Life in the Rural South · Southern Women

Mountains and the Southern Woman

The Appalachian Mountains are old. According the US Geological Service they are around 480 million years making them, if not the first, then among the first mountain ranges to appear.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Old mountains breathe differently than their younger and more boisterous counterparts. The years have mellowed them, water has smoothed and carved them, and they have settled into their own unique ridges and lines.

Waterfall at South Mountain

They are content mountains-sure of who they are and of the persistence of the people who live in them. The Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachians, cradle my home here in North Carolina.

Linville Gorge 2

The people who live in and around these mountains share the same quiet endurance as their mountains. You see it everywhere.

You see in their hands. Hands rough to the touch, spiderwebbed with cracks, and veins protruding bluely prominent and proud. In the tired shoulders of the farmer stepping into the seer stubble of his autumn field.

Grandpa
Grandpa

You hear it in the cadence of their voices as they call their “young’uns” into supper. In the rich regional dialect which is silently vanishing. Disappearing into hollows it once filled with resonance.

It echoes in the music-rooted in the old country-adapted for their new home tucked between swaths of  azure sky and granite craigs.

My Great-Aunt Margaret, born in 1925, grew up here and learned well the music of our mountains. She wrote a memoir in 1994 about her early life here.

As you read, can you hear the mountains too?

We didn’t go to the doctor much. Our ailments were usually treated with home remedies. As a child, I had a lot of ear aches. Mama would pour water over hot ashes from the fireplace put them in a rag, wrap that in a towel, and place it on my ears. It usually worked well.

Dad went to town once or twice a year in the wagon. He took a pattern of our feet and bought our shoes. The shoes were lace up with hook and eye and well up to the ankle bones. They were not pretty, but they were substantial.

Going to town was an all-day trip for Dad. He had to get the year supply of sugar. He bought it by the hundred pound sack- usually two or three. He had to sign his name to a paper saying the sugar would be used for cooking and canning purposes. So much sugar was bought for corn liquor stills they kept a record of people who bought over 50 pounds at a time. He would get salt and kerosene oil enough to last for 6 months at least.

All of our lamps were kerosene burning. I hated washing those dirty glass globes. Because I had the least hands (until I was about 11 or 12) I had a lot of those to wash. You had to be careful not to break those glass globes or someone with be without lamplight. We ate breakfast and supper and studied by lamplight-they weren’t so bright but they were better than a lantern or candles.

 There were two or three big porkers killed every year. I made sure I wasn’t there to see any slaughtered. I loved the little pigs and petted them. The big 500 to 700 lb hogs would lie in the sun and grunt happily as I scratched their backs with a stick. Hogs were killed after it turned really cold. Usually that was around the first of November. Then came the work. Meat for sausages had to be ground with a hand grinder. After it had been seasoned properly by Mama then came the making of hundreds of sausage balls. They were fried on the big kitchen range that burned wood. The sausages were putting cans and were stored away for the cold winter mornings.

The rendering of the lard was a job I hated whether I had anything to do with it or not. The whole house was filled with the odor of hog fat being converted into the lard that Mama used to make cakes, biscuits, and bread. It was always a clear pretty white when finished and was stored in one or five gallon buckets. But what a greasy mess to render the meat into lard.

Work was a way of life on the farm there was always plenty to do and everyone had to do their share.

 

Works Cited

Crawford, Margaret. Memories of My Early Years. Self Published , 1994.

Frank, Dave. “Geologic Provinces of the United States: Appalachian Highlands Province.” USGS Geology and Geophysics, United States Government, 21 Apr. 2017, geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/parks/province/appalach.html.

9 thoughts on “Mountains and the Southern Woman

  1. Hi Julie,

    Wow thanks for such a great post. I think by adding a memoir that has never been posted on your first blog post was an interesting idea and a smart one too. I have never been so interested in what was going to happen next. Good job on your first post! Hope to see more great posts from you on here.

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  2. Wow, what a wonderful gift from your great aunt! I too am from the South and look forward to reading about the that which connects us as women despite the differences in geography and customs. Our families, history and tales have only been passed down by word of mouth and in pictures. I think it’s due time to began!!

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    1. Yes! The South has such a strong proud oral traditon, but as those family members die out we are loosing that part of our history. It is one of the reason I am pursuing this project. I hope you are able to record some of your family history as well-I bet there are many similiarities.

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  3. You’ll have to excuse me if this comment appears twice but I am glad I clicked on your blog link. I think you have an exceptional gift from your great aunt that will provide amazing information I’m sure. I look forward to comparing the experience of the App Mtn southern woman to my Texan experience. I’m curious to see how alike we are in spite of our geographical location. My family history is int the form of word of mouth and a few pictures. I think it’s due time someone starts documenting our history!

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  4. I love where you are going with this – it is a unique blog, and I hope you will keep it up even after this project is over. I think people will love it. The excerpts you included from your great aunt’s memoirs really enriches the theme of this blog, adding historical and cultural interest, as well as demonstrating a roundness of character in your relative. It is so easy in this day and age to forget the past – a past we have never lived in and never seen. It is good to be reminded. Even for some of us who have never seen the south, many of our ancestors lived there, and lived that kind of life. We all have something along our family tree that coincides with these histories. The result is that even though this blog is very localized, it can really and truly be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere.

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  5. Hi Julie!
    I love this personal insight from a family member about real life way back then! It reminds me a bit of Laura Ingalls’ Little House on the Prairie – Mountain Edition! And doesn’t that memoir make you want to leave one for the generations to follow you? I love this!

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