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.

LIGHTNING BUG earrings
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?

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