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 memoir from Norton, VA native son Dave O’Neill. O’Neill started to work in a local coal mine at the age of 13 as a mule driver. Within the first month or two he got the shock of his life. “Only about eight feet separated a mule from his car, and I was sitting out on the bumper when that hundred tons of rock crushed Old Red. One second he was there, responding to my commands–and then suddenly, he was buried and gone forever, in less time than it takes to scream.”
We’ll listen in on Bob Taylor, a former governor of Tennessee. Out of his 1896 memoirs comes this delightful piece describing the joyous courtship rituals to be found at a Tennessee mountain taffy pull.
Next, an anonymous 1910 letter to the editor of Barbourville, Kentucky’s ‘Mountain Advocate’ takes gleeful jabs at the aspiring Democratic hopeful in a local race. “Edwards their man will be buried so deep beneath the great flood of Powers ballots that will pour down upon them on that good day,” states the writer proudly, “that they will never be able to rejoice again.”
“Psychologically, the wagon is the thing,” commented librarian Mary Lemist Titcomb of the project she is most remembered for. “One can no easier resist the pack of a peddler from the Orient as a shelf full of books when the doors of the wagon are opened at one’s gateway.” Titcomb was referring to the bookmobile—the nation’s first— that she had custom outfitted in 1904 to deliver books to the residents of Washington County, MD.
Spencer Mull of Brevard, NC was no fan of book learning, though he allowed as to how it might be useful for some in this 1939 oral history with the Federal Writer’s Project. “I remember at least one thing I heard a teacher say,” he tells us. “It was somethin’ about paying too dear for your whistle. These people who get a book education have to pay too much for it. I may not be right but that’s my way of thinkin’. Anyhow I wasn’t willin’ to pay the price.”
We’ll wrap things up with a poem about following the tracks of wild creatures on a snowy winter’s day from Louise McNeill, who was named West Virginia poet laureate in 1979.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Uncle Dave Macon in a 1929 recording of “Over the Mountain.”
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.