Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm a retired teacher turned writer. Ferradiddledumday (my Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story) and Stuck (my middle grade paranormal novel) are available from Cedar Creek Publishing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Round This Mountain

Last week, I arranged to swap books with one of my Facebook friends, Oma Boyd who lives in Cana, Virginia. I mailed her Stuck and she mailed me Round This Mountain.


When Round This Mountain arrived last Thursday, a quick look told me I wanted to start reading. It's my kind of book. I love the old stories that older country folk—particularly those in the Virginia mountains—have handed down. This book didn't disappoint me; in fact, it delighted me.

Round This Mountain is a collection of recollections by a person Boyd calls "the Old Woman," a name she got from her husband Check when she married him at sixteen. They were married at the "marrying tree" which straddled the Carroll and Patrick County lines because the law at that time decreed you had to get married in the county where you resided. Since she lived in Carroll and he lived in Patrick, they each stood in their home county while the preacher performed the service. The Old Woman and Check were married 60 years before he died, and she had plenty of recollections of their life together. 

In the front matter, Boyd notes: 

Any names of actual people either living or deceased are purely coincidental. The names of people and many names of places were changed as the Old Woman told these stories. She suffered from dementia and although her mind wandered back to an actual time in history, her days were filled with confusion of the facts.

The Old Woman's voice rings true throughout the book, which is divided into four parts: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. She uses expressions I've heard my older relatives us: "Lord have mercy" is one interjection; "Law" is another.

The tales the Old Woman tells provide a glimpse into how mountain folk lived in the early years of the 20th century. From page 7: "Didn't know what 'lectric power, bathrooms and the likes were in those days." She recalls the doings of local characters, deaths, chores, and everyday life—everything fom the graphaphone to the sawmill whistle, how to get rid of chinch bugs to drying apples, canning to gathering chestnuts, Thanksgiving to the smell of Christmas.

One story she told was about how she gathered chestnuts when she was a girl to earn money to buy herself a rocking chair. From page 62:  "I was little but I picked  up what I could. They didn't weigh enough to buy a chair but Mammy finished paying for it. It's in yinder now in the back room."

Here's the chair:


The chestnut trees are long now, and so is the way of life that the Old Woman described. Thank goodness Oma Boyd has saved these stories of this time now past.

Round This Mountain skillfully captures the spirit of mountain life. It's a must-read for all y'all who enjoy old-timey things. I highly recommend it.
~

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