I am a lover of things Appalachian. When I was invited to be one of the authors at last October's Appalachian Heritage Day at the Salem Museum, I jumped at the chance. One of my favorite authors, Sharyn McCrumb, was the keynote speaker. (She made it clear during her Friday night speech how to pronounce Appalachian—it's Apple-LATCH-un
, not Apple-LAY-shun.
I enjoyed chatting with her on Saturday. She showed me the cover for the reissue of her book, The Ballad of Frankie Silver
, which I'd read and enjoyed over a decade ago. I think the new cover is much more effective than the old one.
I hadn't been to the museum for many years, so it was interesting to see the old-timey stuff it had. I didn't go to all of the exhibits, but I did visit a few—such as this moonshine still (the sugar looks a bit modern) . . .
. . . a lady's sidesaddle . . . .
. . . various household furnishings . . .
. . . children's games . . .
. . . a spinning wheel . . .
. . . and the things that go with it.
One of the guests had a display of old guns . . .
. . . and another had a display of old musical instruments.
He played lovely background music on his harp.
Several members of the Roanoke Valley Pen Women had displays. Ethel Born had copies of her history of the rural Virginia postal service for sale.
Margaret Dubois had some of her art and jewelry.
Peggy Shifflett had her books, including the latest, On the Way to Toe Town
Pen Women president Beth Ann Rossi
told some tales about the Appalachian Trail.
Another tale-teller was Charles Lytton, who obviously isn't a member of Pen Women, but he was guest speaker at the Pen Women's December meeting, where he had copies of his latest book, The View from the White Rock.
Lytton is a true Appalachian (which he will tell you is apple-LATCH-un, not Apple-LAY-shun).
I first met Charles Lytton at the Galax Leaf and String Festival a couple of years ago. Our paths have crossed several times since then, and I've been privileged to hear him read from his books or tell his tales in person. I've read—and thoroughly enjoyed—his two previous books about growing up on River Ridge: New River: bonnets, apple butter, and moonshine
and The Cool Side of the Pillow
. Both are filled with good stories, some of which are a little far-fetched even though they're true.
This third volume didn't disappoint me. It's a delightful down-home look at Lytton's sometimes rough and rugged boyhood and early manhood along the New River.
One of his chapters is titled "You Can Get Killed About Anywhere," but a lot of the other chapters involve Lytton's taking risks, having hair-raising adventures, and escaping bad situations. In "Diana's First Airplane Ride and maybe My Last," he recounts when an amateur pilot took him and his daughter for a ride in a small plane on a very cold day. The kid loved it; Lytton felt lucky to return alive. In "The Same House, But There was no Ham," he tells of having to heed the call of nature before dawn while squirrel hunting and locating a nearby outhouse (p.132):
Of course Lytton mentions many of his buddies who shared his escapades, moonshine, molasses-making, and trucks. In "Damn, Them Old Trucks Would Run Like a Skeert Hant," he recounts an adventure hauling heifers to the Narrows livestock market, looking for cheap liquor with his buddies, and injuring his arm when the driver swerves a little too close to a tree. "How to Unload a Sow Hog" also involves trucks, livestock, and drinking—all the stuff of good Appalachian yarns. And there are a lot more.
Lytton writes his tales the same way he talks. His voice rings true throughout the book. He may have a college degree or two, but it hasn't hurt his ability to tell a good down-home story. I highly recommend The View from the White Rock for his views on his Appalachian up-bringing.
Remember, that's Apple-LATCH-un, not Apple-LAY-shun.
Labels: Appalachian, reading, writing