Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Today's guest post comes from WV native, Mike Ramsburg. Mike is a storyteller, poet, and fellow blogger. You can find more of his writings here. I shared a post last week about my western NC mountain accent and it reminded me of one of Mike's stories, "Voices".

Photo by Jason Rosewell via Unsplash


Everyone in my family has a different voice.
Mama’s voice is flat and smooth, a raised flower bed where beautiful trillium and violets and bloodroot spring forth from her warm breaths. Syrup sounds like surp and darn sounds like durn. She speaks tiredly, as if all the cookin’ and cleanin’ and worshin’ and lovin’ us kids has given her a wearied disposition, and it can be heard in the way she speaks. Still, mama’s voice is lovely. It’s comforting, and full of hope.
Dad’s voice is strong, and sharp, a steel sword which escapes his mouth and pierces the air around him. His words are prolonged, as if he wants to give them a little more time to live in this world. Porch is pourch and now is nouw. His voice demands attention, and his whispers sound like the feedback on a turned down AM radio. When he’s angry, his syllables become wrath; we dare not speak back for fear of vocal retribution.
My sister — her voice. It’s like a cluster of baby tadpoles, all hurriedly swimming, the water gliding by their little bodies made of consonants and vowels. When she speaks, her words move quickly, a rapid tut-tut-tut, high pitched and seeking notice, as if she were forever singing King-Kong-Kitchie-Kitchie-Ki-Me-O. Like is lyeuk and used is youst. Her voice is heartening in its familiarity, though her constant whirlwind of words — a machine gun of vocal bullets which never seems to run out — is the bane of my present reality.
Then there’s me. My voice. An ebb and flow of broken words, rising and falling and rising again like a string of mountains with barren trees, brown and dying at autumn’s end, no sign of beauty remaining. My mouth opens and out pops a word and each set of vowels-turned-diphthong slides up the vocal scale and shatters haltingly, ending each word higher than it first began. Not that it was always this way. Once my voice was smooth and steady, a flowing creek that I could splash merrily in. Mama says this too will pass, it’s just a part of growing up. That I am developing — that’s the word she uses — progressing earlier than my peers. That the other boys will soon sound like me.
I have a hard time believing her. I know it to be true that every voice is different. What if mine decides to permanently stay in this vocal purgatory, never reaching its final destination? What if I am forever endowed with a larynx that can’t quite make up its mind whether it wants to produce sound at high or low frequencies? What I want is a voice like dads — strong, and sharp, steady and prolonged. A voice that doesn’t get ridiculed in school.
What I want is a voice of my own.
I hope you enjoy this creative nonfiction piece that is a part of Mike's series on coming of age in rural Appalachia. You can find more of the series here

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Step Back In Time: Unusual Names

My Dad recently shared some old family pictures with me. I love genealogy, old pictures, and stories so I was tickled pink! I decided to do a "Great Great Grandparent Collage" and it got me thinking about unusual names. 

The majority of the people in these pictures have common names such as John, Martha, Warren, etc. but the mother in the top picture is my great great grandmother, Narcissus Whilhemina Bonnine Norvell. Now ain't that a mouthful? Of course I never had the chance to meet most of the people in this collage but I did get to meet the little girl that is to the right of Narcissus. She was my great grandma, Alice Annalou Norvell Roberts. She and my great grandpa, Fred, lived on the reservation in Cherokee, N.C. until they died.

I didn't get to meet my grandmother, Alice and Fred's daughter, but my mom did give me something of hers...my middle name, Loadeema. I didn't really like the name when I was younger but grew to appreciate always having a link to the grandmother I never knew and our Cherokee heritage.

Do you happen to have an unusual name or know of one in your family? I would love to hear them! Please share them in the comment section below. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I Like The Way You Talk

"I like the way you talk." That's something that several people have told me throughout my life. You never really notice that you even have an accent until you leave home. 

I went to New York City after my senior year of high school on a church mission trip. Talk about culture shock! I had been to several large cities before the trip including Atlanta, Oklahoma City, & Minneapolis but none compared to New York. Everything was so FAST. The city was like an active beehive 24/7. We did street ministry in many different areas and spoke to hundreds of people. You would think that they were speaking another language. Their accent combined with the sheer speed of speaking took quite some processing. It would take me a good 5-10 seconds for whatever was being said to register in this mountain mind of mine. I'm sure they were thinking that they wish I would just hurry and spit out whatever it was I was trying to say too. 

A few months later, I went off to college in north east Georgia (Toccoa Falls College). Never would I have imagined that my accent would be such a big part of my identity. Apparently, I had been turning my one syllable name (Kim) into two (Ki-um) and I had no idea. Let me tell ya, everyone let me know about it.  One of my good friends was a guy from Canada and we had the biggest laughs when we hung out. I mean this guy ended most questions with "eh?" and tried to convince me that a toboggan was a sled instead of a sock hat that you wear on your head. Funny, huh? 

When I would come in from school, I would bring some of my friends with me so they could get some of my Granny's cooking and realize what they had been missing their whole lives. They all usually enjoyed the food and the hospitality of my grandparents but boy did they laugh at the things we'd say. Most wanted to know exactly where is yonder and just what is a yuns. 

Several of my friends were from the Raleigh area and I was amazed at how much of a difference just a few hours could make in our different dialects. People in the mountains have a dialect that is unique and not all people in NC sound the same. One of my biggest pet peeves is how outsiders tend to associate ignorance with our mountain dialect. Stereotypes are hard to be broken but I assure you that some of the smartest people you could ever know say yuns & yonder. 

I was reminded again of just how country I can sound while my brother, The Mater Hater, was over at my house this past Christmas. We had been talking about living self-sufficiently when I said, "There will be a lot of people in trouble if we ever lose power for a long period of time." He looked at me and laughed and pointed out that I said pire (rhymes with fire) for power. I didn't even notice. He's getting a little uppity if you ask me. ;)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Phrases of Appalachia: Fair to middlin'

A conversation that I had with my son today...
Son: How are you feeling, mom?
Me: Ah, fair to middlin'.
Son: *blink, blink*
Me: Fair to middlin'....it means so-so, average, okay.
Son: Then why didn't you just say average.
Me: *blink, blink*

I figured that if he didn't know what it meant then there might be a few of you who didn't know either. Just like many words that end with -ing in Appalachia, middling got whittled down to just middlin'.

"Middling is and old Scots word and has been in use since at least the 15th century with the same meaning as now, that is, 'of medium or moderate size, strength, quality." - phrases.org

Middling is a term used by farmers to identify the quality of products such as flour, sugar, produce, and cotton. For cotton, the specific grades ran from the best quality (fine), through good, fair, middling and ordinary to the least good (poor), with a number of intermediates, one being middling fair. 

While the phrase is still used this way, it has also worked its way into everyday conversation. It is a phrase that I hear and use quite often.

Have you ever heard or used this phrase? 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What would you like the world to know about the REAL Appalachia?

If possible, what one thing would your want the world to know about the REAL Appalachia as opposed to what the media chooses to portray about the area?

I would like everyone to know that having a slow, southern Appalachian accent does not mean the speaker is automatically ignorant or uneducated. Making fun of the way I speak is a surefire way of getting my dander up. I don't think there is many things more beautiful than hearing an educated southerner speak.

What would you like the world to know? Please let me know in the comment section below. I'm working on a future blog post and would love to share some of your responses!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Phrases of Appalachia: Lo And Behold

Today's phrase, lo and behold, is one that is used frequently by my Granny. It seems that she can't tell a story without throwing a "lo and behold" in here and there. It's a phrase that you use when you want to express that you couldn't quite believe that something happened. 

Example: The weatherman said we were going to get a good snow and that we needed to make sure we were prepared. I decided to go to town to get a few things and, lo and behold, there wasn't a loaf of bread to be found for 30 miles!

This is a great phrase to use when you're trying to exaggerate a point in a story that you're telling. It helps express your excitement a little better. 

According to phrases.org, the origin of the complete phrase is first recorded in an 1808 letter in the Correspondence 1787-1870, of Queen Victoria's lady of bedchamber - Lady Sarah Spencer Lyttlelton: 
"Hartington...had just told us how hard he had worked all the morning...when, lo and behold! M. Deshayes himself appeared."

Now, thanks to Granny, several of us are using the term in everyday conversations. We all like to talk *ahem* and tell stories when we're all together and we like them to be as exciting as possible. I believe my Dad and his brothers like to try to outdo each other once they get started. They can't hold a candle to Granny or Pa though. Granny also usually ends her stories with "and that's the end of that bear tale!". 

Have you heard this phrase used in your neck of the woods?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Appalachian Traditions: Old Christmas

Did you know that Christmas used to be observed on January 6th? The date wasn't changed to December 25th until the late 1500s but those who were not Catholic continued celebrating Jesus' birth on the 6th until the mid 1700s.

The reason for the change had to do with a switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The switch caused a 12 day shift of Old Christmas (January 6th) to now fall on December 25th. 

"In the 170 years between the time the Gregorian calendar was adopted by the Catholic world and the time that it was finally adopted by Great Britain and her colonies, the New World was explored, colonies under British control were established on the eastern coast of America, and the southern Appalachian Mountains became settled by many of our ancestors. During this time, Great Britain and the American colonists still used the Julian calendar.

The pioneers of the southern Appalachian Mountains were a hardy lot and furiously independent. They wanted to live their lives in isolation, free of the intrusions of government. To be told by some far away government to change their calendar and the dates of their celebrations did not sit well with them. Many of them were less than enthusiastic about the new Gregorian calendar and were not willing to adopt all of it's changes. Christmas had long been celebrated on January 6th, a couple of weeks after the winter solstice, and many people were not willing to celebrate Christmas on an earlier date; many continued to celebrate Old Christmas 12 days after the December 25th celebration date set by the new calendar. Since Appalachia stayed relatively isolated over the years, this tradition held on long here after most of the country had forgotten it. But, even here, the celebration of Old Christmas has faded away until today only a few of us still acknowledge the January 6 celebration of Old Christmas. Unfortunately, many of today's young folks have never even heard of Old Christmas, letting alone, have celebrated it. In another generation or two, celebrating Old Christmas will be a thing of the past, and another old-time mountain tradition will have been completely forgotten" Source: The Mountain Eagle

I'm afraid I was one of those folks who hadn't heard of Old Christmas until I started reading some of the Foxfire books several years ago. I asked my Granny if she remembered any of her people celebrating it when she was growing up and she didn't. I have had some of you who follow this blog comment about Old Christmas. I was told that in some places, it is traditional to give gifts for each of the 12 days of Christmas and some wait until January 6th to celebrate when the Wise Men gave gifts to baby Jesus. 

I found this in A Foxfire Christmas: Appalachian Memories and Tradtions: "A lot of people celebrated both Christmas and Old Christmas - you know, the 12 days after December 25th. Some of the old people took all those days off for Christmas. Generally, everybody would get out and go places and stay with their friends and have a big time for 3 or 4 days." - Lawton Brooks 

I don't know about you but I wish Christmas was more like it was back then. Did you or anyone you know celebrate Old Christmas? What were your traditions? I'd love to hear from you. Happy Old Christmas!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Childhood Memories: Popcorn and Hee Haw *Recipe for Salted Caramel Popcorn included.*

When I was little, my brother and I would spend the night with my Granny and Pa Holloway. We loved getting to stay over and always had a good time. Granny would usually cook one of our favorite suppers for us to enjoy...grannies are good like that. After a long day of quilt fort building and games, we'd settle in for the evening for my favorite thing: eating a big pot of popcorn and watching Hee Haw. 

I wasn't born until 1979, so I only got to enjoy the reruns. I remember my Granny telling me that her Daddy liked to watch it too. Grandpa Wilson (Granny's Daddy) died when I was 2 so I don't really have any memories of him but always loved that I got to enjoy something that I knew he liked too. My Pa liked the show more than my Granny and I always hoped that there would be something funny enough on the show to make him laugh until he lost his breath and slap his knee. He had one of those laughs that would get you tickled too. 

My favorite memories from Hee Haw are the "Pfft, You Were Gone" song, Archie Campbell telling the story of Rindercella, and Grandpa Jones' supper report. My son enjoys the show too and still asks, "Hey, Grandpa, what's for supper?" Here's a clip I found of Hee Haw's Rindercella over on YouTube if you've never seen it or would like to watch and laugh again. Roy Clark, Minnie Pearl, & Buck Owens will always evoke happy childhood memories for me.

My Pa was the official popcorn popper at my grandparent's house. He would take my Granny's big yellow pot (that she still has and I hope to have some day), pour in a little oil, heat it up, and pour in the popcorn. After he put the lid on, we'd all wait to hear that first little pop. He'd shake the pot around on the stove eye to keep the popcorn from burning and take it off the heat once the popping slowed down. What a treat! Even when we finally got a microwave, this was and is my favorite way to make popcorn. 

A couple of nights ago, my little family was watching a movie and I got a craving for popcorn but wanted something salty AND sweet. I decided to whip up a batch of Salted Caramel Popcorn. It's really not a hard recipe to make but will take a little time.

Salted Caramel Popcorn
  • 1/2 c. popcorn kernels
  • coconut oil or preferred oil for popping
  • 3/4 c. butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. light corn syrup
  • sea salt
Preheat oven to 300*. Add coconut oil to a large pot until there's enough to cover the bottom of your pot. Heat for a few minutes and add popcorn kernels. Place lid on pot and listen for the first kernels to begin popping. Slightly shake the pot back and forth over the stove eye until popping slows down and then remove from heat. I like to look through my popcorn and remove all unpopped seeds once it cools for a few minutes. In a saucepan melt butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and about 1 tsp of sea salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 4 minutes without stirring. While your caramel mixture boils, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. After the 4 minutes, remove from heat, pour, and mix the caramel over the popped corn. Once mixed, pour the covered popcorn onto your lined baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Place sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring the mixture every 10 minutes. Pour mixture onto parchment paper spread out on your counter until cooled. Enjoy!

Warning: Highly addictive! 

Please let me know if you get a chance to make this delicious sweet and salty snack! I'd also love to hear about any of your favorite memories of Hee Haw or spending the night with your grandparents. You can leave me a message down below in the comments section. And remember, if you ever lall in fove with a prandsome hince, be sure and slop your dripper!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day Traditions & Superstitions

Happy New Year, y'all! Can you believe how fast this past year has went by? I've heard it said that the older you get, the quicker it goes and I believe it! I have been digging around trying to find some New Year's traditions and superstitions to share with you and only a couple of them were familiar to me with the most familiar being the tradition of eating black eyed peas, greens, and pork for the first meal of the new year.
I have practiced this tradition for as long as I can remember. My Granny Janice ALWAYS made this for our New Year's supper but would add coleslaw (I wouldn't eat greens when I was younger), stewed taters, & cornbread. Come to find out, there is  a story behind this southern tradition. 

During the Civil War, the Northern army would come in and take anything they could carry and eat anything they could eat. This included livestock and any grains they could use to feed them...but they couldn't take it all. After the smoke cleared, the remaining southerners weren't sure how they were going to avoid starvation. Luckily for them, Sherman's troops had left silos filled with black eyed peas. At that time, the North only used black eyed peas as feed for livestock. The Northern troops saw it as the thing of least value and since they had taken all of the livestock, what use would it be to the southerners? They didn't realize they were leaving the very thing that would keep the southerners from starving. From New Year's Day 1866 until now, the tradition of eating black eyed peas for luck continues. 

We always ate greens because they were said to represent wealth for the new year. The more greens you ate, the more green you'd have in your wallet. I'm still not sure there's any truth behind this but at this point, I'm not willing to chance it! Pork is said to represent looking and moving forward to the year ahead because pigs can't turn their head from side to side. This is the only one of the trio that I never knew! 

Now that you know all about that tradition, here are a few New Year's Appalachian superstitions:

  • Immigrants from Wales believed that spreading ashes over the hearth on New Year's Eve could predict events for the upcoming year. If footprints left in the ashes headed towards the front door, someone would die. If the footprints went into a bedroom, there would be a new family member in the home. The shape of a coffin in the ashes predicted death and the shape of a ring foretold a marriage. 
  • If a girl would like to know who she will marry, she can throw a ball of yarn out of her bedroom window at midnight on New Year's Eve, and say, "As I wind he comes" over and over as she begins winding the yarn back into a ball. If she is to marry, her future husband will hand the yarn back through the window to her. If no one appears, she will not marry.
  • It is bad luck to hang up a new calendar before the first day of the new year.
  • If there is no food in the pantry on New Year's Day, it is destined to remain empty the whole year.
  • Well water is said to turn to wine at midnight on New Year's Eve.
  • If a man enters your home first on New Year's Day, it is a sign that you'll have good luck all year. If it's a woman, the opposite is true.

I hope you have enjoyed these traditions and superstitions and I would love to hear any that you know. Please share them in the comment section down below and I hope each of you have a blessed New Year!