Before I begin this entry proper, I want to make sure everybody in blog world knows one thing. Well….two things. Firstly, the proper way to pronounce Appalachian is like this: “App-uh-latch-uhn”. Don’t come around me saying “App-uh-laaaay-shun” or I’ll throw a duck fit the likes of which you’ll tell your grandbabies about. You might as well scratch a chalkboard or afflict me with Restless Legs Syndrome. Secondly, I can’t stand to hear people refer to this entire region as “Appalachia”, although there most certainly is an Appalachian mountain range and a town in West Va. called Appalachia. When you go around referring to the Appalachian parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas as “Appalachia” you’re doin’ nothin’ but confusing folks. We are not all citizens of Appalachia, West Virginia although it does sound like a nice place.
I am originally from Southeastern Kentucky and recently relocated to Northeastern Tennessee, which really isn’t like moving, just pickin’ up your belongings and easing down a little bit. It is the same place basically, and collectively known as the Cumberland Mountain region of the Appalachian mountain range. Virginia’s a little bit different. They have sort of sold out to the Yankees. They voted Obama in twice and they’ll fine you a war pension if you’re caught over there with tinted windows on your vehicle. They’ve got all kinds of rules and regulations and a sign up that says “Speed limit monitored by aircraft”. I’ve yet to see said aircraft but I am sure that sign intimidates anybody passing through. I can throw a rock from here and hit Virginia AND Kentucky so I know what I’m talkin’ about. (YES I can see Virginia from my house.) Virginia is just too darn close to D.C. I reckon, but they’ve got some of the prettiest mountains in the range. I guarantee the people in those mountains didn’t go skippin’ out to vote for a liberal.
The Appalachians run plum up to Canada, and even into France, so not all Appalachian people are hillbillies. I never heard of any New York hillbillies. New England certainly is not hillbilly territory and I am sure they are often offended by being referred to as Appalachian. Some folks up that way think we are all a race of illiterate, rotten toothed, inbred, uneducated brutes squatting on our haunches grooming each other when we’re not runnin’ shine. They’ve all watched Deliverance and think we lurk along the banks of rivers, playing banjos and waiting to make any flatlanders who happen to drift into view squeal like pigs. I have been in company of banjo pickers who sat on the banks of rivers from time to time but no squealing was involved that I’ve ever been aware of, unless somebody got a little tipsy and stepped too close to a snapping turtle. I’ve never seen a moonshine still although I did win a moonshine drinkin’ contest a few years ago. Drunk this ole boy under the table then staggered out and threw up in the driveway. I outweighed that feller by a good hundred pounds and stood head and shoulders taller. I could hold my liquor better than anybody I knew because I’d always sweat out the first half pint.
Our area is full of stories and legends from Daniel Boone to the Hatfields and McCoys. The whole world knows details about them though. I am more interested in sharing what I know about the mysterious lore of the mountains, stuff that is often true but often not. For example, there’s the popular Yankee notion that we are inbred. Well, I can’t think of a single human being in this area who is married to or shacked up with a relative. I don’t even know any married second cousins.We really don’t know what goes on behind closed doors but I’m willing to bet there are just as many “inbreeders” up North and out West as there are in the South. And I don’t know any of ’em.
Most of us have our teeth. My mother is 79 and has all her teeth. Many of us had spring water or well water coming into our homes and out of our spigots growing up, while a lot or Northerners had city water which is full of fluoride. Nasty tasting stuff but better for your teeth than well water. So, it is not that we are stupid, it is just that we were not introduced to fluoride the way the city folk were. Plus, you can’t tell by lookin’ at a feller with a few teeth missing whether they fell out or he ticked off some big ole boy and got ’em knocked down his goozle.
We are pretty rich in criptozoology and mysterious magic around here. We have skunk apes, black panthers, hoo doo and goats with man faces. (Not to be confused with men with goat faces). I could lie and say I’d never seen any of these but I have seen a black panther. (The Yankees will tell you there’s no such thing) Saw it with my own eyes in the Little Clear Creek area of Bell County Ky. It was crossing the road, creeping along, probably going to raid somebody’s chicken house. Unfortunately, I have yet to encounter a skunk ape. I know that is surprising considering the name of this blog, but alas it is true. I lament that fact regularly since I am a very big fan of Bigfoot. About 4 hours up northwest of here, in a place called Spottsville Kentucky, there are people who claim to have come face to face with a critter very Skunk-apey in appearance. He allegedly comes through some sort of interdimensional portal and scares the bejebus outta people. Communicates telepathically with folks, they say. Personally, I do not think that is a mountain monkey. I think that very well might be an alien. And I happen to know, personally, some folks who have seen an alien space ship pretty close. Good, hardworking, honest people who have never even seen meth, I guarantee you that so don’t go sayin’ they were hallucinating.
I have never met anyone who practiced hoo doo and I have never heard any Appalachian natives mention it. I do, however, have an aunt who can magically remove warts. Just tear her a little piece of paper for each wart you got and let her do her magic. I know a lady who can take a pencil and a straight pin, rig it up somehow, hold it over your wrist and tell you the genders of all your future children one at a time. She can also look at a pregnant belly and predict the gender of the child. I don’t know if that’s hoo doo or not but it’s pretty cool.
As far as the man-faced goats go, a man reportedly ran into one while hunting and had what the Yankees refer to as a “come to Jesus” moment. I guess he was kind of like me in that he never took another drink of shine nor uttered another dirty word, nor made eyes at anybody else’s husband. Running up on one of them in the woods would insure that my fat, hillbilly behind would suddenly be blessed with the speed of an Olympic sprinter. I guarantee I’d come out of them mountains tearin’ up new ground and very sober.