Appalachian End of Summer–Hot Dog Roast at Toad’s

Hand Holding Hot Dog in NapkinLabor Day weekend is right around the corner. When I was growing up that meant time for the annual hot dog roast at Toad and Berle’s. Yes, his name was Toad and he lived in what had been the community schoolhouse when my dad was a kid.

There would be a big bonfire and the men would cut sticks and sharpen the ends for spearing hot dogs and holding them in the flames. The women would bring every side dish you could think of and there would be watermelon. Oh, and desserts. My goodness the desserts. Plus marshmallows. Although I think s’mores were too fancy for us.

The creek was nearby and we were meant to stay out of it but never did. There was also a cliff over on Uncle Willis’ land. We were meant to stay away from there, too. But we didn’t.

After eating, folks would sit around smoking cigarettes, talking, telling stories (otherwise known as lies), maybe playing some music. We kids would set fire to the hot dog sticks and write our names with burning embers against the night sky. Until someone made us stop. And then we’d do it anyway and sometimes we’d get in trouble and sometimes we wouldn’t. We’d go to bed late that night, smelling of smoke and hot dogs.

I guess people still have picnics on Labor Day weekend. I guess they might even have hotdogs. But I’ll just bet they don’t cook them on a sharpened stick over an open fire while dusk settles like a soft blanket and the voices of just about everyone who’s ever cared about them hums in the background.

This Labor Day I might build a fire out back and roast me a hotdog, but I have a feeling it won’t taste the same. Not even a little bit.

7 thoughts on “Appalachian End of Summer–Hot Dog Roast at Toad’s

  1. our words leave me with a deep longing, for something I never had.

    It’s such a precious thing, a memory that is so alive, vital, and even tactile.

    On the face of it, in this time of 4G phones (or is it 5G now?) and overweening self-righteousness about the effect of wood smoke, hot dogs, marshmallows, and – gasp! – cigarettes would seem to have put paid to those times, and buried them in a grave untended and unloved by our stainless society.

    But I bet that’s not the case. I bet that if you go far enough into the hills, you’ll hear music and laughter sifting through the trees, catch glimpses of firelight and people dancing. You’ll smell the innocent enjoyment of simple pleasures. Like a faerie gathering, it’ll flicker and fade, staying tantalizingly out of reach, but more real, and more enduring, than the pallid celebrations we enjoy today.

    I sure hope so.

  2. Mom

    I didn’t get this by email yesterday and came here because I realized I had missed Appalachian Wednesday… a LOT! Thanks for stirring my memories of Toad and Berle. (Did you remember I took care of him as he was dying at the hospital.) Loved those people and their roasts (and all the others who attended.) Made me think of so many I had not thought of in too long a time. 🙂

  3. Mary Ellen (Howes) Judy

    So nice to read this. Aunt Beryl was my Dad’s sister. I remember the Laurel Fork school house so well. I never got to the roasts after they made the school into a home but I can imagine the fun because they were a fun loving family. Oh the stories and memories I have of them.

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