Roasting' Sweet Potatoes

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GraciousRoots: John Parris lived just down the road from my childhood home and sat behind me with his wife Dorothy in church each Sunday. A lovely couple in every way.  Beloved by many for his columns in the Asheville Citizen-Times "Roaming the Mountains". He wrote with the crispness of Hemingway and the grace of Thomas Wolfe. Indeed, he was a war correspondent like Hemingway and a decorated hero for his work with the Belgian underground during World War II. 

Posted by The Blind Pig and the Acorn, March 3, 2018

Murphy, North Carolina / written by John Parris

Sitting around a hearth fire of a winter night roasting sweet potatoes in the ashes is one of Aunt Tennie Cloer’s fondest memories.

“Back when I was a girl,” she said, “folks got a heap of pleasure in the simple things. And roastin’ potatoes in the fireplace was one of them. They were all the go back then.”

“Folks would drop in of a night and gather around the fireplace and we’d take sweet potatoes and cover them with ashes and embers and sit around and talk and tell stories while they roasted.”

“When the potatoes were done, we’d rake them out of the fireplace and knock off the ashes and blow on ’em until we could hold ’em without burning our hands. Then we’d have a good time eating ’em.”

“Unless you’ve had sweet potatoes roasted in ashes, you can’t begin to know how good they taste. Especially on a cold night before the fire.”

Aunt Tennie, who is 92 years old, grew up on Sugar Fork River over in Macon County back in the days when the hearth was the center of the home-the source of warmth, sometimes light, and always food.


We’ve been on a sweet potato kick around the Blind Pig house. We’ve been baking ours in the oven instead of roastin' them in the ashes, but they’re still good.

Granny once told me she could barely remember her Grandpa taking her to see an old woman that lived in a log cabin somewhere along Highway 141. She said the lady was old as the hills and she cooked them something to eat right there on the hearth.


The History of Appalachian English: Why We Talk Differently


The History of Appalachian English: Why We Talk Differently

By AppalachianMagazine - 

November 23, 2017

*Note: We LOVE this article we just found from back in November - we think you will too. Put in your 2 cents worth in the comments section below. 

“Where are you from?”  An annoying question asked in a condescending tone I have been forced to endure nearly my entire life.  Whether I travel north into Yankeedom or south into Dixie, it seems that the way I (and everyone I grew up with) talk just seems oddly out of place.

We don’t have a Yankee accent, but we also don’t really speak with a southern drawl. Ours is an accent that is entirely unique and though it’s often the subject of scorn and ridicule, the Appalachian dialect is an ancient connection to our rich heritage and deserves to be safeguarded and honored.

The language we speak is known as Appalachian-English and actually serves as one of the oldest varieties of English spoken in this nation.

But why do we speak it and where did this dialect come from?


Like nearly all things related to Appalachia, there is no one clear answer to this question; however, extensive research has been conducted on this very topic for the better part of a century in order to determine why so many of us pronounce words such as “wire,” “fire,” “tire,” and “retired” as “war,” “far,” “tar,” and “retard” respectively.

Appalachian-English also places an “-er” sound at an end of a word with a long “o”.  For example, “hollow”— a small, sheltered valley— is pronounced like “holler”.  Other examples are “potato” (pronounced “tader”), “tomato” (pronounced “mader”), and “tobacco” (pronounced “backer”).

H retention occurs at the beginning of certain words as well. “It”, in particular, is pronounced “hit” at the beginning of a sentence and also when emphasized. The word “ain’t” is pronounced “hain’t”.

The noun “grease” is pronounced with an “s,” but this consonant turns into a “z” in the adjective and in the verb “to grease.”

And then, of course, there is the unending and longstanding feud regarding what is the proper way to pronounce the region itself, “Appalachia”.  People who live in the Appalachian dialect area pronounce the word with a short “a” sound (as in “latch”) in the third syllable, while those who live outside of the Appalachian dialect area or at its outer edges tend to pronounce it with a long “a” sound (as in “lay”).

Of course on this subject, we all know it’s “App-ah-latch-uh”… or I’ll throw an apple-atch’a!

But why is it that we speak so uniquely?

The predominant theory is that the existence of Appalachian-English is the result of the isolation the mountains beyond the Blue Ridge ensured — making our dialect one of the most ancient and protected dialects in the nation.

While our high-browed relatives who moved to the big city and lost their accent may frown upon our words and pronunciations, it is believed that the Appalachian dialect is a remnant of Elizabethan English.

An evidence of this is the use of words such as “afeared”, a Shakespearean word that is largely forgotten by most English speakers outside of the Appalachian region.

Other ancient phrases include the use of “might could” for “might be able to”, the use of “‘un” with pronouns and adjectives (e.g., young’un), the use of “done” as a helping verb (e.g., “we done finished it”), and the use of words such as airish, brickle, swan, and bottom land all of which were common in Southern and Central England in 17th and 18th centuries.

Interestingly, Appalachian-English has virtually no Native American influences (with the exception being place names, e.g., “Appalachia”, “Tennessee”, “Kanawha”, etc.) while so many other regional dialects in the nation do contain heavy influences from Native Americans.  This is noteworthy, as it showcases something we know and realize today — the people who settled this region are not easily influenced by the accents and languages of others, even if they become displaced, Appalachian-English is a hard dialect to lose.

Further evidence of this reality may be found in several areas in the State of Texas.

Nearly two centuries ago, the sons of Virginia’s Appalachian region (Stephen F. Austin & Sam Houston), as well as men of Tennessee (Davy Crocket) and Kentucky (James Bowie) made the decision to leave the mountains and head into the land of Tejas — eventually forming a new Republic, built by the blood and sweat of Appalachia’s sons.

Despite being some 1,200 miles apart, Appalachian-English is still alive and well in multiple Texas localities.  There, in the Lonestar State, you’ll hear phrases such as “Like’t’a”, proving that you may take the man out of Appalachia, but you won’t be able to take the Appalachia out of the man.

Like articles like this? Then you would love Appalachian Magazine’s Mountain Voice: 2017: A Collection of Memories, Histories, and Tall Tales of Appalachia!  Click here to check out the book on Amazon!


JANUARY 17, 2018

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We all know adventure is the spice of life but the reality is most of us are too busy working a 9-5 to be able to sprinkling in too much adventure. Having any job, let alone a full time job, can make it difficult to find the time to add adventure into your life. So when you work 40+ hours a week, we really have to rethink what adventure really means.

Adventure doesn’t mean selling all of your things, converting to van-life and traveling to far off places. Although let’s be honest, that would be amazing! It just means adding things into your life that fulfill you. Things that get you moving while inspiring you. Many times these “micro-adventures” don’t have to be far away but can be in your own backyard wherever you life.

Here are some ways that you can work full time and still take advantage of whatever free time you may have to get out there and explore.

Let’s start with weekends. Give us two days off in a row and the world is ours!


One of my favorite things to do is to head out after work on Friday evenings and drive to the nearest state park for a weekend camping trip. If camping isn’t your thing, then drive up on Saturday and spend it hiking or in a hammock. Crack open some marshmallows and make smores. You don’t have to go far but these simple resets help me when I’m back at work on Monday through Friday.


Maybe it’s a trip overseas. Maybe it’s a day trip to the mountains. But plan to go with an emphasis on plan. If you don’t plan for it, you’ll never save the money and you’ll never schedule the time. It’s not easy and may stretch your finances, even if you just go for a day trip. But nothing helps us reset more than travel. So go to a place you have never been. If there is a town close by that you have been wanting to visit or a park you have really been wanting to go to, wake up early, fill the car with gas and get going!

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I love starting my Saturday or Sunday out by going to a local trail and hiking. This is a great option for those on a budget. Pack a lunch, bring some water and head out. Throw up a hammock and read a book while the wind blows in the trees above you. 

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One of my favorite things to do is visit the local breweries. Go on a brewery tour with some friends. Beer is always delicious and supporting local businesses is an added bonus. Get a group of people together and spend the day trying different beers, you may even find your new favorite!


Take a class at a local studio or business. It only takes an hour a week to learn a new skill and cultivate your passions.

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There are always events happening on weekends. Go to the farmer’s market, a festival, a concert, an art showing, trivia night, etc. Check your communities website, Facebook or local papers.


Go see a new exhibit at your local museum. Try a new restaurant. Go see that movie that you’ve been wanting to see! Buy that book you have had your eye on. Whatever you do, just do it. What’s the worst that could happen?

Now Let’s Talk Week Days

Weekends are easy. Well, easy-ish. But it can be a bit harder on weekdays to scratch that adventure itch especially if you have to go anywhere near Atlanta traffic which can add a couple hours to your workday just by commuting. It’s hard enough to wake up before the sun rises and to be at work all day, so how do we squeeze adventure into week days when 8-12 hours are at our desk or in the car? There are several ways to do this and none of them will work for everyone. We just have to choose what fits our interests and time the best and then when we find what works, we have to make intentional decisions that help us maximize those decisions.

Go for a morning hike/run/walk at your favorite local trail (yes this involves waking up earlier . . . I know).

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Watch the sunrise while sipping on your favorite coffee. This is a win/win as you get your morning caffeine and the magic from re-centering your perspective as you watch the world wake up around you.


Take the back roads to work. If you’re in the city, this may create more stress depending on what side roads you’re on. But sometimes the simplest thing of changing your surroundings is a great way to switch up your daily routine.

Eat your lunch outside and enjoy the day!

Take a walk during your lunch break. This is a great way to get outdoors, let go of whatever stresses that have already accumulated in the morning and get refreshed before the back half of the day.

Take an evening hike. Find a trail nearby and enjoy the sunset.

Go to your local gym for a class or activity. Try rock climbing, yoga, pilates, kickboxing or running.

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Get involved with a local group or club. There are tons of groups to be a part of – trail running, mountain biking, book club, ultimate Frisbee, knitting, etcetera.

These are just a few ways that we can begin to add more adventure into your busy work week.

I used to believe that “adventure” meant that I had to live in a place that was overwhelmed beauty like the desert in Utah or the mountains in Colorado. I thought I had to have the best photos and gear to get the most out of my “adventure”. I thought I couldn’t do it because of my job and the very real physical and emotional constraints that put on my days. However, once I realized what adventure meant to me, it changed everything. I was able to reframe it from “somewhere over there” to “somewhere right here”. My mini adventure may not as pretty as a mountain waterfall but my adventure is now what I make it. It is about getting outside, trying new things and doing what I love. It’s carving out the time to do things that make my soul feel full. And that is the best kind of adventure of all.

Appalachia Through My Eyes – The Muddy Time of the Year

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Blind Pig and The Acorn

Celebrating and preserving Appalachia

 January 30, 2018

This has been the coldest winter we’ve had in several years which you all know I love. The part I don’t love is the mud that comes along with the cold. When the temperature stays right at or below freezing for several consecutive days the moisture in the soil freezes. The dirt expands as it freezes. As the temperature begins to rise the ‘expanded’ dirt turns into the muddiest soupiest mess you ever saw.

It’s been quite a few years since our driveway has been in the shape it is now. Mind you it’s never that great, but it’s really bad now. The girls and I have been parking at Granny’s and walking for the last week. They can’t believe how bad it is. Their last ride off had them both saying they weren’t going back up in their car till Spring. I told them they’d just forgotten how bad the mud could be. I remember more than one early morning ride down it when they were in high school with both of them screaming I was going to kill them. Apparently, they’ve forgotten those episodes of hysteria.

The UPS driver made a delivery to Granny’s right when we were getting ready to head up to our house the other day. He said he’d just come from our place. Chitter said, “You didn’t try to get up it did you?” He said, “Naa I parked at the bottom.” Chitter told him she was sorry about the mess. He said, “Don’t worry about it every road in the county is like this.”

If it wasn’t for my new car I’d still make it up and down every day. Muddy driveways are something I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Pap and Granny’s could get muddy especially in the days when Pap drove an oil truck home every day. My uncle’s driveway is paved now, but in days gone by it got to be as bad as ours is every year and it’s longer. Papaw Wade lived with my uncle in those days.

Pap used to have a 1973 white Impala. One day we were going up to see Papaw Wade. He hit the driveway with everything that car had. We made it about halfway up and did a complete 360 in the middle of the road. Before I knew what happened we were turned around headed back down the hill. I about cried but Pap just laughed. I can’t remember if we made it up that day on another try or settled for walking the trail through the woods.

The road we live on was gravel until the girls were about five or six years old. When I was a teenager the gravel road would get bad in certain places. I remember one year it was especially messy just above Clate and Mary’s. I had a little black Ford Exp. I worked at Catos so I had to dress up nice for work. One day I was coming home and got stuck in the mud. I tried to spin myself out a few times but soon gave up. I didn’t have any other shoes to put on so I finally took off my heels and hose and walked the half a mile home in my dress. Granny got a big kick out that she laughed and laughed at me. I said, “Well what else was I supposed to do wait for someone to come find me?”

If you look close in the photo you can see Chitter is barefooted. I’m not sure how she got down the hill without her boots, but she didn’t have any to wear back up. Granny tried to get her to put on a pair of her old shoes but Chitter wouldn’t have it. Said she wanted to feel that gushy mud between her toes.


New Year Traditions

Blind Pig and the Acorn

New Year Traditions

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December 31, 2008


New Years has its traditions and customs just like all the other holidays. A few of the most well known being the traditional kiss at midnight, the big ball drop (in my neck of the woods it's the Possum) and the hard to achieve New Years Resolutions folks make.

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Churches often ring in the New Year by praying for the coming year to be all it should be-it's called a Watch Service. I come from a fierce fire and brimstone upbringing-growing up I always thought the Watch Services were to make sure the redeemed were gathered together just in case the New Year didn't come after all.

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This year I've been introduced to 2 new traditions-ones I've never heard of before. 


The first came by way of Gary Carden-of Blow The Tannery Whistle fame. It's an old Appalachian tradition called the First Footer. If the first person to set foot in your house after the New Year is a tall dark haired man-you're sure to have good luck for the coming year.


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The second came from Noble Pig. When midnight arrives on New Years Eve-you quickly eat a dozen grapes. Each sweet grape represents a good month in the coming year-each sour grape signals a not so good month.

A New Years day tradition in the south is to eat black-eyed peas, ham hocks, and cabbage to ensure the coming year be a wealthy one. Our family has never taken part in this custom-but the other day Granny allowed we should start-cause she had figured out this is probably why we've always been poor.

To be honest, most of the time when the clock strikes midnight-I've already been asleep for several hours. A night owl I am not. But this year I will be awake-by force of Chitter and Chatter. This year when the New Year rings in I'll be...

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Contra Dancing. I hope the coming year is a happy one for you-and please leave me a comment and let me know what you do to ring in the New Year.


Family Style

Family Style: Doing Dinner Differently

by Lindsay Burchette on November 11, 2017 in FamilyFeaturedMotherhoodParenting

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It began with bad timing. I wasn’t looking for a dinner revolution any more than Lucy was looking for Narnia when she hid in that wardrobe. But Lucy and I, we both accidentally discovered magic. 

This was a brinner night, a favorite in our house.

The bigs had just gotten into the swing of public school and I was trying to be more intentional with our time together in the evenings, especially dinner. I was failing: we were running late and only the biscuits were done. I normally plated everything myself, but I wasn’t about to let biscuits get cold on a plate because that is just a hateful thing to do. I took out my hand-me-down, much-loved sunflower Fiesta serving bowl, wrapped those babies up, and let them hang out on the dining room table while everything else cooked. I saw its matching platter and pitcher and thought to myself, why not? The bowl was already on the table. We usually only served dinner family style on holidays, but on a whim, I pulled a couple more plates and platters down. It seemed funny to me, to bring out “special” dinnerware for eggs, biscuits, turkey bacon and orange juice, but I’m not opposed to funny.

My nine-year-old and four-year-old ran into the kitchen, saw everything, and asked to help. I let them set the table with plates and flatware, and handed off warm platters as each was ready. They were so excited, and I was amused, but I still had no clue that we were actually on to something.

The 14-year-old lumbered out of his room and raised a brow at the set table with food all in the middle. “What’s all this? What’s in there?” I shrugged. “Just brinner stuff. I thought we’d try it like this.”

Try it we did, and every single night since, save for the occasional weekend meal, this is how we eat. Why did an accident become a habit? Well, let me tell you…

Time slowed down.


I’m going to address two issues we had every night at dinner, both concerning time. First issue: no matter how hard I tried, I was never at the table with everyone else. Whether someone’s plate needed adjusting, we forgot condiments, drinks, whatever, I was always running around to get it. Since I made the plates, if I left something off, I felt like I needed to grab or correct it. I would insist they go ahead and eat, because the food was ready, they’re kids, they’re hungry. This lead to me eating warm-ish food while the rest of my family sat, completely or at least mostly finished with their food, ready to bolt, and waiting on me. Not exactly an environment that fostered lively conversations as my kids’ knees were literally bouncing at the chance to be dismissed. Second issue: the teenager. He inhales food, so take everything I said above and make it double time. It was hard to even pin him down for our usual “high/low” before he was ready to be excused. He was respectful, but checked out. 

I have no idea what magic happened with the meal that first night, but it never wore off. I got to sit down with everyone. Everything slowed down. We were eating at the same time temperature. No one was inhaling a pre-plated meal. No knees were bouncing. 

Conversation warmed up.

I didn’t realize it until we began doing dinner this way, but we honestly weren’t at the table long enough to even get going, socially. Isn’t that the idea of family dinners? It’s not just a box to check off because it’s “good for them.” No, it’s good for them because it connects us. My family is Italian, so I know that meals should be just as much about the company as the food, but they were getting lost in the mix of our hectic evenings. That slow minute after prayer, when no food had met a plate yet, when things had to be asked for and passed around, turned out to be the perfect amount of time to get the kids talking. We were hearing stories we had never heard before. We were laughing. High/low took a back seat, because we were hearing about those best and worst parts of their day organically, and in detail. This all sounds so obvious as I write the words out, but man, we were missing it. 

They tried stuff.

FINE, I had read this somewhere before and totally forgotten it, but it turns out kids are more likely to try something new when presented this way: available, but not mandatory. It worked!! The four-year-old still hates everything, but hey, he’s trying it and THEN hating it! We take victories anywhere we can find them. #blessed 

The siblings were kind. Like, really.

I KNOW. It was insane. But seeing my 14-year-old help our four-year-old with plates too heavy to lift, or watching them pass on the last serving of something when just a week before it would have been a race back into the kitchen for more, made me a believer. We have almost five years between each kid, so finding their common ground can be, well, uncommon. But hello, food. They’re all so here for food. 

Everyone helped.

My kitchen is not a restaurant kitchen, all hidden aside from some little rectangular hole from which to slide plates. It is not a mystery, and yet something about me plating meals seemed to make my family believe the food appeared on its own, and therefore would — yep! — disappear on its own. Don’t get me wrong; they are good, considerate kiddos. Their manners…I mean, they’ve been taught manners. Mama tried. But dinner was very often left behind. For the mysterious food fairies. They had to be reminded on the regular until the family style meals began. I don’t know if they felt some sense of ownership for everything on the table, or maybe more sense of community, but they were clearing their things (and each others’) without being asked. I don’t question gifts from God, y’all, I just go with it.

So there you have it: my trip to Narnia. Being truthful, I hesitated to write this, because I figure you all are probably already light years ahead of me, shaking your heads. But on the off chance there’s a few of you out there like me, I leave you with a few handy tips:

  1. Put every possible thing on the table. It’s better to clean it up after than need it, not have it, and be up and down. Again.
  2. From friend and contributor ErikaIn case you DO need something that isn’t on the table, assign a runner! She says her kids love taking turns being the helper, and I am absolutely stealing this one.
  3. Don’t sweat how it looks — really. My matching stuff may have been the inspiration, but our table is uh…eclectic most nights. Don’t sweat it, they don’t care. Because they love you and they love being with you, and because food. 
  4. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of a few more dishes — it’s really minimal and very easy cleaning.
  5. Small people can help, so let ’em! They can pass out the silverware or napkins or serving utensils. They’ll be happy and you’ll have one or two fewer things to fuss with in the meantime.
  6. Enjoy that family and that warm meal and that dish carried to the sink, Mama. You deserve it.

Rocky Top, Tennessee






Rocky Top, Tennessee

That’s right, Rocky Top, Tennessee, it isn’t just a song, it really does exist; well it does now anyway.  Formally Lake City, and before that Coal Creek, it is town with many names and amazing  history.

However, no matter what you call us, we are a town in need of help.  A town that the interstate bypassed and time has forgotten.

In today’s ramblings, I’ll talk about our town, what happened, and at the end give you 15 or more ways you can help. It will be long, but PLEASE stay with me, or at least scroll to the end. 😉

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Our small town: Rocky Top, Tennessee

We are a small town, a proud Appalachian people that wouldn’t normally ask for help, but now, now we need help, and we need it from our citizens and neighbors.

We are a town with a strong history of battles fought and won by a sense of community pride and a strong bond.  Our history included horrific mining disasters, battles for work, struggling during the Great Depression, and so much more, but our community was strong and pulled through together. A TVA project building Norris Dam,  not only brought electricity to the entire area, but brought JOBS in a time when so many were suffering, it brought light in so many ways, and again, our town prevailed.  As the building of the dam ended, the Manhattan Project came along, bringing in more jobs and an even bigger sense of pride and community.  This was a turning point for many years. Plenty of work, more industry, booming small town businesses. This was the way of life for the next 40 years.

Our ancestors were a proud people; dirt poor most of them, but proud and hard working.  They worked their way out of poverty and they raised my parent’s generation.  People who knew how to plant a garden, can the food, and were engineers and electricians at the same time. This was our past, it is something to be proud of, something to look back on and smile.  The grandparents of my generation brought this town out of poverty and into something to be proud of. The parents of my generation worked to maintain that, UNTIL:

It happened:

First, the interstate took the traffic away.  At one time Main Street, aka Highway 25W,  wound its way through our little town. People traveling from north of Kentucky all the way to Georgia and back would travel that road.  They would stop in, eat at our restaurants, visit our stores, stay in our hotels. It was a pretty booming little place.  Being one of the few towns between Kentucky and Knoxville, there was much to offer.  Norris Dam State Park became a major attraction in the summer, those were GREAT days… but then…


THE INTERSTATE!! Gone was the traffic, the extra business, the tourists… We became Radiator Springs, from the movie “Cars”, and slowly, we watched our town begin to die.

This didn’t happen 100 years ago, not even 50. No, this was the late 70’s, early 80’s, when my generation was just a bunch of kids.  We don’t remember much about a booming town, but we do remember when it was different, busier, more community driven. We also remember it dying, by the time we were teens, it was almost gone.  So….

 We left:

That simple, we simply left.  We were young, we vaguely remember shopping in town at the local stores, so many were gone by then. The booming town our parents grew up in as teens, we never witnessed. Before us, there was a theater, stores, drive in, and other amazing things to do. We grew up with stores shutting down or already gone.   We grew up going to Knoxville, we had the interstate after all, East Town Mall was a happening place back then.  Sure we cruised town, McDonald’s to the Car Wash and back again, but that was because we were young and socializing.

Then it happened, we grew up and limited by lack of opportunities, confined by the smallness and emptiness of our town, WE LEFT! Bigger, better, faster, growing, jobs, college, whatever the reason, WE LEFT!! But now….

We’ve returned:


Our dreams carried us elsewhere, but in our minds, we knew where home was, where our parents were, and where we wanted our children raised. We remembered the friendships, the closeness, the caring hearts of our neighbors, teachers, pastors, and friends, the honesty and hardworking generation of our parents. We forgot the dead, lifeless streets and closed storefronts, we just wanted “small town” for our children. So…WE RETURNED!!


But to what? Still empty buildings? More dilapidated than ever before? Chain stores moving in just a few miles up the road, and our few stores that had been hanging on all those years, shutting down! Depression had taken over the town, and with it drugs, poverty, and a deep sense of loss and loneliness prevailed.  BUT…




All is not lost:

Our parents were still here, living just on the outskirts of town, happily retired, houses paid for, large well groomed yards for the grands to play in.  Our school was bigger and better than ever, some of our favorite teachers still teaching, and many of our friends returning to rear their own here.  Hope was here, our kids would get teachers who knew their families, knew their stories, and didn’t judge them regardless of that story.  We all returned, or stayed, longing for what we knew had been lost, hoping all was not lost. We sense that there is still something here, something that pulls us back, something that can be fixed, but we don’t know what to do.  SO….

Here we are:

Here we are, a few of us, maybe more, still hoping, wanting our town back, wanting that picturesque Mayberry we know existed at some point.

What are we doing?  Well, being scoffed at by some, saying this town is lost, dead, nothing but a drug haven.  We are laughed at by others, because we embraced the name change when it came. Did we love the new name? No, not really; we are LAKERS, through and through after all. Yet, we hold out hope, that just maybe, a new name will revive our old town.

We want it. We need it. Our children need it.


Basically, we are doing nothing, waiting on someone else to do it.  All of us waiting, hoping, but not ACTING!!


Do we not want something better?  Do we not want to see a clean, upbeat town for our children? What are we scared of?

Are we afraid of being laughed at?  Scoffed at? Told NO? Are we afraid of the town becoming too big and too busy?  Or are we just part of the problem?  Has the depression gotten to us? Infected us? Making us feel beat down, overwhelmed and hopeless?  Where is our hope? Where is our pride? Where is the pride of our ancestors?  They lived in much tougher times, with so much less than we have now yet they prevailed and built a great town.  Are we just too busy to care or are we just too scared?

Rocky Top will always be a small town, and that’s not a bad thing. But what’s wrong with bringing back local businesses, local attractions, maybe something that will pull in tourists again.  It’s still a LONG drive up I-75 from Knoxville to Lexington, or vice versa; why not make ours the town the weary travelers want to rest in?


However, progress is slow, and too many of us, myself included, have been sitting around waiting on someone else to do something. To PROVE to us, that the town is going to be revived.  That it can be pulled from the ashes. Scared  to put our time, effort or money into it before we know it is a guaranteed success.

However, progress is slow, and too many of us, myself included have been sitting around waiting on someone else to do something. To PROVE to us, that the town is going to be revived.  That it can be pulled from the ashes. Scared  to put our time, effort or money into it before we know it is a guaranteed success.

So now what?

Well, we give back.  We quit waiting for someone else to do it. We quit nay-saying and waiting on some rich stranger to revive our town. No strangers are going to come in and make this town what it use to be. No strangers have the connections we have, no strangers have a vested interest in our town.

It’s our turn. Our parents, the ones still living, they are retired, they paid their dues and they did what they could.   No, we pick up the reigns.

You don’t have to be rich, powerful, or “from the right family” to make a difference.  You have to be dedicated, loving, and willing to work a little bit.  Nothing big, a few hours here, a few hours there, $5 here, $5 there. ANYTHING is better than NOTHING and EVERYTHING makes a difference.

Look at it this way, if 100 people, volunteered a measly 3 hours per month in clean up and community outreach, that would be 300 hours of work completed every month. 3,600 hours per year. THAT’S HUGE!!

If 100 people, gave $10 each, every month that is  $1,000 every month, $12,000 per year!!!  No it isn’t much, but it could go a long way toward painting something, making a picnic area, landscaping, taking care of seniors, etc.

So in an effort to make it easy for you to help, I’ve gathered a list. Below you will find a list of things our town needs and ways you can help.  Most require very little or NO money.  What they do require is a little time and dedication to ROCKY TOP, TN.

How can YOU help?  How can YOU give back?

The first thing you do is JOIN the Facebook Group “ROCKY TALK: Rocky Top Community Chat Page” to keep up with ALL the events going on in town and to make suggestions about things the town could use.  City councilmen, county commissioners, etc are all there and interacting with the citizens.


  1. DECORATE FOR CHRISTMAS:  Contact  Joe Paris by EMAIL: Here is a list of things he needs:
    1. New or used but decent Christmas decorations.  As you clean out your stash please contact him or drop them off at the Rocky Top Police Department.
    2. Workers to help put up the decorations on Saturday mornings. Contact Joe for times and dates.
  2. Main Street Baptist Church Community Projects:  Call the church at 865-426-2184 for more information.


    1. Clean up Main Street: Happens regularly, they need help picking up trash and cleaning the streets through town.
    2. A food pantry: You can drop off food for them to give to the less fortunate in the community.
    3. A craft fair:  Rocky Top Crafters is having a Christmas craft sale at MSBC on December 3rd! We are gonna be collecting foodstuff for there pantry at the door & the choir is having a bake sale to raise money for their trip next year! You can help by showing up and supporting local business, the food pantry, and the church.
  3. Candy & Cards for Veterans is being collected: Contact Lisa Hunley-Pebley on the Rocky Talkpage for more information.
    1. Drop off donations of candy and cards at Corner Drug in Rocky Top.
  4. Christ-Centered Addiction Recovery Meet Ups: These are hosted by different places throughout the town. Angie Gilliam is the contact person. Tonight: November 18th it will be held at Pine Hill Baptist Church in Beech Grove. How you can help:
    1. Pastors, counselors, teachers, families, and friends are all encouraged to attend and learn more about addiction and beating addiction.
    2. Contact Angie and see if she could use snacks or refreshments for the meetings then donate them.
    3. Make flyers with meeting times and post them around town so that addicts can find help.
  5. Coal Creek Miner’s Museum: Contact them by following the link or by phone at 865-340-3269:
    This amazing museum tells the story of our proud past and reflects the struggles it took to get this town started.  They could use support in the following ways:


    1. Donations of old mining items.
    2. Volunteer workers to keep the museum open and running and to extend the museum hours.  I encourage you to visit if you haven’t already been.
  6. Rocky Top Community Center, Ball-field & Splash Pad: Contact the community center at 865-426-7914: Ideas for helping there:
    1. Painting or donating paint to spiff up the community center.
    2. Donations of folding tables and chairs for when the building is rented.
    3. Cleaning up around the ball-field.
    4. Donations of picnic tables, benches, etc for the splash pad.
  7. Wilson Cemetery and other cemetery clean-ups: Here is a LINK to an upcoming CLEAN UP at Wilson Cemetery!! Or contact Robert Griffith Feel free to coordinate your own and let me know about them.
  8. Build or donate bat boxes: Bats keep down mosquitoes, flies and other pests:  Anyone willing to build or donate bat boxes please contact Robert Griffith.
  9. LOCAL FARMERS / CRAFTERS MARKET:  A regular weekly market could draw tons of vendors and shoppers from all over the greater Rocky Top area. We need a coordinator for this project.  If interested in leading this or forming a committee to work on making this happen before spring. Please contact Robert Griffith.
  10. HELP OUR NEIGHBORS: We have many disabled and elderly in our community. We would love to see a “Helping Hands” team of volunteers who could do things like mow grass, rake leaves, build ramps, pain houses, sweep driveways, grocery shop, etc.  We need a volunteer or set of volunteers to coordinate this effort and gather names and needs.
  11. Contact other businesses and invite them to Rocky Top! ANYONE and EVERYONE can and SHOULD do this.  When you are in an establishment or business you really like and that you think could make an impact on Rocky Top and surrounding areas, invite them to come look at all the vacancies in our town.
  12. SHOP LOCAL: NO EXCUSES: There are many GREAT businesses in our town that need our support.  I realize you can’t do ALL of your shopping in town, but every single bit helps.  The more we shop locally, the lower the local prices will become.  Local stores can’t compete with big box stores, but the more we demand from them, the more they will have to buy and the lower the price to them will be.
    Here are some of the shops I LOVE. Not only is the service superb but the small town atmosphere is comforting.


    1. Corner Drug:  Why wait at the big stores when David and family are more than happy to help. If they don’t have it that day they can get it by the next day. They know you by name and you never have to wait more than a few minutes.  Prices are the same because insurance pays.  #SHOP LOCAL
    2. Shop-Rite Grocery: Have you been there lately?  The store is AWESOME! They have really cleaned it up and they now stock an awesome selection of produce. Joe, the butcher is well informed and will help you find the right meats. The store will order things you can’t find.  If you shop the weekly ads you will beat the big chain store prices.
    3. Ace Hardware: We often find things here to be much cheaper than your big box home improvement stores. The service is fast and friendly.
    4. Restaurants: I won’t even try to list them, we have some of the best around.
    5. Rocky Top Outdoors: Why bother going all the way to Knoxville. If they don’t have it here, they’ll get it for you.
    6. Huck Braden, Tim Wilson, Lake City Tire: ALL your car care needs are right here in town, they are HONEST, FAIR and their prices SURE as heck beat everyone else
  13. There are so many more, Thrift Shops, Furniture Stores, etc.. I can’t list them all.  I will eventually do a local business post, but for now.  
  14. SHOP LOCAL FIRST! Every DOLLAR you give a local store is a DOLLAR back into our town.
  16. Rocky Top Public Library:  I have no idea what help they need, but I am sure book donations and people to read to the kids are ALWAYS needed. Call them at 865-426-6762
  17. Town Beautification Committee: We need someone to head up projects making our town beautiful again.  This committee could meet with City Council to coordinate efforts. Ideas for this committee:
    1. Gather donations of plants, trees, and shrubs to donate to businesses and churches in town for their landscaping.
    2. Cleaning up and beautifying vacant lots and abandoned buildings and houses.
    3. Set up a regular Arbor Day tradition and get the local school kids involved.
    4. Sweep and shovel parking lots and yards.
  18. Senior Citizens Awareness Network: We need someone to head this up and get things happening. Responsibilities of this group would be :
    1. Checking on the elderly in our community to make sure they have food, water, heat, etc
    2. Getting donations for those in need.
    3. Helping seniors get in touch with the right agencies to meet their needs
    4. Delivering groceries or taking them shopping
    5. Visiting the nursing homes and homes to just be a friendly presence
    6. Organizing senior activities such as games or socials at the community center
  19. Jim Ed Lawson/J W Prewitt Memorial Christmas Basket Fund:  CLICK HERE
    Yes I know I said 15, but this one came in last minute and REALLY needs our help.  Here is a little about the Fund, taken from the page listed above.
    ” Our Hometown Christmas Story: It all began in the late 1940’s. Jim Ed Lawson and several other men saw a need in the town. They began what is today called the “Jim Ed Lawson/J W Prewitt Memorial Christmas Basket Fund”. The ONLY FUNDING was and still is a caring community of people.
    Throughout the year, various community services are held and donations are collected for the Christmas Basket Fund. It takes the whole town working together to make this project a success year after year.
    About 325 families are helped in and around Rocky Top each year. J W (Bill) Pruitt, having worked with the program for more than 50 years, was the chairman of the Christmas Basket Fund Committee until 2013. His son, Marvin Prewitt is the current chairman. Note: In the beginning, bushel baskets were used and the baskets were all delivered.
    Sign-ups begin in mid-October-November. Each eligible family receives a letter which they bring with them to pick up a food basket.
    In the early stages, there were no extra funds for children’s toys or presents. The Lions Club stepped in to help with Toys for Tots, taking used toys and new ones, putting them together to make a child’s Christmas a little brighter.
    In 1995, we began the “Angel Tree”. Names and needs of area children are collected and given to Suntrust Bank and other sponsors. Their employees record the names taken and also check the names as the gifts are returned to make sure every child is accounted for. Also, Lake City schools help with getting presents for children from companies, businesses, etc.
    The Masonic Lodge in Rocky Top donates the use of the building and the boxes and food are brought in. The committee and all the volunteers meet there, assembling the boxes and filling them with flour, sugar, potatoes, canned food, canned ham, fruit and more.
    The Angel Tree gifts are picked up from the banks and schools and taken to the community center, where they are sorted and prepared for pick up. The Lake City Men’s Club (formerly Lake City Lions Club) donates money for toys to go along with the gifts for all the children.
    On Christmas Eve (9:00 am – 11:00 am), food baskets are handed out at the Masonic Lodge, while presents and toys are handed out at the Community Center.
    We see many happy faces. Faces we know would not have had Christmas, if not for all the good people who come together to make this happen. Many have cried because they were so grateful. Having lost a job or facing a circumstance beyond their control, left them without. At the end of the day, we know we have made a difference in the life of a family, which is what Christmas is all about.”




If you have other ideas or projects that need help, please feel free to email me and I’ll add them to the next #SimplyLocal post.


Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem was written by Phillips Brooks, the pastor who spoke at Abraham Lincoln's funeral service. Before becoming a pastor, Brooks taught at Boston's Latin School. Brooks was discouraged by his students lack of interest and left his position to attend the Episcopal Theological Seminary. After Brooks graduated in 1859 he was asked to pastor the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia. 

Brooks was very successful. He was widely known as a powerful and persuasive speaker. Under his guidance the church grew and prospered. But as the Civil War began to take a tole on the entire country, members of the church began to fall away and Brooks found it harder and harder to offer them the peace they so desperately needed.

When the war finally ended, Brooks thought the healing of his church and the country might began, however the unexpected death of Lincoln shattered his dreams.

After speaking at Lincoln's funeral Brooks took a sabbatical to the Holy Land in an effort to reconnect with his God and to allow his mind and body to rest. He visited during the Christmas season and was able to ride a horse along the route Joseph and Mary took from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.

As he rode alone in the darkness with the stars shining above him he was moved in an overpowering manner. He felt like he was able to experience a small taste of the magic and wonder that must have been alive on that very first Christmas. 

Once Brooks returned from his trip abroad he had a renewed strength to pastor his church. He wanted to share his Christmas in Bethlehem experience with his congregation and the world at large but he always seemed to fall short when he tried to convey the feelings of awe and wonder he experienced.

A few years later, as the Christmas season quickly approached, Brooks tried once more to put his experience into the most meaningful words. Proceeding differently than he had in the past, he simply wrote down what came to mind and as he did Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem was born. 

He shared his newly written poem with his friend, Lewis Redner.

Redner was moved by the poem and finally understood the breadth of what his friend had experienced while visiting the Holy Land.

Redner tried in vain to compose a line of music that would fit the words Brooks had penned. On December 24 Redner accepted defeat and went to bed. But all was not lost, the perfect tune came to him in his sleep. The tune fit the poem perfectly. 

The song become an instant hit in the Philadelphia area and by the time Brooks died in 1893 Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem had become a favorite Christmas Carol across the country and beyond. 

A quote from the book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas gives us an interesting view of both Brooks and the song:

"In a sermon Brooks once said, "It is while you are patiently toiling at the little tasks of life that the meaning and shape of the great whole of life dawns on you." On a horse, in a tiny village, a half a world away form his home and family, the meaning of Phillips Brooks's life and the purpose behind his work were brought into sharp focus." 

I like the quote from Brooks. I firmly believe the little bits of every day life are what make life so precious. Click on the link below to hear Pap and Paul's version of the song (you may need to click your back button to come back to this page).

Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem is my all time favorite Christmas Song and I love Pap and Paul's version of it. The song is on Pap and Paul's cd Songs of Christmas

You can go here Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas to purchase a cd of your own. 


*Source: Collins, Ace. Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.

Green Spun: Climate Change Denial vs Scientific Truth

By Dr. Racheal York Bridgers

When we turn on the tap, water comes out. When we get up in the morning, the lights and heat go on. Why should we believe the predictions of catastrophic climate change when things appear so normal? What’s the problem with a few record-breaking summer temperatures? Although climate change occasionally pops up in the media, politics, and record-breaking temperatures, the threat of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is not visible in our daily lives. As a result, some people choose to believe it is not happening. Psychologist Daniel Gilbert says climate change “lives in the future” and that’s why it’s so hard for us to see. It is hard for us to imagine what we can’t see in in the mountains. 

    Jim Hanson, the NASA scientist (also called the Grandfather of climate change) states that people when faced with threats about what they might lose in the future, they make up excuses not to act. We have so many things to worry about – from finances, health, our kids, work and the mortgage payments – climate change is just far too big and horrible even to imagine. In fact, only a small majority - fifty-four percent  - of the US public believes that climate change is the result of human activity. 

    Regardless of what people believe, mounting scientific evidence demonstrates without a doubt that a massive environmental crisis, caused by human industrial activity (namely, fossil fuel emissions) is well underway. Scientists, like Hanson, have suggested that we are entering a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene; this era is distinct in that humans are not only affecting the climate and biological diversity of the planet but the geology of the Earth for millenniums, and that as a result the Earth may not only be inhospitable in the coming years but unbearable for those being born in the future. 

    Where did the argument for climate denial originate? Climate change denial is the dismissal of actual scientific evidence on the connection of human activity and the extent of Co2 emissions. In a recent study Drexel University sociologist, Robert J Brulle, reveals large companies, including ExxonMobil and Koch Brothers, are funding the multi-million dollar counter-movement to create public doubt about the reality of climate change. Why? Their financial interests are tied directly to extraction industries whose profits would begin to dwindle in the face of such facts. 

There is no debate. Climate change is real. It is happening. We can debate philosophical truths but not factual truths.
— Dr. Rachel York Bridgers

    This countermovement has had a significant life-threatening impact on the planet and our collective future as a species. We have failed to act promptly both politically and ecologically because we have been debating the reality of climate change instead of exploring solutions to this massive problem. Extraction industries depend on public denial to keep doing business as usual. There is no debate. Climate change is real. It is happening. We can debate philosophical truths but not factual truths.

The question for us now is what can I do in this place and in my life to curb the growing carbon footprint we have on the “this fragile Earth, our island home”? We are starting to feel the effects of climate change even here in the southern highlands, as summers grow longer and hotter, and bouts of drought remind us that we are not immune. More importantly, there are ways to combat climate change, and we can’t keep letting ourselves be distracted by those who have only their self-interest in mind. 
Taking action is the best way to challenge the deniers, and today, looking over the beautiful blue mountains, I am reminded of all that is at stake and why we care: we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

Blind Pig and the Acorn: Applepeel Pie

November 06, 2017

Apple peeling.jpg

"Apples was scarce one year. Real scarce. My grandmother had a half bushel of apples. She canned the apples, and then she taken the peelings and canned those. Washed 'em real clean and canned 'em. My mother said, at the time, "I'll never eat those." But then later on, she was down in the hayfield, and when she came in, my grandmother had baked two wonderful pies from those peelings. And my mother ate three pieces. They used so many things that we throw away. I remember Grandmother peeled the potatoes real deep and planted the peelings. Raised our potatoes that way!"

Winnie Biggerstaff, 1904 McDowell County - Snowbird Gravy and Dishpan Pie by Patsy Moore Ginns.

Blind Pig and the Acorn: The Devil went Back to Georgia

The Devil went BACK to Georgia

 written by Keith Jones - Mountain Storyteller

Devil went back to Georgia.png

Most folks have heard the song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band. You may not know that the song was written by members of the band: Vassar Clements, Charlie Daniels, Tom Crain, “Taz” DiGregorio, Fred Edwards, Charles Hayward, and James W. Marshall.

Toward the end of the song, Johnny says, “Now Devil, just come on back if you ever want to try again, ‘cause I’ve told you once, you son of a <bleep!> that I’m the best that’s ever been!” (Well, he said that on the broadcast version of the song. There’s no <bleep!> in the album version!)

            As broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say, this is the rest of the story…

Time is a grindstone, and lives are its grist. After Johnny won the contest with the Devil, there was still a living to be made. No matter how many Saturday night dances and play-parties Johnny fiddled for, there was never enough cash money in it to make a real living. Sure, he was famous far and wide as “that fiddlin’ boy from up in the hickory woods.” That didn’t keep Johnny from having to plow a mule, cut tops and pull fodder, and put up hay for his scrawny livestock.

No, Johnny never prospered as a farmer, he just hung on…barely. Maybe it was that fiddle of gold. The Devil’s prizes never come without a price, and that fiddle seemed to bring blighted corn, swarms of grasshoppers, and late or early frosts at just the wrong times.

Johnny finally made the long trek to the nearest town that had a pawn shop, but the broker took one look at the fiddle and said, “Gold, huh? Whoever told you that was a tee-total liar. Sure it’s got a thin—a very thin—coat of gold plating, but the fiddle itself is made out of brass. It won’t play worth a toot, and it’s not even worth melting down.” Johnny trudged home, disappointed once again. On the way, a thunderstorm broke, pelting him with hail. When he got home, his wheat crop was beaten to the ground.

Johnny’s life wasn’t all terrible. There was Mary. Daughter of the local hardshell Baptist preacher, he had a hard time courting her, for her Daddy was of the persuasion that a good person was one who didn’t “smoke, drink, cuss, nor chew, nor run around with women that do!” Johnny made the great effort to quit smoking and chewing, and his cussing was reserved for work times far away from anyone else when his stubborn old mule wouldn’t respond to anything else. He’d never been a skirt-chaser, in spite of lots of girls swooning and swanning over his fiddle playing. Drinking he never totally gave up, but he limited it enough so that finally he was able to marry his beautiful Mary. After a few years they had a houseful of kids. It was a good thing that Mary knew how to sew, otherwise those kids would have run around the woods naked.

Johnny was a better man because of Mary, but his ‘reform’ only went so far. He’d still go off on Fridays or Saturdays and play his fiddle for barn dances, box suppers, and the like. He’d come dragging in of a Sunday morning, just in time for Mary to sigh, “Oh Johnny!” with a shake of her head. But he’d hitch up the wagon and haul Mary and the kids to his daddy-in-law’s church. Never went in himself, mind you, but he’d pull to the edge of the church yard, or up the hill into the old cemetery where the mule could graze a bit, and where he could half-doze himself. Of course in those pre-air-conditioning days, Johnny couldn’t help but get a pretty big dose of the ‘old-time religion’ with the windows of the little white church house opened wide to snare any passing breeze.

Like I said before, time is a grindstone, and lives are its grist. Before he could reckon how it had happened, all the kids were grown up and had moved off in search of jobs. They’d come home at Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or sometimes for vacation time in the summer (but usually at lay-by time, Johnny noted grimly, not when heavy work was needed.) Finally the worst day of Johnny’s life came. Mary died on him.

Neighbors brought a bait of food, and they laid her to rest in the cemetery’s new part, since her daddy’s square was full of other family graves. Johnny was bothered a bit by that, since two of their babies who’d not lived to be toddlers were buried near the old preacher and his wife. It chaffed him that they weren’t near their momma, but nothing could be done.

In a day or two, the children and grandkids and neighbors went back to their lives. Johnny went back to his broken-down farm and his empty house. He noticed that now arthritis had swollen his hands so badly that it hurt to even play the fiddle—not that his heart was really into fiddling anymore. His back was bent from years of hard labor…and so the Devil picked that moment to come back.

Johnny was coming back from the privy when he heard his rocking chair squeaking in the front room, the room Mary had called the ‘parlor.’ What in the nation? thought Johnny. Nobody I know would just walk in the house and make themselves at home! He bent down to try and look through the latchcord hole, but suddenly the door banged open on its own.

“HEY JOHNNY, I’M BAAAACK!” The devil had on a slick-shiny black suit with a black shirt, black tie, and a blood ruby stickpin big as a pigeon egg. He sprang out of the chair with an evil grin and a menacing glance. Suddenly a greasy-black ebony fiddle appeared in his hand. He tucked the ugly thing under his chin and scraped the bow over the strings. It made the same evil hiss Johnny remembered from fifty-one years before. “I’ve been practicing, Johnny!” The Devil’s eyes flamed red as he played every song Johnny had done in their old contest—but better than Johnny had ever even thought about playing them.

“I don’t want to play against you,” Johnny said, limping over to the cupboard and snatching out the fiddle of “gold.” “Here, take this back.”

“Oh, no, Johnny, you won that fair and square. You keep it.”

“I don’t want it! It’s worthless! It’s just a hunk of tinny brass dressed up to look like gold.”

“What did you expect from the father of lies? Now quit this fooling around. Your turn to play! Or I could just take your soul right now.” All of a sudden the Devil seemed to fill the little front room, looming over Johnny with an intimidating shadow.

The moment Johnny dreaded had finally come due. Why, oh why did I ever say, “Just come on back if you ever want to try again?” 

Somehow that threat made Johnny’s back get a little straighter. If I’m going down below, I will NOT just give up. I’m not the fiddler I was, but I’ll be whatever fiddler I can be. 

Johnny reached back into the cupboard, to a different compartment where he stored his old fiddle and bow. He pulled it out, dusted it off, and rosined up his bow. “Gotta tune this thing,” he said.

“Get on with it. I’m way behind, as usual. Places to go, things to do, the earth to roam, souls to devour.” To emphasize his impatience, the devil swung an enormous gold turnip-style pocket watch. Just in time, Johnny realized that the swinging watch was a trap, that the Devil was trying to lull him to sleep or hypnotize him.

“You played your set, let me play mine my way.” Johnny tightened the first tuning peg. While his attention was on the task, he failed to notice the Devil squinch up his eyes, fold his arms and tap his left foot with impatience. Johnny didn’t see that one of the Devil’s fingers was sneaking out from behind his folded arms. Neither did he notice the little bolt of fire that flew from it. He only noticed the TWAAANNG as the string he was tuning broke.

Johnny was still staring in dismay at the broken string when TWINGGG, TWAANNG, two more of the strings snapped.

“Looks like you should have invested in some new strings,” sneered the Devil.

“Ummm, you’re probably right,” mumbled Johnny, but inside his head, his mind was racing. Down to one string… arthritic hands… no chance at all, except maybe one thing…

Lord this here’s Johnny. I know you and me ain’t been much on speaking terms. I just remember my Mary sure believed in You. You see what a terrible situation I’ve got myself into here. I know there’s no way in he… uh, no way in heaven that I deserve any help from you. But it just bothers me that this here Devil will win out. Like I said, I don’t deserve any help at all, but please just help me play this one song. Lord, please do it just to show how much better You are than that old Devil. Uh…Amen, I reckon.

Johnny didn’t know if his rough and ready prayer had even been heard, but there was nothing for it but to pitch in. He set the bow on the one string that was left, and started in on that one old American folk tune. In his head, Johnny could remember his Mary singing the song so many times.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound


That saved a wretch like me


I once was lost, but now I’m found…


At the first note, the Devil’s face had blackened with rage. His body ‘swole up’ until it seemed it would push out the walls of the room. Huge sparks flew from his eyebrows, his ears, and blue lightning rolled and bowled around his hands.

Johnny didn’t notice. His eyes were closed. His heart heard Mary’s sweet voice echoing again in his memory. Slowly he drew out the notes of the last phrase.

            …Was blind,,, but now… I… see.

The Devil’s rage boiled over like a black kettle of cane syrup spilling in the fire. Reams of blue and red lightning struck Johnny’s old fiddle. It flew into dust and splinters. Johnny’s body jerked once, spasmed, and then fell to the floor—dead as an anvil and boneless as a half-filled sack of stale grits.

And so the Devil got Johnny. His body, anyway.

But the Lord… the Lord got Johnny’s soul!


Now that's a story I like! 


Bringing Home the Message



by Shane Mahoney for Covey Rise


Hunting and fishing have been integral to human existence since mankind’s earliest beginnings. Today, as recreational pursuits, their heartland lies in North America. Not only do we have tens of millions of hunters and anglers pursuing their passions each year on this continent, but North Americans are also major participants in international hunting and angling, helping to support the conservation of fish and wildlife and livelihoods of those engaged in the sustainable use of wild species around the world. If hunting and angling were to cease in the United States and Canada, a shockwave would impact not only the economies, conservation programs, and cultures of these two nations, but those of many foreign destinations as well. 

Presently, we face a growing assembly of threats to wildlife and fish populations, and to our hunting and angling traditions as well. An increasing loss of wildlife habitat worldwide, problems caused by invasive species and wildlife-transmitted diseases, the escalating over harvest of marine fisheries and the ever-increasing demands for resources and energy development are just some of the challenges that must be dealt with on a global scale.

Last year, the World Wildlife Fund’s 2016  Living Planet Report revealed that Earth’s population of wild vertebrates declined 58 percent from 1970 to 2012, meaning the total number of wild animals with backbones fell by more than half within one human lifetime. The number one causes this decline has been identified as habitat loss and degradation. These issues affect wildlife everywhere, including here in North America. Take the Florida panther, for instance, which once ranged throughout the southeastern United States. Perceived as a threat to humans, livestock, and game animals, it was nearly exterminated before being listed as an endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1967. Today, a full half-century later, fewer than 100 animals remain in the wild and, despite great efforts on its behalf, the panther’s recovery has been slow, thwarted significantly by habitat destruction and fragmentation due to urban sprawl. 

Current estimates indicate there are approximately 50,000 non-native species of plants and animals in the United States, of which about 4,300 are considered invasive. Invasive species disrupt natural communities and ecological processes, harming and sometimes eliminating native species that must compete for the same resources. Invasive species often cause a loss of diversity and result in ecosystems that are more vulnerable to other menaces, including disease. The round goby, for example, a small, bottom-dwelling fish native to Europe, arrived in North America in the ballast water of ships. It took less than a decade for it to spread through all five Great Lakes. In some areas, the species has reached densities of 100 fish per square meter and has had serious impacts on native species, including infecting Great Lakes fish and fish-eating birds with botulism type E. 

Indeed, wildlife-transmitted diseases present more of a hazard to animals today than ever before. Severe infectious diseases of wildlife are on the increase mainly due to enhanced mobility of wildlife pathogens resulting from increasing globalization of trade and incursion of human activity into previously isolated wildlife habitats. The transmuted pathogens and their associated epidemics are serious threats to biodiversity worldwide and result in population declines as well as degraded ecosystem function. Some of these diseases first arose here in North America. For example, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion infection affecting the brains and nervous systems of cervids, including mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and moose. The disease, which causes neurodegeneration and is always fatal, has been reported in multiple instances and in several US states. In Wisconsin, CWD first appeared in 2002 and has now spread to 43 counties. The state remains uncertain about the full extent of its impact on wildlife populations, human and domestic animal health, and local economies. 

Marine fish provide 15 percent of all animal protein consumed by human beings globally. However, the increasing overharvest of marine fishes has created widespread unsustainability. A 2009 assessment found that 80 percent of global fish stocks are either overly or fully exploited, or have collapsed. A striking example is the case of the endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna, formerly the foundation of one of the world’s most profitable commercial fisheries. Since 1970, its population has declined by more than 80 percent due to growing consumer demand and overfishing, and this decline affects more than menu availability and cost. Atlantic bluefin tuna are a top predator in the marine food chain and help maintain the food web structure in the ocean environment, a process which is essential to the health and resilience of many interacting species.  

Brown Trout Release.jpeg


Conservation at every level is key to sustaining and preservine wildlife, including practices like catch and release. 

As the demand for Atlantic bluefin tuna and other fish species has increased, so have worldwide demands of natural resources and energy in general. There are now more than 7 billion people on Earth, and the United Nations predicts the global population will exceed 9 billion by 2050. It is estimated that in order to meet the needs of our growing global population, food production will need to increase by 70 percent worldwide. However, increased demand for resources and energy development typically mean increased industrialization, increased land conversion, and subsequent loss of habitat and associated natural diversity, the very things we cannot afford to lose if humanity’s ecological requirements are met. 

These environmental realities and the concerns they generate have implications for hunting and fishing opportunities, here and worldwide. As society becomes more focused on the problem of wildlife loss, some people one to view activities such as hunting as potentially harmful, irrelevant, or unnecessary. This trends already led to considerable confusion among the general public and even respected journalists over terms such as hunting and poaching, which are often treated as synonymous and used interchangeably. Similarly, all trade in wildlife products is coming to be understood by the public and policymakers alike as illegal, despite the overwhelming evidence that much of it has been beneficial and sustainable for a very long period of time. 

We cannot simply ignore these clear and influential realities or wish then the away. Those who oppose hunting are well organized and determined in their views, and they are having impacts at home and abroad, especially where the wider and non-opposed public is becoming increasingly concerned for wildlife’s fate and confused over whether hunting really has a conservation role to play. Opposition to hunting grizzly bears here in North America elephants in Africa resonates with the general public and thereby widely influences political decisions beyond those issues. 

As individual sportsmen and women, we might not be aware of how much is happening on this oppositional front-but we need to be. Distant rumblings warn of approaching storms. Today it might not be our bird hunting or fishing under threat, but tomorrow it very well could be. And if these penalties seem far-fetched, let’s remember that until fairly recently the hunting of carnivores in North America was not only accepted by widely encouraged and approved. Today, the hunting of mountain lions, black and brown bears, and wolves is a highly contentious and deeply divisive issue in our society. This has all changed in little more than a generation. 

So, in wishing to protect our wildlife heritage traditions, how do we proceed? It’s not enough to simply say we are conservationists, concerned for wildlife’s future; rather, we must demonstrate this, over and over again. Only by doing so can we convince society of our concern for the wild others we both pursue and protect. Wildlife exists and thrives where we take action on its behalf. We can’t preserve wild resources if we don’t take deliberate steps to protect them and, as individuals and nations, make some sacrifices on their behalf. We must support wildlife management activities, even and perhaps especially when it means restricting our own activities. 

We must be true stewards of all wildlife and nature, supporting conservation efforts for game animals and nonhunted/nonfished species alike, not just financially, but also through our actions and our words. We should openly demonstrate our concerns for wildlife and for the proper treatment of all animals. Volunteer at a wildlife refuge; oil a conservation organization; organize a litter cleanup in your neighborhood; don’t leave water running; keep your cat indoors; remove invasive weeds from your yard; recycle engine oil; buy a duck stamp; plant a pollinator garden; if you see evidence of poaching, contact your state fish and game office; talk to your kids about the value of wildlife and teach them, by example, to hunt and fish responsibly and respectfully. There is a lot any of us can do. 

It’s not enough to simply say we are conservationists, concerned for wildlife’s future; rather, we must demonstrate this, over and over again.
— Shane Mahoney


Activism is the key. Implicit support for conservation is fine, but not enough; we must be protagonists for wildlife and for our hunting and angling traditions. We must recognize our responsibility to educate others about the realities of wildlife conservation. If we do not explain the relevance of hunting to others, who will? Furthermore, if we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy the riches of a full natural world, one where we can pass onto them the great traditions of hunting and angling, then we needed to carefully consider how we are perceived, not by our hunting friends, but by the public at large. We must engage in the conservation debate and become activists for wildlife and fish as treasured resources, not just as creatures to be pursued. If, as hunters and anglers, all we are known for is a desire to sustain wild creatures so we can have an opportunity to catch or kill them, then we can be assured that society will make some painful decisions for us. We can either shape this debate now or allow others to shape it for us. Hunters and anglers need to decide whether they want to lead, follow, or get out of the way. 

We live in a time when more and more people are developing lifestyles completely divorced from nature, when participation is declining in many outdoor activities, when kids are often surprised or even disgusted to learn that meat in the grocery store comes from living animals. The problem is, as hunters we are a minority in modern society. We who see and participate fully in nature as it really is-wild, fierce, and beautiful, all at the same time-account for less than 5 percent of the citizenry. For the majority of people, counting experiences are foreign, and as a consequence, so too are their views. The result is we can no longer expect that society will simply “get it.” It now falls directly on us to explain hunting and angling and to defend the relevance of these traditions in modern society. And one thing is for certain. The argument that will resonate is not that we wish to kill, or even that we wish to kill and consume, but rather, that we wish to conserve. We must choose to join this activist movement or choose the end of our passions. For me, the choice is clear. 

I have been engaged in the conservation of wildlife my entire life. As a research biologist, I’ve worked to ensure our approached to conservation are based on reason and science-on real knowledge, not on emotion alone. As a wildlife manager, I have worked to regulate the harvest of species and know well the diversity of views and challenges surrounding this practice. As a writer, lecturer, radio and television host, and filmmaker, I’ve worked to ensure that the fate of wildlife and our responsibilities to wild creatures and wild places remain critical parts of our social debates. As a hunter an angler, I’ve endeavored to share with the wider public and political elites how and why these ancient traditions remain relevant in a modern society, why they matter, and why they must e preserved.

Perhaps most important, I've tried to convince hunters and anglers to live as conservationists first, to safeguard our sacred responsibility to be the first and greatest voice for the wild creatures we pursue and cherish. I know the many of us share this view. The time has come to raise our voices in concert for our traditions, our passions, and for those wild others at the center of both. It is time bring the message home.


Many people throughout the American South grew up hearing that if they didn’t behave, Rawhead and Bloodybones would come to get them.

These two terrifying creatures were often imagined as parts of the same monster, Rawhead being the bare skull and the headless skeleton being Bloodybones. The origins of this tale go back to England, with the Oxford Dictionary tracing mentions of the phrase back as far as 1548. But, in spite of the longevity of this bogeyman, the original tale has been forgotten. The only remnants we have are an old nursery rhyme from Yorkshire:

Rawhead and Bloody Bones,

Steals Naughty Children from their Homes,

Takes them to his dirty den,

And they are never seen again.

Even though the original tale was lost, countless numbers of stories in the American south involve Rawhead and Bloodybones. One from the Ozarks even reimagines him as a skeletal boar-hog created by a witch. The story I’m going to share with you comes from Kentucky.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who married a man that had a beautiful daughter named Mary. The woman also had a daughter named Suzy, who looked like she’d fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every limb on the way down. Folk around town said that one glance at Suzy could send a freight train down a dirt road. None of that would’ve mattered much if Suzy had been a nice girl, but she wasn’t. Both her and her mama hated Mary on account of her beauty. Mary, on the other hand, was both beautiful and kind. She did her best to return Suzy’s and her stepmother’s hatred with good deeds.

After a couple of years of living under the same roof, Mary’s step-mother got tired of watching her be more beautiful than Suzy. So she went to see a witch and told her she had a hateful step-daughter that she wanted to be rid of.

“Here’s what ye need to do,” the witch said. “Have Suzy pretend she’s ill. Have her lay down in bed and tell Mary that unless someone brings Suzy water from a well on the other side of the mountain, she’ll die. Send Mary to get the water and I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Well, I want to know how you’re going to get rid of her,” the stepmother said.

“If ye must know,” the witch said, “the well on the far side of the mountain is where Rawhead and Bloodybones lives. If Mary is as hateful as you say she is, he’ll take care of her.”

“All right,” said the stepmother.

She went home and told Suzy her plan. Suzy laid down in the bed and began to groan. When Mary came inside she heard Suzy moaning and asked what was the matter.

“She’s ill,” said the stepmother, “and nothing can help her except for a drink of water from the well on the other side of the mountain.”

Well, Mary being a kind and good girl who liked to help everybody, said she’d go over the mountain to get the water. So she got a bucket and a biscuit and started out. As she came to the base of the mountain, she saw a small dog in her path.

The dog trotted up to her and whined. “Please, Miss,” it said, “I have a terrible itch on my belly. Could you scratch it for me?”

“Of course I can,” said Mary. She put down her bucket and scratched the dog’s belly. She did such a good job that the dog’s leg started pumping back and forth in delight. Once his itch was gone the dog stood up and thanked Mary. “You smell better than a bush full of roses, “ it said, “and may you smell twice as good when you go home.”

About halfway up the mountain, Mary sat down to eat her biscuit for dinner. An old man with a long, dirty beard came out from behind a tree and sat down next to her.

“What do you want, Sir?” Mary asked.

“I’d like to eat dinner with you,” the old man said.

“All I have is this biscuit,” Mary said. “But I’ll share it with you.” She tore the biscuit in two and gave the old man the larger half.

“Thank you for your kindness and being so good to me,” the old man said when they’d finished eating. “You’re as pretty as a speckled pup. May you be twice as pretty when you go home.”

As the sun sank low, Mary finally found herself on the far side of the mountain. She saw the well, wreathed in evening mist. Mary let her bucket down into the well and cranked it back up. she could see that there was something in her bucket, but it wasn’t water. As she pulled it from the well, she saw it was a human skull. A sinister light shone from its eye sockets.

“What do you want, Mr. Skull?” she asked.

“I want you to wash me, and dry me, and lay me down easy,” said the skull.

So she washed it and dried it and laid it down easy. Then she dropped her bucket down the well again, and this time pulled up a bone, then another, and another. They all wanted Mary to wash them and dry them and lay them down easy. All night she worked, pulling up bone after bone, washing them, drying them, and laying them gently on the ground. As the morning sun peeked over the horizon, the bones began to assemble themselves with a click, click, click. Soon a headless skeleton was complete. It got to its feet and lifted the skull in one hand.

Mary gasped in terror. Before her stood Rawhead and Bloodybones. The skeleton took a step toward her and held up the skull until it was staring straight into her face.

“Don’t be scared,” said the skull. “You have done me a great kindness, and for that, I say when you get home may gold fall out of your hair when you comb it. Now you may take your water from the well and leave.”

Later that day, when Mary arrived back in town, everyone noticed a wonderful smell. They thought that a florist shop must be moving in. They looked out on the street and saw Mary, more beautiful than ever.

When Mary got home, her stepmother was surprised to see her, very much surprised.

“What are you doing here?” she said.

“I’ve got the water for Suzy,” Mary said. She went on in, and gave Suzy a drink.

Suzy, who wasn’t sick at all, got out of bed and started playing.

“I’m glad to see she’s better now,” said Mary.

“Oh, go on and shut up!” said the step-mother. “I wish you hadn’t’ve come back. You just bring hatefulness into this house.”

“I’m really tired,” Mary said, ignoring her step-mother’s meanness. “I just want to comb my hair and go to bed. Can I comb my hair in your lap?”

“No, I won’t let you comb your hair in my lap,” said the step-mother. “What do you think I am, a garbage pail or something?”

“Well, I guess I’ll comb it in my own lap then,” Mary said. She went off in the corner and started to comb her hair. And when she combed it, gold fell out! Her step-mother saw this and said, “Oh, honey! Come here, I’ll let you comb your hair in my lap!”

“I don’t want you too, now,” Mary said. “I’ll comb it by myself.” She kept combing until she had a big pile of gold.

The stepmother realized that the well on the far side of the mountain must be responsible for this magic, so she wasted no time in sending Suzy to fetch a bucket of water there, and she packed a big, fine meal for Suzy to eat along the way.

At the base of the mountain, Suzy met the little dog, who asked her scratch his belly.

“Scratch your own flea-bitten belly!” Suzy said. “I’m in a hurry to get my gold!”

As Suzy walked away the dog looked after her. “You smell worse than perfume on a pig,” he said. “May you smell twice as bad when you get home.”

Half way up the mountain, Suzy got hungry and sat down to eat her meal. The old man with the long beard appeared and asked to share her meal.

“I don’t want your dirty beard dragging in my food,” Suzy said. “Go on and hush up! I ain’t going to let you eat with me!”

“Well all right,” said the old man. As he walked back into the woods he looked over his shoulder and said, “You’re so ugly you could back a buzzard off a meat wagon. May you be twice as ugly when you get home.”

Suzy made it to the well on the other side of the mountain. She rushed to it and dropped her bucket down inside When she drew it up, she found the skull inside.

“Wash me, and dry me, and lay me down easy,” said the skull.

“What do you think I am? Your maid-servant?” said Suzy. “I don’t want to put my hands on you.” She picked up her bucket and hurled the skull out on the ground. Suzy kept sending her bucket dowm, and just like Mary, brought up bone and after bone. Each one of them asked to be washed, and dried, and laid down easy, but Suzy threw each one of them into a pile by the skull. When she pulled out the last bone, she final got her bucket full of water and turned around to leave, only to find Rawhead and Bloodybones standing behind her.

“You hateful, little girl!” said the skull, it’s eyes glowing angrily. “When you get home, may snakes and frogs fall out of your hair when you comb it.”

When Suzy got back to town later that day, she cleared the whole street with her stink. People covered their eyes and pinched their noses as she walked past, saying they didn’t know what was worse, looking at her or smelling her.

When she got home, her mother was waiting with a comb in hand. “Come here, sweet-pea! Let’s comb you hair,” she said. Then the greedy woman began to comb Suzy’s hair, only to get a lap full of snakes and frogs. Suzy and her mother ran away screaming, and Mary lived happily ever after.

Blind Pig and the Acorn

Blind Pig and the Acorn: 

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins

October 16, 2017


This time of the year I always start getting a taste for pumpkin recipes. A couple weeks ago, one of my favorite girls and me whipped up some Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins. I've had the recipe for ages. Years ago I cut it out of a Country Living magazine. Although the muffins are a little fussier to make than regular muffins they are so worth the extra effort. 

According to the magazine the recipe is a specialty of Second Creek Farm Bed and Breakfast in Owensville, Missouri. 

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins - from Country Living


  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 2½ cup sugar (divided-see recipe)
  • 2½ cup flour (divided-see recipe)
  • ¼ cup pecans
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1¼ cup packed pumpkin
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
Muffin Pics.jpg


Pre-heat oven to 375°.  Lightly coat two 12-cup standard muffin tins with oil and set aside or use paper liners.

Mix the cream cheese, 1 egg, and 3 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Toss 5 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup flour, pecans, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the rest of the sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and remaining cinnamon in a large bowl.

Lightly beat the rest of the eggs, pumpkin, oil, and vanilla together in a medium bowl.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour the pumpkin mixture into the well, and mix with a fork just until moistened.

Evenly divide half of the batter among the muffin cups. Place two teaspoonfuls of cream cheese filling in the center of each cup and fill with the remaining batter.

Sprinkle some of the pecan mixture over the top of each muffin and bake until golden and a tester, inserted into the muffin center, comes out clean -- 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Finished Muffin.jpg


The muffins are best right out of the oven, but they're not bad even a day later...if they last that long!


p.s. Be sure to jump over and watch Sow True Seed's video

BONUS Prizes for Campaign Backers are being awarded.
Sow True Seed needs help reaching their goal. As they close in on the 7 Day countdown, they still have some distance to go to reach their all-or-nothing funding target. They have some great rewards to say thank you for your pledge, but to keep things fun in the final week, they're going to be randomly selecting backers to win some bonus prizes. They'll be doing at least three bonus prize drawings, the first one at 8pm on Monday Oct 16th, so pledge today for your best chance of winning a bonus prize.

Bonus prizes will include artwork, seed books, seeds and more!

Check out this link/video and see if you can give Sow True Seed a hand. They do a tremendous job of ensuring our seeds continue for the future generations. They especially focus on the heirloom seeds that have been passed down for generations in Appalachia. And if all that wasn't enough-you already know they support the Blind Pig and The Acorn by sponsoring my garden and my garden reporter @ large projects. If you decide to donate to their cause-you can get some pretty cool things in return-so check it out. 

‘The Eateries of Madison County, North Carolina’

D.G. Martin

Origional publication August 14, 2017

Some people fall in love with bridges, as in the late Robert James Waller’s “The Bridges of Madison County,” the best-selling romance novel from 1992.

Others, like me, fall in love with eateries. So here goes with “The Eateries of Madison County, North Carolina” and some information about three restaurants that could be included in a follow up volume to my book, “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints.” 

I found these Madison County eateries while attending the Laughing Heart Literary Festival at the iconic Laughing Heart Lodge in Hot Springs.

Smoky Mountain Diner in Hot Springs

Terry Roberts’ people have lived in Madison County for generations, and his debut novel, “A Short Time to Stay Here,” is set in Hot Springs during the First World War when German interns were housed in the old resort hotel.

Roberts waxes eloquently about the Smoky Mountain Diner, family-owned for years, he says. “Once when we were eating there during the Christmas season,” he remembers, “the staff emptied out of the restaurant suddenly. They were leaving to man the diner’s float in the Hot Springs Christmas parade. On the way out, they told everybody to put the money on the counter when they finished eating.”

Roberts says the diner serves the "best pie in Madison County.”

Appalachian Trail hikers meet up with locals and tourists at the diner to feast on mountain-sized dishes like the Hungry Hiker double-decker Black Angus beef sandwich.

Owner Genia Hayes Peterson, her daughter Casey, Casey’s husband, William Franklin, the main cook, and their son Zach keep the restaurant open seven days a week and on holidays. They have the help of staff members like Cindy Wood, who has been working there for 19 years.

After eating take in the wonderful downtown Hot Springs where you can see tired trail hikers passing through. Stop at Gentry Hardware and if you have time, visit Hot Springs Resort where the springs that made the town famous are still steaming. Bring your bathing suit.

Zuma Coffee in Marshall

Although Terry Roberts recommends Zuma’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner, he likes it best on Thursday evenings when mountain music reigns. He heard a rumor that well-heeled music fans would pay up to $1,000 per season for a front-row table on Thursday nights. Don’t let that scare you away. The rest of the time Zuma’s is primarily a coffee shop. But its “Zuma Food Menu” headlines “Creative, Healthy, Comfort Food.” That is shorthand for “It’s a great place to get a sandwich.”


Because the old courthouse is right across the street, Roberts says a good place to sit is outside in front of Zuma’s “to enjoy the action and drama on court day.”

Most of the time there is a parade of tourists, locals, and farmers in overalls who pass by and often come inside to enjoy treats from the coffee bar, cookies and sweets, and a good sandwich meal.

After eating, walk down Main Street. Still Mayberry-like, it is quickly becoming a trendy Asheville suburb with shops and more upscale restaurants. Go inside the courthouse and you will be reminded of the trial scene in the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Momma’s Kitchen in Marshall

Since 1987, Momma’s Kitchen has been the proud domain of its owner, Sherry Robinson. She tells how her husband, James, sawed down trees and milled the lumber he used to build the restaurant’s building. Those rough natural wood planks help create a cozy atmosphere and make for an intimate place to enjoy its country cooking. On the day I visited, patrons raved about the fried squash and juicy hamburgers.


  D.G. is a Davidson College graduate, retired attorney and a long time friend of the Haire (Editor) family. DG knows a good thing when he sees it Bon Appetite!

D.G. is a Davidson College graduate, retired attorney and a long time friend of the Haire (Editor) family. DG knows a good thing when he sees it Bon Appetite!

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Preview the upcoming program on Preview the upcoming program on UNC-TV’s North Carolina digital channel(Spectrum #1276) on Fridays at 8 p.m.


 Many people's Appalachian accents grow stronger when talking with mountain family.

Many people's Appalachian accents grow stronger when talking with mountain family.

by Mark Lynn Ferguson

Original publication: June 29,2016

Appalachian accents are like no other. A mash-up of influences—British Isles, German, African dialects, probably some Native American—all mixed together and baked in our secluded hills for a couple centuries.

Some say that the resulting sound is more like Elizabethan English than the contemporary accent in England. I’m not sure how to confirm that without a time machine, but I do know that the minute Appalachian natives leave the mountains, that accent sets them apart.

You know how it goes. A friend from, say, New Jersey is deaf to his own thick intonation but doesn’t hesitate to reference the Beverly Hillbillies or Deliverance when poking fun at yours. Some folks call it vocal imperialism. I just call it mean.

But it works. Countless mountain people are ashamed of the sound of their own voices, some going so far as beating the accent into submission with diction classes.

This pitiful pattern set today’s guest blogger Chelyen Davis to thinking. A Southwest Virginia native who lives in Richmond, she sees “code switching” among Appalachian folks all the time. That’s when someone switches dialects depending on the circumstances.

Chelyen, who also writes on her own blog Homesick Appalachian, asks an important question—now that we’re constantly exposed to people from other regions, is code-switching just a fact of life or are we losing a key piece of our mountain heritage?

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Be sure to leave a comment below.

*NPR recently started an interesting conversation on Twitter by asking if public radio voices are “too white” and if those white-sounding public radio voices are limiting the audience, shutting out people who don’t necessarily choose to listen to people who don’t sound like them.

The discussion grew out of an African-American professor and hip-hop artist who did some radio work and noticed that he talked differently for radio, and was considering why. From what I could tell from the Twitter discussion, folks of other ethnicities weighed in, and then people started talking about how public radio voice isn’t just white, it’s a sort of standard, non-accented white. You don’t often hear regional accents on NPR, no matter what race the speaker is.

That’s an interesting and valuable conversation to have, and it gets into all kinds of issues — race, ethnicity, regional dialects, the value placed on how we talk, how we sound, the words we choose, how others judge us by all that, etc. An interesting comment on that is here.

But it got me thinking off on a specific related tangent — Appalachian code-switching. This probably would apply to any strong regional accent (hi, Boston), but Appalachian accents are my own experience.

I don’t think everyone in Appalachia (or the south, or another region with a strong accent) code-switches. Not everyone needs to. My uncles and cousins mostly still live in the small communities where they grew up, and I doubt they talk any differently at work on the strip job than they do at home. They might change their words a bit when they go to, say, the doctor’s office in Bristol or Johnson City. But largely, their lives are lived around people who talk the way they do.

But I grew up hearing my parents code-switch because they left those communities. They were both the first in their (large) families to go to college, and we lived in a town — still in Appalachia, but outside the more isolated, small communities where they both grew up. You could hear my mother’s voice change when she called her parents on the phone. To neighbors where we lived, it was your basic “Hi, how are you?” To her own parents, it was “Howdydo. Howre you’uns a-doin?”

She still does that when she calls her dad or brothers, or when we visit them. And so do I. It seems you only need to code-switch when you leave. (Or become a radio/tv host.)

I am an adopter of accents. I think there’s actually a word for that but I don’t know it — I unconsciously mimic the accent of the person I’m talking to, if I talk to them for long enough and if their accent is distinctive enough. I don’t mean to, and they aren’t necessarily flattered by it, and I don’t always do it strongly. I first noticed it when I spent a month in England in college.

But my own accent is softly Southwest Virginian. I’ve lived away a good long while, so it’s not as strong as, say, some of my cousins’ accents. And probably it never was, because we lived in town and my parents went to college and I grew up watching public TV and, as I noted in a previous post, I was the kind of kid who thought “ain’t” wasn’t a proper word. But it’s there. People here, away from the mountains, sometimes comment on it or ask where I’m from. It’s a great way to find fellow mountain folks here — we can hear each other talk, and believe me if I hear an accent that sounds like it’s from Southwest Virginia, I’m going to ask that person where they’re from.

My sister’s accent has mostly faded, but mine hasn’t. I think I’m just prone to an accent. Also, I lived back home for a couple of years after college, so maybe it sort of “set” then. It gets stronger if I’ve had a glass or two of wine, and it gets stronger when someone asks about it. It knows when it’s being talked about, and it likes to show off.

I have a professional job, but I rarely consciously talk differently than I would, say, at a party or at home. The primary exception has been at public events — say if I’m on a speaking panel — or the occasional times when I’ve been a guest on a radio show (public radio, at that!). I think the accent tightens up a bit then, tries to behave itself. I probably make some different word choices than my colloquial speaking voice, although I know I’ve said “might could” on the radio.

My writing changes some, too. I’m rereading this post and it sounds awfully formal. If you and I were sitting down and just chatting about this, I would probably say things a bit differently.

But that’s all code-switching, I suppose, to an extent. I also know I talk differently when I call home to Mom, and even more so when I call my grandfather. I talk differently when I visit my parents’ families. My boyfriend tells me I talk differently when I come back from a visit home. So I code-switch both ways, to a lesser accent and to a stronger one.

And I’m glad. I’d rather switch than talk blandly all the time. I don’t want to lose my accent, my word choices, the colorfulness of Appalachian ways of talking. I’d be fine with that accent getting stronger. I know many people outside the mountains assume someone with a strong mountain accent is a dumb hick, but I figure that’s their problem, not mine. I love using terms like “might could/should/would” — and it is so handy, perfectly describing that point between “I could go to the party” and “I only MIGHT could go to the party.” I love having that vocal connection to home, to a place and a culture and a history.

My boss once told me he had heard a theory that we talk like where we want to be. I miss home, so I love talking like people back home. People who are glad to get out of the mountains (and there are some such misguided souls) probably welcome the disappearance of their accents, consciously work to shed them. The boss had come from a poor, flat farming area in North Carolina. He didn’t seem to much miss it, and he didn’t talk like his roots either.

I’m not a linguist. I assume there are studies and papers and research and opinions out there about this subject, about Appalachians shedding their accents in the flatlands. I know there are many papers and studies and ruminations about the broader issues of the homogenization of language, the pernicious effects of TV (and radio!) on making us all sound the same, the value judgments placed on word choices and on speaking “proper” English, and all that.

But I love accents and words that change by region. Perhaps because I value them so highly for my own sense of culture and place, I’m all for everyone else having their own too. Why should we all talk the same? Language should be colorful. So while I love public radio, I hope it doesn’t Henry Higgins us all, stamping out accents and strange pronunciations and weird words.

Front Porch Blog: Duke Energy wants to raise your power bill

 If utility regulators approve Duke Energy’s requested rate hike, customers in North Carolina could pay hundreds more each year for electricity.

If utility regulators approve Duke Energy’s requested rate hike, customers in North Carolina could pay hundreds more each year for electricity.

If utility regulators approve Duke Energy’s requested rate hike, customers in North Carolina could pay hundreds more each year for electricity.

Duke Energy is at it again.

The company that brought us the Dan River coal ash spill is asking the North Carolina Utilities Commission for approval to raise rates for its residential customers in North Carolina by more than 16 percent. 

But the company already brings in billions in profits every year, and much of that is extracted from ratepayers who have no say in who they pay to power their homes. One of the largest electric utilities in the country, Duke Energy has a monopoly on electricity sales in North Carolina.

The requested rate hikes will cover the required cleanup of coal ash at sites across the state, sunk costs into a nuclear plant in South Carolina that is unlikely to be completed and the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline — a $5 billion project that could lead the company’s to increase our bills again in the future.

Instead of raising our rates to make amends for the Clean Water Act crimes exposed in the aftermath of the Dan River spill, the company should foot the bill to responsibly clean up and process the toxic coal ash at every site rather than pushing the “cap in place” method and leaving ash in the largest impoundments in the state. It should also move forward with providing a source of clean water for the hundreds of families who have relied on bottled water for more than 800 days.

To make matters worse, Duke Energy executives want to nearly double the “fixed charge” — the amount you pay just to be connected to the grid — from $11.13 to $19.50. This change would disproportionately impact the folks who use the least power. Overall, the rate hike would have an outsized impact on low-wage workers, seniors on fixed incomes and communities of color.

A Duke Energy radio ad that recently hit the airwaves touts the company’s steps toward a “smarter energy future” such as investing in solar and responsibly cleaning up coal ash to ensure energy costs are affordable. 

But, as has been the case, what the company says it different than what it does. And North Carolinians are taking notice and joining together at five announced hearings in September and October and others that will come later in 2017 or early 2018.

A diverse coalition including environmental organizations, economic and racial justice groups, and directly impacted communities are ready to show that North Carolinians are opposed to Duke’s rate hike request. Because we’re already paying a price for Duke Energy’s mess: toxic pollution in our waterways and drinking water that is threatening our health and well-being. It’s time for Duke to be held accountable.


Nick Wood

Nick, a native of North Carolina and our N.C. Field Organizer, is a licensed attorney with a J.D. from the UNC School of Law. He has worked in the environmental movement as a community organizer since 2013, focusing on coal ash, green jobs, fracking and climate justice.

Blind Pig and the Acorn: Have You Ever Been To Suit?


A Place Named Suit written by John Parris

You can't buy a suit in Suit. Nobody sells them and nobody makes them. "Maybe in the old days," said O.C. Payne. "But not any more. If a man wants a suit he has to go up to Murphy."

The 71-year-old former postmaster of Suit shook his head. "And you can save yourself a trip across the ridge," he added. "You won't find any vests in Vests." He paused. A grin spread across his weathered, whiskered face. A twinkle came into his eyes and he chuckled. 

"I remember once," he said, "they sent a new postal inspector into these parts. He rode in here from Vests and the first thing he asked me was: "Where's Pants? I've found Suit and Vests." He laughed fit to be tied. 

"And the drummers that came around were always making jokes about Suit and Vests. Nothing to take offense about. Just good natured joking.

We used to have a lot of post offices with unusual names in this section of Cherokee County. Ones like Guy and Bear Paw and Ogreeta and Letitia and Hothouse. But for names to set a man's curiosity on edge you can't beat Suit and Vests.

It beats all how many folks come in here wanting to know why Suit is Suit and Vests is Vests. They expect some colorful or outlandish tale of how they got their names. I reckon that's why you're here. Well, I'll tell you. But don't expect anything to do with a suit or a vest.

Suit was named after Johnston Suits. He got the post office established here. He was the first postmaster of Suit. That was in 1886. 

A family by name of Vests got a post office established across the ridge from here and the government gave it their name.

That's all there is to it. Sort of disappointing, isn't it? I reckon if the folks around here were given to making up tales, Suit and Vests would really be on the map. They are, of course, but I mean like they were famous for something unusual. 

Funny thing, since the Suit post office was established it's had 21 postmasters. I took it over in 1928. Served until I retired in 1955. That's 27 years.

Before that I was postmaster over at Birch. That's on Beech Creek where I was born. Started out over there in 1915. All together I put in 39 years in the postal service. 

At Birch and here I had a store and had the post office in the store. In those days the postmaster wasn't paid a salary. He was paid only on the number of cancellations.

Between the store and the post office I managed to make out. Raised a family of eight children. And now me and the wife are retired. Got out of the store business last November."

He paused a moment and looked down across the road to the little store where the usual loafers were sitting on the porch talking. 

"Henry Truett runs the store and the post office," he said. "He's a might fine boy. I still spend a lot of time down there. That is when I'm not seeing to my fox hounds. I go fox hunting about twice a week. Winter and summer. It's got to come and awful snow to keep me home. Been fox hunting since I was 10 years old. It's the greatest sport in the world. And I've got five of the finest fox hounds you ever listened to. They're Walkers. The music they make is really something."

As he talked the sun spun golden mists over the land. 

"You know, I've never been in but five states. Never have traveled far from home. I don't regret it either. I'm happy in these old hills."

He paused, looked over at his wife and smiled. "Suit," he said, "suits me just fine."


Granny hails from down in the Suit area of Cherokee County. I can remember folks calling the area Suit was I was young, and maybe some folks still do, but I don't hear it anymore myself. 

I know the moniker of Suit was still in common use in 1977 because it was listed on an old phone book I found. You can see it here

Henry Truett mentioned in the article as being a mighty fine boy was Granny's uncle. Funny to read of him being a boy when for my entire life he was an old man. Although I didn't get to see him often I always loved him. I never seen Uncle Henry that he didn't have a smile on his face and a song on his lips. 


Green Spun: What Education is For


Dr. Rachel Bridgers, 

September 06, 2017

This very day, as Hurricane Irma rages toward Puerto Rico and Florida, victims of Hurricane Harvey are still picking up the pieces of their lives. We are in the age of superstorms and natural disasters. We are in the age of ecological overshoot, a term used to describe all the environmental problems standing at our door. Eight out of ten of our major ecosystems are in decline, and we are in the midst of the sixth great mass extinction of species. All of this is the result of human activities. The environmental crisis we face today threatens all life on earth. 

 How did we get here? One suggestion is that education is the chief architect of social change, and it has not led us toward the ethical treatment of the earth and her inhabitants. David Orr, professor and scholar at Oberlin College, writes that our curriculum is so disjointed and fragmented that students cannot see the whole picture. Instead they specialize in particulars and, as a result, get a fragmented view of the world. 

True learning aims toward wholeness. This holistic approach is an important step in our re-shaping and in the transformation of the education system. Seeing what ecologist Gregory Bateson calls the ‘patterns that connect’ is fundamental to nature but also learning. Everything is connected to everything else, and without this sense of totality we will continue this downward ecological spiral, species extinction, and the untold suffering of global populations. 

Orr suggests that our contemporary culture is based on a few myths.

Myth 1: With enough knowledge and technology we can control the planet. This idea that technology will save us reflects another common misconception-- that all technology is good technology or somehow socially beneficial. This ethic assumes that as technology progresses, we also progress morally, ethically, and socially, which is not the case. 

Myth 2: Human goodness is increasing with knowledge. The systematic destruction of our natural resources – mountain top removal for instance – is the work of some very smart people. Their intelligence does not make them inherently good, or give them an ethical compass. 

Myth 3: The purpose of education is for upward mobility and success. This has not served the planet well. Educators and philosophers since Plato have recognized that the real purpose of learning is that we use knowledge for good in and of the world. The banking crisis is an example of individuals climbing the ladder of success at the expense of many.

How do we educate for the 21st century? Take students outside to learn about the rivers and streams, the trees and the birds. Most children know ten corporate logos and never learn to identify any of the native trees, birds and animals that live in their backyards. What we learn is as important as how we learn. 

Orr also reminds us that all education is environmental education. We are animals of a kind, living in an ecosystem, and every subject and every lesson relates to our place in the nature of things. In the southern highlands, kids are likely to spend their free time running around outside, fishing in the rivers, and hiking the trails. Students at Western Carolina University and the college campuses in the area are often taking advantage of the outdoors and kayaking the rivers and caving with friends. Some students also complain that they stay inside all day, and rarely get outside to learn. Science classes will sometimes go outside to study rivers and streams, fauna and flora, but more often than not, the humanities and arts are kept inside. 

If we are not teaching students how the environment is central to everything we are and do together, we are doing them a great disservice. As Hurricanes reach our shores and displace so many, we are called upon to remember that what we learn has real implications for the communities in which we live and the people we know. Real learning happens when students see the effect their knowledge has on their communities and in the world. This is what education is for. 

Blind Pig and the Acorn: Corncob Jelly



Corncob Jelly - Mountain Cooking by John Parris 1978


Elizabeth Edwards, who operates a business with a strictly mountain flavor, has discovered a delectable use for the lowly corncob. She's come up with corncob jelly.

"I got the idea from a story I ran across last fall," Mrs. Edwards explained one day last week. "It was about a man remembering a visit to an old-time country fair. He mentioned that he had tasted corncob jelly. I decided I would give it a try."

She had to start with only the idea. She didn't have a recipe. But being a master hand at the art of canning and preserving, she set out to do a bit of experimenting in her kitchen.

"I had my husband get me a bushel of fresh corncobs," she said. "They were white corncobs. I boiled them, poured off the juice. Then I worked the juice up into a jelly. It was clear, almost pure white, but tasty. I figured it ought to have some color, so next I tried it with red corncobs. They worked out best."

She tried it on some of her friends without telling them what it was, and they went wild about it.

"It has a taste similar to apple jelly," Mrs. Edwards explained. "But a little more delicate. Those who tasted it wanted to know what kind of apples I used. When I told them it was made out of corncobs they wouldn't believe me."


I've never even tasted corncob jelly. I've seen it at few fairs and festivals. And a quick google will turn up all kinds of recipes for corncob jelly. It doesn't sound all that appealing to me, but as I said I've seen it around and about enough to know there must be quite a few folks who like it. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Saturday September 9, 2017 @ 11:45 a.m. at the Cherokee Indian Festival in Marble, NC and on Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA.