Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- GIGGIN'

Do you know what GIGGIN' is? Have you ever been?

GIGGIN' was a favorite pastime for my dad when the weather was right. He pulled on his waders, grabbed his can of carbide to put in his miner's cap, grabbed his GIGGIN' pole, and went hunting.

You may be asking what he went hunting for. Bullfrogs, of course. One of the delicacies we enjoyed in Appalachia was fried frog legs. The bigger the bullfrog, the legs. And yes, they tasted a bit like chicken.

Frog GIGGIN' pole
I remember those nights my daddy went out GIGGIN' and he came home with a large bucket full of bullfrogs. I knew we'd have a mess of frog legs for dinner the next night.

Now, when I was a little kid, I loved frogs. I searched the mountain side behind our house for frogs of every size. I played with them, even though my mom said they would give me warts. I never had a wart, by the way.

My biggest joy in life was finding a nice juicy frog, putting it into my shiny black pocketbook and taunting the boys. I offered to show them what I had inside and when they got really close, I'd open my pocketbook and show them my frog. I laughed at the boys who jumped back and let out a yelp. One of the worst was my uncle Jerry. He was a sailor and supposed to be a tough guy, but when I sprung my frog on him, he yelped like a girl and ran away.

Playing with a bullfrog
Apparently, Mom and Dad bored of my games because one night when Daddy went GIGGIN' he managed to catch a huge bullfrog without having to GIG it.

He put it in the bucket with the GIGGED ones and brought it home. The next morning he told me he had a surprise for me. Daddy thought he was being so smart. As Mom looked on, he told me to get close to the frog bucket, which was really an oversized fish bucket with a lid. Just as I leaned over, he flipped open the lid to reveal the giant bullfrog.

Bucket for collecting frogs while GIGGIN'
I squealed. Not because I was scared, but because I was thrilled! Before you knew it, I had that Goliath out of the bucket, tied a string around its neck (or as close to a neck as it had) and commenced hopping him throughout the house.

Right about then, Mom and Dad shook their heads and probably wished Daddy had GIGGED that bullfrog.

So, did you ever go GIGGIN'? Did your dad? Have you ever dined on fried frog legs? And did you know frog legs jump when you fry them?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- LIGHTNING BUGS

You're a child in the mountains of Kentucky and the sun is setting above the western ridge. You've spent the summer day playing games, going fishing on the Cumberland River, walking or riding your bike to meet up with friends, reading a book, or another way of whiling away a steamy summer day.

With the setting of the sun, though, comes one of your favorite activities. Catching LIGHTNING BUGS. You get an empty Avon jar from your mother or a mason jar. I liked the Avon jars best because they were usually translucent white, pink, or another color and when you put your LIGHTNING BUGS inside, the entire jar glowed.

Giggles filled the growing darkness as you and your friends rushed across the yard to locate the last flash you saw and swoop up another LIGHTNING BUG.

One thing I learned quickly about LIGHTNING BUGS--they stink. When you get them on your fingers, your hands stink like crazy. But it didn't matter. We ran across a lot of stinky things in the mountains.

LIGHTNING BUGS are blessings
After you gather your jar of LIGHTNING BUGS, you sit in the grass or on the porch swing, while other flying bugs are attracted to you from your sweat and take a bite out of you, and watch the miraculous show from a little bug.

When boredom sets in and you are tired of the biting bugs, someone comes up with a great idea--making sidewalk art out of the LIGHTNING BUGS.

Now I hate to admit I participated in this activity. It's a shame. It's also probably one reason why we don't have as many LIGHTNING BUGS these days as we did back then.

Usually, a boy started the whole thing by taking a LIGHTNING BUG and smearing its glowing tail across the concrete, road, or front porch. I admit it was pretty to see it glow like neon glitter. But, it also meant the death of a LIGHTNING BUG. The evening darkness helped us ignore that part of it. We wanted to see the pretty glow.

When mamas called the children inside for the night to take a bath and wash off the grime of the day, I often took my jar inside and placed it beside my bed so I could watch them flash as I drifted off to sleep. My nightlight. The next day, I took my LIGHTNING BUGS outside and released them to flash again.

Recently, my first book of Appalachian Fiction sold. The publishing company's name is Firefly Southern Fiction. I thought that only fitting. I recently celebrated my dream-come-true by purchasing a new pair of earrings. LIGHTNING BUGS, of course.

Did you catch LIGHTNING BUGS as a child? Did you slime the sidewalk with LIGHTNING BUG essence and murder them? Did you teach your children about the glories of LIGHTNING BUGS?

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- BUGGY

This week’s word is BUGGY. 

No, I don’t mean a baby buggy. 

I also don’t mean how it is when you go outside to sit in the swing with your sweetie on a steamy summer evening and you’re swarmed with biting, buzzing, flying bugs that have a hankerin’ for a taste of your blood.

I mean a shopping BUGGY. If you’re citified or from another part of the world, you might call it a shopping cart or just cart. In my family, we called it a BUGGY.

I loved pushing around the BUGGY at the A&P and trying to slip a few extra treats in while my Mom and Dad weren’t watching. They usually caught me, though.

I loved the BUGGIES where you put the baby of the family in it facing you so they can teeth on the handle of BUGGY that has a collection of every germ and disease known to mankind. Yesiree, we mountain folk are a healthy lot because we became immune to any disease you can imagine by the age of two from gnawing on that handle. Our BUGGY was nothing like the ones we have today.

Today, we coddle our youngsters in molded plastic BUGGIES that look like racecars or spaceships. 

Even worse, some grocery stores (like Trader Joe’s) provide miniature BUGGIES to their mini-me kids of customers. Those things are downright dangerous. If you’re not careful you’ll leave the store with bruises from a mini-me that flies down the aisles without looking, doesn’t stop when you do, and then stops right in front of where you want to go and won’t move out of the way. I don’t know where they learn … oh, yeah … they learned it from their parents.

I never wanted to push the BUGGY when my sister was sitting in the baby seat. Not only could she splutter baby juices all over me, but she could also kick me in the gut as I pushed her. I gladly took my place behind Mom during that phase.
I always thought how nice it would be to have one of those BUGGIES to cart stuff around. It wouldn’t have worked too well in our driveway, though, since it was full of gravel and ashes from the coal stove.

Taking a ride in a BUGGY
My brother and I tried to get away with racing with the BUGGY while one of us was inside. Dad didn’t let that happen for long. He’d be in our faces, wagging that finger, and saying, “You’re gonna get in Dutch.” (We talked about that word a few weeks ago)

Homeless person with BUGGY

We had one old lady in Harlan who had confiscated a BUGGY from A&P and used it to cart her worldly possessions around town. I remember seeing her often near the Court House. Summer or winter, she wore several layers of clothes and had on a winter coat—as tattered and dirty as they were. I always wondered what all she had in that BUGGY. I could see a lot of newspapers (probably the Harlan Daily Enterprise). I imagine she had some food hidden away in there. After she died, I heard the story that she had a lot of money stuffed in the bottom of that BUGGY. That was a surprise. I’m still not sure if the story was true or just one of those urban legends.

Do you remember pushing a BUGGY at A&P or Cas Walkers? Have any funny stories about something you or someone else did with a BUGGY?


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- QUEERY

Do you know what a QUEERY is? How about if I spell it the way it is on paper? QUARRY. Yep, some people also call it a GRAVEL PIT. But I always thought it was a QUEERY until I left Harlan County.

My experience with a QUEERY was the one on top of Pine Mountain in Harlan County. When we visited my grandmother, who lived right down the road from the Pine Mountain Settlement School, we sometimes took the paved road (instead of the graveled, hair-pin turned, one-laned Laden Trail).

On the main road, we passed the QUEERY. If they weren't working and it was a fairly decent day, we sometimes stopped to take a look inside. That place was HUGE! I loved standing there and yelling to hear my voice echo off the sheer stone walls.

Sparkly Quartz from the QUEERY
I also loved walking around inside and looking for gravel remnants that had a little sparkle to them. Limestone, the type of QUEERY we had, contained a lot of quartz. What joy when I could wander around inside the QUEERY and load my pockets with sparkly quartz-infused gravel. At home, I gathered my rocks, dipped them in water, and watched them sparkle as I turned them in the bright summer sun.

Fossil fern from the QUEERY
Limestone also contained fossils. What fun when I came across an ancient fern or creature that left its impression in the stone. I could have spent the entire day roaming around and picking up treasures from the QUEERY. Unfortunately, my young pockets would only hold a certain amount. That, and my parents weren't quite as excited about rocks as I was. My mother preferred diamonds.

This QUEERY is where my deep love and appreciation for rocks, minerals, and gemstones must have begun. I still swoon for anything that sparkles.

I remember the huge trucks that used to transport gravel from our QUEERY across the mountains. Smaller stones were used for roads and driveways. The Railroad workers spread larger ones up and down the miles and miles of railroad tracks as a base for the ties and rails.

Walking the tracks for Quartz rocks
Those railroad tracks and the sparkly rocks strewn there kept me walking the rails often during the warmer months. Of course, I came home with my pockets crammed with the sparkliest rocks I could find.

We have a QUEERY here in Atlanta. Sadly, they don't allow anyone to get anywhere near it. When I drive by, though, my mind travels back to that amazing QUEERY on top of Pine Mountain and the fun I had there as a child. Funny how the best memories of childhood are the ones that didn't cost a penny.

Did you ever visit a QUEERY?

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week - IN DUTCH

How many of you have been warned that you're "this" close to getting IN DUTCH? Do you know what it means? It means you've said or done something that causes disfavor with someone or is offensive. So, if you say or do something that irritates your parent, you will get IN DUTCH with them and they will respond in kind.

Was it a look your mom, dad or teacher gave you that warned you?

Did they make you go out and cut your own switch from the bush in the yard? If so, you knew you'd better get a good one, not a little wimpy twig, or mom or dad would go out and get one that wouldn't be so easy to forget.

Was the warning enough to set you on the straight course? Or did you test it to the limit?

My folks never used a belt, but I had friends who whispered about one being used in their homes. I wondered if their parents were ogres or if my friends were really dumb to break the rules even after their warning about getting IN DUTCH.

For me, all it took was my dad looking at me with that serious, but sorrowful hound dog expession on his face, pointing his finger, and saying, "You're gonna get IN DUTCH if you don't watch it."

One more second and you'll get IN DUTCH
All my mom had to do was look up at me (she was only 5 feet tall), with her head surrounded with metal-clamped pin-curls, and give me her basset-hound eyes. She was little, but she was a stick of dynamite that I never wanted to ignite.

Getting IN DUTCH, was the term used in my household for when we had almost gone too far. We knew it meant a whippin' if we crossed that line. I guess it was like our early warning system.

I almost always chose to heed that warning and stay out of DUTCH. My brother wasn't so smart.

You're gonna get IN DUTCH!

Thankfully, my son was smart and I rarely had to go beyond a warning that he was gonna get IN DUTCH. He learned his lessons quickly and well. Just like his mom.

Was IN DUTCH used in your house? Did you often find yourself IN DUTCH? How did your parents deal with your behavior that caused disfavor?

What did your parents call it when you were on the verge of getting the switch? (Be family rated here)


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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- PICKLED BALONEY

One of my earliest memories is of a general store on top of Pine Mountain, Kentucky. On our way to my grandmother's rustic cabin hidden below the main road near the Pine Mountain Settlement School, we always stopped at the store. I still remember the bang of the screen door as we entered the dark room packed with an assortment of staples and foods. A cooler stood near the counter, humming as it cooled a variety of soft drinks (pop) -- Nehi Grape, Peach, Squirt, RC Cola, Coke, and Chocolate Soda come to mind.

A variety of sweets tempted me, but I skipped right past those to the rough-hewn wooden counter. Candy didn't cut it today.

The main reason we always stopped at this store sat on the end of the counter in a large glass jar with a red lid. A rope of PICKLED BALONEY.

My dad chatted with the proprietor as I anxiously waited for the big purchase. Finally, the grocer unscrewed the lid and pulled the PICKLED BALONEY rope out of the jar until my dad said, "That'll do." A knife neatly sliced the rope and he wrapped our piece in white butcher paper.

Saltines to tame the PICKLED BALONEY

I barely controlled my anticipation as Daddy paid for the PICKLED BALONEY and a sleeve of saltines (crackers).

Back in the car, Dad handed the PICKLED BALONEY to my mom to rip off a piece for each of us.

I grabbed my piece and peeled off the casing (pork gut) and bit into the PICKLED BALONEY. Heaven! Saltines were passed around, too, to calm down the pickled exuberance in the PICKLED BALONEY. The strong flavor of the pickling spices are what made it so glorious, but it was a tad strong on the tongue.

The last bite, with licks to my fingers, always brought sadness. I LOVED my PICKLED BALONEY.

I loved PICKLED BALONEY so much that I often received a jar of it (smaller than the one at the store) as one of my Christmas gifts.

My health has caused me to slow down on my PICKLED BALONEY consumption the past several years. I truly miss it. Thankfully, I don't have many options to be strong and resist its charm, since it's not as available in Georgia. But there are days when my mind wanders back to that dusty old country store and the joy I received from that PICKLED BALONEY. I truly believe it was the very best PICKLED BALONEY in the whole world.

My son never acquired a taste for PICKLED BALONEY. Whenever I ate it, he stood back and pinched his nose in disgust. PICKLED BALONEY never made it past his nose. Ah, well, it meant more for me.

Pickle some boiled eggs
You never throw out the juice from a jar of PICKLED BALONEY. It can be re-used. My mom often used it to pickle boiled eggs or beets. I imagine a few other things were pickled in that juice, too. I preferred PICKLED BALONEY.

Do you have a love affair with PICKLED BALONEY? Share your story.


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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- JUNE BUG

What buzzes into southern Appalachia in the month of June, in copious numbers? Yep. The JUNE BUG.

A JUNE BUG is a beetle that wears a shimmery green armor on its back. It's fairly large unless you compare it with an American cockroach (we called them water bugs in Kentucky). They look almost exactly like what we call a Japanese beetle now. I'm not sure if it's the same variety. I think the Japanese version is much smaller than our JUNE BUG.

The JUNE BUGs uniqueness doesn't end with its size or attractive shiny green armor. For bored kids just out of school for the year, the JUNE BUG held another quality that provided much entertainment.

Fortunately, they were easy to catch. Then you needed a friend, sibling, or mother to help you do the next step.

A JUNE BUG with a string tied to its leg
While one person holds the JUNE BUG upside down (not simple to do), the other person ties a thread onto one of the JUNE BUG's hind legs. This person had to be careful because the wriggly JUNE BUG wasn't thrilled about the process and would dig its claw-like appendages into your skin.

Once the string was firmly attached, you wrapped the end of the long string around your finger and let the JUNE BUG fly away. It couldn't fly far because it was attached to the string.

The JUNE BUG would fly back and forth, up and down, and all around trying to break free of the string.

The kids giggled as they ducked out of the way. It was fun to watch, but they didn't want it to get on them. The JUNE BUG sang a song that sounded a bit like a Jews Harp as it flew. That was my favorite part.

Eventually, the string would loosen enough for the JUNE BUG to fly away. If it was lucky. Now, I look back and think how mean we were with those poor JUNE BUGS. At least we weren't as deadly as with the lightning bugs.

Uncle Junior & brother Larry.
They also like to play with snakes.
I remember well my brother playing with the JUNE BUGS for hours at a time in our front yard. Sometimes, my youngest uncle, Junior, would join in the fun. I always thought it was funny because our nickname for Junior was JUNE BUG.

Did you ever torture ... uh ... play with JUNE BUGS when you were a kid? Do you have a funny story about them?


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