Appalachian Thursday – How about a Christmas story?

Here’ in the mountains it’s getting to be the season for curling up with hot cocoa and a good book while the temperatures drop outside. And what could be better than a Christmas story? Oh wait–I have one of those! My novella, A Shot at Love (the one nominated for a Christy Award!), is now available for download for just a few dollars. It’s shorter than my novels and I think it’s sweet without being sticky. If you’d like a taste, here’s a Christmasy snippet to whet your appetite: Hank tried to pay attention as James and Grace showed him their favorite holiday traditions. They’d all trooped out into the woods the day before and cut not one, but two evergreens. The prettier of the two had been stabilized in a bucket of rocks and sand, then Abram drilled holes into the trunk, cut branches from the second tree, and inserted them to fill out the first one. The result was a remarkably full and uniform Christmas tree. Hank marveled at the ingenuity while continuing to kick himself for upsetting Fleeta. “Stepped all over her pride,” Abram said when Hank shared his tale. “What can I do to fix it?” he asked. Abram shrugged. “Women,” he said. “I’m still trying to figure Lydia out and she’s not half so contrary as Fleeta Brady.” Now Hank gave his host family about a tenth of his attention as he pondered what he […]

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Appalachian Thursday – At Home in WV

Today I’m visiting family in WV. We’re headed to Beverly and Dailey this morning–sites for my 2020 novel. And this evening I’ll be giving a talk and doing a signing at the Upshur County Public Library (my childhood library!) for When Silence Sings. So not much of a post today–just a photo of Main Street Thurmond. You can imagine Colman […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Cracking Nuts

The apples have fallen, the pumpkins are getting carved, and the leaves are turning orange and yellow and red. Must be time for the nut harvest! Of course, if we don’t hurry, the critters will beat us to it. Growing up on the farm, we had walnuts, chestnuts, and filberts (hazelnuts). With walnuts, it was best to let nature dry the husk and expose the shell, which would still turn our hands black. Chestnuts could be removed from their prickly casing by pinching them between the soles of our boots and pushing them out. Hazelnuts we just let dry a bit and then whacked ’em but good with a hammer. Mom probably made things using nuts, but mostly the pleasure was in just eating them straight from the shell. And eat them we did! Chestnuts in particular were an easy target and the crisp texture and flavor of that buttery, yellow nut was SO good. You can score them and roast them briefly to make them easy to peel, but we just bit ’em until the shell cracked. Even here, on our little ole plot of land in NC, we have walnut trees (can’t plant tomatoes under them) and several hazelnut shrubs. But it’s a lot of work and not always worth it if the weather hasn’t been right or worms have gotten there first. So mostly Thistle and I sit inside the French doors and watch the squirrels feast. […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Fairy Diddles

Fairy Diddles are alternately real woodland creatures or mythical rodents depending on who you ask. In West Virginia, they probably refer to small red squirrels but in North Carolina they’re more likely a Carolina northern flying squirrel. Regardless, they’re fast, smaller than average, and make a lot of noise. One myth suggests that they raid the nests of other squirrels and castrate their young. (Yikes!) This may have something to do with the fact that they’re omnivorous and in addition to eating acorns and other nuts will also eat smaller rodents. Although perhaps not JUST, ahem, select parts. I sense a mountaineer with a colorful sense of humor came up with that one. Mountaineers tell stories of “steer” squirrels created by this legendary castration. And some say fairy diddles themselves are of the “steer” variety. I’m pretty sure no naturalist or biologist has ever backed either assertion. When we first moved to WNC we had a pair of fairy diddles living in the woods across the creek. They were adorably small and almost pink in color. After a few years we saw them no more. I can see how they would give rise to tall tales and myths. Perhaps I need to work a mythical fairy diddle into a story of my own . . .  

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