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 an appreciation for Sled Day, the first of December. Wherever winter and snow were synonymous, that was the day when sleds of all sorts were readied and sleigh bells were made to shine. Just over sixty years ago there were real sounds to winter: steel-shod runners squeaked over the packed snow and the almost constant music of sleigh bells filled the crisp air everywhere. Winter was a season of bells.
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.
“That’s a god-damned lie!” cried out Joel Elkins as John Amis spoke to those gathered in the Clay County court. He reached behind the door, grabbed William Strong’s gun, purposely loaded and placed there, then shot and killed Amis. Accounts differ as to why John Amis was in that Kentucky court on August 5, 1807, and why Elkins shot him.
Next up, Barbara Ellen Smith shares the story of her Aunt Helen and Uncle Hez of Big Ridge, VA. Seems the aunt, desperate for a solution, had been willing to try what was then considered a risky surgery on their handicapped daughter, who died as a result. The woman’s husband raged at her for months afterwards, but his furious temper drove her to find a novel way to restore peace to their home. You might call this a ghost story with a twist.
When George A. Mosel was a young teen in Steubenville, OH, he had enough pocket money one Christmas that he decided to buy his mother what seemed to him a grand gift. Naturally he headed for Spies Jewelry Store, which was the equivalent of Tiffany’s in his mother’s opinion. He hadn’t learned yet that even the best stores have clunker items tucked off in the corner, just waiting for a bright eyed young lad with not quite enough money to afford the good stuff.
“The sound of its popping was quite like that of a firecracker. It was much less expensive than a firecracker and far less dangerous,” Herbert Lamont Pugh tells us. He’s describing the uses of a dried hog bladder on Christmas Day, as he recounts his boyhood holiday memories from early 20th century Batesville VA.
We’ll wrap things up with a short oral history from Elizabeth Daingerfield’s Aunt Cynthy “I don’t reckon you want to see my quilts, do you?” asks the Kentucky farmwife. “I reckon you’ve seen a sight better, but they are always new to me. Thar’s hist’ry in ‘em, and memory.” She sheds light on the differences between piece quilting and patch quilting.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by E.C. and Orna Ball as they play ‘Joy to the World’ in a live 1978 Christmas eve performance on Rugby Virginia’s WKSK.
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.