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Mountain Speak

Yesterday, I came across an article in The Greenville Journal called “Mountain Speak: The Way We Used to Talk”.  It was a great article, but there was something special about this particular story and I copied directly from their website to include in this post.  Read it, look at the picture that was included with the story, and at the end I will tell you why this was so special.  Enjoy…

Mountain Speak: The Way We Used to Talk 

Technically, it’s called the Appalachian dialect, very much like the Gullah dialect down along the coast. I call it Mountain Speak. At one time, it was prevalent throughout the Appalachian region. 

In Mountain Speak, the sentence, “Well, I reckon if it’s not his, and it’s not hers, it must surely be yours,” came across as, “Waaal, I recken if-en hit ain’t hisen, an hit ain’t hern, hit muss shorely be yourn.” 

I grew up in a time of transition, when the number of people who spoke the Appalachian dialect was dwindling, and now it is rarely heard. 

A lot of people looked down on those who spoke that “country talk.” 

“Murders the King’s English,” my mother used to say.

I was pretty bad myself to use words and phrases that I had heard from my mountain kinfolk and friends. I had to go off to Clemson to learn how to talk right. 

When spoken by a bona fide mountain man, woman or child, the words and phrases flowed off the tongue like warm honey from a jar. Mountain Speak was a euphonic, vividly descriptive, close to the bone way of speaking – mesmerizing music to my young ears.  Nowadays, my “citified” ears yearn to hear it again. 

A burlap bag was a “toe sack” and a paper bag was a “poke.”  You could plow with a horse or a mule using three simple words: “gee” (turn right), “haw” (turn left) and “whoa” (stop).  You would “grabble” the first new potatoes of the year. A chimney was a “chimbly.” A “granny-woman” was a midwife/herb doctor. Enough of anything edible for a meal was a “mess.”

A bear was a “bar.” A hemlock tree was called “spruce pine.” A ruffed grouse was a “pheasant” and a pileated woodpecker was a “wood hen.” Ginseng was known as “sang.”

An idle fellow was described as not having any “gumption,” as evidenced by the fact that he was frequently seen “loafering around.”  When you threw something away, you “got shed” of it. When somebody or something flipped end over end, my father used to say it “turned a tumasod.” 

I recall being told a story that involved a sow bear and her cubs climbing a tree – “That ole she-bar and her gang o’ littluns clem that hickry tree lickity split. I swanny, I never seed enythang like it in all my born days.”  Another story about a panther began, “One day, of an evening, right about dusky dark, that ole painter commenced ta caterwauling, screamin’ like a full-growed woman.  Hit wuz right up thar on the tippy top o’ that ridge.” 

People also had different ideas about things back then. My uncle Clenith divided everybody in the world into one of two categories. You were either “from around here” or you were from “off.”  “Off” could be anywhere from Berea to Brazil. 

His son, Michael, who was my age and my best bud growing up, once teased that my wife, Jane, was a Yankee because she was from Rock Hill, which is slightly north of here. 

Dennis Chastain is a Pickens County naturalist, historian and former tour guide. He has been writing feature articles for South Carolina Wildlife magazine and other outdoor publications since 1989.

Appalachian Family

So, what’s so special about this story? Well, actually it’s not the story that’s special, but rather the picture that was included with the story. You see the young girl on the far right? That girl is my great grandma, Minnie Dacus Roper. The adults in the picture with her are her aunt and step-uncle. I don’t have their names, I only know their last name is Chastain and I assume the rest of the children pictured are theirs.

But wait! There’s more! My mom and her siblings called their grandparents Ma and Pa Roper. I have a pie safe and a rocking chair that belonged to them. These were pieces of furniture they used to “set up house-keeping”. The rocker has been refinished, reupholstered, and placed in my office. The pie safe is in storage, but I hope to get it out this winter and finish restoring it too. There is a note written on the back of the pie safe. My great grandma signed it and dated it. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was in the late 1890s.

We have roots in these mountains. Deep roots. History is so cool. Especially family history. Do you know your roots? If you don’t, do some digging. You might dig up a pot of gold and you might dig up some rotten taters, but it’s the journey, not the destination that enlightens us.

“If you don’t recount your family history, it will be lost. Honor your own stories and tell them too. The tales may not seem very important, but they are what binds families and makes each of us who we are.” ~Madeleine L’Engle

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Looking Back. Way Back.

June has come and gone, and July is passing swiftly.  This year we celebrated another Father’s Day.  My mom went home to be with the Lord almost 5 years ago, but dad is 87 and still going strong and we are all very thankful he has seen another year come and go.  My oldest son celebrated his first Father’s Day this year too and we are hoping for many more beautiful, healthy, happy grandchildren.  For today’s post, I want to share a story about my great grandpa’s brother, Columbus W. Jones, who was inducted into the SC Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame.  The story posted on their Facebook page today and I will share it below, exactly as it was written…

SC Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame

Pickens County Magistrate’s Constable Columbus W. Jones

End of Watch:  July 7, 1904

——————————————–

Columbus W. Jones was born on September 30, 1879, in Pickens County to Zachariah Taylor Jones and Susan Whitmire Jones.  He grew up on the family farm near Easley with a sister, Tammie, and two brothers, Taylor and Homer.  After his mother died in 1886, his father married Martha Alice Skelton and together they had five more children.  Columbus never married.

Around 1900, Columbus Jones started working as a Constable for Pickens County Magistrate J.M. Jamison.  On July 7,1904, Magistrate Jamison issued a warrant for Henry Jones, charging him with “Violating a Written Labor Contract”.  Constable C.W. Jones was appointed to execute the warrant.  Constable Jones took three other men to assist in serving the warrant, Robert W. Miller, W. C. Seay, and L. K. Couch.  At around 11:00 o’clock that night, the posse went to the home of Henry’s mother, Mary Jones, about six miles from Easley, near Kays Mill.  Constable Jones and Robert Miller approached the house while Seay and Couch waited by the road.  Constable Jones called to Henry from the porch, asking him to come out.  Henry knew that there was a warrant out for him and he had been dodging the law.  Couch moved up to watch the back door, as Constable Jones continued to talk with Henry through the front door.  Henry threatened to shoot if anyone came inside.  Constable Jones continued to talk Henry into coming out.  When he pushed on the door, Henry pulled it open and shot Constable Jones.  Constable Jones said, “Oh Lord, I’m killed,” as he fell on the porch.  Inside, Henry was reloading, as Couch ran around to the front.  Henry slipped out the back door and fled into the darkness.  Constable Jones was carried by Miller and Couch away from the house and laid on the ground.  He died about 15 minutes later.  Magistrate’s Constable Columbus W. Jones was twenty-five years old.

The two women in the house, Henry’s mother, Mary and his grandmother, Dilly Wells, were arrested and charged as accessories. 

At the inquest on July 8, the Coroner found that Constable Columbus Jones came to his death by a gunshot wound, at the hand of Henry Jones.

On July 9, at 11 o’clock in the morning, funeral services were held for Pickens County Constable Columbus W. Jones at Cedar Rock Baptist Church, and he was buried in the church cemetery.

Columbus W. Jones Tombstone at Cedar Rock Baptist Church Cemetery

Henry Jones was arrested in Spartanburg County and held at the County Jail.  On July 18, the Pickens County Grand Jury indicted Henry Jones for the murder of Constable Columbus Jones.  The charges against Mary Jones and Dilly Wells were “no billed”.  After the indictment was issued, Henry Jones was transferred to the Pickens County Jail.

Over 2,000 people showed up for the trial at Pickens County Courthouse, on July 25th.  The Dispensary was closed before and during the trial, so “there was no whiskey to be got in the county”.  Solicitor Julius E. Boggs prosecuted the case, before Judge D. A. Townsend, and J. P. Carey served as Henry Jones’ attorney.  The other men present during the shooting, all testified for the state during the trial.  Henry’s grandmother, Dilly Wells, testified that Henry shot Constable Jones.  The jury found Henry Jones guilty of the murder of Constable Jones and he was sentenced “to be hung on the 26th day of August 1904.”

On Friday, August 26 at a little before 11 o’clock in the morning, Sheriff McDaniel escorted Henry Jones to the gallows.  “Fully 1,200 people, outside the walls of the building, listened with bated breath at the last words of the man soon to be hurled into eternity.”  Henry Jones avowed his readiness to go to heaven and following the conclusion of his confession, he began to pray. As his prayer trailed off, Sheriff McDaniel descended the steps, one of which when stepped on, sprung the trap.  Henry Jones’ family did not claim his body and he was buried at County expense.

Sheriff McDaniel and Henry Jones

Pickens County Magistrate’s Constable Columbus W. Jones was inducted into the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Hall or Fame in 2000, never to be forgotten.

“To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.” ~Chinese Proverb

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Memorial Day

The dog days of summer came early this year.  It’s only May and temps have already soared into the mid to upper nineties.  We haven’t had any significant rainfall in a few weeks either so it’s not only hot, it’s hot AND dry.  I love it.  Anyhow, my wife and I were sitting in the porch swing one evening and we decided to hop into the jeep and ride up town to get a Wendy’s Frosty.  In the drive-thru, the lady in the car in front of us waved as she was pulling away with her food.  We waved back, but we did not recognize her and just assumed she thought we were someone else.  When we pulled up to the window to pay, the girl working there handed us our Frosties and told us they were paid for.  I asked her if it was the car in front of us that paid for it, and she smiled and nodded.  I think I’ve mentioned it before and if I have, it’s because that happens a lot in our sweet little hometown of Pickens.

I remember when the BLM rallies were being held in cities and towns across the country and a lot of them turned violent with rioters looting and destroying businesses and properties.  There was even a protest held here in our peaceful little town, right on the courthouse steps on Main Street.  There were no riots here and there never will be because we love our town, and we will defend it tooth and nail.  You see, our sweet little hometown of Pickens is the county seat and Pickens County has more congressional medal of honor recipients per capita than any other county in the nation.  We’re all about God, Family, and Country here, and we very strongly support and defend the first amendment because many of our sons and daughters have paid the ultimate sacrifice for that freedom.

What happened at the BLM protest in Pickens?  A handful of protesters showed up and an army of hometown folks showed up too.  Were there any confrontations?  Nope.  They peacefully protested (as protests should be) and all the hometown folks stood quietly by and let them protest.  There was no yelling, no name calling, and no confrontations what-so-ever.  When the protesters went home, so did all the hometown folks who showed up to protect the town should anything get out of hand. 

Isn’t it ironic how we spend a large portion of our lives raising our children, teaching them to behave (no yelling, no hitting, no name-calling, etc.) and then when someone doesn’t share our political values and beliefs, we resort to the very same tactics that we teach our children abstain from?  I’m a firm believer in spare the rod and spoil the child.  My parents spanked me, and I turned out fine.  My wife and I spanked our kids and they turned out fine.  Sometimes I think a trip to the woodshed is needed for these adults who act like spoiled brats when someone disagrees with them. 

Anyhow, this Memorial Day, shine a light into the darkness by practicing one random act of kindness.  You never know how much a simple deed that might seem insignificant to most, might lift one’s spirits.  There’s an old proverb called “For Want of a Nail” that reminds us that seemingly unimportant acts or omissions can have grave and unforeseen consequences that are bad.  The reverse of that is true too; seemingly unimportant acts of kindness can have great and unforeseen consequences that are good. 

Lastly, as next weekend is Memorial Day weekend, I want to recognize the four congressional medal of honor recipients from Pickens County.  The following is taken from an article written by Logan Nye and posted on http://www.wearethemighty.com.

PFC Charles Barker slowed an enemy advance with hand-to-hand fighting. 

Army Pfc. Charles Barker was part of a platoon in Korea that came upon enemy soldiers digging emplacements on a slope June 4, 1953. The patrol engaged the diggers but found itself facing heavy enemy resistance. As mortars began to fall on the platoon, the platoon leader ordered a withdrawal. Barker volunteered to cover the platoon move and was last seen engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

Pfc. William McWhorter absorbed an explosive blast to save his assistant gunner.

Army Pfc. William McWhorter was manning a heavy machine gunner in combat on Leyte Island in the Philippines on Dec. 5, 1944 when an enemy demolitions squad rushed his position. McWhorter and his assistant gunner successfully killed some of the attackers, but one managed to throw a fused demolition charge into the trench. McWhorter grabbed it and pulled it into his body just before it exploded. His actions saved the life of the assistant gunner who was able to continue fighting.

Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe jumped on a grenade to save another Marine.

Marine Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe was in a defensive position on a beach bordering bamboo thickets in Vietnam on May 6, 1970. A group of enemy sappers crept unnoticed to the position in the dark of early morning and launched a grenade attack. Howe and two others moved to a better position and began suppressing the enemy. When another grenade landed in the middle of the group, Howe jumped on it and saved the others.

Pvt. Furman Smith single-handedly held off an enemy counterattack.

During the Allied advance in Italy in World War II, Army Pvt. Furman Smith was part of an infantry company attack on a strong point. Smith was in the lead element when an attack by 80 Germans succeeded in wounding two men. While the rest of the lead element pulled back to the company’s position, Smith rushed forward. He recovered the wounded and placed them in shell craters that provided some cover. He then took a position nearby and held off the Germans with rifle fire until he was ultimately overrun.

Happy Memorial Day!

“If you can read this, thank a teacher.  If you’re reading it in English, thank a soldier.”  ~ bumper sticker

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Happy Mother’s Day

Another May has rolled around.  My favorite month.  My favorite flowers, irises, bloom in May and that’s so appropriate for me because Mother’s Day is in May and my love for growing flowers, and my love for irises in particular, came from a lifetime of seeing Mom lovingly attend to her garden.  I think irises were her favorite flower too as she had every color imaginable and had them planted everywhere.  You know how sometimes you will see or hear something that will trigger a fond childhood memory?  That’s what irises do for me.  Aside from enjoying the sheer beauty of their vibrant colors and delicate petals, every time I see them blooming in May I see my mom, young and beautiful, sitting there among them, a look of peace and contentment on her face, patiently pulling weeds and caring for the flowers.  My grandma had irises too, so maybe my mom was recollecting some fond childhood memory of her own while she worked her garden.  My wife has asked me why I plant so many irises as they are a spring flower and bloom for such a short time.  But oh, what a glorious time it is.  You see, youth and beauty are fleeting.  God even uses flowers in His Word to describe the frailty and transitory nature of human life…

“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.  The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.”  ~ 1 Peter 1:23-24 (KJV)

So, yes, I will continue to plant irises and I will enjoy them for the short time they are here, for they bring back so many sweet memories and remind me of God’s promise.  One day, when the wind passeth over and like the flowers of the field, like the irises in spring, I’ll be gone and remembered no more.  But I will be in God’s presence with my loved ones and I will be able to hug my sweet mother and tell her again how much I love her.  Happy Mother’s Day to all moms.  May God richly bless you all.

“A mother is she who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take.”  ~ Cardinal Mermillod 

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Treasures Lost, Treasures Found

My Mom passed away with Alzheimer’s in November of 2017.  In the final years of her life, my dad hired one of Mom’s childhood friends to sit with her, keep her company, and do some light house cleaning.  After Mom passed, Dad continued to pay her friend to come once a week to clean the house (sweeping, moping, dusting, washing clothes, changing the bed linen, etc.…).  Mom’s friend needed the money, and Dad was not keen on keeping the farm going and keeping the house clean too.  It worked out well until COVID came along, and then Dad let her go.  Fast forward a few years.  Dad, still not keen on housework, had let things get away from him.  Oh, he has been giving the house a lick and a promise, but it very badly needed a deep clean.  I realized this when I last visited with him and sat on the hearth.  When I got up to go, my butt prints were very clearly etched in a thin layer of dust that was covering the hearth.  So, one section at a time, I began the cleaning process.  I am talking about pulling the furniture out, sweeping, mopping, wiping down the walls, the base board, pictures hanging on the wall – anything with a surface to collect dust, I wiped it down with Clorox wet wipes.  Then before I put the furniture back, I wiped all of it down as well.  Top to bottom and even underneath, I scrubbed all the furniture and when I was finished, I polished it with Lemon Pledge furniture polish.  Where do “treasures” come into this story?  Well, you may have guessed it by now, but cleaning the furniture also included going through cabinets and drawers and throwing away any old papers no longer needed (like water bills from 1986).   While going through one cabinet I found three things, no, three treasures that I thought were lost. 

Cleaning Day

The first treasure was a metal toothpick holder that sat on the counter in my Grandma Porter’s kitchen for as long as I can remember.  The toothpicks were in a log and a red-headed woodpecker was perched on the end of the log.  To get a toothpick, you pushed the woodpecker’s head down into the toothpicks and the tip of its beak would spear a toothpick, bringing it up out of the log for you.  For years I had accused my wife, Melody, of putting it up somewhere and forgetting where she had placed it and she always maintained she had never laid eyes on it.  When I showed it to her and told her I found it over at Dad’s house, she came at me and went straight for the nipples (she fights dirty like that).  There is no fending off an attack like that either.  You need BOTH hands to protect your nips so all you can do is curl up into a fetal position and play dead until the attack is over.  You know, like you are supposed to do when a bear attacks you.  Anyhow, I will be hearing about this one for a long time, but I finally have my red-header woodpecker toothpick holder back and it is on my desk where I can see it.  Here is a picture of it.

Toothpick Holder

The next treasure was a recipe.  Every Christmas my mom would make Reece’s chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and Mound’s chocolate-covered coconut balls.  We have the recipe for the chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and we make them every year now ourselves, but we did not have the recipe for the chocolate-covered coconut balls until now.  You see, I found the recipe, hand-written by my mom on a notecard.  I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to come across this in a stack of old bills.  I will be putting this notecard in the box with the recipe for the chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and we will be making both candies every Christmas now, just like Mom used to make them.  I am going to share Mom’s recipes for both candies at the end of this post and just so you know, I’ve yet to find anyone with a better recipe for chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and chocolate-covered coconut balls.

Baking

The third treasure was also a recipe.  Mom’s childhood friend who sat with her and did the housecleaning for my dad is a sweet old lady named Estell Harper.  Every year (also at Christmas time) Estell would bake an orange slice cake and getting one of these cakes from Estell was like winning the lottery.  I finally asked her for the recipe one day, because I did not want that knowledge vanishing when Estell is called home to Glory.  So, she wrote it down for me and somewhere along the way, it too got placed into a stack of old bills and stuffed into a cabinet where it remained hidden until recently.  I will share that recipe too, because this is hands-down the BEST cake you will ever put in your mouth and not only is it delicious, but it is also a very festive cake to bake for the holidays as well.

Desserts

While I am sharing recipes, I will also share my Grandma Jones’s recipe for peanut butter cookies.  This is a quick and easy recipe that makes delicious peanut butter cookies.  We make them every now and then and when we make a batch, we end up eating the entire batch.  They are that good.  Also, my mom’s name is Ola Vessie Jones Porter, and everyone called her by her initials – OV.  She loved to cook and had recipes stashed everywhere.

OV’s Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup Peter Pan peanut butter
  • ¾ cup of butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A can Eagle Brand Milk
  • 2 lbs powder sugar
  • 1 pkg milk chocolate squares

Directions

  1. Mix and ingredients and refrigerate. 
  2. Roll into balls. 
  3. Dip and cover in melted chocolate.
  4. Place on wax paper and let set.

OV’s Chocolate-Covered Coconut Balls

Ingredients 

  • ¾ cup mashed potatoes
  • 4 cup powder sugar (1 box + 1/2c)
  • 4 cup coconut – not frozen
  • 1 12 ounce package of chocolate chips
  • 1 square of bitter chocolate
  • 1/2 block of parafin

Directions

  1. Mix mashed potatoes, sugar, and coconut
  2. Form balls, refrigerate
  3. Melt chocolate chips with bitter chocolate and paraffin
  4. Dip balls in chocolate and refrigerate – (I use dipping chocolate)

Estell Harper’s Orange Slice Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Brock orange slices
  • 1 lb dates
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 tsp soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • Optional: 1 small can coconut (Estell did not use coconut in her recipe, but noted that it was optional)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice

Directions

  1. Cut candy, dates, and nuts into small pieces. 
  2. Leave cup up overnight in pan. (I have no idea what this means)
  3. Sift 2 cups flour over mixture and then mix together.
  4. Cream butter and sugar with eggs.
  5. Add soda, remaining flour, and buttermilk to butter and sugar mixture.
  6. Pour over fruit mixture, mix well, and bake 2 ½ hours at 275.  (grease and flour pan real good)
  7. When cake comes out of over, while still hot, mix 1 cup of brown sugar with 1 cup of orange juice and pour over cake. 
  8. Leave in pan until cool.

Grandma Jones’s Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cup flour
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup Peter Pan peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
  2. Combine butter and peanut butter. 
  3. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. 
  4. Form small balls and roll balls in extra sugar. 
  5. Place balls on cookie sheet and press with fork to flatten a little and make a cross-hatch pattern. 
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. If you ever try one, shoot me an email an let me know how you liked it.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” ~ Luke 12:34