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We thought a switch was good for everything but the toothache, then, and we didn’t hesitate to use them

Posted by | July 15, 2016

Part 1 of 2

Five miles out from Old Fort, up near Catawba Falls; that was my first school. No teacher ever stayed there five months. Usually, they’d stay five or six weeks.

All right. The regulations were that your dress had to come down to your ankle bone. That’s what you had to wear while you taught. I made me three of those happy little items, and I wore them in time of school just like stage clothes, and then when I got out of there and went over to my boarding place, I put on my regular clothes, which barely covered my knee caps, and I dressed like I was clothed and in my right mind.

There was one man in there that tore up the school every year. People put a chip on my shoulder and they just as well put a rich pine on there when I first went in there. “Don’t you talk to his children.”

Now I’m not going to call that man’s name. I’m going to call him Champ Taylor, because that wasn’t his name. “Don’t you scold Champ Taylor’s children. You be good to them. Kinda pet ‘em along. Maybe he’ll let you stay the five months. We like you; we like this school. We don’t want you to have to go away.”

“Well, what does Champ Taylor do to the other teachers?”

“He comes with his old hawk bill knife and makes them run back to Old Fort, and they have to get out of here. Why, that there man last year, the last time they sent a man in this school he was the third teacher they’d sent, and he had to leave his suitcase back there in my back bedroom where he boarded here, and leave out of here and have the man that runs the river barn in Old Fort come back up here and get it; Champ Taylor had him on the go.”

They said, “He had to run out of here in the dark.”

rural one-room NC school, 1903Rural One-Room School, P. R. Young and pupils, Transylvania County, NC, 1903, left half of photo.

And people would say to me, “Miss Graham, when Champ Taylor gets after you, air you gonna run? Watcha gonna do? He don’t let no teacher say in here no length of time.”

I said, “Oh, I don’t know. I’m no good at running. Maybe I’ll have to wait and see what I’ll do. I just don’t know, but I’ll meet that situation when it comes.”

Right up the road above the school house there was a sawmill. The year before that, four of the bigger girls had got pregnant with illegitimate children, supposedly by those wagon drivers that were comers and goers, and they were driving wagons out of there to haul that lumber to Old Fort for sale, for shipping on the railroad.

I laid the law down the first day of school. I said, “Now, let me tell you: nobody’s going off of this schoolground after you get here until time to go home. You’ve got to wait until three-thirty before you leave here. Nobody is going to that road to talk to these old wagon drivers, and if you do, I’ll thrash you.”

We thought a switch was good for everything but the toothache, then, and we didn’t hesitate to use them. I had three, already dried, that my Committeemen furnished me, and put them up in the schoolroom; up in one corner. They were dogwood. So we weren’t “Woodman spare that tree” people then. Things went along calmly.

Teachers had to spend one night in every home that sent them children. I wondered what I’d do when it came to going to Champ Taylor’s, but I figured that if that was part of the prescription, I’d take it. So I began to visit every Tuesday night and every Thursday night, but mostly on Tuesday night, because on Monday I walked up there from Old Fort, and on Friday I walked back home those five miles after teaching all day, so visiting was confined mostly to Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

I divided it up and made my list, so that the children knew when I was coming to each home. They kept saying, “Are you going to Peachy Carson’s house?” That’s another name I’ve changed. “Teachers never did go up to Peachy Carson’s. They don’t stay here long enough to get up there. Peachy lives in the very last house, way up Carson’s Flats.

Peachy, by the way, had a beautiful peaches complexion. One of the most lovely that I ever saw, but here hands were terrible. She hoed. She had the awfullest corns on her hands. They felt like somebody’s that played golf eighteen rounds every two hours.

But Peachy could pick up a hundred pounds of cottonseed meal and just toss it into a wagon as easy as I could pick up ten pounds of sugar. Peachy’s house was way back. Well, I didn’t know whether I was going to get to Peachy’s house or not, but I firmly resolved that I’d go there, and I left it for next to the last place. Champ Taylor’s was the last place on my list. I was going there last of all.

End of part 1
Continues tomorrow

Daintry Allison
(b. 1896 in Old Fort, NC)
Interviewed July 24, 1975
Southern Highlands Research Center
Louis D. Silveri Oral History Collection,
D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections,
University of North Carolina at Asheville


The Walls of Jericho

Posted by | July 14, 2016

Jackson County, AL has the highest concentration of caves, springs and sinkholes of any county in the United States. Tucked in among the Paint Rock River watershed’s underground splendor is one of Appalachia’s most magnificent canyons, a 150-foot-wide bowl-shaped natural amphitheater that sits between 200-foot-tall limestone walls.

The “Walls of Jericho” gets its name, according to local legend, from a traveling minister who found it in the late 1800s and declared it needed a biblical name to properly describe its splendor.

Walls of Jericho, Alabama

John Robert Kennamer, Sr. (1873-1952), whose father owned most of the land upon which the town of Paint Rock, AL was built, does mention the presence of Methodist and Baptist circuit riders in the area in his 1935 “History of Jackson County, Alabama,” but he doesn’t comment at all on the naming of the Walls.

“It is said David Crockett left his name on a tree in upper Paint Rock Valley,” Kennamer goes on to note, “but he has left no record of his impression as he stood upon some lofty hill-top in the wilds that later became Jackson County.”

Crockett briefly mentions his hunting activities in the area in his “A narrative of the life of David Crockett” (1834), but is silent on whether he encountered the Walls formation:

“We worked on for some years, renting ground, and paying high rent, until I found it wan’t the thing it was cracked up to be ; and that I couldn’t make a fortune at it just at all. So I concluded to quit it, and cut out for some new country.

“In this time we had two sons, and I found I was better at increasing my family than my fortune. It was therefore the more necessary that I should hunt some better place to get along; and as I knowed I would have to move at some time, I thought it was better to do it before my family got too large, that I might have less to carry.

“The Duck and Elk River country was just beginning to settle, and I determined to try that.

“I had now one old horse, and a couple of two year old colts. They were both broke to the halter, and my father-in-law proposed, that, if I went, he would go with me, and take one horse to help me move.

“So we all fixed up, and I packed my two colts with as many of my things as they could bear ; and away we went across the mountains.

“We got on well enough, and arrived safely in Lincoln County, on the head of the Mulberry fork of Elk River. I found this a very rich country, and so new, that game, of different sorts, was very plenty. It was here that I began to distinguish myself as a hunter, and to lay the foundation for all my future greatness ; but mighty little did I know of what sort it was going to be.

“Of deer and smaller game I killed abundance; but the bear had been much hunted in those parts before, and were not so plenty as I could have wished. I lived here in the years 1809 and ‘10, to the best of my recollection, and then I moved to Franklin County, and settled on Bean’s Creek, where I remained till after the close of the last war.”

The upper Paint Rock River watershed, including the Walls of Jericho area, is part of a 60,000-acre tract once owned by Texas oil baron Henry Lee Carter. When he died in 1977, the Walls of Jericho were sold and closed to visitors. For the next 26 years, it was a wood source for a paper company, and a hunting preserve.

The area is one of the few intact large functional landscapes remaining in the Southeast, with the highest diversity of subterranean invertebrates in the world. It is home to 100 species of fish and about 45 mussel species. Two of the mussel species (pale lilliput and Alabama lampmussel) are found nowhere else in the world, and one fish species (palezone shiner) is confined to the Paint Rock River and one stream in Kentucky.

Three globally imperiled fish (sawfin shiner, blotchside logperch and snail darter) occur in the Paint Rock River.

This area is also the epicenter of the rare Tennessee cave salamander and is an important habitat for migratory songbirds such as the endangered Cerulean Warbler.

Plant loving hikers who decide to tackle the descent along the canyon rim into the Walls of Jericho will be rewarded with the sight of lobelia, maple-leaf viburnum, snake root, horsemint and strawberry bush, more colorfully called hearts bursting with love.

Alabamians will rarely encounter the wild columbine, seen popping out of cracks in the limestone rocks at Jericho– Monte Sano Mountain and Desoto State Park are the only other locations it can be found in the state.

The Nature Conservancy bought 21,000 acres of the Paint Rock River watershed in 2003, and then sold 12,500 acres to State of Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust for $9.4 million in 2004, so it could prepare it for public access, as part of its mandate to acquire land for public use.

The entire tract of land is comprised of 21,453 acres-12,510 acres in Alabama and 8,943 acres in Tennessee. The only public access to the land is in Jackson County, AL. A new 12 mile trail is tentatively schedule to open in the fall of 2013, expanding future opportunities to enjoy the tract’s many features.



When there was no work many men worked at the drifting

Posted by | July 13, 2016

A great many people in Ekeyville owned their own small boat, a skiff or johnboat. The johnboat is a flat bottomed affair with one set of oar locks and square in the stern. The skiff comes to a sharp bow and a gradual tapering to the stern and generally has two sets of oar locks.

There were many versions of these boats tied along the river bank, all being homemade.

“Drifting” on the Ohio River was a great pastime for those who owned a skiff or johnboat. There was always something floating down stream. In the early days many things of value could be caught, logs, railroad ties worth a dollar, new sawed lumber, boat and barge planks, frames of small buildings. If there came a sudden raise in the river – the better the drifting – for people up stream lost things that were not securely tied up or nailed down.

Usually two men would go together, one to row the boat the other to stand up in the boat with the spar pole to spear the objects floating, fasten a rope securely and then tow to shore.

a johnboat on the Licking RiverExample of a johnboat. Caption reads: “Clarence Sidney Willis rows a johnboat on the Licking River [KY], with Mae Martin and another woman, Sept. 14, 1919″

Ed and Dave McCoy were a team to drift. During the Depression when there was no work and plenty of time many men worked at the drifting. Some of them were Lou Thomas, Charlie Dunlap, Andy Prosko, Wilber Ekey, Frank and Shorty Byers.

John Ekey was a qualified drifter. He could tell at a distance of 10 to 15 ft. if the object was worth towing to shore. In his younger days he often took a younger man or teenager with him to manage the boat. Captain Ekey held a pilot’s license for more than twenty years for the river district between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Gilbert VanDyne always had great pleasure and fun going drifting many trips with Cap Ekey.

There were four times in Cap Ekey’s life when the object caught was a body – and this was unpleasant.

source: “The Stratton Village [OH} Story/A Community History 1880-1976,” by Mary Ekey Robinson, published by the Stratton Village Bicentennial Committee, p. 53, at


Black raspberry season!

Posted by | July 12, 2016

July. Hottest, most humid month of the year. So put on your highest boots, long pants, and a long shirt, and head for the woods. Because July is also black raspberry season, and you’re not going to find those sweet sweet delights any other way (oh, I guess you could plant a couple of rows in the garden, but where’s the adventure in that?) In much of Appalachia, black raspberries are simply called blackberries, even though they are not. Call them Rubus occidentalis if you’re of a scientific bent; Blackcap, or Scotch Cap if you’re not. The black fruit makes them look like blackberries, but the taste is unique and not like either red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) or blackberry (Rubus fruticosus).

Don’t be fooled by the red berries on the plants. They are not the same as the red raspberry, but simply unripe berries. They’ll be a lot harder to pull off than the ripe berries anyhow, so why fight? You’ll have sore thumbs & index fingers by day’s end.

The two raspberries DO share the distinctively white underside of the leaves, and fruit that readily detaches from the carpel. One big difference between the two is that black raspberry’s stems are more thorny.

So throw a rope over your shoulder to hold your berry bucket. You may be tempted to skip the heavy clothing and the fancy sling, but if you do you’ll have hell to pay. Raspberry’s arching canes typically reach 3 to 5 feet high, forming dense, tangled, thorny thickets. Canes readily root at the tips when they contact the ground. You’re going to need both hands to extricate yourself from them.

And the boots? Well, copperheads and diamondback rattlesnakes love to loll on sun-warmed rock slabs in wooded clearings, and they just will not take kindly to you interrupting their sessions.

Resist eating your all your finds before you get home! There’s no Appalachian summer meal finer than fresh sweet corn, green beans, and a salad with homegrown tomatoes, all finished off by a fresh-from-the-oven, topped-with-vanilla-ice-cream, black raspberry cobbler!


Baseball legend Hack Wilson

Posted by | July 11, 2016

Lewis ‘Hack’ Wilson had already led the National League in homers four out of the previous five years at the beginning of the 1930 season, the year he made baseball history. It was his most glorious season, and the plunge from there was just as astonishing as the rise had been.

Wilson started his career as a catcher in 1921, having caught the eye of minor league president Lewis Thompson from Martinsburg, West Virginia. The 21 year old had been living on his own since age 17 in Chester, Pennsylvania, toiling away at various jobs in a print shop, a locomotive factory, a shipyard, and a silk factory and playing ball for recreation. Thompson had spotted him at one of the local amateur team games and signed the powerful right-handed slugger to his team in the Blue Ridge League.

His Blue Ridge debut made an unusual impact. Sliding into home, he broke his leg and was out of commission until July 11, 1921. While hospitalized, he met Virginia Riddleburger, 31, his future wife whom he married in 1923. They gave birth to their only child, Robert, in 1925. The stress from the fracture made it difficult to perform his catching duties and he returned to action in the outfield by 1922.

Martinsburg fans adopted the happy-go-lucky Wilson and affectionately called him “Stouts.” He continued to outperform the minor league circuit when sold to Portsmouth of the Virginia League the following year and had his contract purchased by John McGraw of the New York Giants at the season’s end.

The 1935 Martinsburg Blue Sox, led by the famed National League slugger Hack Wilson and the great Reggie Rawlings. Wilson is in the first row, 7th from the left. Rawlings is in the back row, 5th from left. Photo courtesy Martinsburg Journal.

The 1935 Martinsburg Blue Sox, led by the famed National League slugger Hack Wilson and the great Reggie Rawlings. Wilson is in the first row, 7th from the left. Rawlings is in the back row, 5th from left. Photo courtesy Martinsburg Journal.

Playing centerfield as a regular in 1924, the right-handed throwing Wilson earned the nickname of a former Cub outfielder, Lawrence “Hack” Miller, who was named after a famous Russian wrestler of the era, George Hackenschmidt.

He performed well at first, but later was weakened by an ankle injury. His lifestyle of booze and womanizing irritated McGraw, which gave him an excuse for a demotion to Toledo in late July of 1925. Wilson rebounded there but was left unprotected at the end of the season and the Cubs drafted him for a mere $5000.

Hack Wilson found his niche in Chicago. Under the keen handling of Joe McCarthy, Wilson never hit less than .313 and batted in over 100 runs in each season. His 56 home runs in 1930, a National League record, stood for 68 years.

Baseball glory couldn’t save Hack Wilson’s private life. His uncontrollable drinking problem fueled a disregard for discipline that resulted in barroom brawls, a reduced playing career, failed marriages and a premature demise in 1948.


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