Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- DISHRAG

Back home in eastern Kentucky, we didn't use a sponge or cloth to worsh (wash) our dirty dishes. We used a DISHRAG.

They weren't a pretty sight, either. It didn't take long for those iron skillets to do a job on your new DISHRAGS and rub them into mangled, threadbare, remnants of their previous selves. Hmmm... makes me think of how I feel at the end of the day.

I know my dad used a DISHRAG until hardly a thread remained attached to another. I reckon he considered it being frugal. I just know I lost a few fingernails that way. Iron skillets are rough on hands, too.

Stained and holey DISHRAG
I suppose that's one reason why I have a massive supply of DISHRAGS today. I prefer a fluffy DISHRAG that still looks like a DISHRAG instead of what you have to pull out of the drain so the water can flow properly.

Periodically, I go through my exorbitant supply of dishrags and pick out any with stains or holes. Stains can be impossible to remove. I take all the imperfect DISHRAGS I would be embarrassed if anyone saw in my kitchen and use them for truly disgusting jobs. Hopefully, my dad approves of my continued uses.

Ugly DISHRAGS are great for dusting, cleaning, and paint clean-up. They're also handy for dog or cat issues that need something stronger than a paper towel to scrub out of the carpet or off the sofa. For those incidents, you can simply toss them into the trash with no regret.

DISHRAGS are also helpful for baby or husband "oops" too. Again, toss it when the mess is cleaned up and never wonder if that was the DISHRAG you used for ...

A DISHRAG can save a life, too. When my brother was in junior high school, he received a chemistry set for Christmas. As he attempted to get a cork into an open-ended tube, Mom cautioned him, "You're gonna jab that thing right through your hand..."

And he did.

Blood spurted through the tube every time his heart beat. When he saw it, his heart started beating even faster. We could tell. Mom grabbed some DISHRAGS out of the kitchen drawer, yanked the tube from his palm, and used the DISHRAGS to put pressure on the artery. She practically dragged him to the car and Dad drove them to the doctor. He lived through it--thanks to Mom's quick thinking and the DISHRAGS.

She got a couple of new DISHRAGS after that, too. Even Dad didn't want to re-use the hero DISHRAGS.

Did your family call them a DISHRAG? Or did you call it something else? What do you call them now?

I'd love to hear your unique story of how you or your family used DISHRAGS.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Appalachian Words of the Week -- GIMME SOME SUGAR

My uncle Junior's idea of GIMME SOME SUGAR was to clamp his fingers on either side of my knee and squeeze. When he hit the nerves in just the right spot, it made me scream--just as I thought I might pass out from the pain. I tried to hide from Uncle Junior.

For most folks, though, GIMME SOME SUGAR meant they wanted a sweet little kiss on the cheek. I didn't mind when my mom, dad, or grandmothers requested sugar. They didn't gross me out or hurt me in the process.

I did have a few relatives though who didn't understand the rules of GIMME SOME SUGAR.


Aunt Georgie lived in Detroit. Thankfully, that meant she rarely came back home for a visit. I liked Aunt Georgie. She was a sweet person and I loved to listen to her half Detroit/half hillbilly accent.

Unfortunately, her greeting of GIMME SOME SUGAR instilled dread in my young heart. Her sugar was so intense, it felt like she would bore a hole right through my cheeks. I looked in the mirror later to see if my cheeks had bruises.

Then there are the relatives, usually older men, who smelled of cigarette smoke or had bacca juice oozing from their lips. They gave me brown sugar. Yuck.

The most common victims of GIMME SOME SUGAR were babies. I felt sorry for them. My sister always cried. Of course, she cried about most things. Everybody seemed to get a thrill out of covering babies with sugar.

Although the pain of the sugar could be intense, the worse part was the remnant of the attack -- red lip marks all over your face! That red lipstick especially was nearly impossible to remove. It had to wear off. Funny how most women who loved to GIMME SOME SUGAR wore bright red lipstick.

Hoping he wants to GIMME SOME SUGAR
As we reached our teen years, we developed a whole new attitude about the idea of GIMME SOME SUGAR. Suddenly, we had a list of people we wished would GIMME SOME SUGAR.

Did your family use the term GIMME SOME SUGAR? Do you still use it today? Do you smother your grandbabies in sugar every time you see them?

In today's political climate, we are inclined to use great caution before practicing GIMME SOME SUGAR--especially without giving the potential recipient the choice to opt out. Perhaps it is more appropriate to use words to express love or adoration to people outside our family circle.

For me, I still like to hug necks and get sugar from special people in my life. As I get older, though, my list of people I want to GIMME SOME SUGAR has shrunk.

How about you? Do you love to GIMME SOME SUGAR when you greet family and friends?

I love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- LORD WILLIN' AND THE CREEK DON'T RISE

We've had more than our share of thunderstorms here in Atlanta the past few weeks. My friends from eastern Kentucky have reported several days of heavy rains there, too. I brought back to mind the saying I often heard in Harlan, LORD WILLIN' AND THE CREEK DON'T RISE.

Many a time, when someone made plans for an event in the future, the person who had to accept or decline the offer would respond, LORD WILLIN' AND THE CREEK DON'T RISE.

Now, what in the world did they mean?

Rickety footbridge 

Anyone who's had to depend on crossing a creek to get to anywhere else in the county knows exactly what it means. So does a person who had to cross a rickety footbridge over a creek.

If heavy rains fall in the mountains, the water from the top of the mountain flows downhill quickly and joins up with the rest of the rains, eventually emptying into the creeks and streams. Those creeks and streams don't take long to overflow.

Not only do they contain more water, it is powerful water that has built up speed on its way down. That means it's dangerous to cross. Most likely, you'd get knocked down and swallowed up by it as it drags you downstream to the river.

A catastrophe.

That's why a person will only make the effort to attend an event if the creek is shallow and calm.

Have you ever attempted to cross an overflowing, fast-running creek or stream? How about trying to cross a footbridge when the water is flowing over top of it? I promise not to say anything negative about your lack of smarts if you tell me your story.

Did you hear LORD WILLIN' AND THE CREEK DON'T RISE when you were young? Do you still say it?

And don't forget the LORD WILLIN' part of the saying. I figured if the Lord was willing for me to go, he would make sure it didn't rain.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- MILLER

Ah, the front porch. A wonderful place to wile away the cares of the world. Whether you sway in the swing, recline in the glider, or in a rocker, the front porch is an important part of Appalachian life. You may even find a discarded davenport (couch/sofa) on the porch to provide extra seating for family or friends who drop by for a spell.

Porch light
But when twilight descends upon the mountains, drawing the lightning bugs and sundry other flying critters out of their hiding places, the front porch experience changes.

As soon as you flip the switch or pull the string to activate the porch light, every flying bug in the mountains comes buzzing to join you on the porch.

One of the least creepy fliers is the MILLER.

Example of a MILLER

They are drawn to the light like a moth to a flame. Well, it could be because that's exactly what a MILLER is -- a moth. Even though the term MILLER means moths in general, we used the term for the small moths that fluttered relentlessly around the lightbulb.

At least they don't bite like gnats and mosquitos. They are merely annoying as they flutter past your face on their way. If you swat one, you end up with a swipe of pale-colored powder on your clothing or skin from their wings.

The lightbulb tends to acquire a dusting of their powdery wings, too, as they smash into it. I never understood why a MILLER insisted upon crashing into the light. Just what was it that attracted them so?

As an introvert, I've often compared myself to the front porch light.

An introvert lightbulb being
swarmed by
extrovert MILLERS
As soon as I feel comfortable (in the dark) and walk into a room full of people (turn on my light), it seems that every extrovert in the room flies to me, fluttering around me and smashing into me.
Apparently, they consider my quiet, calm attitude toward life to be a failing and believe their lot in life is to re-create me into an extrovert just like them. I desperately attempt to turn off my light and retreat from their attention.

In reality, all they do is wear me out and leave a powdery residue on me. A residue that makes me less eager to turn on my light again.

And then there are the crazies. Those are the MILLERS on steroids. They're the ones who refuse to leave you alone and desire to control your life. Scary.

Did you have MILLERS on your front porch? Do you have MILLERS in your life that annoy you like a MILLER?

I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- LIGHT BREAD

I can smell it now. Warm LIGHT BREAD, fresh out of the oven. Nothing like it.

Growing up in southeastern Kentucky, we didn't have any of those fancy kinds of bread you can get from the bakery or grocery store now. We only had LIGHT BREAD. Most people refer to it as white bread, but we called it LIGHT BREAD.

The LIGHT BREAD of choice in our family was Bunny Bread.

The Bible says we can't live by bread alone, so we found all kinds of things to put on our LIGHT BREAD.

For breakfast, I loved eating cinnamon toast. It was made by putting chunks of butter in the corners and one in the center, sprinkling sugar on the entire slice, and then topping it with cinnamon. Mom put the slices on a baking sheet and stuck it in the oven until the butter melted and the edges turned golden brown. Yum. Sometimes, she substituted brown sugar for the white sugar. The brown sugar became crunchy as it melted on the toast. Either way, it was a great way to start my day.

LIGHT BREAD played a major role in my lunch menu for the first several years of my school life. I either packed a fried baloney sandwich with mustard or a peanut butter and banana sandwich into my little brown poke or metal lunch box. During the warmer months, without any air conditioning in the school, my sandwich warmed up as it waited in the back of the room. When I opened the lid, the aroma of warmed banana and peanut butter, wrapped in LIGHT BREAD, overwhelmed my senses. I breathed it in long and hard before I devoured it.

Fresh-baked LIGHT BREAD
Nothing topped our visits to the bakery, though. We were blessed to have a bread factory near our house. Sometimes, on Dad's day off, he gathered us all into the car and took us to the bakery in Baxter, Kentucky. Daddy took me inside with him while Mom sat in the car, holding a stick of butter.

We watched the bread make its way from the oven, down a conveyer belt, to where we waited. A worker dressed in white grabbed a loaf of still-unsliced and piping hot bread as it passed and slipped it into a paper poke. Daddy paid his twenty-five cents and handed the hot LIGHT BREAD to me.

Back in the car, Mom ripped the bread open and put the butter inside. As it melted, she tore off chunks and passed them around. We sat there in the parking lot and devoured the entire loaf. Ah! Nothing like it.

LIGHT BREAD, the staple of our diet
LIGHT BREAD filled many roles in our diet. Daddy mixed up honey and butter and slathered it on his LIGHT BREAD. He also used it to dunk in his glass of buttermilk. Toasted was preferred for homemade apple butter and jams and jellies.

In summer, we made 'mater sammiches (tomato sandwiches) with mayo. Meat was not necessary. When we had hot dogs, though, LIGHT BREAD became our bun.

Hot out of the oven, out of the bag, or toasted, LIGHT BREAD served as a staple for our diet. Too bad we are encouraged to avoid bread these days. Especially LIGHT BREAD. Sad, too, that we should now miss out on the pleasure and joy from having it in our daily lives.

Did you call it LIGHT BREAD? Do you still choose LIGHT BREAD over the "healthier" varieties available today? Do you eat bread at all?

I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- CUSSIN'

I never heard much CUSSIN' when I was growing up. I don't recall my father ever uttering a single inappropriate word in my presence. My mother, on the other hand, had one favorite word she used when she had taken all she could take. It was similar to my grandmother's only CUSSIN' word. Well, to be honest, Granny's word wasn't really a word. It was a sound.

I found it amusing when a writer friend, who grew up on the other side of the mountain from Harlan in Kingsport, Tennessee, commented recently about the exact same CUSSIN' word her grandmother used. It started with a drawn-out "Shhhhhhhh" and ended with a garbled spitting sound. Both our grandmothers claimed it wasn't CUSSIN' because it wasn't a real word.

My mom's word was definitely CUSSIN'.

Washin' your mouth out with soap for CUSSIN'
CUSSIN' wasn't allowed in my house by us kids. I found out one day what would happen if one of us got caught CUSSIN'. My brother accidentally let out a CUSSIN' word in Mom's presence. She marched him to the bathroom, turned on the sink, and washed his mouth out with soap.

I hid my laughter. What a hoot! It enthralled me so much that I tasted some soap later. Believe me, it deterred me from ever CUSSIN'. Not that I had ever heard a CUSSIN' word -- except for Mom's word.

In grade school, CUSSIN' was frowned upon in school, too. Anyone caught dirtying the air with an illegal word had to face the wrath of Roscoe, the principal's paddle.

In order to avoid Roscoe and the shame of getting paddled or switched again when we got home, some of my friends and I decided to come up with our own CUSSIN' words. We drew them from ordinary everyday items or activities. One of our favorites was, "Well, peanut butter and jelly!" Others included dirty dog, broken pencil, fiddlesticks, thunder and lightning, and gravy and biscuits.

There were a few CUSSIN' words we borrowed from others. Sam Hill and dadgummit were a couple of our favorites. We generally got our borrowed words from older brothers and sisters. If they had used them in the company of adults and didn't get paddled, switched, or soaped, then they were safe for us to use.

No CUSSIN' allowed
In today's world, CUSSIN' seems to be a normal way of life to most folks. They don't bother with the mild words, they go right for the ones that would have curled people's hair in my day.

I've often wondered why people use filthy and blasphemous language when there are words that would describe their intent without offending others. Is it because they want to shock others with their language? Could it be because they desire to attack someone with words when they don't dare instigate a physical attack? Or could it be that they have become so accustomed to profane language (which means unholy) they don't consider it anything but "normal."

Whatever the reason for CUSSIN', I suggest we choose to make a few changes in our lives. Instead of splashing vile language willy-nilly at people, why don't we attempt to use words of affirmation, affection, and encouragement instead?

The world is hateful enough without adding to it. Let's share some positive words instead.

What are your favorite positive words? The ones you receive and the ones you use?

I'd love to hear your stories -- minus the CUSSIN'.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- DECORATION DAY

We just observed Memorial Day in America. The emphasis tends to be for all military personnel who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. I've always loved the small American flags dancing in the winds on the hillsides of a graveyard. I can't help but shed a tear. I love America and our heroes.

Do you remember, though, when it wasn't called Memorial Day? We called it DECORATION DAY.

We didn't, however, only decorate the graves of our military heroes. We celebrated the lives of all of our ancestors by placing flowers on their gravesites.

Decoration Day flowers
When I was young -- much younger -- we didn't have the fancy cloth flowers that looked almost real. We had plastic flowers for DECORATION DAY. Plastic flowers that looked ... well ... plastic. Even the colors were far from realistic in shades of bright red, blue, orange, purple, yellow, and white.

Every year on DECORATION DAY, people flocked to the grocery store, florist, hardware store, dime store, or roadside stand to pick out arrangements, some in wreaths, crosses, or bouquets. Large families covered the gravesite with their plastic flowers.

One of my favorite pastimes on DECORATION DAY was to drive through Resthaven Cemetery in Loyall and look at all the beautiful colors covering the hillsides. We parked the car and took a closer look. I remember running all over and oohing and ahhing at the biggest and prettiest displays of remembrance.

Decoration Day flowers for a hero
Of course, I made special notice of the ones with a little flag stuck in the ground by the headstone or marker. It saddened me when a grave had no decoration at all.

I'm not physically able to climb the hills and place flowers on the graves myself anymore. Especially not my old family graveyard up on Pine Mountain. My cousin, Carol, still climbs the steep hill and takes care of the task for all our Nolan and Shell ancestors buried there.

I have to laugh as she tells about the experience each year, though. It's so steep and slick up there, she usually has at least one slip-and-fall during the process. At least she remembers our family on my behalf. Guess I shouldn't laugh.

Still today, I enjoy driving by a graveyard and noting the beautiful flower arrangements and flags on display. The only thing that has changed about DECORATION DAY is the name of the holiday and that the flowers are now more realistic than ever before. Some you need to touch to determine if they are real or fake.

Looking at flowers on Decoration Day

Do you place flowers or flags on graves for DECORATION DAY? Did you or do you still call it DECORATION DAY? I'd love to hear your stories.