Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Devil's Apron Strings

There never was a shortage on rocks on the Burns property, and in that we were truly “blessed”.

On the Burns Mom & Dad's house.

Grandmaw Mary used to always tell us that the devil broke his apron strings when he walked over Burns property. She’d tell about a great fight between God and the devil. In the days when the world was young, God & the devil each lived in separate caves high up on the North Mountain Rocks, and as in every telling of the epic battle between good and evil, they got into a great rock fight. The devil would throw rocks at God and God would in turn throw rocks at the devil. According to the legend, when gathering more rocks for an impending battle, the devil broke his apron strings while carrying a giant load of rocks over the Burns property. Just as the devil broke his apron strings and lost his rocks, God attacked and defeated the devil, forever driving him from Germany Valley. I’ve often wondered if this story has deeper meaning, perhaps it has its roots in the early settlement of Germany Valley, back when the Native Americans who knew of the valley referred to it as “the valley of the demons”.

The North Mountain Rocks that tower over the Burns property.

The rocks probably came from the North Mountain rock cliffs that tower over Burns property. Over the eons of time, rocks flaked off and rolled down the mountain onto the property. As soil formed, it just covered the rocks and so on. Regardless of how they got there, I know we’d pick rocks for hours, and no matter how many were picked, there'd always be more.

In our futile attempts to pick all the rocks from our garden, we quickly realized that we’d just have to settle for having the larger rocks being picked out of the garden if we ever hoped to get anything planted. There were huge rock piles all around the garden, proving that past generations had struggled with this very thing.
A view of the North Fork rocks from Germany Valley.

The most notable rock pile in the garden was the one with a huge lilac bush growing out of it. Family lore maintained that during Civil War days, the Yankee army had camped in our garden. When hearing about the approaching Confederate homeguard, a strongbox full of gold that was to be used to pay the soldiers was buried under that rock pile. I remember during the late 1980’s when dozer work was being done on one end of that rock pile, many family members gathered around and cast an ever-watchful eye on the activities. To date, this strongbox has never been found and the family legend lives on.


Shirley Stewart Burns, Ph.D. said...

Ahhhh...a modern day Appalachian folktale. I love it!!

Granny Sue said...

Now that's a story, Matthew. Actually two or three stories...the rocks, the apron strings, the gold. Beautiful pics, too.

Tipper said...

I've heard the term Devil's Apron Strings before-but not the story. Very neat and interesting.

I've always loved see piles of rocks around old garden places and thinking of the folks who moved them. As a child I recall seeing rock piles on the edges of steep ridges above my house where they used to plant corn.