Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- JAR FLY

Do you know what a JAR FLY is?

Did you ever hear them singing their song in the trees (their LOUD song) and search for them?

I loved to find them. And look at them. They were a fascinating bug. A BIG bug. With clear wings. That was the cool part of them for me.

But I never touched one. They were big, remember, and I was fearful of what must be big teeth inside them.

Now the problem with being afraid of something, especially if you have a brother, is that they think the greatest fun in the world is to catch the creature you are scared to death of and chase you around the neighborhood with it. Threatening to let it bite you.

My brother chased me with a JAR FLY
The JAR FLY, as we called it in Harlan County, is also called by other names in other locations. When I lived in Columbus, Ohio, I went outside one summer and the trees were alive with a similarly sounding bug. Not quite the JAR FLY song of my youth.

I soon learned they were Cicadas. Cicadas generally only show up every thirteen years or so.

The JAR FLY, however, comes every year, in the late summer. Some people call them DOG DAY CICADAS. Yes, they show up around August, during the dog days, and then disappear when autumn arrives.

I enjoyed the JAR FLY song. Some people complain that it is annoying.

Recently, in Atlanta, I walked outside and heard the familiar song coming from the Pine trees behind my house.

I smiled. Memories of youth rushed back. I even miss my brother being here to chase me around with a JAR FLY. If he was still alive, I might even let him catch me. Wonder what he would do. As I recall, he never caught up to me when we were kids. Probably on purpose.

Did you catch a JAR FLY when you were young? Do you hear them where you live today? Do you have a funny story about them?

If you'd like to see and hear a JAR FLY, click on the link below and it will take you to a Youtube video.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- GEE-TAR

Have you ever played a GEE-TAR?

There are several types of GEE-TAR. Acoustic, Electric, Electro-acoustic, Twelve-string, Archtop, Classical/Spanish, Flamenco, Steel, Resonator, Bass, Double-neck, Red-neck, and a few more.

Most of the GEE-TARS I knew of when I lived in the mountains were Acoustic. Of course, there were others being used a lot in Bluegrass, Country, and Gospel music.

GEE-TARs are quite versatile and easy to learn. If you don't mind getting sore fingers and calluses, that is. You can take them almost anywhere with you.

Playing GEE-TAR around the campfire
I remember going camping with church groups. Someone always brought a GEE-TAR so we could sit around a campfire and sing songs--right before someone started telling scary stories.

There's one type of GEE-TAR, though, that a lot of people don't know about unless they are fans of the old (as in my era) music of the Grand Old Opry style. I'm talking about the Hawahyer GEE-TAR. (That's Hawaiian Guitar for you city folks.)

My mom told me she used to play one. I never heard her because she didn't have the money to buy one just for her own entertainment. I thought it would be really cool to have a mom who played the Hawahyer GEE-TAR.

Some people also referred to them as a STEEL GEE-TAR. Or a SLIDE GEE-TAR.

I've given you a link here to listen to one in action: Click on the link. A blue bar will appear. Click on the blue bar and it will take you to the video.

Do you love GEE-TAR music? What's your favorite type of GEE-TAR? Can you play?

I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- PAWPAW

Do you remember the song about sweet little Sally being way down yonder in the PAWPAW patch? We sang it often in my school.

Do you know what a PAWPAW is? Have you ever eaten one?

This time of year is harvesting season for the PAWPAW. I kept my eyes open for a PAWPAW tree while I visited my hometown of Harlan, Kentucky last weekend.

Unfortunately, I didn't find one and I'm not able to roam the mountains anymore to search for one growing up on Pine Mountain. Besides, the mountains are full of black bears, rattlesnakes, and copperheads these days.

I came home from my trip regretting I have to wait at least one more year before getting to sink my teeth into one of those luscious fruits.

If you don't know about PAWPAW, I'll give you the details. They grow mostly wild on a scraggly looking tree with large leaves.

In appearance, they are similar to a mango. The flavor of a PAWPAW seems to be a combination of banana and mango. Of course, I never heard of a mango until I left the mountains. So, my only comparison to the flavor was a banana.

The flesh is smooth, sweet, and yellow/orange. Inside the PAWPAW you will find large dark seeds. You don't eat the seeds. Or the peeling. The peeling is a tad bitter.

A Harlan County friend
decorates with PAWPAW
leaves and Buckeyes
I remember fondly a friend of my daddy who had a PAWPAW tree growing in his yard in Loyall. Every August/September, we would stop by and pick a few from a tree he had growing in his back yard. I smile when I think of it.

I found a video on YouTube that describes the PAWPAW and current research on how to make them more marketable. Apparently, they are too delicate to sell in bulk at grocery stores. You can use the pulp, de-seeded and mushed, in recipes in the place of bananas. It can also be frozen for later.

Here's the link if you want to watch the video about PAWPAWS:


Have you ever eaten a PAWPAW? What did you think about it? Do you live where PAWPAWS grow today? Tell us about your PAWPAW experiences.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- VY-EENIES

Did you grow up eating VY-EENIE (Vienna) Sausages?

Whether you pronounce the name VY-EENIE, Vee-inner, or Vienna they were a staple in most of our homes. They were also handy to carry with you for a snack with a pack of Saltines.

Remember those little cans you had to open with a key to reveal seven perfectly formed sausages in a mostly clear juice?

I thought they looked like a flower stuffed into that can. A VY-EENIE weenie flower.

Capturing the first VY-EENIE
Of course, after getting the key to work on the can wasn't always an easy task. Neither was the next step--getting the first VY-EENIE out of the can. A fork helped. But if you didn't have a fork with you, you had to dig into the VY-EENIES with your fingers and wrestle one out.

VY-EENIES are the poor man's caviar. About as appetizing when I think about it now.

Funny how we didn't think about what was in those little sausages then. We just ate them. Now I realize how disgusting a combination of ingredients made up those beloved VY-EENIES.

Just one bit of a VY-EENIE
In spite of my new-found knowledge of the ingredients, I had to try one as I prepared this post. So I took one bite.

The memories flooded back.

However, I could only eat one bite as the gritty flavor lingered in my mouth.

Do you still eat VY-EENIES?

What do you call them? VY-EENIE sausages? VY-EENIE weenies? Vienna Sausages?

Love or hate?

We want to know.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- OKREE

OKREE (Okra) is one of those foods you either love or hate.

During my childhood, I could only tolerate it if it was dusted with a mixture of half flour and half cornmeal and fried in a black iron skillet. Of course, as in all things, we added a sprinkling of salt and pepper to the mix. Then it fried until all the slime was gone and it was golden brown.

Later in life, I attempted to eat it in soups or combined with stewed tomatoes. Nope. My OKREE (I called it okra) had to be fried. I could not handle that slimy mushiness. YUCK!

Although I and many of my friends called it okra, the older folks (like my dad) referred to it as OKREE.

OKREE (Okra) flower
Daddy always planted a row or two of OKREE plants in our hillside garden. The plants grew quite tall--taller than me. I loved the soft yellow flowers that preceded the pods of OKREE. I wanted to pick some, but Daddy wagged his finger at me and said, "If'n you pick them flares, you won't get no OKREE." So, I controlled my urge and admired them from a distance.

When the pods were just the right size, according to Daddy, we picked a mess and took them inside to Mom. I got to rinse the dirt off before Mom sliced them. The sensation of the tiny hairs on my fingers made me think they would stick into my fingers like tiny needles. They didn't hurt, just felt weird. After rinsing, I remember having to sop up the water so the outside of the pod didn't get slimy. The tiny white seeds inside fascinated me as Mom sliced the OKREE.

The smells of OKREE cooking made my tummy gurgle with delight. No matter what else we had for supper, I dug into the crispy morsels with gusto.

At the end of the growing season, like about now, there wasn't enough OKREE left to gather a whole mess. So, we'd search for a few scrawny green tomatoes still clinging to the vines and combine the tomatoes and OKREE into one fair-sized mess. Instead of slicing the tomatoes, Mom or Dad (he was a fabulous cook) would dice them into cubes and add them to the OKREE. Of course, they first dusted them with the flour/meal mixture.

Sometimes, I make a mixture today, even if I have plenty of the ingredients to make a full mess of either one. The tomato adds a tanginess to the mix. Makes for a satisfying dish, for sure.

Sliced OKREE (okra)

After writing this post, I've decided I need to fry up a mess of OKREE for my dinner tonight. It's sitting in there waiting for me. Come to think of it, I've got a couple of green tomatoes in the fridge, too.

I'm going to have a fabulous supper.

How about you?

Did you grow up eating OKREE? Or okra? Did you love it or hate it? Do you ever eat it today? I'd like to hear about your memories.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

When Life is Like Wilted Flowers

Recently I brought home a pot of miniature daffodils from the grocery store. The anticipation of pert yellow blooms gave me hope for spring and warm sunshine. Though we’ve had more rain than snow this winter in Atlanta, I needed a boost of hope.

For several days, I watched them grow and then bloom as they sat on the corner of my desk. Whenever I looked at them, I smiled.

And then… they began to wilt. The leaves turned brown and drooped until wrinkled and faded blooms lay helpless on my desk.

I no longer smiled when I looked at them. I pined for the days of perky yellow happiness.

Then I realized… I can relate to how the flowers must feel about their decline.

I’ve had a tough year or so. I’m getting old. My prime is passed. I have wilted.

Circumstances beyond my control have left me drained...



Is my life almost over, too? Can I only expect to be treated like a flower that no longer matters? Will I be snipped off and tossed in the trash? Dismissed and forgotten?

And then, I remembered…

The flowers may be gone, but the plant is not dead.

The bulb, the life source, is still as strong as always.

After a brief rest, new stems will emerge from the soil and new flowers will bloom.

Just like me.

My life source is still strong and alive and growing, even though I feel the effects of my current wilted existence.

I have more flowers to share. All I have to do is rest and let my power source take over for me, to re-charge me and revitalize me.

I don't know when those new flowers will grow and bloom,


The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. —Exodus 14:14

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- CRICK

Did you ever play in a CRICK?

Some of my most wonderful memories of childhood are times spent wading in a CRICK, splashing in the water, lifting rocks to see what was hiding beneath, and wiggling my toes in the pebbles that usually covered the ground.

Know what a CRICK is now?

I'm not talking about the CRICK in your neck when you sleep wrong. Or when you spend a couple of hours craning your neck to watch a TV screen in a restaurant because your favorite team is playing.

I'm talking about the CRICK out back that splashes white water as it rushes across smooth rocks and stones as it flows. The CRICK that washes away your troubles by the sound of its rushing. The CRICK that cools your toes and your whole being on a steamy summer day. The CRICK where you and your childhood friends gathered and spent hours together laughing. A place where memories were made.

Family reunion at the CRICK
My family used to take a picnic lunch down to a CRICK in the mountains. We all sat around on rocks and ate our food. The children played in the CRICK. It was the place to take visiting family members who had moved away from the mountains.

The CRICK whirls through your mind and takes you to a place where everything in your life is happy and carefree--even if for a brief time.

I remember the more seasoned residents of our town saying "Lord willing and the CRICK don't rise" in response to making plans to see each other again. Of course, if heavy rains caused the CRICK to rise, you couldn't get to the other side. It would turn muddy brown, the power of the water would possibly knock you down and carry you along with it, and your footbridge across the CRICK could be swallowed up by the water.

A few years ago, I attended a writers workshop at Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky. Behind the school, Troublesome CRICK flowed gently past. I never knew why it was called Troublesome until one afternoon when the clouds opened up and added so much rainwater to the CRICK that stirred it up muddy, caused it to overflow its banks, and spread out onto the property. Truly a Troublesome CRICK at that point.

CRICK flowing from mountain
There are days now when I dream of a CRICK. A CRICK that originates from an underground stream that flows down the side of a mountain and gains speed to propel it through the holler. When life's troubles overwhelm me, I search for a CRICK. The place where I can relax, splash in the cool water, and let the CRICK wash away all my troubles.

Do you have a place you go to wash away your troubles -- like a CRICK?

Do you need a CRICK today?

CRICK behind my first apartment in Cumberland, KY