Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- WISH BOOK

The one thing I wished for almost as much as Christmas was the Christmas WISH BOOK.

When it arrived in the mail, I squealed with delight and hoped I could get my hands on it before my brother or my sister. I spent hours flipping through the pages. The pages of toys, that is. I drooled over the fabulous offerings of toys -- baby dolls, art supplies, jewelry, and household items to use in my playhouse.

Daddy built my playhouse out of leftover lumber from an old chicken house. He also installed a door and double windows. I spent every day it was warm enough in my house, dreaming of when I grew up.

The WISH BOOK often caused us kids to fight. Of course, Mom reminded us that Santa could see us being bad and it hushed us up for a little bit.

We didn't receive toys or treats very often during the rest of the year. Even on my birthday. Unfortunately, my birthday came so close to Christmas that one of my Christmas gifts was designated as my birthday present.

All gifts came from Santa
That didn't settle well with me. Not only because I felt cheated out of a gift, but because during those years of believing in Santa, all of my gifts came under the tree, unwrapped, from Santa. That meant that my birthday gift came from Santa, not my parents.

For years my heart broke when my parents gave other people beautifully wrapped gifts, but they never ever gave one to me. In my sensitive heart, I thought that meant they didn't love me. Much later, when I mentioned it to my mom, she was flabbergasted. She had never even thought about it.

I, on the other hand, made sure when my son was born that the best gifts were wrapped and bore a tag with his name and that they were from Mom and Dad. Santa only brought the little stuff.

Our WISH BOOK managed to go from pristine and new to torn and ragged by the time our WISH list had been sent to Santa. A lot of wishing happened on those pages.

Today, I do most of my WISH BOOK viewing on Google. It doesn't have the same effect. Of course, I'm much older now and don't dream for small gifts like I did in the pages of the WISH BOOK. Now I wish for things like improved health, enough money to pay the bills, and being content with what I have. Of course, this year I did think how nice it would be for Santa to bring me a new car. My expectations are much lower than when I was a child though.

Do you remember the old WISH BOOK of our youth? Was your favorite the Sears or Montgomery Ward?

Each year before Christmas, Dad drove us over to Middlesboro to visit the Montgomery Ward store on Main Street. I loved the lights, trees, and decorations in town and in the stores. Mom took care of her gift shopping while Dad took us to Woolworth for a treat at the food counter. I didn't realize until many years later that Mom sneaked our gifts from Santa into the trunk of our car while we had a triple-decker club sandwich and a milkshake at Woolworth's.

What do you remember about your WISH BOOK? What was your favorite gift?

I'd love to hear your stories.

Merry Christmas and may your grandest wishes come true.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Appalachian Dreamers

Appalachian people are survivors.

We have a history of challenging life circumstances, hardships, and struggle. But amidst that hardscrabble life, we learn important lessons. We learn to cope, to overcome, to look at the bright side. We learn not to merely survive but to thrive.

Some survive through endless hard work. Elbow grease, my dad called it. Some survive through artistic expression. I remember the days of watching men gather at the Courthouse in Harlan and sit on the stone wall whittling with their Case pocketknives. Many gathered to play their Appalachian musical instruments and sing. Others painted pictures of God's beauty of the mountains or of their dreams about where they'd like to be someday. Mountain folks are definitely a creative bunch.

And then there are those who shared their gift of words -- either in storytelling or writing them down for others to read. I remember reading the words and songs of John Jacob Niles, who visited our school when I was in fourth grade. What an inspiration to me.

Do you have a story to tell?
From the time I could read, I knew I was meant to write. I spent many a day swinging in the old front porch swing with my Mountain Feist dog, writing. Those stories allowed me to verbalize what I didn't dare say aloud. My poems praised God, the creator of those beautiful mountains. My dreams of what I hoped and dreamed about for my future were given flight right in that swing. I imagined a world completely different from my own -- a world where my place in it mattered.

One of my dreams was that someday I would do my mountain family and friends proud by becoming a published author. I wanted to share the blessings of growing up in the mountains. The hard stuff and the joys. The tough, determined people who overcame the painful things in life. The love and support offered freely by neighbors who were barely hanging on at times, too. A people who clung to their faith, unashamed of their calloused knees.

Years of excuses, a lot of years, passed before I decided I'd better get busy if I planned to live my dream before my passing. One day, a germ of an idea made it's way to the page and Coreen and Sarah's story bloomed.

On Friday, November 30, 2018, my first novel, set in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky, releases.

Above the Fog by Karen Lynn Nolan

Today, I'm taking a departure from my regular blog posts to tell you a bit about Above the Fog.

Several of my friends and family have their names as characters. That doesn't mean they are anything like the character the name was given to. So, if your name appears, I'm not writing about you, I'm writing in honor of our friendship and special relationship.

You may also recognize a few landmarks -- like Moo Cow Curve and a treck up Laden Trail on Pine Mountain. I also included Mrs. Boggs, the school nurse who gave us shots, the yeast rolls that tantalized me every morning at Loyall School, and Jack's Drive-In's doolies. Also, I had to include the monster flood of 1977 as a character. Even the destruction plays a role in Coreen and Sarah's journey.

The story is purely fictional, though, with a few truths sprinkled among the fiction. I never actually experienced the type of life my friends did in this story.

This is the description from the back cover:

Growing up in a coal mining camp is difficult enough. But, when Coreen Shell’s abusive father makes a promise for her thirteenth birthday that could destroy what’s left of her life, she resorts a desperate prayer to a God she’s not sure exists. The next day, a flood washes through the coal camp, like a backhanded answer to her prayer. Coreen, her mother, and her crippled grandmother next door must climb the mountain to find refuge in a nearby church. Then, news of a murder changes everything, in a way Coreen never imagined.

Now the real question is: Will Coreen and her damaged, dysfunctional family conquer all the lies, secrets, hardship, and hatred … or be destroyed by them?

In case you would like to know more about me, I included a photo of me and my bio.

Karen Lynn Nolan Bio

In case you ever wondered why I started this blog -- it's because my non-Appalachian friends didn't understand our dialect and way of life. Through Diamonds in My Coal Bucket, non-Appalachians can be ready for Above the Fog. And we mountain people can look back and remember the good days.

If you decide you would like to read my book, there's a link to it in the right column, at the very top. Just click on the photo of Above the Fog. 

If you do decide to read it, I would appreciate a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Word of mouth is a fabulous way to share the news, so sharing this post would also be appreciated.

Never give up on your dreams -- no matter what

Do you have a book, a song, or another artistic idea inside you that yearns to take flight? Don't give up on your dreams. I waited a lot of years to fulfill my dream. It's never too late.

What's your dream?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Mountain Memories -- Thanksgiving Dinner

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends, family, and acquaintances.

Every year as I prepare for Turkey Day (as my mom called it), I take time to ponder all the things I have to be thankful for. I decided to share them with you this year.

Thanksgiving dinner -- the mid-day meal in Appalachia -- always drew the family together. Even though Mom didn't enjoy cooking and got out of it as often as possible by letting someone else do it for her, she let out all the stops for Thanksgiving.

We had the exact same menu every year. I suppose she relied on what she knew would work. Perhaps she chose only the foods she liked herself. Either way, it was truly a feast.

The only meat we ever had was turkey, baked with salt, pepper, and butter only. Daddy grabbed the giblets and put them in the pressure cooker as soon as they were extricated from the turkey's hidden cavities. They were a delicacy only in his eyes.  No one else touched them.

A massive mound of mashed potatoes was topped with a can of heated peas, placed in a shoveled-out crevice at the top of the mound. We called it a "bird's nest."

Shuck beans
A pot of shuck beans, also known as shucky beans, cooked with onion and fatback, filled the air and attempted to hide the nasty odor of the giblets as the jiggler danced on the pressure cooker.

Mom also made a few salads. Her pea salad, which I hated, had peas (of course), chopped American cheese, raw onion, and Miracle Whip. Her fruit salad was glorious. She diced up red and golden delicious apples, added fruit cocktail, raisins that had soaked in warm water, Miracle Whip, and crushed peanuts (the secret ingredient).

Freshly-baked dinner rolls waited their turn in the oven. Not homemade, store-bought.

The one thing on the table I refused to even taste? The sliced cranberry sauce jelly roll. Anything that retains the rings on the inside of the can after removing it makes me think it must be toxic. I still cannot force myself to take a bite of that toxic jelly roll. Until her death, Mom tried to force me to give it a try. This was one battle she never won.

Our family never had desserts. That would mean Mom had to cook before Thanksgiving Day. One day was all she was willing to do. Of course, if we had visiting family, they usually brought something sweet to add to the meal. Granny baked her glorious sage dressing and brought it, too.

The memory that stands out is my dad's routine at the end of the meal. As we sat around with our stomachs bloated, Dad went to the kitchen and retrieved the turkey neck. We moaned as he sat down and commenced to sucking the meat off the neck bones. It nearly drove Mom crazy. The rest of us tried to ignore him. Hard to do in a small house and with his strong sucking ability. Now I miss that tradition.

I am thankful for my memories. I'm also thankful for the memories I keep alive with my son. Our Thanksgiving Dinner is a meal for two now that Mom and Dad are gone. With my mobility issues, I only cook a few dishes we both love. Leftovers carry us through the entire weekend.

The spirit of family is the most important part of Thanksgiving. I feel blessed.

Above the Fog is available on Amazon
It's been an amazing year for me. My first book, Above the Fog, releases a week after Thanksgiving. A childhood dream is coming true. If you're interested in getting a copy, click on the photo to the right of this blog. Pre-orders (anything before November 30th) is at a discount.

I hope you have heaps of blessings to be thankful for this year. I'd love to hear your list.

What did you love to eat for Thanksgiving when you were a kid? What is your favorite now?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- BACON GREASE

We had very little in the way of spices in our mountain home. Salt and pepper comprised the entire list for daily additives for our food.

In an effort to add a bit of pizzazz to the flavor of foods, we sometimes added onion or butter. However, to make food more than merely palatable, we added a secret ingredient that I doubt even Colonel Sanders added to his secret recipe -- BACON GREASE.

Pigs were common in the mountains. They took up less space than cattle and didn't have to forage for food. I remember several pig farmers visiting the school cafeteria after lunch to get all the food dumped into the trash cans. Slop.

At least some creature on earth wanted to eat it. I rarely ate the lunches at school. Saying I was a picky eater is an understatement.

Thankfully, the pig farmers fed all the slop to the pigs, who grew up to become my favorite food -- BACON. And the bacon added its glorious seasoning to some less-than-favorite foods to make them tolerable.

Bacon Grease container
Available at As Time Goes By on Etsy
Almost every mother used BACON GREASE. We didn't have to cook bacon for each meal. Instead, the BACON GREASE from breakfast -- or whenever -- was poured into a container for use later.

Some families had enough money to purchase a fancy BACON GREASE container. Yes, there is such a thing even today. In my house, we used an old discarded coffee can to hold the BACON GREASE. It sat on the stove always, easily available for the next meal.

As Mom cooked her potatoes or green beans, she'd dip into the coffee can of BACON GREASE and add some to the food. If you've never tried it, you don't know what you're missing.

Of course, some foods don't lend themselves to BACON GREASE. I know, a shock. Sweets and bread required lard, Crisco, or butter instead.

Today's BACON GREASE containers include a strainer to remove any crumbles and bits of meat.

Did your Mom and Grandma use BACON GREASE in their cooking? Do you use it in your cooking still today? What's the best thing you've eaten with BACON GREASE as the seasoning?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Mountain Memories -- Trick-or-Treat

Blustery winds lift fallen leaves from the ground and swirl them around like haints let loose. Screams and squeals of delight mingle as hoards of children race from door-to-door to claim the best selection of candy from each willing neighborhood resident. Painted faces, costumes ranging from simple to gaudy, barely block the chill of a late autumn night.

Tonight the goal is to fill a poke or pillowcase with enough sugary treats to provide a high for days -- or send some running to the toilet as their bodies revolt from the over-indulgence of treats. Red-cheeked children ring doorbells or bang on the doors. When the door opens, a chorus of "TRICK-OR-TREAT" begs for the treat.

Trick-or-Treat soap
But beware -- for there are some ghosts and ghoulies who carry a bar of soap in their pocket.

If the treat is not forth-coming or doesn't meet expectations, that bar of soap may be used to mark the windows of the house with disappointed graffiti.

Oh, the days of TRICK-OR-TREAT.

I remember well the days when my friends and I dressed in whatever costume we could pull together from our parents' or siblings' closets on Halloween. Some fortunate kids had a mother who lived to create a costume that gave the appearance of being more thought out and creative. If you couldn't afford the appropriate fabric, though, there was always crepe paper.

My mother made several costumes for my TRICK-OR-TREAT jaunts out of crepe paper. She sewed it into a costume -- usually a witch. Crepe paper was cheap and sewable. It was also a bit stiff and made rustling noises as I ran. My hope was that it would last through the night without disintegrating.

I prayed it wouldn't rain because then I would come home with a disappearing costume (I always wore something underneath, just in case). Also, the rain caused the dye in the paper to run. My body would be streaked with dye that took some scrubbing to get off.

I think my mother made my costume so she could also make one for herself and join my brother and me in TRICK-OR-TREATING. She was only five feet tall and shorter than some of my friends. Everyone thought she was a kid, too. I swear she got more candy than the rest of us.

My favorite candy corn
Candy. How we all loved it. My favorite candy was candy corn. Half the fun was switching candy with a friend -- or Mom. She didn't like candy corn and I didn't like chocolate as a child.

Halloween wasn't just about TRICK-OR-TREAT though. It was fall parties at school (more candy), decorating with Indian corn and corn stalks, pumpkins carved and mangled into distorted faces and lit with a wax candle. I still recall the smell of a pumpkin's innards as I scooped out the seeds and pulp. Not necessarily a pleasant odor, but distinct.

Passing by a graveyard while trick-or-treating
Some parts of TRICK-OR-TREAT raised the goosebumps. Passing the funeral home made us run faster. But going by a graveyard terrified us. I don't know why we considered them scarier on that one night than any other, but that night seemed to make us all believe in our innocent child hearts that evil just might exist. Unfortunately, as adults, we now believe in evil is evident every day of the year.

One of my favorite TRICK-OR-TREAT seasonal treats was the orange wax whistles.

Almost every schoolkid used his or her allowance to purchase one at the little store across the street from the school. I'm sure the teachers were more than ready for wax whistle season to end.

We all started out playing "songs" on our whistles, attempting to play the loudest, longest, and most unique tunes. After we tired of blowing, we bit into the tasty orange wax chambers, now filled with slobber, and chewed them like gum. I loved the flavor.

TRICK-OR-TREAT has changed today. Most children don store-bought costumes that represent movie or cartoon characters. No creativity is allowed. You must have the pre-conceived representation of an imaginary character in someone else's imagination -- and pay them money for the privilege to wear that costume.

Pokes and pillowcases have been replaced with molded plastic buckets or plastic bags.

Even the racing from house to house is frowned upon -- for safety reasons. Most children are packed into the family SUV and taken to a TRUNK-OR-TREAT instead of a TRICK-OR-TREAT.

I miss the old days. I miss the excitement of being on the hunt, out in nature, on my own -- except for the company of my friends -- and Mom, of course. But on that night, she wasn't Mom. She was a fellow witch, ghoulie, or clown racing from house to house and yelling, "TRICK-OR-TREAT!"

Do you remember the days of simple TRICK-OR-TREAT? Do you miss it? I'd love to hear your stories of TRICK-OR-TREAT.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Mountain Memories -- Mountain Sandbox

A lot of folks who didn't grow up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky and the surrounding areas during my era, don't realize how creative we had to be to provide fun activities for the children.

One thing I looked forward to each summer was a trip into the mountains of Harlan County to find sandstone. The hills are rich with all kinds of rocks and minerals. Coal, shale, granite, limestone, and sandstone -- among others.

Some may find it strange that we have sandstone in our mountains, so far from an ocean. However, we have often been told our mountains were once underwater. I tend to believe them -- since I gathered pockets full of sea creature fossils from the tops of those mountains. One of my favorite places to collect fossils was at the airport. I remember one of my classes from school went up to the airport for the day and several of us spent most of our time climbing around the cleared mountaintop searching for rocks, minerals, and fossils.

#fossils in Appalachia
Unfortunately, I lost my fossil collection in the flood of 1977.

But back to the sandstone. Each late spring or early summer, Dad loaded the back of the car with empty boxes and we took a drive up Laden Trail onto Pine Mountain, near where he grew up. He knew exactly where to find the best deposits of sandstone.

Sandstone, after weathering, crumbles into a massive pit of sand. If the supply of sand had dwindled, the consistency of the stone allowed us to scrape new sand with the blade of a pick-ax. I enjoyed scraping new sand even if there was plenty to choose from. Remember how I told you about our search for creative outlets in the mountains?

Dad parked the car in a pull-off and we unloaded the boxes. The walk wasn't far. With boxes ready and Dad with a shovel, we began the task of gathering sand into the boxes. When they were as full as Daddy could carry, he put down the shovel and lugged the boxes of sand to the back of the car.

While he worked on shoveling and carrying the sand, I played in the piles left behind.

Quartz pebbles in the sand
I especially loved the sand at this particular sandstone location. It was mixed with thousands of tiny quartz pebbles. My love of sparkly rocks had already become well-established, so quartz pebbles made the sand even more special for me.

With the trunk loaded down with sand, Daddy maneuvered our rear-heavy car around the hairpin graveled curves of Laden Trail and back home. He immediately began the arduous task of unloading the boxes of sand and emptying them into the home-made sandbox he had built.

I spent many joyful hours playing in the sand. My dog, Caspy, a mountain feist, enjoyed playing with me. She rolled around in the sand and dug holes as I built sandcastles lined with quartz pebbles. Of course, I didn't have plastic shovels and buckets to form the sand. I used margarine cups, spoons, and jelly glasses.

I miss those days of simple pleasures.

Did you ever go into the mountains to gather sand? How did you wile away your summer days of leisure? I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- TAR

No, I don't mean T-I-R-E (pronounced TAR). I mean TAR.

Remember that smell of hot TAR being heated up in a cauldron like a witch's brew?

A group of men would show up with the vat of TAR and hook it up to a generator that could be heard for miles--or so it seemed. It did its magic and heated the tar until it became a hot thick soup of stinking TAR. When it reached the right temperature and consistency, the men would heft buckets of melted TAR to the roof of a building and spread it with a brush broom to hopefully plug up any holes that had previously allowed the rain or snow to seep inside and damage the inside of the building.

I always felt sorry for the poor men who had to climb up on the roof on hot summer days, wearing overalls so the tar didn't burn their skin or leave a coating of TAR on them until it wore off. Can you imagine how hot they must have been?

The smell of hot TAR reminded me of a squashed skunk on the road. Not a pleasant odor at all.

TAR patches look like a slug trail
They used TAR for more than just the roofs of buildings, though. It also aids in plugging cracks and holes in the paved roads. TAR is, after all, asphalt. I remember well the zig-zag lines of shiny black TAR streaking along the road like a slug trail.

Another use for TAR has thankfully become a part of history -- an unsavory part of history. I read about people being TARRED and feathered. It's a shame that some people think they have the right to become judge, jury, and executioner (or humiliator) when someone doesn't meet their expectations or abide by their rules for polite society. Polite society -- yeah, that's ironic.

TAR is not only utilized in its hot, semi-liquid state. Many an Appalachian family found a use for another version of TAR. TAR paper.

Roll of TAR paper
TAR paper comes in rolls and is still used today to apply a protective layer to a roof before adding shingles. Well, the resourceful mountain folk figured if it was good for providing a waterproof layer between the roof and shingles, it could do the same for the walls of a structure.

Some people used this inexpensive alternative to paint on the outside walls of their houses, garages, sheds, and other outbuildings. I found rolls of TAR paper at Home Depot the other day. A roll today costs about $15.

I usually don't see TAR paper being used on houses in Atlanta. However, I happened upon a house on one of my excursions the other day that was sporting TAR paper on its walls. Unfortunately, the TAR paper is beginning to peel off and the house is in need of a new roll or two.

Does TAR bring back any memories for you? Can you still smell it when you close your eyes?

I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- NANNER

It seems, from a couple of comments I've received lately, that some of my dear readers are not reading the stories before commenting. Please make sure you're not one of them. Also, if you are insulted by our wonderful Appalachian heritage -- including our history and dialect -- then don't bother reading. Just allow those of us who love being from Appalachia to share the love and respect for our people. We're about love, not hate. No feuds allowed here.

Is the word NANNER spoken in your house? Do you know what it is?

Although we usually used the word banana instead, NANNER did sometimes slip out when my mom and dad talked about them. My grandmother used it often. My brother, Larry, used it all the time. Of course, he often used certain words and terms just to be different. I think it was his attempt at being humorous -- like the time he answered the phone and said, "President speakin'." It happened to be a call for me from the leader of the American Legion. His face drained of color and he started stuttering. I may tell you another time why the American Legion was calling a high school girl.

NANNERS were a staple in our house.

I often took a peanut butter and NANNER sandwich to school for lunch. I loved the fragrance of warmed NANNER, peanut butter, and Bunny bread as it cooked inside the classroom (We had no air conditioning in those days). Ahhh. I can smell it now.

NANNER split
Of course, NANNERS weren't only for sandwiches -- or sammiches as most of us called them. A special warm-weather treat was a NANNER split. The best of everything sweet. I loved the ice cream, chocolate syrup, butterscotch syrup, coconut, and peanuts sprinkled over the whipped cream. I mustn't forget the cherries on top. The healthiest thing in it was the NANNER itself.

My brother enjoyed slicing a NANNER for his bowl of cereal each morning. His huge bowl of cereal. I think he ate three boxes of corn flakes a week.

I prefer my NANNERS dark yellow, but without dark spots. I like them firm and sweet. If they're too green, they make you pucker and if they're too ripe, they are mushy and remind me of squash. Like Goldilocks, I like my NANNER just right.


Just right NANNER

Too ripe NANNER

Way too ripe NANNER (squash NANNER)
It does seem a bit strange that a tropical fruit was so popular in the mountains of Kentucky. They had to travel a long way to get to us. The trip was worth it if you ask me.

Did you call them NANNERS in your house? If not, what did you call them? And what is the best way you liked to eat them -- then and now? Also, what degree of ripeness do you prefer? Green, yellow, spotted, or nearly black?

I love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Appalachian Memory of the Week -- Arthur Johnson

Arthur Johnson amazed me when I was a child in Harlan County.

He tuned the pianos at Loyall High School, sang and played guitar, and worked as a cashier at the Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital Gift Shop.

Normally, most people would not consider these gifts/skills worthy of amazement. However, you might change your mind if you considered Arthur Johnson was blind.

Arthur Johnson tuned our pianos
I don't know a lot about Mr. Johnson, but I know from experience how he tuned the piano in the Choir Room one day during my class. I watched carefully as he moved deftly inside the piano with his tools and adjusted each string, then tested the correct key on the keyboard. How did he know which string was attached to the correct key?

I don't recall him using any device to determine the correct pitch, so I imagine he also had perfect pitch. I'm guessing though and don't know for sure.

As much as his piano tuning impressed me, his job as cashier flabbergasted me.

I spent hours over my early years waiting in the lounge for one of my parents to visit someone upstairs in the patient area. Kids weren't allowed on the floors in those days. So, I sat downstairs and watched Mr. Johnson as customers came up to him and made their purchases.

At least he didn't see me sitting there staring at him for hours.

I never understood how he knew from touch what a person had chosen. Or how much it cost.

Making change
Then came the monetary part of the transaction. He knew what denomination each bill was -- just by touching it. Then he made change.

Dad said he never made a mistake. I don't know about that for sure. I do wonder, though, how many naughty boys tried to fool him. I'm sure there are some stories there.

Arthur Johnson's ability to live above his blindness motivated me to not give up just because I don't have all my faculties or the resources to easily become successful. We all need to resolve to overcome roadblocks to fulfilling life's successes. Or our dreams.

If you grew up in Harlan County, did you know Arthur Johnson? Do you have any stories about him? I'd love to hear your memories.

*The photo of Arthur Johnson (above) first appeared on a historical site. I have no idea where it originated. If you know, please tell me in the comments. I'd like to give credit to the photographer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- APPALACHIA

For anyone from the southern region of APPALACHIA (Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina), a major bone of contention is the pronunciation of the word APPALACHIA.

When someone pronounces it, you know immediately whether they are from APPALACHIA -- or somewhere else.

Even though I grew up in the heart of southern APPALACHIA, I rarely heard the word APPALACHIA to describe where I lived until my teen years. We referred to our area in southeastern Kentucky as THE CUMBERLANDS. When I left the area, APPALACHIA and APPALACHIAN were usually paired with words like poverty, hillbillies, illiterate, and ignorant. The people who used those terms generally mispronounced APPALACHIA.

As APPALACHIAN author Sharyn McCrumb stated, your pronunciation of APPALACHIA makes it obvious to anyone from the area whether you are an outsider and whether you can be trusted or not. The pronunciation announces whether you are one of us or one of them (government types who want to control us and take our limited resources or the snobby academic types who consider us inferior merely because we are not like them).

That's why a lot of APPALACHIANS get a bit testy or ticked off when someone mispronounces APPALACHIA.

So what is the proper way to pronounce APPALACHIA?

Imagine I pick up an apple and I throw it at you if you say it wrong.

I will throw an APPLE-AT-CHUH.

There is no "sh" sound.

So there you have it. No excuses for mispronouncing it again. It doesn't matter where you live, your education level, or your vocation. Respect our right to determine the correct pronunciation of our homeland.

Best not even attempt to argue the point with us.

If you are from APPALACHIA, does it irritate you when someone pronounces it incorrectly?

Do YOU pronounce it incorrectly?

Remember, if you desire to be considered a friend, not a foe, pronounce it APPLE-AT-CHUH.

There's only one way to pronounce it correctly.

Do you agree with the pronunciation? If not, where did you grow up?

Comment below and let us know your story.

By the way, how do you pronounce Houston in Texas? How about when you visit Houston Street in New York City?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- MASH

There are several definitions of the word MASH. However, today, I'm going to talk about one use of the word I remember from my childhood.

Of course, we've all heard about the kind of MASH when we're cooking -- like MASH taters. Some people even mash turnips. Pretty disgusting when you serve someone mashed turnips without telling them they are turnips and not taters, though. I remember the first time I bit into a big bite of mashed turnips. I thought the potatoes had either gone bad or they'd been poisoned.

Many of us are also familiar with corn MASH -- used in the making of white lightning or moonshine. Needless to say, I have no first-hand knowledge of that process.

The kind of MASH I'm referring to is when you take your finger and MASH something.

Way back when our light switches didn't have a flip switch to turn the lights on and off. They had two buttons. And we would take our finger and MASH one button to turn the light on or MASH the other button to turn the light off.

MASH the button

Basically, any time we used our finger to activate something with a button we would MASH the button. Some examples are ringing the doorbell (if you were citified enough to have one), selecting a pop in the Coke machine, or choosing a snack in the vending machine.

For push-button phones, we MASHed the buttons to make a call. When computers came onto the scene, we mashed a button to turn it on or off. TVs also had a button to MASH to turn it on or off. Today, we can do that from our easy chair by way of a remote or cell phone. At least our finger can still get some exercise.

MASH the buttons on the phone

There are so many things to MASH today. But, the term MASH is not heard as often. I guess we have so many options in technology that we've re-learned the lingo. We push, tap, click, or press nearly every gadget we possess.

I suppose we can still MASH a bug, though.

Did you or your family use the word MASH? What word do you use today?

I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- MADDER THAN A WET HEN

Have you ever met a wet hen?

How about a hen that's wet because you just dunked into a bucket of cold water?

If you have, then you know exactly how mad a wet hen can be.

For those of you who have never experienced a wet hen, you may be wondering why in the world someone would torture a hen by dunking her into cold water. Obviously, she doesn't like it.

There is a reason. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work the way intended.

Brooding hen
Sometimes a hen gets it set in her mind that she needs to sit on her eggs until they hatch. That's called brooding and she is considered broody. Whether it's hormones or some automatic response that kicks in to the bird's tiny brain, it is a problem.

It may be a problem because there's no rooster and the eggs are not fertile -- making her effort to hatch the eggs futile.

Another problem is that she gets really testy when she's broody. Even with the hens who would normally lay eggs in the coop with her. Breakfast can get a bit lean when the hens don't lay their quota.

When the chicken keeper realizes the hen won't come out of the broodiness on her own, a dunking in cold water may be in order to shock her out of her broodiness. Some say it is to cool off the skin where she was sitting on the eggs and reverse the compulsion to keep the eggs warm.

Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't.

Either way, it definitely produces the MADDER THAN A WET HEN response.

The hen will probably go nuts squawking, kicking, pecking, and destroying the nearest human being around.

Have you heard the term "flogging?" Well, a wet hen can be like flogging on steroids.

My mom had a hen that became broody. She was determined to break her from her broodiness and make life in the backyard pleasant again. Mom dragged a washtub into the yard and filled it up with water. Creeping up to the nesting site, my petite mother grabbed the hen between her hands and carried her to the tub of water.

As soon as the hen's feet hit that water, she went into MAD HEN mode. Mom held on tight and was nearly as wet as the hen as she was dragged behind the chicken. I thought they might both take flight. Finally, the hen wrestled herself out of Mom's grasp and started flogging her. I've never heard a chicken make so much racket. The rest of the chickens scattered and left Mom to fend for herself.

Okay, so I left her to fend for herself, too. I hid inside the house behind a screen door. Mom finally made it to the house and got inside the door, doing a bit of kicking and flogging herself to keep the hen outside.

Watch out for wet hens that remember you
Thankfully, I've never seen anyone MADDER THAN THAT WET HEN. But I've seen a few rivals. Mad humans tend to make a crowd scatter for safety, too.

For your information -- that hen never forgot what Mom did to her that day. They may have a brain the size of a pea, but that pea remembers. Every time Mom stepped into the backyard, here she came, squawking and flogging.

Mom had the last laugh, though. The hen made a mighty fine Sunday dinner.

Have you ever known anyone who was MADDER THAN A WET HEN? Have you been MADDER THAN A WET HEN yourself? I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- ACTIN' UGLY

How many times have you been accused of ACTIN' UGLY? Hopefully, you were only guilty of ACTIN' UGLY when you were a kid -- not last week.

For those of you who have no clue what I'm talking about, mothers, especially, pointed out those occasions of ACTIN' UGLY. Sometimes they employed a pinch or a smack. You were really in trouble, though, if you were ordered to fetch a switch from the bush outside.

ACTIN' UGLY usually involves behavior similar to a spoiled brat. Whining, crying, screwing up your face, hitting someone close-by, throwing things, stomping your feet, refusing to follow commands from those in authority, and making a lot of noise.

A lot of the time, such behavior is influenced by hunger, being over-tired, or being fed up with someone else's behavior. Of course, ACTIN' UGLY can be a direct effect of being spoiled rotten. A boy who's ACTIN' UGLY was often called a "rotter."ACTIN' UGLY is the normal behavior of someone with a mean streak in them. We've all known a few of those for whom ACTIN' UGLY is a way of life. For others, it visits us rarely and is regretted when the instigating factor is resolved. Or we experience the stings from the tip of a switch.

Actin' ugly or a rotter?
In this age, switches are rarely used, so ACTIN' UGLY is becoming a way of life for way too many people -- youth and adults. One of the worst offenses is bullying. The unfortunate victims of UGLY behavior suffer severely. Some develop a lack of self-confidence or self-worth, and some bear resentment or even hatred toward anyone who ACTS UGLY to them.

ACTIN' UGLY today can be quieter than in our youth. One of the main methods is through social media. I have even experienced people ACTIN' UGLY with their comments about my beloved Appalachian heritage on these blog posts.

People also use social media to blast their hatred to anyone who thinks differently than they do. Religion, sports, politics, the value of kale on the planet. They also use social media to belittle and intimidate those who are different from them.

We must realize, however, that the most common way people are ACTIN' UGLY is their silence as they hold a cell phone up between us as a wall to prevent person-to-person communication. I see it often when I eat out. Several people sit at a table staring at their cell phones instead of getting to know each other and enjoy talking and laughing. It's an insult. We should care more about our friends and family than a screen on a phone.

Texting to some else instead of talking to each other

The most dangerous way to ACT UGLY is texting while you drive. Here in Georgia, it is now illegal to have your phone in your hand while driving. It hasn't stopped the people from still ACTIN' UGLY and take everyone's lives at risk just so they can text when they should be watching where they're going. A new law hasn't stopped the texting and driving at all. I continue to see it as I drive around town.

Certainly increases my prayer life.

So, have you been ACTIN' UGLY? Or have you been the victim of someone ACTIN' UGLY?

I'm interested in hearing your stories. Just don't name names.

And make sure you don't ACT UGLY with me because I stepped on your UGLY toes!

Be kind to your friends and family. And potential friends. Don't be ACTIN' UGLY. Go take a nap. Or share a bowl of ice cream. Relationships are important.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- YONDER

People are always asking how far YONDER is.

Unfortunately, YONDER is one of those terms that's a might hard to specify. The meaning varies according to how you use it.

If you're sitting on the couch and you want to change channels on the TV, but you don't have a remote, YONDER might only be few feet from you.

He lives over YONDER.
If you're standing on the mountaintop, looking out at the smoky blue mountains in the background, and you know your cousin Jim Bob lives on the third mountain over, then Jim Bob lives over YONDER.

If you sit at your desk to get some work done and realize you forgot to bring your cup of coffee from the kitchen, YONDER is way in the kitchen and you hope there's somebody else in the house to run and fetch it for you.

YONDER, whether it's a long distance or a short one, means the distance between you and the object you desire is further than you want it to be. It also intimates that anything past your fingers is too far over YONDER and somebody besides you needs to hop up and retrieve it for you.

Go over YONDER and change the channel.
YONDER can also signify when something is too far away for you to even consider going to it or retrieving it. For some lazy bums, that can be two inches past their noses.

I'm sure we all have heard the old hymn, "When the Roll is Called Up YONDER." Heaven is about the furthest distance we can imagine. Even further than the stars and planets that we can't see without a high-powered telescope.

Right now I'd like to grab my sweater because the air conditioning is blowing on me and making chill bumps pop out on my arms--but it's over YONDER on my Lazy Boy and I'd have to stop typing, get up, and walk over YONDER to get it. I might decide to shiver instead of going after my sweater.

Go over YONDER and get my phone.
I seem to think YONDER refers to the things we don't want to bother to get ourselves. I remember many a time when my mom directed me to go over YONDER or in YONDER and get something for her.

So, how far is YONDER? YONDER is any distance you can't reach by stretching out your hand to touch it.

What's your definition of YONDER?

I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- MOONPIE

As I wandered the aisles of the grocery store the other day, I came across one of my favorite childhood treats --  MOONPIE. I had to have one. Alas, they come in boxes now. I got them anyway. It took all my strength not to scarf down more than one each day. 

Of course, that is probably because, just like everything else from our childhood, they are much smaller now. At least these are much smaller. They're called minis and have only 110 calories. The box also stated that they are made of "real sugar." Nothing artificial in my MOONPIE.

RC Cola
As I slowly nibbled on my MOONPIE, savoring every bite and remembering the good old days, I had a hankering for what usually accompanied a MOONPIE.

Yep, RC Cola and a bag of peanuts. Now for you folks who have never enjoyed an RC and peanuts, I'll explain. You open a small bag of salted peanuts (cost 5 cents back then) and pour them into the bottle of RC (a tall skinny glass bottle). It bubbled a bit and then you swigged on it until the peanuts mixed with the RC and you got a peanut with your swig.

Peanuts for the RC Cola
Ah, yes! A bite of MOONPIE, a swig of RC and peanuts. That was the high life.

Several years ago, my family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. That's when I discovered the MOONPIE was created there. The MOONPIE bakery is still creating those luscious cookies, filled with marshmallow, and dipped in chocolate. They even have a MOONPIE store! 

Did you grow up eating MOONPIE? Did you drink RC with peanuts?

Do you eat MOONPIE today?

I'd love to hear about your memories.