We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. You can start listening right away by clicking the podcast icon over on the left side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here.
We open today’s show with a look at a mysterious mountain creature. In Missouri they call it a Gallywampus; in Arkansas it’s the Whistling Wampus; in Appalachia it’s the just a plain old Wampus. A half-dog, half-cat creature that can run erect or on all fours, it’s rumored to be seen just after dark or right before dawn all throughout the Appalachians. But that’s about all everyone agrees on.
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
Alice Jane Meek (1877-1961) could trace her roots to members of pioneer families in Eastern Kentucky. Her resourcefulness emerged early when, amid serious competition, she wooed and wed a teacher from a one-room schoolhouse in Van Lear who had been her instructor. Alice went on to contribute greatly to the rise and success of the man who became the wealthiest man in Kentucky by the time of his death.
Call it the American Custard Apple or the West Virginia Banana, but it’s neither apple nor banana. It’s the paw-paw (Asimina trilob), the largest native fruit of North America, and it grows throughout Appalachia. Let’s step out into the woods for a bit and take a closeup look at the paw paw.
Next up, a guest post by Charles Wykes of viewfromheremagazine.com He reviews Ron Rash’s ‘Serena,’ a novel set in the Appalachian Mountains that follows the fortunes of the eponymous central character and her husband as they create a timber barony in 1930’s America. Some of the book’s characters, Wykes tell us, “are in turn awed and cowed by Serena and what she represents. Some strive to do her bidding, some seem to venerate her and some rightly fear her. None it seems can fathom where she came from or what drives her on. In this she is like the great eagle she trains to hunt snakes; beautiful and terrible and utterly unafraid.”
Glass ‘bottle trees’ originated in ninth century Kongo during a period when superstitious Central African people believed that a genii or imp could be captured in a bottle. Legend had it that empty glass bottles placed outside, but near, the home could capture roving (usually evil) spirits at night, and the spirit would be destroyed the next day in the sunshine. One could then cork the bottles and throw them into the river to wash away the evil spirits.
We’ll wrap things up with ‘The Legend of the Haunted Depot.’ During the Civil War, two brothers from Ringgold, GA head off to war. After serving heroically in a number of far off battles, in an ironic twist both are killed within miles of home. The wife of one brother hangs herself in the local depot when it becomes clear what’s happened on the battlefield. The souls of all three people allegedly dwell in that same depot. The city of Ringgold sponsors tours of the depot each Halloween.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Frank Blevins & His Tar Heel Rattlers in a 1927 recording of “Sally Ann.”
So, call your old blue-tick hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.