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City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Gary Carden posted a video

2012 Award Winner for Literature -- Gary Neil Carden

A literature and drama teacher turned storyteller, Gary Neil Carden is an award winning playwright whose tales are informed by mountain life in North Carolin...
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Gary Carden updated their profile
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Stories of Asheville's homeless

History of Asheville’s homeless: humanity on trialby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Jim Parton and Kirk Faulkner, two homeless men at A-Hope, where Jim is getting help finding housing and Kirk is making job connections.  Photo, 2017, by Rob Neufeld.“I admire my daddy more than any other human on…See More
Tuesday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Writers at Home at Malaprops at Malaprops

March 19, 2017 from 3pm to 5pm
A.K. Benninghofen, Lockie Hunter and Beth Keefauver will offer a free reading at the next installment of the Writers at Home series, presented by UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP), at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood Street in Asheville. This monthly series of free readings is hosted by GSWP director and novelist Tommy Hays.See More
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City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Susan Weinberg posted an event

Reading by Poet Bianca Spriggs at Three Top Room, Plemmons Student Union, App State University

March 30, 2017 from 7:30pm to 8:45pm
A reading by poet, multi-genre artist, and core member of the Affrilachian Poets Bianca Spriggs in the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State. Spriggs will also present a craft talk from 12:30-1:45 in the Price Lake Room of the Plemmons Student Union. Free admission.For more info, see the press release http://www.news.appstate.edu/2017/03/06/bianca-spriggs/Parking info is at parking.appstate.edu.…See More
Friday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 14
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Hester

HESTER      Growing up in Asheville,  N.C. in the 50’s and 60’s seemed, at the time, to be filled with a rhythm of adventure and strange encounters sprinkled with an assortment of particularly interesting and somewhat odd characters. One of those persons who fascinated me as a child was my father’s friend “Hester. “       My dad was about as straight an arrow as anyone could find. He seemed to a preadolescent, somewhat indolent son, frankly boring. Looking back from a perspective of 70 years, I…See More
Mar 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

African-American musicians in Asheville

African-American musicians flourished in Asheville neighborhoodsby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: The Outcasts, the state’s Battle of the Bands winner in 1979, included: (kneeling l to r) Edward Stout, saxophonist; Darriel Jones, drummer; (seated) Patricia McAfee, vocalist; (standing l to r) Marvin Seabrooks, trombonist; Mike…See More
Mar 11
Tipper posted a blog post

Blind Man's Bluff

According to the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, the game Blind Man's Bluff is as old as the 16th Century. It was a game I never liked playing as a kid. I was always afraid someone would get hurt-namely me! Its one of those games that makes grown-ups yell things like "Somebodys going to…See More
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Mar 6
Bob Plott replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Hunters and Plott hounds
"Thanks for sharing this Rob--and the book plug too. I have never seen this photo before. I have several others from the 1942 article, but this was a new one. The man on the truck looking down is WWII hero Little George Plott--who I profiled in my…"
Mar 6
Tipper posted a video

I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

old VHS film from 2002, a little distorted by the video conversion process... This song features a high lead by Pap and a harmony underneath. In the key of D...
Mar 5
Tipper posted blog posts
Mar 5
Jan Schochet shared Frank Thompson's event on Facebook
Mar 4

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration

 

            “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.

            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things that did their jobs better and easier, but “nobody came up with anything to replace the cradle.” 

            Parris, the late, great columnist for the Citizen-Times, had roamed the mountains from Brasstown to Blowing Rock for 42 years, beginning in 1955, often gravitating to Sylva, his hometown, and to Burningtown, 20 miles southwest, in Macon County.

            Burningtown was where his maternal grandma and grandpa lived.  This grandpa, whom Parris sometimes called the “Old Man of the Mountains,” was a go-to source for reliable lore.

 

Rock-a-bye

 

            “My Uncle Eli was the masterest cradle-maker in these parts,” the Old Man avowed.

He’d take a short length of buckeye log and work on it like he was makin’ somethin’ that was gonna hold a king.  He pegged it with oak pins to two hickory rockers,” because “rockers out of hickory won’t creep.”

Caretakers would rock the cradle with a foot while sewing, knitting, or churning; or, when moving about the house, they’d set the cradle rocking as they passed by.

The comforts of home reached a peak at Christmastime, and merited Parris’ prose poetry.

 

Homemade poetry

 

            “In the Carolina Highlands, December is an old man with memories and a young man with dreams.” Parris wrote.  It’s a time “when the stars come close and night winds are winds of song.”

            “It’s when,” he adds, “a house, be it cabin or mansion, reveals its true character and abody gets to know the meaning of a home.”

            The nostalgia attached to an old-time mountain home is not all in vain. The recollections cause us to reconsider progress and value such blessings as a world full of evocative smells.

            “A man can no longer drink into his lungs a thousand proud, potent, and mysterious odors,” Parris wrote from Little Savannah, his paternal grandparents’ place west over the mountain from Cullowhee.  “Gone are the smells that whip the senses and plough a furrow on the memory.”

            The smell of warm foaming milk; the manure-hay-leather-oats smell of a barn; the blue smell of hickory smoke; the bread-molasses-kerosene-coffee-vanilla smell of grandma’s kitchen; the starch-cabbage-wax-tobacco-mint-paint-cat smell of the country store; the smells of rain-wet plums, corn pollen, and burning leaves; and the “exciting smell of the hills blooming in the dusk”—these and other odors “have been tamped down, obliterated, or extinguished.”

 

Going home again

 

            “The road back to childhood is a road to shattered illusions,” Parris related after visiting the place where his father had grown up and his grandfather is buried.

            “The springhouse, shaded by a gnarled old oak, is gone...The peach trees have withered and died and the apple trees have been cut down...There’s only a slight depression in the earth where the barn stood, and I remembered the last time I had stood there.  Neighbors with saw and hammer had been there then, making a coffin of pine for my grandfather.  And I remember how they talked in hushed tones, their hammers ringing in the September afternoon.”

            The old house still stood, sagging, its oak shingles replaced by a metal roof.  Inside, Parris saw “the big bed on which his grandfather died...in the front room, fast by the fireplace.  And over it is spread one of my grandmother’s coverlets.”

 

Cornshuck rain hat

 

            Cash-scarce times were heart-filled times on the farms. 

            The Old Man remembered that during the Civil War and Reconstruction, ladies made “the prettiest bonnets you ever saw” out of corn shucks; and “the menfolks got to wearin’ hats out of the same stuff.”  

            Corn was a way of life.  “It was corn-shuckin’s and hoe downs, fiddle-music and banjo pickin’” Corn was “pudding and soup, hominy and mush...It was dolls and whistles.”  It was feed for the cows.  “Many a family slept on cornshuck mattresses.  They burned corn cobs for fuel.”

            “There was no finer pipe than one made out of corn cobs....(and) I remember once,” the Old Man recalled, Uncle Eli “made me a cornstalk fiddle and bow.”

 

Mountain cooking

 

            Grandma was “mighty peart with a skillet,” Parris observed.  “In the early summer when the corn first ripened, we’d start havin’ gritted bread.  Now that’s somethin’ to make your mouth water.”

            There’s a recipe you can look at in Parris’ 1978 book, “Mountain  Cooking,” but Grandpa gives a pretty good description in “My Mountains, My People,” Parris’ second of five books of collected columns.

            “You take fresh corn and rub it over a piece of tin that’s been holed with a nail, rubbin’ the ear of corn on the rough side, and make a meal that’s milky-like.  Sweetest, tastiest thing you ever tasted.”

            Every resource got used in every way—peach trees, for example.  They used to be more greatly favored than apple trees, the Old Man stated.  “What we didn’t dry or make into peach butter or pickle we sold over at the stillhouse where they run ‘em through a mill and made brandy.”

            Folks also made peach leather, pressing the peaches through a coarse sieve, adding brown sugar and cooking them, and spreading the sauce on plates to put out in the sun until it dried and could be rolled up.

            “No one was ever known to go hungry at Grandma’s,” Parris proclaimed about his father’s mom; and it also applied to his maternal grandmother.  “Nor was it necessary to make a flying trip to the store.”

            At times, after the meal was distributed, Grandpa, holding his plate said he reckoned “the chickens didn’t have livers and gizzards anymore, teasing Grandma and knowing all the while she had held them back for the children.”

            Grandma was happiest, Parris attested, “when the house was bulging at the seams with company.  And it was the same with most of her contemporaries here in the mountains.”

Originally published, with a few changes, in the Asheville Citizen-Times.   Follow Rob Neufeld on Twitter @WNC_chronicler.

 

ART

Cover of “Mountain Cooking”

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