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 right side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here:
We open today’s show with the story of the Yahoo, a creature whose cry haunted Kentuckians long before the search engine brand borrowed its name. Daniel Boone told tales of “killing a ten-foot, hairy giant he called a Yahoo,” says John Mack Faragher in a 1992 biography of Boone. The Yahoos are hairy man-like creatures in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, one of Boone’s favorite books. But it appears Swift did not simply make up the name ‘yahoo’ for his novel. “The natives are greatly terrified by the sight of a person in a mask,” says Australian Aboriginal Words in English (1835), “calling him ‘devil’ or Yah-hoo, which signifies evil spirit.”
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.
“You want to know when l really entered public life. I did not enter; I was shot into it, as by a catapult, and I learned politics in front of Gatling guns and Mauser rifles,” says Rebecca Latimer Felton. Until late in her life, Felton saw her career as tied completely to her husband’s. William Felton served three terms (1875-81) in the U.S. Congress. From 1884 to 1890 he served another three terms in Georgia’s state legislature. In this selection from Mrs. Felton’s book Country Life in Georgia in the Days of My Youth she furiously attacks North Georgia politicians who made millions off the convict lease system of the late nineteenth century.
Next, we’ll take a quick look at SW Virginia’s Melungeon community, as seen through the eyes of Bonnie Sage Ball in her 1969 book The Melungeons, Their Origin and Kin. “Church picnics were always attended by Melungeon boys, but my mother once had a difficult time persuading young Willie that he must have a bath and wear a suit in order to participate in a children’s day program. So he appeared, grinning broadly, in my brother’s hand-me-down.”
Today, it’s Tennessee’s largest historic district. During the Great Depression, the Cumberland Homesteads community came into being as part of a nationwide New Deal agrarian movement to create subsistence farm communities to aid out-of-work, rural residents. Cumberland Homesteads was one the first of 33 similar communities built between 1934 and 1938, and eventually consisted of 250 homes, a school, a park area, as well as a stone water tower and governmental building.
We’ll wrap things up with the North Carolina folktale ‘Chicken Thumb.’ A farmer by the name of Hoopie has a randy rooster called Red who’s overly enthusiastic about his job of fertilizing. When Red takes a shine to Daisy the cow, Hoopie decides enough is enough. But Red’s not so easy to catch, and in order to get his hands on the barnyard Romeo, Hoopie has to resort to a hilarious disguise.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Uncle Eck Dunford in a 1928 recording of Old Shoes & Leggins.
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.