Appalachian Thursday – Dog Days

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 […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Brown Mountain Lights

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 […]

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Appalachian Thursday – WV Quiz Results

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 […]

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It’s Not the Weight Gain . . . it’s the Redistribution!

As I’m approaching 50 I’m realizing there are quite a few things about aging that no one tells you. I’ve heard plenty of talk about the way pounds creep on with middle age, so I’ve tried to keep an eye out for that. And I’m pleased to say that I actually weigh a few pounds less than I did a decade ago. However. While there may be less flesh overall, things have moved. My waist is not so trim as it once was. My hips–what IS that extra layer there?!? Upper arms are, um, softer. My chin isn’t quite so firm as it once was. Even my hands are more . . . well . . . gnarled. No one told me my body was going to readjust. Even my teeth have moved! My dentist told me it’s common among folks my age. Seriously?!? But my body isn’t the only thing to shift. It seems my attitude has as well. The upshot being that I don’t mind all this readjusting as much as I would have expected. As I look around at others in the vicinity of my age, I see that what I’m experiencing is what you might call common. It’s just that I hadn’t noticed it in anyone else until it started happening to me. Which just might mean that women younger than me don’t notice my shifting while women older than me ignore it because they’re too busy […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Time to Plant the Garden

I still have to work hard to resist them. The catalogs filled with beautiful, full-color images of corn and strawberries and squash and green beans . . . The displays of candy-colored seed packets at the store . . . I don’t even have a garden. Oh, sometimes I grow a pot of tomatoes on the porch or plant some herbs in the flower bed, but I don’t have a place to grow rainbow blend carrots no matter how gorgeous they are in that picture. All clean and perfectly straight. The problem is, I know all too well how wonderful fresh garden produce is. And it’s been long enough that I’ve mostly forgotten the agony of weeding, harvesting, and putting up. So when the catalogs start rolling in and the displays start going up, I begin to have delusions of grandeur. I can envision glossy, yellow ears of corn; watermelons that split open with a satisfying crack; and multi-hued peppers hanging like Christmas ornaments. Bush beans, sugar snap peas, heirloom tomatoes, and baby lettuces wilted in a little bacon grease. Oh, the seed companies have my number! When we were kids, Dad would sometimes let us choose something to grow in the garden. One year it was popcorn (which didn’t do well at all!). I always wanted watermelon, but the only time I remember it growing satisfactorily that far north was when we pitched rinds over the fence and the […]

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Facing Fears . . . By Accident

Over the weekend Thistle and I headed out for our usual hike. It was a rainy Saturday, but dogs don’t much care about a little wet and neither do I (so long as it’s just a little!). There was only one other car in the parking area and it belonged to a family with two dogs. They didn’t know the trails and I did, so we headed out together for an impromptu hiking party. Poking around in the woods with kids and dogs is always entertaining. They see things adults miss and they’re much more willing to stop and investigate. Which made hiking a trail I’d been on over and over again a whole new experience. At one point we stopped to check out a spot where the creek runs down a sort of rock slide. The older of the two girls threw sticks in the water for Reba—one of the dogs. Which meant Reba was faced with a quandary. She really wanted that stick, but she’s not a fan of water. She’d wade in ankle deep and stretch her neck to reach the stick, snatching it and running back to land. Most of us had moved on down the trail when the eldest daughter came running to join us with Reba by her side. “Reba faced her fears!” the girl crowed. “She went all the way in the water!” Then the girl added, “Well, by accident.” Reba’s desire to […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Kumbrabow

When Dad told stories about hunting in Kumbrabow State Forest I assumed the name was Native American. Not so. The story I’m currently writing (due out in late 2020) is set in Randolph County not far from where I grew up in WV. As I’ve researched the area I inevitably found some information about the state forest there. Turns out it was established in 1934–the year of my story. The land was purchased in December of that year and the name was in honor of Governor Brady KUMp, businessman Spates BRAdy, and attorney Hubert BOWers all of whom were key in the area becoming a state forest. Here are a few interesting facts about the forest: It covers nearly 9,500 acres. It’s the highest forest in WV at more than 3,000 feet above sea level. Logging and wildfires ravaged the forest in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but thanks to a conducive climate there’s been rapid regrowth. The Civilian Conservation Corps built many of the parks facilities including rustic cabins and picnic shelters. The forest today is rich in black cherry stands. My hero, Creed, lives in a cabin on Rich Mountain in Kumbrabow State Forest. Of course, he started living there before it’s naming. One more intriguing detail I’ll get to work into my next story! I just may need to book a writing weekend in a rustic cabin . . .

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