When the mountain girl marries

Posted by | February 17, 2011

When the mountain girl marries and responsibility is put upon her, she thriftily adapts herself to conditions. A young girl of sixteen who was about to marry was looking at my wedding ring one day.

Bayard Wootten photo from book; original caption: "A battling stick is hard on the clothes, but it gets the dirt out."

Bayard Wootten photo from book; original caption: "A battling stick is hard on the clothes, but it gets the dirt out."

“Did you get that plain ring when you married?” she asked.

“Why, of course,” I said, carelessly using a broad statement. “Everybody gets them.”

“Oh, no, they don’t,” she corrected me. “I ain’t about to have one. I told Joe to spend his money for something we need. He’s going to get me a dress.”

“But I should think you’d want a wedding ring to keep always and so everybody will know you’re married,” I urged, pursuing the subject.

“Well, I won’t need it for that,” she said, with more logic than I had used. “Because all the folks we know will know about it just as soon as we marry, and hit’ll be in the paper, and I don’t see what difference hit would make to folks we don’t know whether they can tell if I’m married or not, and anyhow, I’m not going anywhere but to Big Creek.”

And she didn’t have a ring, either.

The girl has probably made no preparations for her new home. Cannily, she gets her man first, knowing that until it actually happens, the marriage is uncertain. Anyway, there is no hurry about getting house-plunder, because while they figure things out they can live with one family or the other.

When he can, the husband will put up a little house of his own, thrown together of planed lumber with just enough underpinning to hold it up, either a bungalow of the simplest type or a hip-roofed, four-room cabin with an enveloping porch.

The bride will get a stove, bed, and sheets, a few home-made chairs and a table, a range, and cooking utensils. Then she will sweep the yard, put out a garden and ‘pale’ a few flowers in ‘brash’ against the ravages of the dogs and chickens. If her man did not have a job when they married, he gets one now in one of the mines, or perhaps at one of the mica or spar grinding plants.

The wife will keep the little house clean without spending much time at it, boil the clothes in an iron kettle by the branch side, summer and winter; wash them in galvanized tubs and hang them on the fence; take care of the pigs and chickens; milk the cow and tend the garden. After the children come, they will all turn in and help, and there is not much lonely hoeing.

“Cabins in the Laurel,” by Muriel Earley Sheppard, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1935

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