When my stories are true, why, I don’t yodel to the end of the story

Posted by | August 31, 2012

“I’ve been a guide now for quite a few years, and I was borned and rared in the Great Smoky Mountains, at the foot of Mount Leconte, and when I was a boy, I didn’t do anything but hunt. One day I went out to, to shoot some turkey, and just as soon as I entered the woods, here I saw a big flock of turkeys up on a limb, and I had this old cap and ball gun.

“Well, I was a little bit choicey, and I didn’t want to just shoot one and all the rest of the flock would fly away. So I tried to figure out some way that I could line these turkeys up and kill more than one, as this cap and ball gun that takes you so long to load them, why, the whole flock of turkeys is gone.

“And I was a very good shot at that time, but the trouble was that I always made them, the meat, the feathers fly, but the trouble was the meat went with it the most of the time. So I decided I couldn’t line these turkeys up, and I just decided that I’d just pick one out or aim at the middle of the limb probably would be better. So I just aimed at the middle of the limb where these turkeys was settin’.

Wiley Oakley and friends, Great Smoky MountainsPhoto caption reads: “Doug Smith, Raymond Torrey, Wiley Oakley, and George Barber on a special hike. October 11, 1925”

“At the crack of this gun, why, I split the limb open and all these turkeys’ feet fell right down in the crack of this limb. It closed in on them and fastened the whole flock. Here I had about a dozen or two fastened in this limb. By aiming at the limb instead of picking out one turkey, why, I got the whole business, but I had a hard time in climbing up the tree to get the turkeys out.

“Of course, when I yodel to the end of a story, that means you don’t have to believe it unless you want to [YODELING]. Lord, Lord, this is about the best turkey hunt I ever made. Well now then, I have a true story. When they’re true, why I don’t yodel to end of the story, but when I was a boy, I did do quite a bit of hunting, and, and we had these old-fashion kind of guns.

“The first kind of gun was called the flintlock gun. You had to carry powder in the horn, and they had a little pan where you pour the powder in, and then the flint lock goes down and sets the powder off, and of course, of a rainy day you couldn’t do much good a-huntin’. This was the first kind of a gun that I ever owned.

“Then a little later I had the cap and ball gun. You could go out on a rainy day and kill turkey, but you wouldn’t kill them by the dozen. You’d only kill one at the time. The most of the time it was like I said before. They, usually you’d do a lot of good shooting, but they always knocked the feathers out, but the meat went along with them. So I’m not very good at story, story telling, not today, beg to be excused.”

—Wiley Oakley
Gift shop owner and professional guide
born Sept. 12, 1885, Gatlinburg, TN

Joseph Sargent Hall interviewed Oakley in the Great Smoky Mountains in 1939. Oakley had a fourth- or fifth-grade education and some self-education.

As a graduate student, Hall began working for the National Park Service in the summer of 1937 collecting the speech of the Smoky Mountain inhabitants. He talked to people still living within the bounds of the park and to former Smoky Mountain residents who had been displaced by the park.

That first summer, Hall collected four notebooks full of details of the language, informant profiles, and bits and pieces of the mountain culture from songs to herbal remedies. The bulk of Hall’s work in the mountains spans from 1937 to 1941, but he continued refining and processing his collection for the rest of his life.

sources: Joseph Sargent Hall Collection/ East Tennessee State University/ Archives of Appalachia — http://www.etsu.edu/cass/archives/Collections/afindaid/a422.html

Joseph+Sargent+Hall Great+Smoky+Mountains+National+Park Wiley+Oakley Gatlinburg+TN appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

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