Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Long Time On This Mountain: The Songs of Shirley Stewart Burns

You may purchase the album by sending $12 (shipping is included) to shirleystewartburns@yahoo.com using your PayPal account.  Just make sure you mention somewhere in the payment that it is for Long Time On This Mountain.

Cost of Factory Sealed CD: $12.00 (shipping included for U.S. addresses).

For more information about Long Time On This Mountain: The Songs of Shirley Stewart Burns, please visit (and like) the Long Time On This Mountain Facebook page.

Long Time On This Mountain: The Songs of Shirley Stewart Burns is the latest release of my wife Shirley's original music.  Due to a rare form of lung disease, Shirley's beautiful voice was silenced in the prime of her life, but her songs live on  and continue to inspire music lovers from around the globe. Shirley continues to write songs about life and living in Appalachia.  Each song on this album was performed by various professional musicians from throughout the Appalachian region, and was produced by the expert hand of West Virginia University School of Music professor, Dr.Travis Stimeling.

As Dr. Stimeling said of Shirley and her music:  "Shirley Stewart Burns is a songwriter and historian from Wyoming County, West Virginia. Born in the heart of the state's southern coalfields, Burns's songs embrace the full range of musical traditions that she heard during her youth, from traditional Appalachian balladry to southern gospel and from bluegrass to commercial country. Burns's songs conjures the stories of the many people who have lived and worked in the region."

I think all of the readers of this blog will definitely enjoy this album.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Waiting on Dandelions

I remember when I was a kid that one of the biggest events of late winter was searching for the first dandelion.  Granny always told us that they were a promise of spring and once one was found, it wouldn’t be too much longer before warm weather would return to the mountain. 

I’m sure the search was originally initiated to get the kids from underfoot during the dead of winter, and to give us a purpose.  After the anticipation of Christmastime had worn off, but before the egg hiding of Eastertime, there is a long stretch of cold, hum-drum, and did I mention cold weather.  Nothing to do but chores and hunkering down and waiting for better.  For us kids, that meant go to school, come home and carry in the night’s wood, feed the stock, have supper, do homework, and get ready for bed.  Day after day.  After day. 

The Mouth of Burns Holler.  This is where the first dandelions would always appear.  Granny's old house is visit on the right, the old stone cow barn, long since lost in a flood, stood on the left side of the road.

Then sometime in late February, Granny would holler at us kids as we were walking up the holler road from school and tell us it was getting to be about time for the dandelions to come up.  She always picked an unseasonably warm day to tell us this (which I might add were uncommon in those days).  Now she knew it was still too early for dandelions on the mountain, but she also knew it would give us a sense of purpose just when we needed it most.  Once the word was given, the hunt was on.  We would run to the house and throw down our books and bags, and head out the door.  The chores would have to wait.  In hindsight, granddad and Uncle Wood usually did the chores on the first day of the search.  It was almost as if there was a vast conspiracy to get us kids out of the house.  We knew the first blooms would appear on the hillside between Granny’s house and the old stone cow barn, and she would watch us search in vain for the first bloom.  She’d come out on the porch and talk to us as we searched, “now when you all find a good mess of the greens, I’ll cook us all up a good meal.  Good for the blood, they are.”

Day after day, after school, we would look for it.  On Saturday mornings we would look for it. On Sunday afternoons we would look for it.  We paid attention to the other signs of spring that would give us a clue as to when and where it might be.  I devised a method that when the hog pen started smelling pretty ripe,  it was a sign that dandelions were up.  Somewhere, anyway.   My methodology never really panned out but I swore that it would someday. 

Springtime on the Mountain.  Clothesline, dogwoods, lilacs and a chickenhouse.  We all think of different things when we think of springtime.  This says it to me.

Then one day when we least expected it, there it would be.  The first bloom.  It would be small, gnarled, half-frozen and unopened, but it was the first.  Whoever found it would let out a whoop and everyone would come running.  Sure enough, there it was.  The finder would pick it and we’d all take off for Granny’s house.  Of course, she’d hear us coming long before she could see us, and she would have us some treat made up.  Like molasses candy, or tater candy or something of the like.  It was almost as if Granny knew what day we’d find the first dandelion.  Looking back, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Granny used to look for the first bloom while all of us kids were away at school.  Granny always did love her dandelions.

A good place to find dandelions.  At the right time of year, you can pick a mess in just a few minutes.

Grandmaw's Dandelion Gravy recipe. You put it over dandelion greens. Put about 1 1/2 cups milk in skillet with 1 tsp butter or bacon grease (bacon grease preferred). Then make thickening in another bowl by combining: 2 Tbsp. flour, 1 egg, about 1/4-1/2 cup milk, stir until smooth. Add about 1 Tbsp. vinegar. Add to the milk in skillet. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until it thickens. If not sour enough add little more vinegar to your taste.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ellison Mounts & Pike County

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Jay Shepherd of the Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau regarding making a post about Pike County, Kentucky. I am always amenable to promoting the positive aspects of Appalachia, so after a few emails back and forth, I was excited to help promote Pike County. Jay then solicited the assistance of local historian, Jessica Forsyth, to write about an aspect of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud that took place in Pike County, Kentucky. Jessica also serves as the Director of Activities and Events for the Big Sandy Heritage Center, a local historical museum located on Hambley Blvd. in Pikeville, Kentucky.

"Ellison Mounts was Pike County’s biggest scapegoat, but also one of the lesser known roles of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Supposedly the illegitimate son of Ellison Hatfield, Mounts was with the Hatfield boys Johnse and Calvin when they went to the McCoy home on January 1, 1888 and set the house ablaze with McCoy family members still inside. Sarah McCoy and her children ran outside to escape their burning home and chaos erupted. Johnse fired a shot before the signal was given to fire on the McCoys and a gunfight ensued between him, Calvin, Ellison, and the McCoy boys."

"In the panic that ensued, Calvin fired a shot, killing Alifair McCoy. The blame was not directed at him however. Instead, all eyes turned to Ellison Mounts. Mounts, being somewhat dimwitted, probably did not realize the severity of the charges or what would happen to him next."

Ellison Mounts (photo courtesy of Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau).

"At trial, Ellison was convicted and sentenced to be hanged. He and his lawyer tried to appeal the case, but were unable to do so with a jury that had already made up their minds, as most of the county had. On February 18, 1890, Ellison Mounts was hanged on the site of the present day University of Pikeville classroom building. Thousands of onlookers turned out to witness the hanging, but laws stated that executions could no longer be public. Workers constructed a fence around the scaffold to hide the sight from prying eyes. His last words would attempt to point the blame again to the Hatfields. No one had been sent to the gallows in Pike County for forty years, and after Ellison, no one ever would be again. All the other Hatfield prisoners received life sentences in prison."

"The University of Pikeville, then named Pikeville College, erected residence halls and classroom buildings on the site where the makeshift gallows had stood. Today, visitors can read a marker placed by the historical society on the site. It tells of the life and trial of Ellison Mounts, and how the nation’s most famous feud claimed yet another young life well before its time."

The Hanging of Ellison Mounts (photo courtesy of Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau).

I hope everyone enjoyed reading about some of the interesting history that took place in Pike County, Kentucky. I encourage everyone to plan a visit to Pike County in the very near future. Pike County truly offers something for everyone. If you have any questions regarding your visit to Pike County, I'm sure Jay over at the Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitors Bureau would be more than happy to assist you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Folks Are Talking

A former feature writer and columnist on the Bluefield, W. Va., Daily Telegraph has released a double CD of oral histories titled “Folks Are Talking” from men and women he interviewed for the newspaper in the 1970s.

Garret Mathews, who moved to Evansville, Ind., in 1987 to write the metro column for The Courier, retired in 2011 after penning more than 10,000 articles on a variety of subjects from a 91-year-old female bootlegger in Princeton, Ky., to the members of a snake-handling church in Jolo, W. Va.

Mathews selected 28 of his early Daily Telegraph stories for “Folks Are Talking.” They include an early United Mine Workers organizer, a horse trader, survivors of coal mine explosions, coal camp baseball players, a child born during the deadly flood of 1977 and a female furrier who carves muskrats while eating peanut-butter sandwiches.

“These men and women are from a bygone era and most are long dead,” Mathews says. “I wanted to record our time together as a way of keeping their stories alive.”
Music evocative of the region that includes southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia is included on the double CD.

Copies of “Folks Are Talking” will be furnished to public and school libraries in the two-state area as well as to historians and colleges and universities that offer Appalachian studies.

“It’s as I point out in the introduction: You just don’t find these folks any more,” Mathews says. “What they shared with me, I want to share with future generations.”

“Folks Are Talking” was featured on a recent interview segment with Joe Dashiell on WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va. Selections from the double CD are also being played on the public television station in Roanoke.

The double CD costs $17 plus $3 shipping and handling. Checks should be sent to “Folks Are Talking,” c/o Garret Mathews, 7954 Elna Kay Drive, Evansville, Indiana 47715. For more information or to listen to four of the tracks or to order online, go to www.folksaretalking.com

Monday, August 29, 2011

Second Edition of "Goin Up Gandy" Now Available

It has recently been brought to my attention that one of my favorite books, "Goin' Up Gandy" by Don Teter has been reissued into a second edition. Loyal readers of Appalachian Lifestyles may recall the mention of "Goin' Up Gandy" in an old post about The Wreck of the Dry Fork #4. After reading that post, "Goin' Up Gandy" author, Don Teter, contacted me and let me know that the long out-of-print book was soon to be reissued in a second edition. That time has now come. I highly recommend the book and urge all readers of this blog to consider picking up a copy of this remarkable book while it is still available. It is perhaps the single best source of local history for the Dry Fork region and the surrounding areas of West Virginia.

Here is the Press Release:

"Don Teter of Monterville, West Virginia, and McClain Printing Company of Parsons, announce the release of a second edition of his book Goin’ Up Gandy, A History of the Dry Fork Region of Randolph and Tucker Counties, West Virginia.

The 135 page history was first published in 1977, but has been out of print for nearly 30 years. The new edition includes a 20 page index. The book details the history of the settlement of the area, the Civil War period, and the boom times of the logging and railroad industries in the Dry Fork, with extensive footnotes and numerous photos. A map of the area “In the age of steam” is included.

A 1969 graduate of Elkins High School, and a 1973 graduate of Davis and Elkins College, Mr. Teter holds a B.A. in History and Political Science. He has been a West Virginia licensed professional surveyor since 1982, serving as president of the West Virginia Society of Professional Surveyors in 2001, and editing the quarterly publication The West Virginia Surveyor for ten years. Don has done extensive land surveying and consulting work for the Rich Mountain Battlefield Association, the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike Alliance, and Historic Beverly Preservation. He is currently on the History Alive! roster of the West Virginia Humanities Council, portraying writer, artist, and Civil War topographer Porte Crayon.

Copies are available from local bookstores, McClain Printing Company in Parsons, or directly from the author at:

Don Teter
HC 86 Box 32
Monterville, WV 26282

or by e-mail at: teterdon@frontiernet.net

When buying directly from the author the retail price is $26.42, plus $1.58 sales tax (total $28.00). When the book is mailed an additional $3.00 is charged for shipping and handling for a total of $30.00."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


When I was growing up, I was considered by my family to be the pet pig. This was because I was the baby of the bunch, and for 12 years I remained that. During this time, I was doted on and given free reign of the place, and I got by with a lot more than I probably should have.

Me at age 2. Those pants prove I was at the height of fashion.

I’m pretty sure that I was my granddaddy’s favorite grandchild, and I could get anything out of him or do anything and it’d be just fine. He was so proud of me, he’d tell people, “That boy can drive hen shit to gunpowder.” That’s how good I was.

Now this isn’t to say that the other kids, including my brother who is only 18 months older than I am, were slighted in any way, I’m just saying that I got by with more than my fair share because of my pet pig status.

I remember one time when we lived on the farm, I got a BB gun for my birthday. I was out playing in the side yard and my brother was in the upstairs window, making faces at me. He apparently thought he would be safe from my vengeance, but I proved him wrong when I shot at him through the window. He dodged to the side, but I waited until he poked his head back in front of the window to see if I was still outside. When he did, I fired again, and just like that, another windowpane bit the dust. This continued until I had shot every windowlight out of that upstairs bedroom. As soon as I’d shot out the last one, Jason hollered out, “Mom…Matthew’s outside shooting out the upstairs windows with his BB gun.”

Mom then came outside and investigated the situation and took my BB gun away, and told me I was going to have to pay for those windows, and she was taking by $2 allowance to do so. It wasn’t but maybe a half hour later, and after a long talk with my granddad, that I got back my BB gun. He also gave me $2 and told me not to shoot out anymore windows...and not to tell mother about the money!

Me, my Granddad and my Uncle Tom in 1986. Notice my beaver-teeth pose!

I remember how I used to stay overnight with my granddad and we’d go riding around in his huge red International station wagon named “Belvedere”. Belvedere had a front seat, a back seat and an enormous back end that usually was filled with kids and chainsaws. I know those two don’t mix, but I remember always hating to have to find a seat bakc there so you wasn’t riding up against a chainsaw chain.

One time, when I was about 5 years old, just me and my granddad was coming back from Riverton in Belvedere (by now you’ve probably realized I never missed a trip to the store). At that time, I only knew my numbers up to 100, but the speedometer in Belvedere registered up to 120 miles per hour, so of course I wanted my granddad to sink the needle in the straight stretch going out through Germany Valley so I could see it. However, since I didn't know how to say, “a hundred and twenty”, I instead said to my granddad what I knew, “Go Twelve-O, granddaddy, go twelve-O!”

Well, Belvedere might have registered 120 mph, but it certainly couldn’t go that fast, looking back I doubt that it could have went 120 mph if it was falling straight down a well. Granddad used to have a saying about how much power Belvedere had, he would say “This ol' car couldn’t pull a sick woman off of a shitpot”. I believe that says all you ever need to know about Belvedere!!

Let’s suffice it to say that Belvedere never did go “Twelve-O”.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Erl-King

This is one of my very favorite poems. I can just imagine my German ancestors living in fear of the Erl-king. What better way to celebrate All Hallows Eve than with the German folktale/song/poem, The Erl-King?

Der Elrkonig (The Erl-king)
by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Who's riding so late through th' endless wild?
The father 't is with his infant child;
He thinks the boy 's well off in his arm,
He grasps him tightly, he keeps him warm.

My son, say why are you hiding your face ?
Oh father, the Erlking 's coming apace,
The Erlking 's here with his train and crown!
My son, the fog moves up and down.

Be good, my child, come, go with me!
I know nice games, will play them with thee,
And flowers thou 'It find near by where I live,
pretty dress my mother will give.

Dear father, oh father, and do you not hear
What th' Erlking whispers so close to my ear?
Be quiet, do be quiet, my son,
Through leaves the wind is rustling anon.

Do come, my darling, oh come with me!
Good care my daughters will take of thee,
My daughters will dance about thee in a ring,
Will rock thee to sleep and will prettily sing.

Dear father, oh father, and do you not see
The Erlking's daughters so near to me?
My son, my son, no one 's in our way,
The willows are looking unusually gray.

I love thee, thy beauty I covet and choose,
Be willing, my darling, or force I shall use!
Dear father, oh father, he seizes my arm!
The Erlking, father, has done me harm.

The father shudders, he darts through the wild;
With agony fill him the groans of his child.
He reached his farm with fear and dread;
The infant son in his arms was dead.