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[Readings]

Old Ways

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From Foxfire: Story, a collection of oral histories as told by people in the southern Appalachian Mountains, published in April by Anchor Books. The stories originally appeared in Foxfire Magazine.

jerry carter, 1993

One time Doc amputated a man’s arm, and he buried it in the backyard of his office. A few weeks later the man came to him and said that he was having terrible pain in and on his arm, the one that had been amputated. He allowed that Doc had buried it crooked. He begged Doc to please dig it up and straighten it out. Doc did just what the man said and dug it up. The man never had any trouble again.

della cody, 1992

This man come, and the dog was with Grandpa. He said, “Does the dog bite?”

Grandpa said, “The dog ain’t gonna bite nobody unless they bother me.” Well, this man didn’t believe him.

He said, “You mean, that dog will fight for you? Well, let’s just put on a show. I’m gonna fight you and see what that dog will do.”

So, the man acted like he was gonna fight Grandpa. The dog jumped on him. Then he was gonna kill the dog. Grandpa said, “Don’t kill my dog!”

So, they got into a fight, and they fought and fought. Since this man was gonna kill Grandpa’s dog, Grandpa was gonna get him. Well, the man started running, and he cut into the house, and then Grandpa cut into the house. As Grandpa was coming around, the man hit him in the back of the head with a rock and it killed him.

hoyt tench, unknown date

I was going out of Toccoa on a steam engine. I left about four o’clock going down by Elberton. I saw a white something out—it was foggy—and it was a lady in a nurse uniform. She was running around on the tracks. I blew the horn, not realizing what she was trying to do. She got off, and we missed her. Then there was a brand-new Plymouth sitting right there, and we hit the thing. We just ruined it. So, we had to have an investigation the next day. At the depot I told her, “I had the headlight on, blowed the horn, blowed the whistle, and didn’t see it.” She said, “He’s right. I heard him coming, and I was trying to flag him down, but he could not stop.”

The railroad went and bought her a new Plymouth, at the Plymouth place in Toccoa. She said that she did not believe that there were people in the world who would do that. It was completely her fault. She said that her mother told her to be sure and stop on the railroad tracks, but her mother meant for her to stop before she got on the railroad tracks. Anyway, she did, and the car went dead, and she couldn’t get it cranked again. We hit the car running twenty-five miles per hour with a big old engine. There are just so many things that can happen.

granny toothman, 1985

We had chickens. Up until I was twelve years old, I had to kill those chickens with an axe and whang on the chopping block! Then I plucked them and all that. After I was twelve years old, I shot them. By then I had me a twenty-two rifle. It was one of the first bolt-action rifles that was ever put out. A single shot. I ordered it from Sears and Roebuck. It cost four ninety-eight. I remember that very well because I got five dollars for hoeing corn that summer and I paid for that rifle myself. The first evening I had the rifle, I got my shells and went over the hill and killed a squirrel. Dad thought that was great.

But that first Christmas I had the rifle, Mother sent me out to kill a chicken. She had some special blue hens that were extra good layers, and then she had these Dominickers that were a whole lot bigger and better to eat, and they didn’t lay like the blue ones did. She said for me to get her a big hen and “don’t kill a blue one!” So, I went out and shot that Dominicker right in the head, and there was a blue one in line with the shot, and it went right through its neck, and I’d killed a blue one and a Dominicker both at the same time.

I was really nervous about going in and telling her about shooting her blue hen. Dad was in and I knew I had protection, so I said, “Oh, Mother, I shot one of your blue hens.”

She said, “I thought I told you not to shoot a blue hen.”

I said, “Well, I couldn’t help it. It was right in line with the Dominicker. I got the Dominicker, but I’ve got a blue hen, too.” And she said, “Well, I reckon if you killed two birds with one stone, it’s all right.”


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July 2020