We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. Check us out on the Stitcher network, available on mobile phones, in-car dashboards and tablets worldwide. Just click below to start listening:
We open today’s show with a guest piece from author Michael Rivers, whose latest book, Appalachia Mountain Folklore, is due out at the end of December. “The local people here talk about a Hunter’s Moon,” says Rivers about one of the tales. “During this time they heavily advise against hunting bear up here. According to them, the hounds will pick up the scent of a bear you won’t be able to resist tracking. This bear will lead you away from your camp and lose you in the woods…only to appear just far enough ahead of you to make you follow him. You will track him for miles without realizing what you have done before it is too late to turn back.”
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.
“Thanksgiving and Christmas were our favorite days,” says Curtis R. Pfaff of Allais, KY in this oral history from 2000. “The turkey and ham dinners were the best foods I ever knew. The turkey would be purchased live and dressed out the day before. I will always remember the wonderful smell of the dressing cooking. I don’t think anyone makes this dressing, also called stuffing, anymore.”
Next, we’ll spend some time with the saga of a former Confederate surgeon named Dr. Charles T. Pepper. In 1872 Dr. Pepper started a soon-to-be-thriving business dispensing patent medicines in a brick pharmacy in Rural Retreat, VA. He also spent time mixing mountain herbs, roots and seltzer into a fizzy brew whose commercially bottled descendants you may have encountered.
Black Friday, the day when shoppers exhaust themselves in search of the perfect Christmas gift at bargain basement prices, is upon us. It’s a good time to step back and appreciate the invention of a great American toy. Before there were Transformer action figures, digital cameras, or Playstations, there were Tinkertoys. These and a host of other construction toys in the early 20th century helped kids throughout Appalachia learn by exercising what we now think of as “spatial intelligence.”
We’ll wrap things up with an excerpt from a 1903 book titled The Child That Toileth Not, by one Thomas Robinson Dawley. Dawley toured the mountainous regions and the mill towns of the South for the federal Department of Labor to determine whether child labor laws were necessary to protect children from textile magnates who were improperly using their labor to enrich themselves at the detriment of the children. Penny Forrester, of the UPCountry Friends group in Greenville County, SC, offers up an insightful preface to Dawley’s journal entries.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Internet Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian fiddle music by Bill Stepp and Mae Pucket in a 1933 recording of Old Hen.
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.