You’ve almost certainly heard this time of year referred to as the “dog days” of summer. But do you know WHY it’s called that? I always thought it’s because this hot, muggy time of year isn’t hardly fit for a dog. And I had a professor in college who talked about the humidity of late summer making stepping outside feel like stepping into a dog’s mouth. An apt metaphor. But turns out there’s more to it than that. Turns out it’s because this is the time of year when the sun is in the same part of the sky as Sirius – the Dog Star – part of the constellation Canis Major. In late July Sirius actually rises and sets with the sun. And way back in the day, folks thought the star actually added to the heat of the sun. So the dog days are the 20 days before and after Sirius and the sun line up–July 3 through August 11. Which, ironically, is often the hottest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, a scientific explanation should never prevent us from embracing some good old-fashioned superstitions. So here are a few related to the dog days of summer: During this time snakes are blind and will strike at anything. If it rains on the first dog day, it will rain every day afterward. Dogs are more likely to go mad during these days. Sores and wounds […]
It was 89 years ago today. The notorious Dunglen Hotel in Thurmond, WV, burned in what was then reported to be faulty wiring, but is generally believed to be an act of arson. Although–to this day–the arsonist has never been named. The popularity of the Dunglen may have had something to do with the fact that it served alcohol–which was […]
I love mysteries and unexplained phenomenon. Miracles even. Lately I’ve been reading about the Brown Mountain Lights–a mysterious occurrence people sometimes see on a mountain about an hour east of where I live in NC. Brown Mountain is in the Linville Gorge near Morganton, NC, and there are two popular overlooks for folks wanting to see the ghostly lights–the Brown Mountain Overlook and Wiseman’s View. Of course, there’s no guarantee you’ll see them if you go, but October and November are said to be the best months during clear, moonless nights. The lights seem to appear both in the sky above the mountain and among the trees. Sometimes they’re brief and other times they dance and linger. Theories/stories include: Swamp gas (of course, there aren’t any swamps around there) Headlights from the valley (except people saw them before cars were around) Foxfire (phosphorescent light from decaying wood–my favorite theory!) Moon dogs (moonlight shining on haze–oh wait, they show up on moonless nights) Lanterns being carried by ghostly Indian maidens looking for braves killed in battle A slave looking for his master who disappeared while hunting (there’s a song for that one) The souls of a woman and her child murdered by her philandering husband A revolutionary war hero searching fruitlessly for his family Scientists from Appalachian State University have even studied the lights and, yes, have recorded them. And yet we’re no closer to knowing what they are. Which I […]
The hero of my next story is Colman Harpe. I chose the name Colman for two reasons–first, he’s inspired by Jonah (the one swallowed by the whale) and both of the names–Jonah and Colman–mean “Dove.” The second reason is that I grew up knowing a fellow named Coleman Ware who was a local fur seller. Dad took him many a hide for a little extra cash and had quite a few Coleman stories in his repertoire. I even wrote a poem about him. COLEMAN WARE His house, as knock-kneed as he, holds to the hillside with claws buried in the flesh of a mountain. He kills for a living, steel-jawed traps have tongues quicker than the black snake coiled beneath the shed thriving on spilled guts. He opens the bellies of his liveliehodd with a flicking blade and a line of talk that flows sinuous, like blood. He piles hides in a corner. Case-skinned, hollow animals lack only heads and feet; lack only claws and teeth. Wiping death from his knife on a dirty pant leg, he cuts into an apple. Slicing chunks of fruit against a steady thumb he eats from the blade as one who knows how all our stories end.
It’s been five years since Miracle in a Dry Season first hit store shelves. Giddy days, those! And while I’ve been fortunate to see more stories published (and others yet to come), that first novel is the one that will always hold a dear place in my heart. And somehow, even after five years, readers keep falling in love with […]
My home state’s motto is: Mountaineers are always free. There’s a serious thread of independence running through the mountains I call home. And what better day to celebrate that than the Fourth of July? And what better way than by shooting off some anvils? Wait. What? Yes. Anvils. I wrote about anvil shooting last July, but couldn’t resist mentioning it […]
Last Thursday was WV Day. To celebrate, I sent out a quiz to help readers determine if they could pass as a Mountaineer. The results were interesting! The first question was whether or not you’ve ever used an outhouse. I was amazed that almost EVERYONE who took the survey had done so–92%. Only one person vowed that they never would. Guess it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought when we got married at a church with no indoor plumbing. Next, I asked readers to identify the state flower of WV. This was a little bit of a trick. The choices included Magnolia–wrong! Mountain Laurel–wrong, but doesn’t it sound right?? and Rhododendron–the correct answer with 35% of folks getting it right. Sixty percent chose Mountain Laurel. This was the second most missed question. Third, I asked if WV is The Mountain State, Hillbilly Nation, or Coal Country. Two thirds know it’s The Mountain State with just one smart aleck choosing Hillbilly Nation. Okay. The what does “watch out for deer” really mean question was also tricky. If you’d read my post about this, you’d know it’s code for “I love you” (just 14% chose that answer). But I gave out a point for “be careful” as well which tied for the obvious answer of “watch out for deer” at 43%. Question 5 also surprised me with 72% of quiz takers enjoying wild game. Only 10% would turn up their […]