Every year at the Ringing In an Appalachian New Year celebration, we Cincinnati area Appalachians gather as a community to revel in our Appalachian-ness. There is music, there is food, and there are stories. Some of the stories are heard amid the chatter shared ‘round the tables, but some of the most cherished stories end up written out in “My Appalachian Memory: A Word Quilt.” During our event, slips of paper and pencils are scattered on tables throughout The Sanctuary asking participants to share brief memories of home, whether that be the Appalachian values they learned growing up or their impressions of Appalachian culture via story, poem, or sometimes even drawings!
This year on Sunday, January 26, 2020, we harvested another rich crop of stories to add to our Word Quilt. As guardian of those stories since the 2004 Ringing In, I selected a few for their warmth, humor, homilies, or just plain stark reality of life in a hard place to share in this article. Enjoy! Plan to come next year to add your own.
From Sherry Cook Stanforth: I am haunted by the memory of riding on the back of a Tennessee Walker with my great-grandpa John through the Blue Ridge mountains of North Georgia. He shouted “Halloo” down into a holler and a woman came out of a house and invited us to dinner… a HUGE spread of home-cooked food for Preacher Wade and his great grandkids. I will never forget that act of family hospitality.
From Aubrey Stanforth: Mom finding black widows under rocks, and keeping them as pets… Flossy was all fun and games, until we discovered she was pregnant…
From Roger Ellis: Decoration Day in Roberson County. I was about 8 years old. Caught a snake in Greasy Creek. My mother smashed it with a rock. She said her brother almost died from a snake bite when they were kids.
From Lisa Ellis: West Virginia – Ada Bell Carter Ball – my grandmother lived to be 100 years young and told me of a time her family moved — on foot — with stove, dinner cooking — and Ada had a bad tooth — abscessed. Her palpal and uncle used a rock to break it and get the tooth out so the infection would drain.
From Jeff Dey: My first intro to the extended Appalachian family. Of course, biscuits were discussed. “I don’t feel mine rise enough,” I said. “You work ‘em too much!” was the response. Now I know how to make them and have remained close to the family for advice and support.
Anonymous: I visited Salyersville a while back. I found an older couple, Doc and Thelma, who had known my great grandparents and grandparents. I asked them to tell me about my grandmother. They had seen her daily many years before. They said “she really could fry an egg.” I guess it was a compliment.
Claire Anderson Outten (Knoxville TN): Lots of classic gospel hymns sung a cappella. Bible study, Carter family, Roy Acuff, Dolly Parton.
Nora Stanger (Loveland OH): Granny kept the quilting frames up all winter long. Family and friends always worked on the quilt when visiting. As a small child I remember laying under the frame listening to their news and gossip. I watched as the silver needles went in and out making patterns on the underside of the quilt. I would daydream about great adventures, listening to the teakettle whistle, womenfolk talking, and the fire in the coal stove crackling. Sweet, warm aroma of home all around me. I grew up in a holler in southeast Ohio—pure Appalachia through and through.
From Barb Childers: The Appalachian Goodbye. Plan ahead. It takes time to make a proper goodbye, Appalachian style. Make your “fixin’ to leave” statement in the living room. Hug each person at least once. Return to the kitchen. Collect leftovers pressed upon your by the host. Gather belongings, herd children, put on coats. Hug each person again. Say another flurry of goodbyes at the door. Promise to come back soon, don’t be a stranger, check the gas, watch for deer, and keep the porch light on. Pause once more at the end of the driveway. Wave and shout “Goodbye!” out the open car window. Tap your horn—in response to the double flicker of the porch light—twice.
A retired children’s librarian, former flatfoot dancer, musician, and storyteller, Barb Childers also coordinates My Appalachian Memory: A Word Quilt, a UACC project that gathers written memories from the Appalachian community. She and her husband Russ have been performing together for over thirty years as Bear Foot and also perform in a couple of old-time ensembles, Rabbit Hash String Band and Barefoot in the Briar Patch. For more information, see their web site at http://home.fuse.net/russchilders.