Appalachian Wednesday–Taking Out the Trash

Today is trash day in my neighborhood. That means I lug the white bag of garbage and the blue bag of recycling up to the end of the driveway and leave them for the garbage men. (I also say a little prayer that the bears don’t beat them to it.) This is a far cry from how we disposed of trash when I was growing up on the farm. First, there was a lot less trash. Hardly any food wrappers or plastic containers–much of what we ate came from the garden or the woods. And what trash we made was disposed of in a variety of ways. Food waste–leftovers went to the dog or the pig. What they wouldn’t eat was thrown out on the garden to rot and replenish the soil. One year we threw watermelon rinds out there and by fall had a lush vine with little melons on it. Paper waste–the kitchen trash can had a brown grocery sack liner and the only things that went in there were combustible. When it got full one of us got to take it out to the concrete block trash burner and set it afire. I loved this job–watching the flames eat last week’s TV Guide while sparks flew up into the evening sky–lovely. Glass waste–bottle or jars were generally washed and reused. Once we had quite a few Log Cabin syrup bottles filled with colored water displayed in the […]

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Appalachian Wednesday–APPLES!

Apples

Oh it’s good to have friendly neighbors with apple trees. It may be even better than having apple trees yourself. No mowing over the windfall fruit. No yellow jackets swarming around all that fallen, bruised goodness. No guilt because you can never use them all. Our neighbors have six apple trees and one pear tree and they are burdened this […]

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

Labor 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 […]

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Appalachian Wednesday–Singing My Way Home

Appalachia extends roughly (depending on which map you look at!) from Georgia to New York. But the only state that’s 100% Appalachian is West Virginia. And that would be my home place. I was waxing poetic about my home state when a friend asked if I sang that John Denver song when I went home. Well, no, I don’t sing “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” It’s a great song, but John was born in New Mexico. As it happens, I sing the WV state song, “The West Virginia Hills.” Yes, I seriously do. I almost can’t help it. When you’re that glad to be home, you’re bound to burst into song. I don’t remember learning the state song–it was probably in school–but it’s been with me for a long time and it pretty well captures how I feel when I step foot back onto the soil that eight generations of my family have walked. “Oh, the West Virginia hills! How majestic and how grand, With their summits bathed in glory, Like our Prince Immanuel’s Land! Is it any wonder then, That my heart with rapture thrills, As I stand once more with loved ones On those West Virginia hills? CHORUS: Oh, the hills, beautiful hills, How I love those West Virginia hills! If o’er sea o’er land I roam, Still I’ll think of happy home, And my friends among the West Virginia hills.” Of course, West Virginia actually has THREE state […]

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Plotters vs. Pantsers

There are generally two schools of fiction writers–plotters and pantsers. Plotters plan their novels–they know more or less what happens each step of the way and then write from plot point to plot point. I’ve seen calendars and spreadsheets and outlines that leave me in awe. Pantsers, on the other hand, write by the seat of their pants. That would be me. I know where to begin. And I have a general idea of where I’m going, maybe even a stop or two along the way, but I don’t know all the steps. And really, that’s why I love writing. It’s the same reason I like reading. I want to know what happens next. I love it when I finish writing a scene and get to sit back and think, okay, if I want my character to learn a specific lesson or get into a certain tight spot, what might happen to get her there? It’s delicious. For me, plotting is like having someone tell me what happens in a book before I read it. Why would I read it? I already know. In my current manuscript a young man has been roped into running moonshine for some shady characters. I knew he was going to make a drop-off and I thought it would be under the classic back stairs with a loose step. But then I saw a picture of a tombstone in Northern WV that was used as a hideout for corn […]

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