Aint Ant Aunt

I suppose the most “authentic” and unaltered mountain-talk I’ve been around since moving north from Alabama was at an impromptu meal at the home of Ray Hicks, storyteller and along with the rest of his very gracious family, keepers of the language of the mountains.

But then, I guess I grew up with a double dose of language-baggage, being both southern and Appalachian. So most of the words and phrases in this article about Appalachian language seem commonplace, or at least familiar.

Makes me remember my AINT Sara who once when I was small offered my brother and I a glass of SWEET MILK. To our disappointment, it turned out to be only not-buttermilk.

Ann and I heard some terms only after moving to southwest Virginia in the mid-seventies, and it took us a while to KETCH on–like the first time some country neighbors asked if “YUNS wanna come ta dinner at AIR house directly?

Lots of older folks still DRAP the first letters of THAT and add an H to it and change words like ruined to RURNT and it all sounds quite normal to our ears now.

For those who don’t come from these mountains, if you heard such language from a visitor, would you think them simple and backward? Could you accept them as an intellectual equal? Is there any wonder that those who must make a living in the larger world outside the hills and hollers often abandon the “native tongue” now spoken by fewer and fewer until some day, our children’s children will only read about it, and listen to a few old WAV files and laugh.

Musical Bookends Needed!

Okay, Fragmented Few, here’s an opportunity to pool your collective nostalgia and set the musical score.

The situation: on Saturday at the Roanoke NPR station, I recorded a shortened version of the Reunion piece posted here a while back. Dutchie at WVTF wants me to suggest an appropriate musical introduction and trailer for the piece. It needs to be instrumental because the spoken intro and byline will have to be done over top of it.

Of course, given the nature of the little essay, it should be an “oldie” from the sixties–a melody, I think, that is more emotionally evocative than rhythmatic; and preferrably one whose title has to do with love lost or found.

I have one such song in mind, but won’t bias you by telling yet. I’d be interested in hearing your ideas, you boomers out there. Send those cards and letters in. The winning submission gets a free pack of Fragments Notecards. Drawing ends at midnight, Friday, December 22.

The Ghost of Parties Past

Yes, the Goose Creek Christmas Gathering was going to be a big deal. But how big, and how to deal with the enormity of the event looked very different through eyes from Venus versus those from Mars. If men ruled the world of social events (and they don’t) these occasions would be much more come-as-we-are affairs. Preparation would start, oh, a day or two beforehand, not a month. It would be a disaster.

And yet, every year, the disparate approaches to such self-inflicted and pleasant tasks as planning a big gathering at the house brings out those differences between host and hostess. I started thinking about just what those different world views looked like, but didn’t make it very far. Even so (to be amended over time and as a basis for negotiating future Grand Gatherings) here’s the list so far. Maybe you have a similar dichotomy at your house and have lived through to The Other Side–which, I am both happy and a bit sad to report, is where we are this morning. The morning after.

And looking back, heck, I hate to admit, she was probably right all along.

Social Planning from Venus:

  • Everything is urgent
  • Everything that can be done should be done (this one, courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers)
  • If 5 is enough, we can’t do less than 8 (relative units of effort or substance applicable just about anything imaginable)
  • Our purpose is to offer all these people a good time; we, as host and hostess, were not meant to share in it
  • Assume responsibility for everything
  • Any omissions or shortcomings represent self-esteem demerits; demerits are conferred only by the female members of couples visiting.
  • Corollary to above: All other women in attendance have much higher standards than we do, and would be appalled to learn we sometimes live with ladybugs, dog hair, cob webs or dust bunnies.
  • Corollary to above: of all husbands, darn the luck, yours is the slobbiest
  • Everybody coming to our house will be dangerously malnourished and there probably won’t be enough food, no matter how many casseroles, stuffed pizzas or deserts are provided by the hostess

Social Planning from Mars:

  • Everything on the to-do list for a time may be important; very little will ever be urgent
  • Things omitted will probably only be noticed by us
  • Nobody is keeping score
  • Things omitted or errors made make the wife no less a good hostess than if every last detail was remembered. And they were probably due to forgetfulness or indifference on the part of the husband, after all.
  • Delegate to others; they are happy to help
  • We are host and hostess, not staff. These are our friends, not our employers. Enjoy!
  • Corollary to the above: the party succeeds to the degree to which we take an opportunity to listen to each of our guests and make them feel welcome, not fill their plates and cups
  • I doubt anybody is going to open up the closets in our bedroom. Rearranging one’s clothes by color to pass inspection is overkill.

The dog is slurping around behind me now, patrolling the carpets for invisble spots of crab dip (that will become visible after the sun comes up.)

We discovered just a few minutes ago that nobody found the cooler with the beer. (Oh well. I’ll have to deal with that one one elbow-flexion at a time over the next month. Help me, anyone?)

I’m learning people were here that I never even saw.

Ann is looking for a place to store the new punch bowl she purchased for the occasion; it’s big enough for a family of cats. What was she thinking!

Upstairs in the Red Room, the kids last night tied the helium balloons onto the Fisher Price Farm family, and thus tethered, they sway in the dark in the rising heat of the woodstove.

If you take the sum total of good times, new friendships, pleasant conversations and feelings of conviviality on one side of the scales, and the total effort, angst and preparation (and inter-planetary wrangling about the details) on the other, I don’t think there’s any question which way the balance would tip. Even so, I think maybe, if we do this again next year, she and I might want to do less and mingle more. But then, I’m only an elf.

Buffalo in the Back Yard

image copyright Fred First

Another image picked up on the way home from the winery last weekend–and the first using the combination of (new) tripod, 80-200 telephoto lens (and new tripod mounting collar for same) and the 2x teleconverter.

The silhouetted shape behind the house takes the reposing form of a buffalo, hence its name, Buffalo Mountain.

Were there buffalo in these parts in the days before the western migration of the white man? Does anybody have any info or stories about that? I’d like to know.

Dead as a Duck

Test results are pending to explain this puzzling and disturbing die-off of mallards along a small, remote Idaho creek. Bacterial or fungal agents are said to be suspected, but why only mallards susceptible?

Migratory mallards from Canada and their local cousins staggered and struggled to breathe before collapsing, Parrish said. He said every mallard in a radius of several miles has died–approximately 2,500, up from an earlier estimate of 1,000.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in 20 years here,” he said. “There were dead mallards everywhere–in the water and on the banks. It was odd; they were in a very small area.”

The massive outbreak is puzzling scientists because only mallard ducks are dying. Golden eagles, geese, magpies, crows and other birds in the area all remain healthy.”

Stay tuned.