I’d trust a mountain man before I would a city man any day

Posted by Dave Tabler | December 1, 2015

The [North Carolina Forest Service] offered me a job then, late that summer or early that fall. I went to work, I had a fancy title: in charge of visual education. They had a three-quarter ton International truck. They had a generator bolted down inside this panel truck. I had a movie projector and a trunk about that high, and old silent movies and a screen and film and mending kit, and all that sort of thing, and I went around and showed motion pictures, fire prevention movies, and also game protection pictures; wild life protection.

These mountain people had burned the forest religiously, for years. They had no game laws. Well, they had game laws, but they never respected them. Even to this day, many of them don’t respect our game laws. So I went from one county to the other showing these movies. I went back as far as you could get. I had cable, I think, about fifteen hundred feet of cable. If I could get within fifteen hundred feet of one these rural backwoods schoolhouses I could show movies.

I’d have to give them about a twenty-minute spiel before I could show the movies, because if you showed the movies first and then talked, you didn’t have an audience.

I showed movies to people fifty years old who’d seen. . . that was the first movie they’d ever seen. I got back into the Smokies as far back as people lived; as far back as you could get; all over Western North Carolina, and go from one county to another.

Later, then in the Fair season I traveled the County Fair circuit and I put up exhibits at the County Fairs. I had exhibits, and I’d stand at those exhibits and talk and try to stop forest fires. I was a preacher, I tell you. So I made the Fair Circuit; go from one County Fair to another; put up these exhibits. I did that from August until, I guess, the latter part of September, or early October, when the County Fairs started in Eastern Carolina. That was in twenty-eight. Nineteen-twenty-eight.

Forest ranger in western North Carolina, 1940Photo taken December 1, 1940 for U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station Photograph Collection. Caption reads: Most distant peaks are in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, about 70 miles away. Center of picture slightly south of west, from Mt. Mitchell, Black Mountain, N.C.

I would concentrate pretty much in the back woods where the forest fires originate; where the game law violations were concentrated. I’ve lived with mountain people most of my life. They’re better [than other people]; they’re more trustworthy. They’re more dependable; more reliable. They’ve got more character. They are different. I’d trust a mountain man before I would a city man any day. And I’ve. . .well, there’s one or two places I even had my own place at the table.

I’d go in some places. . . and when I was showing these movies, I’d eat my evening meal at the house nearest the school house. . . cornbread and milk, sometimes, and fatback, fried potatoes, onions, leatherbritches beans. It varied considerably, and then sometimes fresh pork, if they’d killed a hog somewhere. But I did stop at one place, and an elderly widow lived alone, I stopped there for my evening meal. Of course, there wasn’t a speck of paint inside or outside the house, but the floor was clean. No carpets, but if I’d dropped a piece of cornbread on the floor I wouldn’t have hesitated to pick it up and eat it; it looked specklessly clean.

After we’d finished, and . . .I’d offer to pay. You insulted people if you offered to pay for your meal. Yes; you insulted them.

Usually the County Warden was with me. They had a County Fire Warden, and he knew his way around, and usually he went along. So he ran interference for me. He arranged. . . he knew where the school-houses were, and one thing and another. At one place, this elderly widow, after we’d eaten, said: “I have a suit of clothes here I made for my husband. He never wore it. I raised the sheep; I sheared the wool. I carded the wool and I spun the yarn; I dyed the yarn and I wove the cloth and I made the suit.” She said, “I’ll let you have it for ten dollars.”

Well, like a fool, I said, “Well, if it’ll fit me.” I tried it on and it didn’t quite fit. But that would be a collector’s item today, and I could have afforded the ten dollars, but I figured, “Those things are everywhere, you know.” I didn’t have sense enough to recognize what I saw.

William Nothstein
(b. 1902)
Interviewed by Dr. Lewis Silveri, Southern Highlands Research Center [now in D.H. Ramsey Library Special Collections], University of North Carolina at Asheville
July 1, 1976


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For Christmas – the whimmydiddle or the flipperdinger?

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 30, 2015

Computer games haven’t always dominated the world of childrens’ toys. Two classic wooden folk toys, the whimmydidle and the flipperdinger, have been enjoyed by children for hundreds of years throughout Appalachia. These toys were handmade by people for their own use. Many of the designs for such folk toys were passed down from one generation to the next.

The gee-haw whimmydiddle, also called a ziggerboo (TN), geehaw (GA), hoodoo stick (Cherokees), and lie detector (OH), is made of smooth twigs stripped of bark. Its two parts are a notched stick with a spinner – or whirligig – pivoted on one end, and a smaller rubbing stick. The object of the whimmydiddle is to make the whirligig spin smoothly to the right (gee) or left (haw), seemingly at your spoken command.

To do this, you must hold both parts lightly to produce maximum vibration. This vibration is set up when you stroke the rubbing stick rapidly back and forth across the notches. If at the same time, you let the tip of your index finger slide along the far side of the notches, the whirligig will twirl unfailing to the right. To reverseits direction, you simply bring your thumb to bear on the near side of the notches. With a little practice, you can switch contacts so inconspicuously that anyone who doesn’t know the trick will have a hard time guessing why the whirligig responds.
a flipperdinger
The Flipperdinger is a hollow-reed blower with a plug in one end, and a nozzle, made of a smaller reed, projecting from it just behind the plug. In one model, and acorn cup with its center bored out is cemented over the nozzle. In another, a little ‘basketball ring’ bent from copper wire is aligned with the nozzle about three inches above the tip. Both models come with a featherweight ball formed from cornstalk pith.

To work the first flipperdinger, you place the pith ball in the acorn cup and blow lightly but steadily into the open end of the larger reed. When done right, the ball rises slowly in a jet stream of air, hovers a few inches above the nozzle, and then as you ease off, settles back.

The other flipperdinger is harder to master. Here the pith ball has a wire thrust through it – one with a crook in one end. You hang the crook over the basketball ring. Then, with plenty of well-controlled lung power, you can unhook the ball, lower it through the ring, and finally, blow it back up again and replace the crook on the wire.

sources: http://www.wvculture.org/goldenseal/winter04/schnacke.html
Popular Science, Mar 1960, pp. 144-7


related post: “All I want for Christmas is a whimmy diddle”

Appalachian+folk+toys whimmy+diddle flipperdinger appalachia appalachian+culture appalachian+history

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How the post office came to Pine Mountain KY

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 27, 2015

“Back in the days when I knew him, Uncle William [ed.– William Creech 1845-1918] was the sage of Pine Mountain; he was the leader to whom the creek dwellers far and near turned for guidance in time of decision.

“In any rural community the mail is always a matter of importance, particularly in a region so isolated as the Cumberlands. Uncle William had decided that Pine Mountain’s crying need was a post office.

“For years he had labored so that letters could come to the little cabins that dotted the green hollows. At every attempt his efforts foundered on the stern government rule that no office could be opened until the postal business in the area reach a certain definite total each year.

“Uncle William at last grew weary of delay and failure. He decided to take drastic action; when Uncle William took action a result was as certain as night follows day.

“The difficulty in the great postal war was that most of Uncle William’s neighbors could neither read nor write; mail is after all a form of written communication. He made a first attack on the problem by calling at every mountain cabin; solemnly he urged each mountaineer to send off to both of the leading mail-order houses for their catalogues. If the son-in-law of the family had a different name, he asked the farmer to send it off twice. Whenever the necessity arose, which was often, he wrote the cards of request himself.

“This initial undertaking produced a considerable postal volume; each heavy catalogue that arrived was balm to Uncle William’s soul. His next move in the campaign was in the more complicated field of correspondence. The First World War had come upon the countryside; most of the young men were away in the Army.

William Creech Sr.William and Sally Creech about 1900.

“Uncle William made the rounds of the cabins again, urging mothers to write to their sons and daughters to their sweethearts. Here again the lack of formal learning interfered with their desires. Once more Uncle William became the correspondent, writing long letters telling the news of the day. When the answers came, scrawled by some soldier friend of the absent one, he would journey to the cabin and read it aloud to the whole family.

“So effective were his efforts that even the postal authorities in charge of the district were impressed by the quantity of mail that was arriving. At last they decided the business was enough to warrant opening the office.

“There are many Uncle Williams still in the Cumberlands; it is their presence which makes these hazy uplands unique. For they are the last outposts of a vanished world.”

Children of Noah: Glimpses of Unknown America

By Ben Lucien Burman
Publ. by Julian Messner, Inc. 1951

2 Responses

  • Louella Hall says:

    Love this page. I just found it today.

  • Rose says:

    My Great Grandmother, Sarah Jane Metcalf, was William’s Great Neice. I never knew much about him nor what he did until after I started researching the family tree.

    William and Sally were:
    Married: 15 MAR 1866 in Harlan Co., KY
    Event: Performed by in J. P. Smith J. P.
    Event: Witness in Wm Dixon, Preston Hall

    Birth: Oct. 30, 1845
    Death: May 18, 1918
    Jefferson County
    Kentucky, USA

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 26, 2015


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Thanksgiving 1950. The snowstorm of the century.

Posted by Dave Tabler | November 25, 2015

On November 25, 1950, the so-called “storm of the century” hit the eastern part of the United States, killing 353 and causing millions of dollars in damages. Also known as the “Appalachian Storm,” it dumped record amounts of snow in parts of the Appalachian Mountains. Record low temperatures were recorded in Tennessee and North Carolina even without the wind chill. In Mount Mitchell, NC, a temperature of 26 degrees below zero was recorded.

National Weather Service Surface Chart, 1:30 am November 25, 1950.

The precursor to the storm was the passage of an arctic cold front late on the 23rd into the 24th. The front passed through eastern Kentucky around midnight and the change in airmass was dramatic. Temperatures plunged from the 40s and 50s just ahead of the front to the teens just behind it. A thin but heavy band of snow accompanied the dramatic temperature drop behind the front with as much as 7 inches falling across southeast Kentucky on the morning of the 24th.

Temperatures across eastern Kentucky by the morning of the 25th were in the single digits and teens, and still dropping. Low pressure developed on the arctic front over the Carolinas on the 25th. Once that occurred, the storm quickly moved north, striking western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia hardest. Many locations in those three states saw snowfall totals greater than 30 inches: 62” in Coburn Creek, WV; 57” in Pickens, WV; Steubenville, OH’s snowfall exceeded 44 inches with snowdrifts up to 25 feet.

Bitter cold also gripped the area with most locations recording temperatures in the single digits to near zero on the 24th and 25th. Middlesboro, KY bottomed out at 3ºF, Williamsburg, KY 1ºF, and Somerset, KY –2ºF. All still stand as record low temperatures for the month of November.

Three men shoveling snow in front of Wayne Feeds on the corner of School Avenue and Hewes Street in Clarksburg, WV.

Three men shoveling snow in front of Wayne Feeds on the corner of School Avenue and Hewes Street in Clarksburg, WV.

The storm was unique, however, because it featured not only extremely strong winds and heavy snow, but both record low and high temperatures. Buffalo ,NY saw no snow, but experienced 50 mile-per-hour winds and 50-degree temperatures.

Power was out to more than 1 million customers during this storm. It actually affected 22 states, killing 353 people and creating $66.7 million (1950 dollars) in damage. U.S. insurance companies paid more money out to their policyholders for damage from this storm than for any other previous storm.

Many buildings collapsed under the weight of 2 to 3 feet of snow. Roads were closed; trains and buses canceled. People could not leave their homes for days. Milk and bread and other delivery trucks could not get through. School buses were halted, and it was a joyous occasions for all students. Snow clearing was much different in those days also, since they used no salt on the roads.

“Although I was 11 months old, I remember the talk of the 1950 Snowstorm,” says Ray Mulrooney in the Weirton [WV]Area Museum & Cultural Center newsletter (Nov 23, 2009.) “My mother was with child and was worried that she could not get to the hospital in Steubenville. The streets were covered with 36 inches of snow and there were 6 foot drifts. Banfield Ave. was covered.

“Our house was a full block and a half from Rt. 7 which had been cleared by the Ohio National Guard. There was no way we could get to Rt.7 with out help. My father called the neighbors. They got out their coal shovels (not many had snow shovels in 1950) and started to dig. They had to put the snow to the side, so when they were done there were 8 foot walls along the path that my dad’s car would travel. The path went from our house to Rt7.

Children sled riding on Brightway on Marland Heights, Weirton, WV during the 1950 Snowstorm.

Children sled riding on Brightway on Marland Heights, Weirton, WV during the 1950 Snowstorm.

“My father, mother, and my mother’s mother cooked eggs and anything else that we could find to feed the shovelers. The Wilsons across the street fixed highballs to keep them warm.

“Soon my mother was on her way to Steubenville with her unborn child that I wanted to call ‘Stormy.’ The baby was not ready to enter this cold icy world, so my mother went to her aunt Anna’s house on 3rd Street in Steubenville. My dad got food for us and restocked the Wilson’s stock.

“The roads up the hill to the Ohio Valley Hospital were impassable, a day or two later my mother had to walk a few blocks to Gill Memorial Hospital that was near Aunt Anna’s home to have her beautiful little girl Janice Sharyn on November 29, 1950.”

Sources: www.crh.noaa.gov/jkl/?n=appalachianstorm1950



3 Responses

  • Hazel Moats- Hughes says:

    My dad would talk of this storm every year in the winter, I loved to hear his account of it, I miss my dad but share this amazing story with my children and grandchildren.

  • Sheryl P. Suplee says:

    I was 3 years old and do remember my Dad and Grandfather trying to dig us out..It was deep enough to make a tunnel for me to walk through..

  • Robert Mease says:

    I was born November 23,1950. I heard about the snowstorm from my father and a friend of my mother.

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