Well the son-of-a-gun pecked in, now let him peck out

Posted by | November 29, 2011

Nationally recognized herbalist Tommie Bass (1908-1996) was the subject of scholarly and popular books, television features, a front-page essay in the Wall Street Journal, and numerous articles in newspapers and magazines. Bass lived almost his entire life in the Tennessee Valley and Ridge section of Alabama, primarily in Cherokee County.

“I don’t ever get a letter, but what I answer it. One way or the other. And generally speaking, some of them sends a self-stamped envelope, but some of, a lot of them don’t. But when you answer around a hundred letters for twenty-five dollars, twenty-five cents a letter, that runs into money (chuckles). But I answer ‘em anyway.

[Looks through junk mail] “Most everybody gets something like that. And, course, this one here is from the Baptist Church at Centre, their bulletin. And this one here is a-wantin . . . this here is a politician they want me to send money to help me get along, you know, I get ‘em from the Democrats and Republicans, regardless of who they are, and I even get letters from the Catholic priests wanting me to help ‘em, you know, along.

Tommie Bass, Alabama herbalistPhotograph of Tommie Bass by Tom Rankin, 1983.

“Course this is one of them get rich letters here this make you a million dollars in just a few days, you know, send five people five dollars apiece and then when your name gets to the top, why you’ll go a-getting the five dollars — but don’t try it buddy it won’t work.

“Course this here one, here’s another politician. I get ‘em . . . when they’s running here in our state from the Democrats, I’d average two or three letters a day, and then the same way about the Republicans, you know, it just didn’t make no difference just so they can get some money. (chuckles) But I didn’t give ‘em none. I figured . . . the fact of the business is a fellow running for office, a man or a woman, I’m like the little boy was about the peckerwood.

“Peckerwood pecked a hole in a hollow tree and he went over in there, and the little boy he drove a peg in behind it. Somebody said to him, “Son,” said, “you shouldn’t of done the little bird that way.” He said, “Well the son-of-a-gun pecked in, now let him peck out.

“And so I’m that way about a politician. If he wants to get into office, let him get in there (chuckles), but I ain’t gonna try to help him. Course, if he’s a good guy, I’d talk for him, but as far as paying him in there, I don’t go along with that.”

—excerpt from ‘Tommie Bass A Life in the Ridge and Valley Country,’ 1993 video produced by Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Cherokee County Historical Society

sources: www.folkstreams.net/pub/ContextPage.php?essay=154
www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-2166

3 Responses

  • Roger Browning says:

    In a world of black garnin and woods colts running amonk, why does a site based outta New York City even care about a world long gone? A world of time and space we were raised to leave and even now, ridiculed for staying near. Mama was right..you can’t escape your raisin. Yes, we still will, “wrestle you for it”, whether you be the King or just a taker. We still take our part , when called on either to fight or pray. This appears to be a concept that will never completely die. However , our youth stay confused as the roots/memories of our past become layered over with each successive load of garbage covering the ancient soil.

  • Dave Tabler says:

    As you point out, Appalachia was/is “a world of time and space we were raised to leave,” and hence one with roots there can easily find himself following a career to NYC, despite 5 generations of West Virginians behind him.

    I assume the ‘garbage’ you refer to in the statement: “our youth stay confused as the roots/memories of our past become layered over with each successive load of garbage covering the ancient soil” has something to do with the content of this site. How very easy it is to throw stones at the efforts of others. Start your own site and set the record straight as you see it if you feel a compelling need to defend the ancient soil.

  • Roger Browning says:

    Sorry, Mr. Dave…wasn’t about you or the website. Was no point to it for you. Doesn’t always have to be….just a general lament on the shape of the US of A. Peace out and good hunting…

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