Sunday, October 30, 2011

Death Traditions & Superstitions

**WARNING!  Some folks might find some of the following information upsetting.**

Twenty-first century Americans rarely have to directly confront the facts of mortality since, in our society, death is largely confined to the elderly and most deaths take place, not in the home, but in hospitals and other medical care facilities. Professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and morticians handle the dying and the dead. Beginning in the 19th century, we started sanitizing and prettifying death.  Professional undertakers evolved, cemeteries starting looking more garden-like, coffins began to be called caskets, and embalming came into practice. Even our language avoids use of the word "death" by saying that people have "passed away" or that they have "lost their battle with [insert disease]."

During the 19th century, death played a larger role in everyday life.  That was a time before good medical care, immunizations, and sanitation.  I have read that a typical family could expect  that one in five children would not live to see adulthood.  In a time before antibiotics, a simple cut could lead to terrible infections and death.  Childbearing, while a joyous occasion, could also be a death warrant for many women.

In the past, the corpse would be prepared for burial at home and would be kept in the home until the burial. Even when I was growing up, some older folks still practiced this traditions.  I remember my great grandmother being prepared for burial at the funeral home, but she was brought to my grandmother's house the day before the funeral and visitation was held in the living room.  The family sat up with the corpse all night.  Some people would refer to this as the "death watch."

In a time when photographs were rare, a photographer might be called upon to take a photo of the deceased.  In many instances, this might be the only photo you would have of a loved one.   This is still practiced today in some areas. I have photos of most of my family at their funerals.  A collection of post-mortem and memorial/mourning photos

Traditions & Superstitions

The tradition of surrounding a casket with flowers was originally a way to counteract any unpleasant smells before embalming became the norm.

If there was a corpse in the house, you had to cover all of the mirrors.  Otherwise, the corpse's spirit could get trapped in the mirror.

If a mirror in your house was to fall and break by itself, it meant that someone in the home would die soon.

When someone died in the house and there was a clock in the room, you had to stop the clock at the death hour or the family of the household would have bad luck. I have also heard that if a clock stopped in the same room as the corpse, someone else in the family would die within a year.  Better to just stop the clock!

When the body was taken from the house, it had to be carried out feet first because if it was carried out head first, it could look back and beckon others to follow it into death.

Coffin Alarms:  A bell was attached to the headstone with a chain that led down into the coffin to a ring that went around the finger of the deceased.  So, if you were to wake up and find yourself accidentally buried, you could pull on the chain and ring the bell.

A bird flying through the open window of a sick person's room or an individual's dreaming of something white may indicate that a death will soon take place.

If children under one year of age view a dead person, they will die.  (I remember when I was growing up, some folks were very hesitant to let their children attend funerals. This was not the case in my family.  I remember being just a tiny little girl and going to funerals.)

If people hear of a death on Monday, they will hear about another before the week is complete.

If someone sees a dead person's face in the mirror, that person will be the next to die.  (This is probably why mirrors were often covered in the home when corpses were prepared at home.)

If a photograph falls in a room with a corpse, the subject of the photograph will die.  (Well, last time I checked, we all have to die sometime!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meet Valerie Goad

My grandmother, Tressie Goad Burnette, lived to be 97 and I loved nothing more than to listen to her tell stories about family members and ancestors.  Grandma kept me when I was younger while my parents were working. I also lived with her for quite a few years as an adult.  I was 36 years old when she died, so I had the pure joy of knowing her all of those years.  I would like to share some of the stories that she told me over the years.

Here is one about Sarah Ann Florence Valerie Nester Goad.  (My great, great grandmother)

Sarah Ann Florence Valerie Nester Goad

A baby girl named Valerie (pronounced "Va-LEER-ee") was born in April 1853 to Squire Nester & Sarah S. Mabry.  She was one of 10 children.     Her brothers and sisters were:  George, Elizabeth, Susanna, William F., Shadrach S., Emmett T., Louisa Catherine, Artminsa, and Venetta.   They lived in the Dugspur area of Carroll County, Virginia. 

When she grew up, she married Floyd Goad on January 28, 1869 in Carroll County.  Floyd and Valerie were second cousins.  They had 14 children:  Evelyn, L.E., Sarenate Elva, Morrison B., Marion Beth, Dinah Frances, Joseph A., Luisa C., Louisa Clementine, Stephen Columbus, James Willey, Martha Elizabeth "Lizzie", Covelia E., Dorzena "Zenie (Covy & Zenie were twins.)

Floyd was "A good, peaceful man that would do anything for you."  He mended and patched shoes and bottomed chairs.  He was a farmer, but did not particularly like it.  He preferred to do other things.  Tressie remembers him patching her shoes when she was young.  He had short, white hair (when he was older) and blue eyes.  He died in 1915 and was buried in the Goad Cemetery in Floyd County, Virginia.    

Valerie did much spinning and weaving. Tressie can remember that one of her chores when she visited was to turn the great wheel while Valerie manipulated the wool into yarn.  She also had to help card the wool to clean and straighten the fibers. (Tressie was always amazed that I loved to spin and work with wool because she thought that it was so stinky and disgusting!)  Floyd and Valerie also grew flax and processed it into linen.  Valerie had long dark hair and blue eyes.  She wore hankerchiefs on her head and smoked a long-stemmed, corncob pipe. Her favorite brand of tobacco was "Stud" brand.  The tobacco pack had a horse on the front.  She always told lots of "big tales" and "dirty jokes" and she never seemed like an old woman.

Valerie loved to stay out dancing all night at parties.  One night, she danced for hours and when she got tired she decided to sit down. One problem.  She was wearing hoops and when she sat down, she didn't notice that the chair had arms on it.  Her hoops hit the chair arms and her skirt flew up over her head!  Then she was stuck in the chair until one of her friends helped her get the hoops loose from the chair.

Tressie also tells a tale of her "dancing off a jig."  One day when Valerie was an old lady, she was getting ready to go visit kinfolks at Crooked Oak.  When she was leaving, Delpha Goad (Tressie's sister) said "you look good enough to dance!"  Valerie then hiked up her skirts and started dancing.  She was considered the best dancer in Carroll County!

Valerie died in 1937 and was buried in the Goad cemetery in Floyd County, Virginia. 

(Source:  Interview with Tressie Goad Burnette (granddaughter of Valerie), 1997.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair

Diane and I used to work together on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The photo below shows us wearing our period clothing as we interpreted early 20th century life at the Matthew's Cabin located at Mabry Mill.  We demonstrated various aspects of life, but we especially loved the fiber arts.  The summer of 1991 found us gathering up every kind of plant imaginable, throwing it in a pot and cooking it up to see what color dye it would produce on wool.  The shawls that we are wearing are made from raw wool that we spun into thread, used natural dyes to color, and then handwove them on a loom. Diane's shawl is made from natural gray & white sheep's wool and the peach color was produced from jewelweed.  The shawl that I am wearing was made from natural gray & white wool and dyed with brazilwood & logwood.

Diane & me at the Matthew's Cabin, Mabry Mill, 1991

Of course, this was before we had access to the Internet.  The only way that we could find fiber art suppliers or any information was to read books, trade magazines or by word of mouth.  Imagine our delight when we heard that a big fiber show was going to be held close by in Winston-Salem, NC.   That was the first year of SAFF.   We attended and bought all kinds of fun fiber stuff!

Yesterday, we got together again, 20 years later, and traveled to Asheville, NC to attend the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair.  (SAFF moved to Asheville after being in Winston-Salem the first three years.) We left Fancy Gap, Virginia at 5:30am because we wanted to be sure and be there when it opened at 9:00am!  After a three hour trip, then shopping HARD for 7 hours, we traveled back to Fancy Gap.  Then, I still had to drive 1 1/2 hours more to get back home.   It was a long day, but I got to spend it with a wonderful friend, sharing our love of all things fiber.

Things that I just had to purchase:

raw alpaca fleece that I will spin into yarn
Pretty roving that when spun up and knitted will look like the photo below
Isn't this gorgeous?!
Roving made of 65% Merino wool,  15% Tencel, 10% banana, & 10% milk
A nice bag for fiber supplies
L to R:  Silk cap, baby camel roving & cotton roving (all for spinning into yarn)
Silk hankies to dye & spin
Silk hankies to spin
Extra spinning wheel bobbin, drive band, & oil
Fabulous looms for weaving small squares & triangles
Fun mug
Roving made of 65% Merino, 15% Tencel, 10% banana, 10% milk

For more information about the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair, click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Early Fall Photos

Fall is my favorite time of the year.  The leaves are still not at peak, but I wanted to share these with you.        

(If you click on the pics, you can enlarge them.)

Goldenrod with red maple leaves in the background

My front yard

Niagara Dam--Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

My backyard

My backyard

My backyard

My backyard

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tribute to a Wonderful Teacher

Meadows of Dan Elementary School, Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Have you ever had anyone ask you if you had a teacher who really made a difference in your life?   Well, I have had several influential teachers, but there is one who really opened up a whole new world for me.  Even though I did not know it at the time, so many of the things that I learned sitting in her classroom would go on to influence numerous areas of my life in the future.  This person was my 5th grade teacher.  She also taught science and art to the 6th & 7th grades and worked with the Gifted & Talented program.

Now, I am here to tell you,  she DID teach us some manners!   I always had a big problem keeping my mouth closed.  I LOVED to talk!  Those of you who know me personally are probably laughing right now thinking to yourself that I still have a tendency to jabber on and on!  One of the punishments for talking in her class was writing sentences.  "Thou shalt not talk in class."  200 times.   I wish that I had $10.00 for every time that I had to write sentences! We did have classroom rules and any infractions were punishable by writing sentences.

If we finished our assignments early, she would let us do chores in the classroom. One of the things that I loved to do was straighten up the supply closet.  The reason that chore was so enticing was that there was a ladder bolted to the wall in that closet that led to the attic.  Aaaah!!  The mysterious attic!  I wondered and wondered what was up there.   I always thought that I would work up the nerve to climb that ladder and take a peek .   The one and only thing that stopped me was the promised punishment.  She told us that for every rung of that ladder that we touched, we would have to write 1,000 sentences.  "Thou shalt not touch the rungs of the ladder."   The thing that would betray us was the transom window above the closet door, so she would have surely seen us when we climbed up the ladder which was located just inside the door. Here it is 36 years later and I still dream about that closet, the ladder and the attic and I do regret not taking the chance!

She used an awesome grading system for our assignments. 
check plus plus plus; (highest score)
check plus plus;
check plus;
check; (average score)
check minus;
check minus minus;
check minus minus minus. (lowest score)
There was always that happy looking little check mark and never an ugly "C", "D" or "F"!  She always offered to give us extra credit if we were willing to do special projects.  Best of all, she allowed us to be creative!

Some of the things that I learned and enjoyed in her classes:
--Learning to "color" with colored pencils and using pastels. 
--Learning about different local plant life and being able to identify trees.  One assignment was to see who could bring in the biggest variety of tree leaves.  We pressed them between two sheets of wax paper to preserve them.
--Calligraphy!  I remember she placed orders for us if we wanted to get calligraphy pens and ink.   I ordered two pens and six bottles of ink.   (I really didn't realize how long that ink would last . . . I STILL have 2-3 bottles of it!!!!)
--I loved to do the science experiments.  She let us bring in samples of water and view it under the microscope so I brought in some water from Tory Creek, which ran right behind my home.  Wow!  Who would have thought that all of those little critters were in the water that I so loved to play in!  She made science fun and I loved keeping a notebook of all of the results of our experiments.  I remember her reflecting the light through a prism and making rainbows dance on the classroom walls.  I fell in love with drawing pictures of paramecium and amoebas for extra credit.
--She had us decorate a blank journal book and then write, draw or paste special things into the journal.  I still have mine!
--Even though I have never been very good at drawing, I always had a sketch pad.  One time, I asked her to draw me a picture of a girl in it.  She did.  The girl in the picture was me.  I still have that too.
--She read The Hobbit to us in the afternoons until the book was finished.  Her Gollum voice was great!  I went on to read The Lord of the Rings that same year.
--She introduced us to The Jack Tales and Grandfather Tales.   I used to look forward to the days that she would read another story or another chapter.   She would take requests for which Jack Tale we wanted to hear, but she refused to ever read "Soldier Jack" because she said that it would make her cry.  I have read Jack Tales and told the stories to hundreds of kids over the years and I always think of her and the way that she made the characters come alive. I have never read "Soldier Jack" aloud either.

Miss Ruth Jean Bolt was a wonderful teacher and she ran a tight ship when it came to teaching us how proper boys and girls should behave in the classroom.  I still think of her often.  About 10 years ago, I ran into her at the local drugstore in Laurel Fork.  I recognized her right away, but I thought that it would be awkward to speak to her because I figured that there would be no way that she could possibly remember me.  When she turned around, she looked at me and said "Well, hello Kim!"   I would not have been any more honored if the Queen of England acknowledged me!!

Meadows of Dan Yearbook 1976-1977

I know that Miss Bolt received quite a few awards for being such a great teacher.  She deserved every one and then some.

One of my friends, Carolyn, lived 2-3 miles from Miss Bolt.  I remember that one time we became overly ambitious and we walked all the way to her house. We were hot and tired.  Miss Bolt took us in and gave us something nice and cool to drink.  I remember that she had a beautiful teapot collection sitting on some shelves in her home.

I think that one of the reasons that it just broke my heart when Meadows of Dan Elementary School caught on fire this past summer was because I so closely associate the joy of being in Miss Bolt's classes with the school itself.  As I watched a video that was taken of the ruined interior of the school, it showed Miss Bolt's room.  Seeing the ruins of that particular classroom and the closet which held the mysterious ladder made me cry even more.

Looking down into Miss Bolt's classroom.  That white arrow
marks the entrance to the closet and THE LADDER!
Now, I will never know what wonders might have been in that attic.

There are not enough words to express my gratitude to you for being such an excellent teacher, Miss Bolt. Thank you, for encouraging us to explore and be creative.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Virginia Folk Speech #3

Photo taken on Mill Mountain, Roanoke, Virginia 2009

Ailing--To feel pain; be unwell.  "She is ailing today."  (When I was growing up, there was a woman who lived near us and she was constantly complaining about her health. So anytime her name was mentioned, the first response was usually, "So, what's ailin' her today?")

Jaw--To talk or gossip.  (Many times I heard my grandpa tell grandma to "stop her jawing" when she was talking with friends on the phone!)

Ailments--Disorders; disease.  "She is full of ailments."

Jimber-jawed--Having a projecting lower jaw.

Amind--Aminded--Disposed; inclined to.  "I have amind to buy that new spinning wheel."  "Any person aminded to buy that ugly heifer must be half crazy."

This, that and tother--This, that, and the other.  "What have you been doing all day?"  "Oh, just this, that and tother."  (My grandmother used to say this all of the time so of course, I picked it right up from her much to my mother's dismay!)

Ammon--Almond.  (We always called them ammons.)

Bark--To knock the skin off.  "I just barked my shin against that door."

Muley Cow--A cow without horns.

Knit--To grow together, as the ends of a broken bone.  "The bones of his leg didn't knit straight."

Jowl--The lower jaw, usually refers to a hog jowl but also a human jaw.  "I am going to smack you right in the jowl if you don't stop backtalking your mother."

Tom-walkers--Stilts on which a child walks.  Usually made of saplings with a short limb being used for the footrest.

We also just LOVE to string together a whole bunch of prepositions!   "You come on out from down in under that table!"  Every time that I hear myself or my husband do this, it just makes me smile.  It really does place a nice emphasis on what you are trying to say! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Apple Fritters

Since there are so many apples available this time of year, why not indulge in a wonderful, tasty, 19th century apple recipe?  A word to the wise:  Since the apples are dipped in the batter and fried in very hot oil, the alcohol does NOT cook out. So, this should only be served to those over 21 years of age.

The first time that I ever prepared this one, a local television personality had came by to do a story on fireplace cooking.  When he arrived, I started frying the fritters and he was just gobbling them up!  Then, he decided to taste one of the apple slices that was still soaking in the brandy. . . and then he had another . . . and another. . .  and then some more fritters.   Needless to say, he was a tad tipsy by the time he left!

Apple Fritters

The yolks of three eggs, beat up with wheat flour* to a batter; the whites beaten separately, and added to it.  Pare your apples; core and cut them into slices, lay them in a bowl, in brandy and sugar, about three hours before dressing them;  dip each piece in the batter, and fry in lard**.  Sprinkle white sugar over them. Peach fritters are made in the same way.
(Taken from:  Rutledge, Sarah.  The Carolina Housewife.  University of South Carolina Press, 1991.  Originally published in 1847.)

*Use plain, white flour.
**I do use regular shortening when I prepare these rather than lard.  Ensure that your oil is hot so that the fritters fry quickly and do not absorb very much of the oil.

Experiment with different apple varieties!  Sprinkling a touch of cinnamon on the cooked fritters is very tasty also.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Folk Sayings #2

"Sammy"--Virginia's Explore Park, Roanoke, Virginia

 Some scholars are like donkeys, they merely carry a lot of  books.

A hair from a horse's tail in running water will turn into a snake.

A new broom sweeps clean.

It is bad luck to kill a cricket. (I have let crickets drive me crazy chirping in the house rather than risk harming them!)

 As big as I don't know what.  (So big that you can't even begin to compare it with something.  "That pumpkin is as big as I don't know what!")

As easy as rolling off a log. (Something that is very simple to do.)

It is bad luck to hear a hen crow; kill her at once. (Grandma always talked about grabbing up hens that crowed and wringing their neck to avoid having bad luck.)

As full as a tick. (This one has always sort of grossed me out because of the image in my mind of a blood-filled tick!)

It is bad luck to open an umbrella inside the house.

As good as gold.

As pleased as Punch.  (I had never really thought about this saying even though I use it all of the time.  Of course, it refers to the puppet character, Mr. Punch of "Punch & Judy" fame.)

It is bad luck to rock an empty rocking chair. (I used to get chastised often at my grandmother's house for rocking empty chairs.)

Between me and you and the gate post. ("Now, I am going to tell you something that is just between me and you and the gate post."  I have also heard fence post instead of gate post.)

A ring around the moon indicates snow is on the way.  The number of stars inside the ring tells how many inches.

It is bad luck to cut cornbread. You should always break off a piece.  (We always broke cornbread at home.  I started to use a knife one time and grandma put a stop to that immediately!)

Cool as a cucumber.

Proud as a peacock.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Anadama Bread

This was my favorite bread to bake when I worked at Virginia's Explore Park.  I would usually make 5-6 loaves at a time. The molasses gives the bread just a tiny touch of sweetness and it is some of the best bread that I have ever made.

Supposedly, the name originated from a woman named Anna who didn't like to cook.  Her husband chastised her "Anna damn ye, can't you at least cook some bread?"  And this is what she made.

Anadama Bread fresh from the Dutch oven
                         4 1/2 cups water             4 1/2 Tablespoons shortening
                         3 teaspoons salt              1 cup warm water
                         1 cup corn meal              3 packs dry yeast
                         1 cup molasses               13 cups flour

Boil cornmeal and salt in water.  Cool to lukewarm and add molasses and shortening.  Add yeast softened in 1 cup warm water.  Gradually add in flour.  Knead until satiny, raise until double, about 1 1/2 hours.  Punch down, form into loaves, raise 1 hour.  Brush with melted butter.  Bake at 375F for 40-45 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Brush with more melted butter.