14 January 2012

Appalachia again. Please bear with me.

  mountain dialect
 kick = "die"
That musta been back when Aunt Hattie kicked.
NOTE: This is not considered disrespectful in the dialect. 

 I don't know why I've felt compelled to think about and write about my childhood in Appalachia. It may have something to do with my mother dying earlier this year. Come to think of it, she must have kicked right around the time I started this blog. Yes, I think I've hit upon the origins of my current preoccupation.

Some of the photos below were taken in the 70s when I was growing up there. Some are more current. All of them are gathered from the internet. I have several photos taken by me and my family that I wish I could use instead. I inherited albums and boxes of these photos, but I haven't had the heart yet to look through them.

 mountain dialect
 let on = "to pretend"
He let on 'e was gone to meetin' but 'e wasn't, he was gone fishin'.

This is also used as in Standard English: "to reveal." 
He never did let on 'e was from the county office.

Strangely, the two meanings are opposed.


The photo above shows what the residential areas of Byesville looked like when I was a child. Come to think of it, it shows what Byesville looks like nowadays, too. 

I lived in town until we moved to a more rural area "out in the township." There, you might not have a neighbor closer than a couple of miles down the road. 

Above right is downtown Byesville. It's been boarded up since probably the mid-80s. There on the left, with the green front, was my father's grocery store. On the right is the Dan-Dee Bar that has this sign—I swear to god—handwritten on the side of it:

No Lofeing
Police Pattroled

They let on like Byesville actually has police, but I don't think there have been any since the 70s–80s. There was only ever one policeman anyway. You just called him at home. All the time I can remember, it was Johnny Reid, 685–6620. (Not so impressive that I remember it—you only have to know the last four digits.) Officer Reid was a real nice man. He was at the school crossing for us twice a day and he sure was nice to us kids. He told us jokes and showed us tricks with his gun and stuff.

 mountain dialect
 to give someone the what-for = "to tell someone off"; "to chastise"
I'm aimin' to give that boy the what-for if 'e don't git himse'f in here!

This might as well be me and my family when all us cousins were little. Though I was an only child, my parents had 19 siblings between them and almost all had five or six kids. We once counted that I had 57 first cousins. And I don't think all my aunts and uncles were done procreating.

This photo at left could have been taken in the 70s or now. This is a typical Appalachian home. Drive around the old roads and you'll see scores of families living like this. I knew a family that lived in an old abandoned post office out on County Road 13.

The boy in the foreground here I could swear was Butch Rudd, one of our neighbors. (Given name: Clayton.) That'd be a sister or cousin on the threshold.

When Clayton Rudd was 16, he kissed me, way up on a mountain behind my house where we went at his insistence. I must have been... oh, 11 or 12. I felt sick. Afterwards, I just kept spitting on the ground, over and over. As soon as I come down off that mountain, I ran and told my mother about it and you can bet she gave ol' Clayton the what-for!


mountain dialect
We knew they was a-comin', 'fore they did.

 Mary Belle Littleton Long

I took this picture of my mother just a few
years ago. She's in her early 70s here. 

She was still giving me the what-for.
The last thing she said to me, as she 
lay in the hospital, was:

Don't you come back in here 
a-visitin' tonight.  I gotta get some rest!

In the morning she was already gone when I got there.


  1. What a poignant, affectionate glimpse of your youth and particularly your mother.

  2. I remember Officer Johnny Reid! When I first stumbled on your blog this evening, I kept trying to bring his name to mind and now here it is.

    I love love love reading your remembrances of Byesville, obviously since I've been commenting all over your blog this evening.