from the privy when he heard his rocking chair squeaking in the front room, the room Mary had called the ‘parlor.’ What in the nation? thought Johnny. Nobody I know would just walk in the house and make themselves at home! He bent down to try and look through the latchcord hole, but suddenly the door banged open on its own.

“HEY JOHNNY, I’M BAAAACK!” The devil had on a slick-shiny black suit with a black shirt, black tie, and a blood ruby stickpin big as a pigeon egg. He sprang out of the chair with an evil grin and a menacing glance. Suddenly a greasy-black ebony fiddle appeared in his hand. He tucked the ugly thing under his chin and scraped the bow over the strings. It made the same evil hiss Johnny remembered from fifty-one years before. “I’ve been practicing, Johnny!” The Devil’s eyes flamed red as he played every song Johnny had done in their old contest—but better than Johnny had ever even thought about playing them.

“I don’t want to play against you,” Johnny said, limping over to the cupboard and snatching out the fiddle of “gold.” “Here, take this back.”

“Oh, no, Johnny, you won that fair and square. You keep it.”

“I don’t want it! It’s worthless! It’s just a hunk of tinny brass dressed up to look like gold.”

“What did you expect from the father of lies? Now quit this fooling around. Your turn to play! Or I could just take your soul right now.” All of a sudden the Devil seemed to fill the little front room, looming over Johnny with an intimidating shadow.

The moment Johnny dreaded had finally come due. Why, oh why did I ever say, “Just come on back if you ever want to try again?”

Somehow that threat made Johnny’s back get a little straighter. If I’m going down below, I will NOT just give up. I’m not the fiddler I was, but I’ll be whatever fiddler I can be.

Johnny reached back into the cupboard, to a different compartment where he stored his old fiddle and bow. He pulled it out, dusted it off, and rosined up his bow. “Gotta tune this thing,” he said.

“Get on with it. I’m way behind, as usual. Places to go, things to do, the earth to roam, souls to devour.” To emphasize his impatience, the devil swung an enormous gold turnip-style pocket watch. Just in time, Johnny realized that the swinging watch was a trap, that the Devil was trying to lull him to sleep or hypnotize him.

“You played your set, let me play mine my way.” Johnny tightened the first tuning peg. While his attention was on the task, he failed to notice the Devil squinch up his eyes, fold his arms and tap his left foot with impatience. Johnny didn’t see that one of the Devil’s fingers was sneaking out from behind his folded arms. Neither did he notice the little bolt of fire that flew from it. He only noticed the TWAAANNG as the string he was tuning broke.

Johnny was still staring in dismay at the broken string when TWINGGG, TWAANNG, two more of the strings snapped.

“Looks like you should have invested in some new strings,” sneered the Devil.

“Ummm, you’re probably right,” mumbled Johnny, but inside his head, his mind was racing. Down to one string… arthritic hands… no chance at all, except maybe one thing…

Lord this here’s Johnny. I know you and me ain’t been much on speaking terms. I just remember my Mary sure believed in You. You see what a terrible situation I’ve got myself into here. I know there’s no way in he… uh, no way in heaven that I deserve any help from you. But it just bothers me that this here Devil will win out. Like I said, I don’t deserve any help at all, but please just help me play this one song. Lord, please do it just to show how much better You are than that old Devil. Uh…Amen, I reckon.

Johnny didn’t know if his rough and ready prayer had even been heard, but there was nothing for it but to pitch in. He set the bow on the one string that was left, and started in on that one old American folk tune. In his head, Johnny could remember his Mary singing the song so many times.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

 

That saved a wretch like me

 

I once was lost, but now I’m found…

 

At the first note, the Devil’s face had blackened with rage. His body ‘swole up’ until it seemed it would push out the walls of the room. Huge sparks flew from his eyebrows, his ears, and blue lightning rolled and bowled around his hands.

Johnny didn’t notice. His eyes were closed. His heart heard Mary’s sweet voice echoing again in his memory. Slowly he drew out the notes of the last phrase.

            …Was blind,,, but now… I… see.

The Devil’s rage boiled over like a black kettle of cane syrup spilling in the fire. Reams of blue and red lightning struck Johnny’s old fiddle. It flew into dust and splinters. Johnny’s body jerked once, spasmed, and then fell to the floor—dead as an anvil and boneless as a half-filled sack of stale grits.

And so the Devil got Johnny. His body, anyway.

But the Lord… the Lord got Johnny’s soul!

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Now that's a story I like! 

Tipper

p.s. If you missed the hoopla-The Pressley Girls have their very first cd! Go here to get one!

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Spooky Stories From Blind Pig And The Acorn Readers

Ghost stories from Appalachia

Way back they had no funeral home and had to lay the dead out themselves. This lady died and was buried in the Hanging Dog graveyard. They buried her with her pearl necklace on and rings on her fingers. That night some boys dug her up for the jewels and when the air hit the body she was just in a coma and she came to. She spoke to the boys and they ran. She called to them to come back she was not dead to take her home that they could have the jewels. They conquered their fears and got her out and took her home and mother said she lived 25 years after that. This was a true story. When they moved some of the dead to build the dam and lake near Murphy. Some of the relatives wanted the graves opened and some saw clawed marks inside their coffins where they had been buried alive. One girl got her mother's wedding ring off her mother's finger.

Mary Lou McKillip

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I like the story of the will-of-the-wisp being an mean old man who, upon dying, arrived at the gates of Hell. The devil opened the gates a crack and threw out a ball of fire and said, "here, go start your own place" and he is still searching till this day. Heard it at church camp.

Sue Crane

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I happened to recall a somewhat spooky, somewhat comic and rather serious family story about things in the dark.

My Mom was born in a coal camp down under the cliffs in the river holler and lived there until she was three. One night a neighbor woman sent someone to ask her mother, my grandma, to come to her house. Part of footpath she took passed underneath the cliff. It was late when she started back home and she had the thought, "Now underneath this cliff would be the perfect place if someone was to jump out at me." So she got out her pocket knife and carried it open in her hand. And when a big black something did leap out at her she slashed across it only to hear a voice she knew well say, "Lord, Jane you've killed me!" Shaking and weak they tottered on to the lights to discover that the blade had just reached through the clothes, leaving a dashed line of a very shallow cut across another neighbor's body. I don't think either one ever knew who was scared the worse.

Ron Stephens

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Mommy! Where is Daddy?

Have you ever slipped out on a moonless night just to feel the breeze in your face and to listen to the sounds of the night? You follow the path up into the holler far enough that the lights from the house are gone. But you can still hear noises from home, so you go on a little farther. You've been here many times. You know every rock and root. On your right you hear the gurgling of the little branch that has been beside you since the path began. The only other sounds you hear are your footsteps in the leaves that have blown onto the path. Now you stop and listen for sounds from back at the house. You don't hear anything. You don't hear anything! Where is the little branch? Maybe the leaves have blown across it too and muffled the sound. Be real still and listen.

Now you hear the wind in the trees along the ridgeline. Nothing else. It’s time to go home. You turn to follow the path back the way you came but something reaches out and stops you. It feels like a laurel bush. You are confused. You've turned too far or maybe not far enough. Alright now, turn all the way around until you feel an opening. There is none! You've been in a laurel thicket before but never after dark without a light. There is only one way out. Get down and crawl under the tangle of limbs. But which way?

The wind is beginning to howl through the trees up on the ridge and is picking up down here too. You start to feel a little chill. It’s going to get cold tonight! The laurels are blocking much of the wind but you can't stay here. You get down on your belly and start to crawl. You are in a deep carpet of leaves but it’s damp and your clothes are already getting wet. And now you can’t stand up. The laurels have you pinned to the ground. Your only choice now is to keep crawling. Crawl until you’re out of this hell or crawl until you can't crawl any more. Pray you find the little branch and the path that leads home. If not you can try to pack leaves under yourself to block the cold dampness of the ground and cover yourself with more to keep away the cold air. You will wait here until the light returns.

Ed Ammons

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A true story: I grew up in a hand-hewn, 240-year-old farm house in rural Cross River, Westchester County, New York. One morning in 1962, when my younger brother Tony was seven, he came to breakfast asking about the old man dressed all in black who had stood at the top of the stairs, shrouded in a mist. In 1971, my twin brother John and his girlfriend were week-ending at "The Double R", named for my mother Ruth and step-father Reggy Townsend. At midnight, the house echoed to a piercing shriek. John’s guest flew to his room on the third floor, dove into his bed, and burrowed under the blankets. Reggy rushed upstairs to confront the crisis. Maryann had felt her room grow cold and awoke to see a small, silvery old man at the foot of her bed. The figure glided towards her– but it had no lower body.

Brian P. Blake

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Tipper

p.s. For some spooky story-telling attend one of Keith Jones upcoming events: Saturday October 28 at 7:00 p.m. at Vogel Stage Park in the Possum Holler camping area. There'll be a bonfire and parking is $5.00. On Monday October 30 at the JCCFS here in Brasstown at 7:00 p.m. (free). You can also catch Granny Sue in the coming weeks: 

  • October 28: Independence Hall, Wheeling, WV. West Virginia Ghost Stories. 6pm. Public event--come early for children's spooky tales, then stay for scarier stuff!
  • November 26: Here We Come A-Caroling, 2:00pm, Alpine Theater, Ripley, WV. Admission fee.
  • December 2: Frederick MD. House Concert with Audra Hale Maddox, Here We Come A-Caroling! By invitation.

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Songs For Halloween

  Songs for Halloween

Music is huge part of my life, that's no surprise to anyone who reads the Blind Pig on a regular basis. This time of the year folks start hunting up music to play at Halloween parties and festivals. Songs like Monster Mash, Ghostbusters, and Thriller are usually at the top of the list, but today I'm going tell you about some songs that I think are truly haunting.

I divided the songs into three different groups.

Group 1

Appalachia is famous world wide for it's murder ballads. Many of the oldest most horrific ballads originated in the British Isles and were brought here by the first Scot Irish settlers. I've wrote about the phenomenon before how something so horrible could attract listeners year after year, generation after generation, including myself.

Below is a list of murder ballads. Each title is a link to a youtube video. Be forewarned the songs are not for the faint at heart. 

Group 2

Other songs that come to mind reach across several genres of music: bluegrass, county, and even rock. 

Group 3

Growing up in a Southern Baptist atmosphere the Devil and his host of demons are wrapped up in all of my spooky thoughts. Those fears are supported by more than one religious warning song. Songs which tell the story of what will happen if you stray from the straight and narrow way. To me-these are the scariest of all songs. 

Hope you enjoyed my list of songs for Halloween! If you got any to add please leave me a comment. 

Tipper

p.s. To hear some spooky story-telling attend one of Keith Jones upcoming events: Saturday October 28 at 7:00 p.m. at Vogel Stage Park in the Possum Holler camping area. There'll be a bonfire and parking is $5.00. On Monday October 30 at the JCCFS here in Brasstown at 7:00 p.m. (free). You can also catch Granny Sue telling stories in the coming weeks: 

  • October 28: Independence Hall, Wheeling, WV. West Virginia Ghost Stories. 6pm. Public event--come early for children's spooky tales, then stay for scarier stuff!
  • November 26: Here We Come A-Caroling, 2:00pm, Alpine Theater, Ripley, WV. Admission fee.
  • December 2: Frederick MD. House Concert with Audra Hale Maddox, Here We Come A-Caroling! By invitation.

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Rawhead and Bloodybones

Today's guest post and video are brought to you by Luke Bauserman who runs The Weekly Holler website.  

TheWeeklyHoller4
 
There’s nothing wrong with kids getting a good, healthy scare every once in awhile. It’s like eating dirt; no childhood is complete without it. I still remember being four years old and sticking my tongue out at my grandma. (Let me stop and say here that she is one of the nicest people I know, especially to her grandkids.) She didn’t say anything, but her face took on a grave expression, and she slowly raised her hand and made a “snip, snip” motion with her fingers. Let me tell you, it chilled me to the bone! I instantly imagined my severed tongue flopping around on the linoleum floor of her kitchen like a fish out of water. I pulled that tongue back in my mouth and never stuck it out at her or anyone else, ever!
 
My dad used to tell us bedtime stories about little boys on campouts surviving a goblin attack. I remember laying in bed after he’d turned out the lights and watching the red beacon on a radio antenna up the road flash on and off in the dark. To me, it looked like the crimson eye of a goblin winking through my window. Stories like that terrified me, and I loved them.
 
There’s an enduring appeal to stories where the monsters are truly monstrous, the bad guys are truly bad, and children’s lives are really at stake. We’ve all heard them, and I bet you can think of one right now that still sends a shiver down your spine. But be honest, you enjoy that shiver, don’t you. 
 
I have young kids, and I have to go out of my way to find what I consider good stories for them to experience. Just recently, I found an out-of-print book I grew up with that tells the Native American tale of Basket Woman. She was a giant cannibal that wandered around scooping up children, sealing their eyes shut with pine pitch, throwing them into a basket on her back, and taking them home where she’d eat them. One day she captures a brave youngster named Clamshell Boy who ultimately defeats her. My kids can’t get enough of it; they huddle together under the blanket when I read it and cheer when Clamshell Boy pushes Basket Woman into the ocean. They’re not getting stories like that on the Disney Channel these days. 
 
Author Neil Gaiman defines what he calls “Disney Channel fiction” as a bland kind of story “in which somebody thinks that they weren't invited to the birthday party, but at minute 18 they discover it was all a mix-up and they really were, and there is no conflict, and there is no evil, and there's nothing to fight and there's nothing to win and nothing was ever at risk and everybody gets to hug!” What’s wrong with feeding our kids a steady diet of this stuff, you ask? Well, it’s painting an inaccurately hospitable picture of the world. Life is hard, and there are some terrible things lurking out there. 
 
I like to think of a good scary story as a vaccine. It’s a weakened form of some of the real-life terrors in this world, and it serves to inoculate us, to teach us that being paralyzed by fear is never the answer. You can’t arm kids exclusively with “Disney Channel fiction,” then send them out into the shark pool of life and expect good results. They need the know that there are monsters out there and that you can defeat them. 
 
This week’s story digs into the roots of one of the South’s most fearsome bogeymen, Rawhead and Bloodybones (a.k.a. Raw Eyes and Bloodybones, or Raw Hide and Bloodybones). May it send a healthy shiver down your spine! Enjoy!
 
Luke Bauserman
 

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I hope you enjoyed Luke's writing and his video. If you'll jump over to his website and subscribe you can get strange and spooky tales delivered to your inbox for FREE. Luke recently published his first book Some Dark Holler. You can go here to find out more about it. 

Tipper

p.s. For more story-telling attend one of Keith Jones upcoming events: Saturday October 28 at 7:00 p.m. at Vogel Stage Park in the Possum Holler camping area. There'll be a bonfire and parking is $5.00. On Monday October 30 at the JCCFS here in Brasstown at 7:00 p.m. (free). You can also catch Granny Sue in the coming weeks: 

  • October 28: Independence Hall, Wheeling, WV. West Virginia Ghost Stories. 6pm. Public event--come early for children's spooky tales, then stay for scarier stuff!
  • November 26: Here We Come A-Caroling, 2:00pm, Alpine Theater, Ripley, WV. Admission fee.
  • December 2: Frederick MD. House Concert with Audra Hale Maddox, Here We Come A-Caroling! By invitation.

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Tailypo

Appalachian ghost story - tailypo

Today's spooky story is brought to you by Granny Sue. She shares the Appalachian tale of Tailypo, also called Tailybones. Whatever the name, it is a scary story and Granny Sue is a wonderful story-teller who really brings the tale to life. 

I hope you enjoyed hearing Granny Sue tell the story as much as I did! Be sure to jump over to her website and find out more about her life and her storytelling.

Tipper

p.s. For more story-telling attend one of Keith Jones upcoming events: Saturday October 28 at 7:00 p.m. at Vogel Stage Park in the Possum Holler camping area. There'll be a bonfire and parking is $5.00. On Monday October 30 at the JCCFS here in Brasstown at 7:00 p.m. (free). You can also catch Granny Sue in the coming weeks: 

  • October 28: Independence Hall, Wheeling, WV. West Virginia Ghost Stories. 6pm. Public event--come early for children's spooky tales, then stay for scarier stuff!
  • November 26: Here We Come A-Caroling, 2:00pm, Alpine Theater, Ripley, WV. Admission fee.
  • December 2: Frederick MD. House Concert with Audra Hale Maddox, Here We Come A-Caroling! By invitation.

Subscribe for free to Blind Pig & The Acorn by Email


Satan Is Real

Charlielouvin.net

As I told you yesterday, for me the Devil takes first place when it comes to things that scare me. The Devil is also found sprinkled around our language. There are sayings like:

  • The Devil and Tom Walker: which is used as an exclamation showing surprise
  • Up jumped the Devil: said after a mischievous or mean act has taken place or when someone who is disliked suddenly shows up
  • Speak of the Devil: same as above
  • The Devil take the hindmost: sorta like saying "I'm gonna take care of myself and mine and who cares what happens to the rest.
  • The Devil takes care of his own: said when evil doers seem to prosper
  • Between the Devil and the deep blue sea: you're in trouble and it's most likely your fault
  • Get behind me Satan: comes straight from scripture, but is often said in a teasing way when someone is trying to get you to do something you shouldn't
  • Give the Devil his due: even if someone you dislike accomplishes something you have to give him his due (this one has been around since Shakespeare used it)
  • If you sup with the Devil you need to use a long spoon: (this one is as old as the Canterbury Tales)
  • Full of the Devil
  • Telling the Devil where your goat is tied: of course if the Devil knows where its tied he's going after it
  • Idle hands are the Devils workshop
  • An idle mind is the Devil's playground
  • You'll have the Devil to pay
  • If the sun is shining when its raining...then you know the Devil is beating his wife
  • The Devil made me do it
  • Dancing with the Devil

Then there are words like:

  • Dust devil: when the wind moves in a tight circular motion across the ground
  • Devilish: aggravating or despicable
  • Devil's apple: may apple
  • Devil's brew: liquor
  • Devil's footstool: a large mushroom
  • Devil's snuffbox: puffball full of dusty spores
  • Devil: to tease or aggravate

One of my favorite things someone said about the Devil came from Blind Pig reader Ken Roper:

One time I heard one of my older brothers say, "The Devil wouldn't have me to stoke up his fire, I'm too green to burn." 

There'll be more Devil talk in the coming days so be sure to stay tuned. The album cover above has taken on worldly fame because of the scene of hell it portrays. If you'd like to hear the song for yourself go here

Tipper

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I'm Afraid Of The Devil...Are You?

Devils tramping ground

Photo by Atlas Obscura

Near Siler City, NC is a large circle that measures 40 feet across. No vegetation grows within the circle. Early white settlers who came to the area thought the circle was used for Indian Ceremonies. Somewhere along the way the story of the Devil's Tramping Ground was born.

Legend tells the circle was made by none other than Satan himself. Each night the Devil paces the circle while he plots evil deeds to spread across the land. If an object is placed within the circle it is mysteriously moved by morning. Local hunters say their hounds refuse to go near the circle-as do horse owners. The area seems to be void of any animal life and even birds refuse to fly above the circle.

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Appalachia is full of scary stories about ghosts, witches, painters, hainted houses, and more. Religion is woven so tightly through Appalachia that the Devil also plays a significant role in the creepy department. When I was growing up I was much more afraid of the Devil getting me than a ghost.

One time a childhood friend of mine decided she'd heard enough about the Devil and wanted to see if he was as mean as everybody at church said he was. She and a cousin decided they'd just dig up the Devil and find out for themselves.

After digging for quite a while, they unearthed something they took for his hair. Once they hit the black strands their bravery left them pretty quick. As kids will do they decided to fix the mess they'd made.

They frantically tried to figure out how to hide their misdeed. I mean how could she explain to her Southern Baptist Deacon Daddy that she had brought the Devil out into broad daylight? In his own backyard?

They found some old concrete, mixed it with water, and poured it in the hole, all the while hoping it would hold Lucifer tight. 

Drop back by tomorrow for some examples of how the Devil is used in the language of Appalachia. 

Tipper

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Haunt Tales

Haunt Tales

haunt tale noun
A variant forms haint tale, hant tale.
B A ghost story.
1938 Hall Coll. Emerts Cove TN People's quit seein' hants and tellin hant tales. (Glen Shults) 1940 Haun Hawk's Done 174 Just some little old hant tales was all I knowed. c1940 Padelford Notes A-swappin' hant tales way up in the night. 1963 Edwards Gravel 116 Uncle Bill, what about that haint tale you promised me? 1970 Hall Witchlore 2 As to ghostlore, some middle-aged and elderly people still enjoy the eerie excitement of relating encounters that they or others (almost always others) had with apparitions of various kinds. These narratives are locally called "hant" tales, but many people are convinced that the strange incidents they relate actually happened. 

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

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This is the time of the year for haunt tales. Drop back by over the coming days to hear some haunt tales and discuss some spooky subjects here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn.

Tipper

p.s. Check out this link/video and see if you can give Sow True Seed a hand. They do a tremendous job of ensuring our seeds continue for the future generations. They especially focus on the heirloom seeds that have been passed down for generations in Appalachia. And if all that wasn't enough-you already know they support the Blind Pig and The Acorn by sponsoring my garden and my garden reporter @ large projects. If you decide to donate to their cause-you can get some pretty cool things in return-so check it out. 

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A Mother's Love Defies Death

Appalachian Ghost Story A MOTHER’S LOVE DEFIED THE BONDS OF DEATH

Today wraps up my October series of spooky posts. It seems appropriate to end with my favorite mountain ghost story. The tale comes to us by way of Blind Pig Reader Ethelene Dyer Jones.

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A MOTHER’S LOVE DEFIED THE BONDS OF DEATH

(A Mountain Story)

by Ethelene Dyer Jones


This morning is cloudy and dark. The overcast sky puts me in mind of days in the mountains in my childhood when the clouds hung low and fog rose like a giant shroud hiding the majestic peaks that stood like sentinels over Choestoe Valley.

Then I thought of the tradition of mountain storytelling, and how we were entertained as children by hearing stories that had been passed from generation to generation by our Scots-Irish forebears. My favorite storytellers from my childhood were my first cousin, much older than I, my mother’s nephew, Earl Hood and his wife Allie Winn Hood. This delightful couple had no children of their own, but they seemed to be very pleased when Earl’s nephew and nieces and his young cousins went to spend the night. With no electricity then in that mountain home and the only heat being from an open fireplace, we settled down to a wonderful night of entertainment provided by master storytellers, Earl and Allie Hood.

The recipients of this rich legacy of mountain tales, many of them about ghosts and haints, were Little Ed and Bertha Hood Dyer’s children, our cousins Wilma, Genelle, Harold and Sarah Ruth, and my younger brother, Bluford Dyer and I, Ethelene. We all got permission in advance to go to Allie’s and Earl’s to spend the night on certain Friday nights, and walked the distance from Choestoe Elementary School to their house. It must have been more than three miles, but the anticipation of what we would enjoy once we arrived made us skip along, laughing and talking all the while, with the boys, Harold and Bluford, outstripping the girls and arriving first, boasting that they were stronger than we girls.

After the evening chores of milking and feeding and getting in the wood were finished, Allie served us a wonderful meal of hot cornbread, vegetables and country-cured ham, topped off by dried apple stack cake. We quickly washed the dishes and then settled down for an evening’s entertainment, the likes of which has never been surpassed, even with the advent of television years later.

One ghost tale I remember them telling—and they had a way of making us “see” the scene they laid out before us with their words---was one about a mother’s love for her baby. Allie would warn us that we should not try to match the names in the stories to people, living or dead. This had happened so long ago it would be hard to remember them exactly. The story went something like this:

Years ago, when sawmillers first came to our mountains to cut down the virgin trees and saw them into lumber, there lived far up near Round Top Mountain, a couple named Sexton, Eliza and John. They loved each other dearly. And in the course of time, Eliza had a beautiful baby girl whom they named after her mother but called her Liza. The midwife or “Granny Woman” named Mary had attended little Liza’s birth. Things were going along well until two days after Liza’s birth her mother came down with a raging fever. Granny Woman Mary administered her herbal remedies, but none had any effect on the fever. Eliza grew worse.

John told Granny Mary that he was going to Blairsville, some fourteen miles from his home, to get the doctor. He took off down the rutted mountain road, made worse by the snaking out of the saw logs and the rough treatment from big trucks, just then coming into the mountains, hauling out the sawed lumber. John finally arrived in town in his buggy drawn by his horse. But the doctor was out on a call delivering a baby and was not expected back until the next day. John decided to stay in town and wait for the doctor, because he would have to take the doctor in his buggy back up to his cabin on Round Top. John didn’t get much sleep that night, trying to rest in his buggy. Fortunately, he had brought along a blanket to protect himself from the night’s cold. All he could think about was how sick Eliza was, and even how still the newborn baby seemed in the large basket that was her crib.

About daybreak the doctor came back from his all-night call, tired and sleepy. But he agreed to go with John to examine Eliza and little Liza. After a hot breakfast and coffee which the good doctor’s wife prepared for her husband and for John, the two men got into John’s buggy and took off at a lope, as John urged the horse to a trot.

Finally they arrived at the John Sexton home. Granny Woman Mary met them on the porch. “I’m afraid you’re too late,” she said. “Both Eliza and little Liza died during the night.” John, gripped with deep grief, went inside his cabin where he saw his beautiful Eliza and the little baby laid out for burying. How could this have happened? If only the doctor had been at home, maybe his wife and child could have been saved.

The doctor and Granny Woman Mary tried to console John. Neighbors came, and made a casket. They placed the bodies together in the homemade casket, the baby in Eliza’s arms.  They were buried in the cemetery near the little log church called Salem. John, so devastated, did not want his neighbors’ sympathy or their food which they always took with loving concern to the household that had experienced death. John latched his cabin door and told his neighbors he would have to bear his burden of grief alone.

The next morning John’s neighbor, James Collins, went to his barn before daylight to milk his cows. Times were hard in those days, and there were always people on the road dropping by farmhouses and barns to beg for food. James realized someone was in the barn with him. He turned and saw a woman, dressed in black, the sort of finer dress like the women in the community wore to church. She sat a tin cup down on a bale of hay. James knew she wanted it full of milk, so he took the cup and soon filled it with warm rich milk. The woman nodded her thanks but did not say a word. The next morning and the next, the same woman visited James as he was milking, begging with her cup. On the fourth morning, James decided he would follow the woman who would not give him her name. Maybe he could find out where she lived.

He saw her dark form disappear into the woods, but, running, he was able to follow her to the cemetery. Then it was just as though she disappeared into one of the newly heaped graves. This frightened James, but he knew he must do something.

James quickly returned home, got his shovel and ran to his nearest neighbor’s house. He told Lish Hunter what he had seen. “Get your shovel,” James said, “and come with me.” Lish wondered what had come over his neighbor James Collins, but he grabbed his shovel and the two men went in that early, foggy morning to Old Salem Church Cemetery. There they began to dig into the newly-formed grave. Getting down to the casket, they gingerly removed the lid, and there was the woman James had seen four mornings in a row at his barn, rigid and cold in death. There was the cup in her hand. And lying on her breast, gurgling but weak, was a beautiful baby girl, still alive, still breathing.

Then they removed the baby, and covered the grave. They went to John Sexton’s home. The door was still barred with the grieving husband and father inside. “Open  up,” James ordered. “We have a gift for you. Here is little Liza, alive and well.”

John could not believe his eyes or the story James told him about the baby’s rescue. What rejoicing he had as the baby, safe in his arms, began to cry. “Come down to my barn and I’ll give you some milk for the baby,” Jim Collins told John. And he did. Nevermore did James Collins see the woman in a black dress with the tin cup come to his barn begging milk. But you can be assured that he remembered it the rest of his life, and told the story again and again.

Little Liza grew up to be a beautiful young lady. Her daddy, John, married again and had more children. But Liza always held a special place in his heart because she was the miracle baby, his first-born rescued from the grave by his neighbors James and Lish.

“Is that true?” we kids asked Allie and Earl. They only smiled and told us it was time for bed. But every time we climbed the hill to Old Salem Cemetery, we looked at the grave marked with a fieldstone, with no names readable on it. We always remembered the story told to us by Allie and Earl, and wondered about the mother who loved her baby so much she would return from the grave to get warm milk to keep little Liza alive. And as we milked our own cows early on foggy mornings, we were always aware that if a woman with a cup appeared, we were to fill it promptly with warm milk. I think we were a little disappointed that no woman ever came to our barn for us to do this service of love and mercy.

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I hope you enjoyed Ethelene's story as much as I did! 

Tipper


Knoxville Girl

Knoxville girl - the tradition of music in appalachia

When I hear someone talking about the many murder ballads of Appalachia, Knoxville Girl is always the one that comes to my mind. I can't really remember who I heard sing the song first. It might have been The Louvin Brothers or it might have been Pap.

The song has a long history and may have originated as far back as the 1600s. Over the years it has morphed this way and that changing the name of the town to fit the place and time period to fit its new abode. 

I was going to share details about the song's history, but I found someone had already written it better than I could. Go here to read the history of Knoxville Girl and then come back to hear Pap and Paul sing it.  

 

Definetely not a song for the faint of heart. But as I told you a few weeks ago, the sheer number of murder ballads and the longevity of them, show I'm not alone in my love of the songs.

I'm not sure if I like the songs because of a feeling of "there but for the grace of God go I", morbid fascination with death, or the satisfaction of knowing the troubles I have in my life seem minor compared to the story told in the song. Maybe it's because while I'm listening I can vicariously live out a range of emotions-fear, outrage, despair, and then when the song is over I get to go back to the sunshine.

I've had several folks tell me their mother sang Knoxville Girl to them when they were just a child. Seems like a strange song for a lullaby, but I'd guess the song had been sung to the mother when she was a child and she was just passing along the tradition of the song-never giving a thought to the subject matter it contained. 

A boy I grew up with would always ask for Knoxville Girl to be played if a group of folks were sitting around jamming. If he got the group to do the song he'd sit and cry like a baby. He said he loved the song because his grandparents sung it to him when he was little. 

Tipper

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