During the 1930s and 1940s Rose Thompson worked as a home supervisor with the Farm Security Administration in Georgia. While she worked with farmers and their wives — teaching them to put up preserves, make cotton mattresses, and build chick brooders — she listened to the stories they told.
Thompson spent some time during the summer of 1946 in Clayton, in Rabun County GA, where an elderly black preacher told her the tale of Fiddler’s Mountain.
“I had heard that there were very few blacks in Rabun County,” she recounted, “and I knew better than just to go rambling around. So I asked someone at the courthouse if it would be all right for me to go up there, and that person showed me the way to where an old black woman lived. She was nice enough about it, but she was a little vague about why she thought they called it Fiddlers Mountain.
“But she said the Reverend over there, he lived around a bend in the road, would know. She sent for the preacher, and sure enough he could and then they told it together although the preacher did most of the talking.”
“Why do they call it Fiddlers Mountain? Because nothing lives on it except those two musicians—just a fiddling and a swaying as they sit there and play. Any moonshiny night you can see them just a pulling the bow; and if you listen with a keen ear and a fearful heart, you can hear their music.
Bless your time, nobody knows how long they have been sitting there, but they are playing yet—to be sure. It was too long ago that a man came to one of the fiddlers and asked him to play the fiddle for him that night. Come to such and such a mountain. Going to be a big ball. And when night came, the fiddler went up on that mountain and took another man with him.
And when they got up the mountain there, they saw a great big house. Carriages and horses standing around. House all lit up. Laughing and talking going on—men and women all dressed up; women with trail train dresses on. Gave the fiddlers a seat and they went to playing. Every time they went through a cotillion, would come and pay the fiddlers. What a time they had! And just about that time the old Devil pranced in all dressed up and took his seat. They were all dancing and a bold gal walked up to the Devil and asked him to be her partner.
Devil got up and bowed and scraped and led the gal out in the ring. Then he set in to dance. He danced and danced. Cut so many capers that he pretty near danced that poor gal to death. Folks commenced to look at him and saw he had a pewter eye. After a while he cut so many fancy steps, they saw he had a club foot. All quit dancing. But the Devil kept on and danced the gal plumb to death. All the folks fell down on their knees and the Devil went out and took the side of the house with him—a braying like a mule.
And when the clock struck twelve, house went out of existence. House disappeared. House went down like a light going out. Nothing left but the two musicians still sitting up there on the mountain—just a fiddling and a swaying.
Hush, child! Can’t you hear the music?
Source: Hush, Child! Can’t You Hear the Music? By Rose Thompson, Charles Allen Beaumont, 1982, Univ of GA Press
The book is illustrated with photographs taken by Thompson and WPA photographer Jack Delano
Rose Thompson was a native of Greene County, Georgia