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Sunday, December 22, 2013


The Golden Delicious Apple, A West Virginia Success Story
Ever since my childhood, I have loved good, fresh apples and my favorite apple has always been the Golden Delicious.  I love the sweet, fresh, crisp, but somewhat mealy texture of the Golden Delicious.  I firmly believe it is exactly what an eating apple should be.  It is also a great apple for fried apples which I love at breakfast.  I suspect I must have been an adult before I realized that the Golden Delicious is a product of Appalachia, specifically West Virginia.  This apple is well known to nearly everyone who loves apples and is grown, sold, and eaten all over the world.  There could not have been a finer contribution to the world than this sweet treat.  The apple related website Orange Pippin  lists the Golden Delicious as the parent, grandparent, or possible ancestor of more than 40 other apple varieties.  There is probably no more popular apple for orchardists to grow, sell, and use as breeding stock when attempting to produce new and useful apples. 
The Golden Delicious was a chance seedling discovered on the farm of L. L. Mullins about 1891 in Clay County West Virginia and the original tree and the earth surrounding it were sold to Stark Brothers Nursery which first marketed it about 1914.  The rest, as we say, is history.  The Golden Delicious moved on to take over the apple world.  The story of how the apple tree was found and saved in the middle of a field being mowed is a wonderful little vignette in the history of West Virginia, food culture, and the world when we consider how much this particular little tree changed life and food culture and might just as easily have never grown to maturity.  I do not currently own a good history of apples or fruit trees and am forced to rely on Internet stories in order to compile a story of how the tree was found, saved, sold, propagated, and disseminated worldwide.  The West Virginia Archives and History site run by the West Virginia Culture Center has published a story by Adrian Gwinn of the Daily Mail from 1962 which contains a first person interview about the apple's history.  That story can be found at Daily Mail Story About The Golden Delicious .  J. M. Mullins at age 87 gave the mail this account of how the tree was found and saved by him on the farm of his father.
I was born in 1876 on the farm where that apple tree later became famous. My dad was L. L. Mullins, who owned the farm. "Now one day, when I was about 15 years old, that would have been about 1891, dad sent me out with a big old mowin' scythe to mow the pasture field. "I was swingin' away with the scythe when I came across a little apple tree that had grown about 20 inches tall. It was just a new little apple tree that had volunteered there. There wasn't another apple tree right close by anywhere..."I thought to myself, 'Now young feller, I'll just leave you there,' and that's what I did. I mowed around it and on other occasions I mowed around it again and again, and it grew into a nice lookin' little apple tree and eventually it was a big tree and bore apples." Charleston Daily Mail 1962.

Stories like this about any kind of wonderful, world changing discovery are few and far between.  They deserve to be told repeatedly and, in this case, West Virginia deserved perpetual credit for the discovery and propagation of the Golden Delicious.  The official website of the Stark Brothers Nursery gives only this brief account of the tree: " In 1914, Paul Stark Sr. discovered an apple with an outstanding flavor that was sweet and juicy with a hint of zest."  The Stark Brothers' side of the story can be seen at this address: The Stark Brothers' Story .  The official story of the Golden Delicious Apple can be found on the website of the Clay County Golden Delicious Apple Festival .  I am sure that somewhere in all the differing versions of the story that the real story lies waiting to be written firmly in stone.  But the one thing on which the world seems to agree is that the Golden Delicious Apple was a product of Clay County West Virginia and is one of the greatest products Appalachia has ever produced.  It is a story of which every Appalachian should be proud.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


A recent encounter in which I came in contact with a fairly good collection of vintage to antique patent medicines brought back a lot of memories of the items we regularly sold in country stores.  I came to be in possession of a fairly sizable collection of these patent medicines recently and sold them to a neighbor and friend who still runs a fairly authentic country store and antique shop.  But as I went through the collection, I was reminded of dozens of similar items my parents and other country store operators used to sell which I never see anymore.  I have discussed some of these items in one of my earlier posts, The Country Store And Travelling Salesmen.  While I had these recently found items in my hands, I took photos of most of them and will just post the photos and write a few of my own personal reminiscences of them. I apologize for the quality of some of the shots.  Many of the items are small and I cropped the photos a bit too small since I use a fairly cheap digital camera. 
Phillips Milk Of Magnesia Tablets Store Display (Roger D. Hicks)

One of the nicest items in this group I found was a vintage Phillip's Milk of Magnesia Tablets store display box of about 12 boxes of tablets.  These and several other types of "stomach medicines" were sold regularly in country stores in my childhood.  It was fairly common for country people to avoid going to doctors both because of poverty and distrust of medicine in general which translated into  faith in both folk medicines and readily available patent medicines which could be bought from  the country store operator who was a neighbor and friend who was generally better known and more trusted than the doctor at the county seat.  But I do not want to leave a blanket negative impression of the country doctors of my childhood.  Two in particular, Dr. Dempsey and Dr. Wicker from Floyd County both deserve posts on this blog at some time in the future. 
Tube Rose Scotch Snuff (Roger D. Hicks)
Another item which I found in this same collection was an unopened can of Tube Rose Scotch Snuff, which may well have been a contributing factor for some of the usage of "Stomach Medicines" by people all over Appalachia and the south.  I do not recall that my parents ever sold snuff or that there were ever many people who asked for it in Knott County during my childhood.  Most of our neighbors, my father, and even myself, for a short while, were chewers of tobacco.  This tobacco usage was split between pouch, plug, and twist with Red Horse, Red Man, Beech Nut, Kentucky Twist, Brown's Mule and a few other brands carrying most of  the business.  Since tobacco was not commonly grown in Knott County, there were very few chewers of homegrown.  But I have known of a few people who got a few seeds and raised a small patch or often just a row or two for private use.  But getting back to this can of Tube Rose Snuff, it was a fine example of a vintage country store piece and was unopened with the Internal Revenue Stamp still attached and unbroken.  It was manufactured in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and also carried a union labor stamp which is rarely seen on any item today.  That regrettable loss of union shops began about 1981 with the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan and a strong anti-union element in  American politics.  Today's fight by fast food workers for an increase in the minimum wage is directly rooted in the changes of attitudes which were promoted by the Reagan Administration beginning with the firing of the air traffic controllers shortly after he became President. 
Ramon's Pink Pills (Roger D. Hicks)
Another of the items in this collection which brought back instant memories of itself and a dozen other patent medicines was Ramon's Pink Pills, "an adult laxative for sluggish bowels due to temporary constipation".  This is a classic example of "stomach medicine" and Ramon's Pink Pills were sold by the millions across Appalachia and the rural south along with Carter's Little Liver Pills, Fletcher's Castoria, Geritol,  Black Draught, SSS Tonic, Lightning Hot Drops, and a wide variety of purgatives, antacids, and putative cure all's.  My parents must have sold thousands of boxes, bottles, and cans of these medicines.  And I have to say that finding the Ramon's Pink Pills and the Milk of Magnesia in the collection were a lot like meeting old friends after too long a time apart. 
Old Hickory Throat Troches (Roger D. Hicks)
Another item in this collection which I found fascinating but did not recognize from my childhood was a tube of Old Hickory Throat Troches which were made by the Old Hickory Medicine Company in Andalusia, Alabama.  I even tried calling a number I located on the Internet to learn more about them and found it disconnected.  I have to assume that the company, like most of the patent medicines, is no longer in existence.  I believe these were sold as a treatment for minor sore throats and must have been similar to cough drops.  If any of you remember them, please send me a personal E-Mail or comment on this post.  I would love to know exactly what they are.  I am sorry to say that I have never been to Andalusia even though I have travelled extensively in Alabama. And I also recently sold a vintage 1953 Hank Williams Song Book to someone in Andalusia.   
Colgate Tooth Powder (Roger D. Hicks)
Another item I found and did not remember ever seeing in our store was a small metal can of Colgate Tooth Powder which I assume was a precursor of tube toothpaste.  And to be honest, I do not recall that we sold a great deal of tooth paste in our store.  As I think about it, I believe this might have been due to one or more of several reasons: 1) due to poverty, many people might have been using other methods such as baking soda; 2) a lot of our neighbors never seemed to brush their teeth regularly which is also often connected to poverty; 3) folkways of cleaning teeth such as brushing with fragrant twigs might have also been practiced.  Whatever, the reasons, Colgate Tooth Powder or any other brand was not common in our store in my childhood. 
Zenith Brand Tibet Almond Stick (Roger D. Hicks)
Another unknown, at least to me, item which showed up in the collection was a metal can containing a Zenith Brand Tibet Almond Stick which was used to either repair or disguise scratches in furniture.  I do not recall any similar items to this being common in the area when I was growing up.  Many of our neighbors had either homemade furniture or cheap store bought furniture and never seemed to pay a whole lot of attention to minor dings.  It probably had nothing to do with a particular disregard for caring for property but was rather more about a different set of priorities which did not place scratches on furniture at the top of a to do list for the average parent with a garden, a house, livestock, and several children to care for. 
Windsor Rubbed Sage (Roger D. Hicks)
Another old friend which showed up in the collection, much like a long awaited letter from home, was a can of vintage Windsor Rubbed Sage.  I have written in this blog before about my love for sage as a spice in both sausage and turkey dressing. In the post Thanksgiving In Appalachia, I disclosed my love of sage. And in the recent post Hog Killing Time In Appalachia, a reader and I engaged in an interesting exchange in the comments section which discussed the love of sage.  I always associate the smell of sage dressing and, to a lesser degree, sage sausage with the wonderful memory of coming in out of the Thanksgiving or Christmas cold to the smell of hot sage dressing, steamy windows, and a plethora of other traditional Appalachian seasonal dishes on the table.  Many people in the area during my childhood grew their own spices including sage.  My own family only grew our own hot peppers, dill, and one or two others.  When my wife and I moved into our current home 21 years ago, we found that the deceased owner had kept a greenhouse for years and also had planted garlic, dill, mints, and numerous other spices around the property.  Sadly, I have not kept them all alive and now I have to buy them all.  I do not specifically remember Windsor Rubbed Sage from my childhood.  The brands of spices we were most likely to sell were McCormick's and Sauer's which were then and still are high quality spices.  But still, seeing this box of sage brought home a hundred wonderful food and country store based memories. 

Dr. LeGear's Flatulent Colic Medicine (Roger D. Hicks)
Another of the non-food items from this collection was Dr. LeGear's Flatulent Colic Medicine, a patent medicine for use in horses, mules, and cattle.  I spent a childhood in a country store, worked about 15 years in the Central Kentucky Thoroughbred business, and spent more than 3 years working on the Vision Quest Wagon Trains and I had never seen this medicine before.  But veterinary medicine in Appalachia during my childhood was nearly non-existent and many counties at that time did not have a single veterinarian.  Just as they did with their children, most Appalachians until the late 1960's treated health problems in their livestock themselves with remedies based primarily in folkways. 
This was a wonderful walk down Memory Lane for me as I found, inspected, remembered, and wrote about these items from my childhood.  I hope it is a source of warm Appalachian memories for my readers as well.  I will expand this post a couple of times in the near future.  But, for now, I want everyone of my readers to enjoy it as much as have I.  Therefore, I am posting it while it is still in progress.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Hospitality In Appalachia

An Interesting Evening In Menifee County Kentucky
This past Saturday, December 7, 2013, my wife Candice and I took  a trip from our home in White Oak, Morgan County Kentucky down US460 into Frenchburg, KY, the county seat of Menifee County to post some handbills for an upcoming auction.  Along the way, we stopped at nearly every kind of business one can find in a small county in Kentucky or in Appalachia in general for that matter.  Altogether, the trip was probably about 80 miles since it is roughly 35 miles from our home to Frenchburg and we took a bit of a side trip to Cannel City on our way home.  We spent the biggest part of the afternoon on this trip, had a ball, and experienced one heartwarming dose of Appalachian hospitality like I had not seen in a while.  We put out a few handbills along the way and came to the Oldfield Farm Store and Mize, KY, post office where we once again saw a US Post Office being run inside a privately owned business which does not happen much anymore.  Mize is one of the small post offices which came up for possible closing last year as the post office management tried to complete a plan by which it can become profitable again.  But, like many other small post offices across the country, Mize escaped the budget axe at least for the present. 
After a brief stop at Mize, we travelled on west into Menifee County.  Along the way, I reminded Candice of a place just across the county line which we had visited several years ago known as the Swamp Valley Museum.  It had been run for about 50 years by a man named Clayton Wells who also had several old log buildings full of assorted antiques along with his country store.  Clayton Wells is now dead and I told Candice the store was probably closed.  But as we rounded the curve, I saw wood smoke coming from the store chimney and surmised that maybe Clayton's children were continuing to run the store.  We pulled in and I walked inside just as I would have in the past only to find that the store was actually closed and now being used by his children, widow, and other younger descendants as a family gathering place.  But I was invited inside the store anyway by Clayton's son, Gary Wells, a former deputy coroner of Menifee County and current member of the volunteer fire department.  There was a large number of the family in the old building which has been kept just as it was when Clayton was alive.  There was a large cast iron Dutch oven full of homemade beef soup steaming on the wood stove and Gary Wells, the cook, quickly invited us to have a bowl.  I told him I would have to check with Candice, who is in a wheelchair, to see if she was interested. Candice usually stays in the van when I am making short stops rather than make the effort to get in and out of buildings which are not handicapped accessible.  It turns out she was interested in going inside and eating with the Wells Family and Gary and one of his brothers helped me get her up the single step & through the door into the store.  The family made room for us, passed out paper bowls & plastic spoons for the soup, and gave us both a cold Ale 8 One, the national soft drink of Eastern Kentucky.  Ale 8 One is a mild ginger ale made exclusively in Winchester, KY, not far from Frenchburg & is drunk daily by thousands of Appalachian Kentuckians.  It probably deserves a separate post at some time in the future since it  is a Kentucky institution.  The store, although it is just as it was the last time I was there in about 2001, is no longer operating.  This was a family gathering in a place that is near and dear to their hearts and which had become a shrine dedicated to family memories.  But they still invited two strangers in, fed us, talked for about an hour about country stores, antiques, local politics, family life in Appalachia, and a dozen other topics just like we were all old friends.  They even allowed us to bring our 13 year old Dachshund, Giggles, into the store too.  She walked around in the floor along with a small great grandchild of Clayton Wells and was ignored just as if she was also a member of the family.  The soup was great.  The hospitality was a wonderful reminder of how people all across Appalachia used to treat strangers.  It reminded me of many visits I made as a traveling salesman or simply a traveler to many stores and homes across Appalachia in the last 60 years. It also reminded me of how many times I had seen my parents doing the same thing in our country store in the 1950's & 1960's.   The experience was a bright spot near Christmas which showed us the Christmas spirit as it had been long ago and may well never be very often again.  We enjoyed it greatly and I will post some photos in the near future of the Swamp Valley Museum and Store since I did not have my camera with me.  Perhaps in the spring I will go back on a Saturday when I can find the family in and take photographs for a while. 
For now I will let a description suffice.  The store is a small wood frame structure with a low porch in front.  Nearly every square inch of the building is covered with vintage to antique advertising and political signs.  The parking lot is slightly graveled and gets muddy in wet weather.  There is an old wire corn crib right beside the store and a fine old log house full of antiques  which used to serve as the Swamp Valley Museum about 75 feet downstream on the side of the parking lot.  It is fine place to visit although it is no longer being operated commercially and I would not expect the Wells Family to always be this hospitable to the random stranger.   But it is a fitting reminder of life in general stores in Appalachia when I was a child. 
When we started back home, we took a side trip to Cannel City, KY, to stop in at the Caney Valley Grocery which I have mentioned in this blog in the past.  It is an old wood frame two story store, still being operated by Roger Finch and family and also filled with antiques.  I was pleased to see a small display case full of vintage to antique patent medicines on the top shelf in the store to protect it from too many hands.  I had sold Roger Finch most of the patent medicines a few weeks ago and he was so enamored with them he brought the antique display case down from the upstairs antique shop to display them.  They include Dr. Drake's Glesco, Old Settler water treatment, Cloverine Salve, and several other items no longer on sale anywhere.  Altogether, it was a fine day on the road in Appalachia and I cannot wait to do it again.  I highly recommend a day long drive along US460 in Eastern Kentucky anytime one can find the time.  The remaining two lane sections of the highway contain some very interesting places to stop, visit, take a few photographs, talk a while, and occasionally see a bit of the Appalachia I remember from my childhood. US460 runs all across Kentucky from the Virginia border in Pike County to the intersection with US60 in Frankfort.  It is well worth spending a day or three driving all the remaining two lane sections in a leisurely trip to see a few reminders of life as it used to be.   At some point in the future, I will try to write a longer post about US460 in the My Favorite Places In Appalachia collection.  But for now I just hope it is also one of your favorite places. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013



Growing up in  Eastern Kentucky in the 1950's & 1960's I listened to a lot of bluegrass & classic country music primarily because that was what most of the people around me listened to and most of the radio stations I could pick up also played it daily.  But I also loved the music in all its manifestations.  As I became a hippie in the late 1960's, I ceased to listen to bluegrass and country for several years and listened primarily to rock and folk until about the middle 1970's.  At about that time, I returned to the music of my childhood and have listened to it nearly every day of my life since.  I generally prefer bluegrass over most other forms of music but do still periodically listen to classic rock, folk, blues, classical, jazz, and zydeco.  But, when I want to feel at peace, at home, comfortable and rested, I listen to bluegrass.  My favorite musicians include the Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, Reno & Smiley, Bill Monroe, Dailey & Vincent, the Carter Family, Tom T. Hall, Doc Watson, Area Code 615, Dale McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Dolly Parton, Clarence Kelly, Patty Loveless, Don Rigsby, and Larry Cordle.  Nearly every one of these people is an above average musician and there are some of the best songwriters in America in this group.  Nearly every one of them has written and/or recorded at least one American classic song which has woven its way into the hearts of the general public.  Several of them such as Bill Monroe, Tom T. Hall, Ricky Skaggs, Flatt & Scruggs, Dolly Parton, and Larry Cordle have written and recorded several such songs.
Bluegrass music is the music of the Appalachian working class, the poor, the disenfranchised, and many of the people in the country who seek to move upward from an economic or social condition which they do not wish to live in for the rest of their lives.  Bluegrass music shares these qualities with both country music and rap. Like country music, bluegrass has commonly heard themes of love, drinking, unrequited love, cheating, home & family, hard work, prison, Christianity, and love of place, an Appalachian Value I have discussed at length in several other posts. Bluegrass also shares several of these themes with rap and at some time in the future, I will also write a post about common themes in bluegrass and rap.  But for now, my topic is a sub-genre of bluegrass music which I have always referred to as Dead Baby Music. And I have to give credit for the name Dead Baby Music to my wife Candice, a transplanted Wisconsin native, who first heard bluegrass with every negative opinion possible and has since come to know and love it.  I have searched for a slightly less off putting name for this type of music and to be honest, I cannot find one that is more accurate or more appropriately descriptive of the music I am discussing.  What I mean by Dead Baby Music is music which almost always has a central character, usually a child, who dies an untimely and often painful or cruel death.  In some of these songs, that death may have even come at the hands of a parent, family member or friend. 

The three best examples of Dead Baby Music I can think of are "Little Bessie" written by Bill Emerson, Doyle Lawson, & Charley Waller, "Bringing Mary Home" written by Red Sovine, and "The Water Lily" written by Tom T. Hall. "Little Bessie" is an absolute classic which has been recorded by hundreds of bluegrass artists but the two best versions are by Ralph Stanley and Ricky Skaggs.  Skaggs recorded a version which is nearly 14 minutes long and is timeless in its musical skill & heart wrenching vocals.  In the song, Little Bessie, a terminally ill child tells her mother of a dream or vision in which "a window opened on a field of lambs and sheep. Some far out in a brook were drinking.  Some were lying fast asleep."  The next stanza describes "a world that was filled with little children and they seemed so happy there."  These clearly Christian symbols of pairing children with lambs lead into the next stanza in which Bessie asks if the Savior "saw me would he speak to such as me".    Bessie does go on to describe a conversation with Jesus in the next two stanzas in which he tells her "come up here my Little Bessie. Come up here and live with me".  Then the poor sick child tells her mother that she had just been getting ready to go when the mother called and she proceeds to tell her mother goodbye.  "Oh to sleep and never suffer Mother don't be crying so" is a request by the child for permission to die.  At this point, the "mother pressed her closer to her own dear burdened breast. On the heart so near its breaking lay the heart so near its rest".   And naturally, Little Bessie must die and go to join Jesus as the final stanza says "at the solemn hour of midnight in the darkness calm and deep lying on her mother's bosom Little Bessie fell asleep".  That is Dead Baby Music at its finest.  "Little Bessie" personifies nearly everything that Dead Baby Music is. It is played by thousands of bluegrass musicians ranging from the great to the miserably ordinary.  It is a crowd favorite at bluegrass concerts and festivals and will continue to be so long as bluegrass music is played in public.

Tom T. Hall, one of America's greatest living songwriters, with a portfolio of classics to his credit also wrote one of the finest pieces of Dead Baby Music when he penned "The Water Lily" which is best heard on the Hall & Stanley duet on Ralph Stanley's "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" recordings.  The song also begins with a dream, another common element in Dead Baby Music.   But this time, the mother is dreaming "of a lily decked pool with a border of ferns and a beautiful child with butterfly wings trips down to the edge of the water and sings."  Hall has probably consciously reversed some of the best elements of the earlier classic by having the mother dream and the child beckoning from the dreamland asking the mother to come.  But he has also consciously kept the elements of the dream, the mother, the child, and the water.  Tom T. Hall did not become the unequaled songwriter he is accidentally. He has studied and written both novels and short stories.  His public nickname has for many years been the Story Teller.  During the time he worked as a regularly touring musician, his band was known as the Story Tellers.  And in the story of "The Water Lily", he has woven one of his finest and one of the favorites of all followers of Dead Baby Music.  The lyrics of the song are woven together by the chorus of the child with butterfly wings singing to her mother "come mother, come quick follow me. Step out on the leaves of the water lily."  And, naturally, the mother attempts to join the beckoning child "but the lily leaves sink and she wakes from her dream".  And of course, the writer and the mother let us all know the inevitable for "waking is sad for the tears that it brings and she knows it is her dead baby's spirit that sings".  There is no finer example of Dead Baby Music in the world today.  Hall kept the best themes from "Little Bessie" but reversed the position of the mother and child.  He has the child already dead and begging her mother who is unable to comply to come and join her.  But, like "Little Bessie" we still have the grieving mother left behind by the dead child.

Red Sovine used a different approach but achieved an equally touching effect with "Bringing Mary Home".  The song begins with a narrator stopping in the night to pick up a small girl from the side of the road.  The child climbs into the car and tells the narrator "my name is Mary please won't you take me home."  And the narrator goes on to give us a touching physical description of the little girl.  "She must have been so frightened all alone there in the night.  There was something strange about her cause her face was deathly white."  Here we also see another common theme in Dead Baby Music with white symbolizing purity as it has in literature for hundreds of years.  Then the narrator and driver takes the little girl to the house where she asks him to go and when he gets out to open the car door for her  "I just could not believe my eyes the back seat was bare.  I looked all around the car but Mary wasn't there." And finally, Sovine brings the mother into the song with these words " A small light shown from the porch a woman opened up the door. I asked about the little girl that I was looking for. Then the lady gently smiled and brushed a tear away. She said it sure was nice of you to go out of your way. But thirteen years ago today in a wreck just down the road our darling Mary lost her life and we miss her so."  This time the mother is providing the consolation for the innocent stranger who has just happened to become an element in the child's quest to return to the home and grieving mother."  And then we reach the somewhat surprising and chilling end of the song when the mother tells the man  "so thank you for your trouble and the kindness you have shown.  You're the thirteenth one who's been here bringing Mary home."  At this point, it is not uncommon to see tears in an audience when a good singer and band deliver that line.

Dolly Parton has also written and recorded some of the finest Dead Baby Music I have ever heard.  She, too, is one of America's finest song writers with more than a few classic songs to her credit in the fields of country, pop, and bluegrass.  But her best Dead Baby Music is rarely heard outside the world of bluegrass.  On her classic bluegrass CD "Little Sparrow", Parton actually recorded two fine examples of Dead Baby Music,  "Mountain Angel" and "Down From Dover".  Parton did some of her best writing in "Mountain Angel".  It is a song about a girl who was born as close to perfect as it is possible to be. "Skin as fair as lily's. Hair as golden as the corn. She was her momma's baby. She was her Daddy's pride."  And then a man enters the picture and changes everything in this woman's life.  He gets her pregnant and disappears before the child is born.  "They say she had a baby.  Some say that it had died.  They say it's just as well as it had been the devil's child".  And now the grief-stricken mother disappears "into the wild".  The most powerful lyrics in the song come in the last couple of stanzas.  "She waited for him as her beauty faded. Her parents died from grief before their time." Not only has the tragedy consumed the mother of the dead baby in this song, it has also consumed the grandparents as well.  And like the other mothers in the other examples, this mother tries to deal with her grief but cannot. "She tried to gather pieces of her life, they wouldn't fit. Beside the tiny grave deep in the woods is where she'd sit. Talking to the child, herself, to him, who knew for sure. Possessed they say by Satan's insane lure."  At this point in the song, she has now completely lost her mind and become an outcast "high a'top the mountain"  And that is how she lives out her life roaming the mountains, grieving for the dead child and the man who ruined her. Parton takes her out into the hills and leaves her for all eternity where "for years they say she's seen. Looking down upon the town where she had once been queen. She'd sneak around the playground, watch the little children play. They'd see the crazy lady then run away. They say she roamed these hills for years, wearing not a stitch. The lovely mountain angel now thought to be a witch."

Parton also narrowly misses the genre of Dead Baby Music in another of her songs, "These Old Bones" from the "Halos And Horns" CD.  In that song, she tells a story of witchcraft or clairvoyance about another woman who lives alone in the mountains with her bag of bones, a dog, a cat, and a goat.  The narrator turns out to be a daughter of the woman which "the country took you from me said I wasn't right in my mind."  But this child lives to find the mother and takes care of her, burying her, and assuming her position of telling fortunes and living in the mountain with "These Old Bones".

In the other example of Dead Baby Music on the "Little Sparrow" CD, Parton writes about another young girl who has become pregnant by a man who deserts her.  But this girl leaves her family and home and goes to take "care of that old lady" as a way to have a home away from her family who have ostracized her.  As childbirth gets closer, she keeps repeating the chorus line "I know he'll be coming down from Dover."  But the girl delivers the child still born and sings "dying was her way of telling me he wasn't coming down from Dover".  All the songs I have discussed here are fine examples of Dead Baby Music.  They share several common elements.  There are many more in bluegrass which fit the genre.  They are part of what makes bluegrass unique and wonderful.  Rarely would anyone wish to listen to these songs all day long.  But when you mix them in among the other standard bluegrass themes of love, work, prison, heartbreak, and religion, they are well worth paying attention to and accepting as a treasured part of the bluegrass music many of us will love to our dying day.     

Friday, November 29, 2013


Paw Paws On The Tree (KY State University)
When I was growing up in Knott County Kentucky in the 1950's and 1960's, my family regularly ate nearly every fruit, nut, or vegetable we could harvest from wild plants within a few miles of our home.  Some of those items we also planted on our property and regularly harvested and ate their produce in our home.  Some of the plants we regularly kept on our land included hazel nuts, walnuts, beech nuts, hickory nuts, blackberries, raspberries, poke, huckleberries (blueberries for those who do not speak Appalachian English), plantain, and my personal favorite the paw paws.  We had three large trees on our property and both were in our chicken lots which caused us to have to do extra work to protect the fruit from the chickens.  We had two adjoining lots for our chickens and two chicken houses.  One lot was near our pump house and actually had a corner post and gate behind the pump house which was literally at the corner of the building.  We also had a large, heavily bearing paw paw tree about three feet from the gate at the corner of the building which was literally against the woven wire fence.  At fruit bearing time about half of the paw paws fell outside the lot and about half fell inside.  Our other chicken lot, up the hill on the upper side of this first lot had two large, heavily bearing trees in the middle of the lot.  As paw paws began to ripen we would shut all our chickens in the lower lot since having them there would cost us at most about half the fruit from one tree as opposed to all the fruit from two trees.  We would also often shut the chickens in the house at afternoon feeding time and only release them to the lot after we had picked up the fallen fruit in the morning.  We would go to great lengths to protect our fruit.  But I still don't know why the trees had been planted in the chicken lots in the first place.
I loved to go with my father, during my childhood, to visit his brother, my Uncle Timothy Hicks, at his home in the head of Bear Fork near Mousie, KY.  Uncle Tim loved paw paws just as much as anyone I ever knew.  He had several trees planted along his backyard fence and ate them every year.  He was also the first person I ever saw who packaged them in the skin and froze them for winter use.  His favorite dessert after a good meal was to go to the freezer and remove a frozen fruit for thawing and eating.  I have tried freezing them myself and never been able to get it right.  We would also go sometimes to other sites where paw paws were known to grow if our own trees were bearing poorly.  That happened about every other year since paw paws are often a hit and miss fruit producer with a heavy year followed by a thin bearing year.  At least once, we went to the head of Bruce at Mousie where my father had grown up and got to see the old farm he grew up on in addition to finding a few paw paws. 
But for the uninitiated, I probably need to explain exactly what paw paws are.  The tree is a naturally occurring second growth plant in the entire region of Central or Southern Appalachia.  They grow to about 20 or 30 feet in height in open areas and often occur in clusters since they reseed themselves in a downhill pattern if the fruit is not harvested.  The worst aspect of paw paws in my mind is that they have a short life since they are second growth vegetation.  About 20 to 30 years is a long life for a tree. The scientific name is Asimina triloba.  They begin to bear sometime between 3 to 8 years in age and usually have about a 20 year productive life.  When we first found and rented our home in West Liberty, KY, a large, wonderful, heavily bearing tree was in maturity about 10 feet from our driveway.  When I realized it was there, I knew I was home.  That tree lasted about 10 years after we moved in and eventually bought our house.  It  bore large, sweet, tasty fruit in abundance for most of its life and eventually reached that point where it suddenly ceased to bear and died.  I mourn that tree still today but I keep other young trees descended from it on my property and will to the day I am unable to care for them. 
The fruit of the paw paws is a medium green to black in color with black being a stage my father always referred to as "meller". The fruit will be a round cylinder shape with just a bit of tendency to be kidney shaped and large ones will be about 4 to 6 inches in length and about 3 inches in diameter. They are filled with dark brown, kidney shaped, flat seeds about the size of  a large butter bean. The seeds make paw paws a bit of a nuisance to eat since there are at least as many seeds as there is volume of edible pulp.  Each seed is covered in an envelope of edible flesh and between each pair of seeds there is a small area of edible pulp.  I always break mine in half and begin sucking each seed out one at a time, removing the fruit with my tongue & teeth and moving on the next.  About 3 large paw paws will usually serve as a good dessert for me.  But I can also actually make a meal of them eating until I cannot hold anymore.  Average sized fruit are about 3 to 4 inches long and usually less than 3 inches in diameter. The perfect stage at which to eat them is when brown to black spots begin to appear on the skin and the fruit has softened to a consistency about like a ripe tomato.  Paw paws are very hard to describe with regard to flavor.  I frequently hear them described as tasting "just like a banana".  It is my opinion that the same people who describe paw paws this way also describe frog legs as tasting "just like chicken".  It is my opinion that these people in both cases are deficient in at least one of the following: taste discrimination, cooking skills, olfactory skills, or descriptive vocabulary.  I have eaten paw paws since long before I was old enough to remember.  They do not taste like a banana.  They taste "just like paw paws" and nothing else just as well cooked frog legs taste "just like frog legs" and nothing else.  Paw paws have a heavy, heady, fruity odor and taste which is sweet, pungent, mellow, aromatic, and totally unique just as well cooked frog legs have a clean, sweet, mildly fishy, unforgettable taste.  Both will always bring a real eater back to the table time after time, year after year, tree after tree, creek after creek whether they are picking up paw paws or gigging frogs. 
Paw paws have been found to be a very nutritious fruit with tremendous commercial potential but no one seems to ever find an effective commercial application for them.  Kentucky State University runs a research project which has been cultivating, cross breeding , preserving and researching paw paws for quite a few years with at least a partial  goal of finding commercial applications for the fruit.  I commend their work wholeheartedly but have sincere doubts that they will ever bring about the existence of commercially productive orchards.  The general public has never bought into paw paws with lasting desire.  But many native Appalachians eat them every year, keep a few trees near the house, and work to preserve them for all time. The KSU website which is very informative can be found at: KY State University Paw Paw Project .
I know hundreds of native Appalachians who wait eagerly each year for September and the season for paw paws to ripen.  I have had numerous people raise my stinginess to new levels by asking permission to harvest paw paws from my home trees.  But I would love to see the fruit become the newest in thing in order to ensure their widespread acceptance.  I doubt that this day will ever arrive.  But I will always do my part to protect, propagate, and disseminate the paw paws I love.  I hope you do too. Anyone can feel free to contact me about seeds by mail if interested provided you are willing to pay the shipping and a small fee commensurate to whatever they sell for at the time on E-bay.  And if you have never had them, find your way to Central Appalachia next fall and find a tree so you can say you have tried the National Fruit of Appalachia. 

Monday, November 25, 2013


1) After nearly two years, my hometown, West Liberty, KY, is recovering slowly and steadily from the devastating tornado of March 12, 2012.
2) I am generally healthy and working well in more than one area.
3) Appalachian culture continues to survive in the face of increasing pressure to assimilate into the vanilla pudding of generality.
4) Most of the poor, ill, elderly, and minority citizens of Appalachia and the country in general will have adequate medical coverage in the near future.
5) Alison Lundergan Grimes has a real chance of being a part of a general return to sanity in government.
6) Senator Rand Paul has consistently proven himself to be an idiot and is rapidly heading toward being unelectable at any level. 
7) Appalachian power is heading toward more and more power plants which will not burn coal.
8) I have found after returning to this blog that I not only had a few loyal readers but I am also picking up a few more.  Acceptance is sometimes the only reward a writer needs.
9) I have a wife, a 13 year old Dachshund, a wonderful female cat rescued from an Indiana barn 7 years ago, and a 16 pound, blue eyed half Siamese tom cat who all love me and insisted on being mentioned in this list.

Sunday, November 24, 2013



The recent chance encounter which afforded me the opportunity to gain access to some fine hog killing photographs from a friend and a response from another friend to my recent post of those photographs in my "Vintage Photographs From Appalachia" post has put hog killing time in my mind.  I also attended the opening day ceremonies at a local meat packing plant here in Morgan County Kentucky with my wife today.  Therefore, it seems that there could be no better time to discuss raising and killing hogs in Appalachia.  During my childhood in the 1950's and 1960's, my parents always raised and killed at least one hog each year.  Actually, we usually raised two hogs but might not kill both ourselves.  But hogs always seem to be more content, eat better, and mature sooner if they are in numbers rather than alone. 

We never kept brood sows which was more common among our neighbors.  My father would seek out and buy a pig or two from someone nearby shortly after we killed our hog and the process would begin again for the next year.  It was also not uncommon to see him buy an entire litter of pigs if the price was right since he also traded and sold hogs and cattle for most of his life.  Several of my favorite memories from childhood are tied to buying, raising, and killing hogs and I will get to those in a while.  We always kept our hogs in a pen and lot either in the end of our barn or just above the upper edge of our garden.  The placement above the garden allowed the hog manure to wash downhill and fertilize our crops when it rained.  We usually had a floored pen since nearly everyone in the area believed that hogs did better on a wooden floor in the late stages of production.  For about the last month of feeding and fattening, we kept the hog shut up in the pen and out of the mud. We also began increasing the percentage of corn in their feed about two months before killing time and for the last month fed them nothing except corn and clear water which seemed to produce a higher quality meat.  Our hogs were not killed at quite as large a weight as those of most of our neighbors.  My father liked to kill hogs at about 300 to 350 pounds which is actually considered too big by most commercial producers today.  Hogs in Appalachia in general also were considerably fatter than most commercial pork today.  Almost no one today likes to kill hogs at the massive weights of 500 to 600 pounds which were fairly common in my childhood. 

We usually killed our hogs sometime near Thanksgiving or Christmas and generally wanted the weather to be cold if possible since meat was easier to cure and keep in the cold.  My parents, since they owned a country store, owned several freezers and most of our meat was stored frozen.  But we did also salt some, especially side bacon.  We never had a smoke house in my childhood but many of our neighbors still smoked meat regularly.  When the right day for a hog killing arrived, arrangements would be made for several family or friends to be available to help with the process.  A fire would be built before daylight and two large washtubs of water would be set on to boil for the scraping process.  When you scrape the hair from a hog, it is necessary to have the water hot enough to scald the hair without "setting" it.  If water is too hot or is left on too long, the hair follicles will actually overheat or mildly cook, and will be nearly impossible to scrape.  And still today, I believe the two worst smells I know are hot, wet hog hair and hot, wet chicken feathers.  I always disliked scraping a hog and picking a chicken.  But both were necessary skills for any Appalachian child to know if they envisioned a future life on the family farm. 

It is also interesting to me that my wife, Candice, who grew up in rural Wisconsin on a small family farm often had to pick dozens of chickens which her parents raised by the hundred and killed and sold them to their fellow workers at a factory in Milwaukee.  She also got her first job in a duck slaughter house while in high school and picked ducks which were dipped in liquid wax after slaughter to simplify the picking process. 

Killing the hog was the first and one of the most important parts of the process of slaughtering a hog since meat tended to taste bad if the hog did not die quickly and cleanly.  It is widely believed that the fear and excitement of being badly shot would cause the hog to exude large amounts of adrenalin and other hormones which caused the bad taste.  Most people I knew in Knott County preferred to shoot a hog with a 22 rifle, usually a magnum long rifle.  If the shooter was good and the hog was not excited, one shot usually sufficed.  My father preferred to kill the hog with a single blow to the forehead with a 22 ounce framing hammer.  He would pour a small amount of feed on the ground in front of the hog, step up beside its head as it began to eat and swing one quick, heavy stroke with the hammer.  His hogs would always simply crumple up and he would immediately grab a razor sharp Old Hickory butcher knife from his pocket to cut the throat and bleed the hog.  The dead hog would then be placed on a wooden platform, such as a corn sled with the sides removed,  for scraping. Two, three, or sometimes four people would scald and scrape the hog as rapidly as possible with each person, usually men, scraping a particular area.  Ears, feet, and the face are usually the hardest parts of a hog to scrape because of the folds and lines which tend to hide the hair.  When both sides of the hog were thoroughly scraped, it was time to hang it, gut it, and cut it up.  We used a homemade tripod with a cross member with two steel hooks which went in slits behind the tendons above the hocks.  The tripod was made from long poles heavy enough to handle a weight of possibly half a ton.  These tripods were very similar to the tripods which constitute the beginnings of a Native American tipi frame.  The tripod would be laid out on the ground beside and above the hog and the sliced hocks would be hooked to the cross member.  Then two or three strong men would take one leg and slowly bring the entire tripod and hog upright to a hanging position.  It was usually necessary for someone to stand on the ends of the two legs which were opposite the one being lifted in order to avoid slippage and dropping the hog. As small farm tractors became more common in Appalachia, it was also more common to use a welded steel pipe hog hanger which was attached to the three point hitch on the tractor which removed a lot of the truly physical labor from the operation. It was also not uncommon for people to use chain or rope hoists in the aisle of the barn or workshop to hang a hog.  The next operation after the hog was hung was gutting and the most important part of that job was to perform it without slicing the intestines since leakage of manure would severely damage the flavor if it happened. There was also usually a good sized amount of fat in the body cavity which would be removed at this time and sent to the house for lard making with other fatty scraps when the entire process of cutting the meat was complete.  We would always immediately send the heart, kidneys, spleen or melt, and lungs or "lights" to the house for cooking as the first meal from the hog.  We usually saved the liver for a later meal of liver and onions which I still love but rarely eat today. We never ate chitterlings and I have still never done so although I am now willing to try them.  I just haven't had the correct opportunity. The intestines would be the only portion of a hog which we would not utilize.  But that first meal of the organ meats was and still is the best part of hog killing time to me.  I dearly love the "lights".  I have been able over the last several years to find a couple of places where I can arrange to get lungs or "lights" from people who slaughter their own hogs.  Even though it is illegal to sell pork lungs because of the fact that trichinosis bacteria sometimes resides in the lungs, it is possible to find them in a few back road locations.  If they are properly cooked to an adequate temperature, the likelihood of disease transmission is low.  And, to bolster my beliefs about eating pork lungs, the television exotic food expert, Andrew Zimmern also eats pork lungs regularly.  Another of my favorite meals is pork brains fried with eggs which were also often cooked on the hog killing day as well.  I also dearly love good homemade souse made with an old mountain recipe which includes the entire head and feet cooked off the bones and then mixed with pickles, spices, and sometimes extra ears since quite a bit of collagen is needed to help the souse to set up in a firm loaf.  The last really great souse I have eaten was made in 22 Holden in Logan County West Virginia by an old African American woman who was nearly 90 at the time in the late 1980's.  She was a close friend of a woman with whom I worked and made the souse as a favor to me.  I bought a couple of hog heads and she made the souse for half of it.  It was the best souse I had eaten since the death of my mother in 1970. 

After the hog was gutted, it was usually split down the back with a meat saw and then quartered.  From that point on, the meat could be cut and dealt with indoors.  Some, especially the side bacon, might be salted for long term preservation.  At times, people would also smoke hams and some bacon.  Before electricity was common and freezing took over, a lot of meat was smoked, salted, and canned. I still know a few people today who can some meat, especially venison.  Personally , I never liked canned meat.  It always seems to come to the table a bit overcooked because of the initial blanching process during canning.  Once the meat was all properly stored in one manner or another, it was time to clean up, rest, and eat that kettle of fresh organ meats along with potatoes, sweet potatoes, shucked beans, biscuits, gravy, cushaw and some kind of pie or cobbler.  Hog killing day was always a day of hard work, good fun and fellowship, and great food.  It was usually a part of the entire holiday season from Thanksgiving to Old Christmas and it was an integral part of life in the mountains of Appalachia. 

Now it seems like a good time and place to tell a few of my favorite hog related stories.  As I mentioned above, a lot of them are related to buying, selling, or killing hogs.  My father frequently would buy and sell hogs, especially pigs, if he got a deal on which he could make some money.  Once when I was about 12 or 13, he had bought an entire litter of pigs from somebody and eventually sold most of them to a neighbor who lived about two or three miles away across a ridge and down a hollow.  Neither the neighbor or my father drove and part of the deal for the pigs was the offer for Daddy and me to drive them through the woods to the neighbor's house on a Saturday when I was out of school.  At the time, my father was nearly 80 but was still in good shape and the climb up to the ridge and the six mile round trip walk in the  woods was not an extreme work out for him.  We got up at the crack of daylight and fed the pigs so they would not be running to and fro in a hunt for edibles.  Then we set out to deliver them.  The initial trip was not too bad and in a couple of hours we were coming off the ridge toward the neighbor's house which was the last in the hollow.  When they heard us coming,  the neighbor came out and opened the gate on his hog lot and we drove them in.  He paid for the pigs and then said "the old woman is cooking breakfast in there and you all ought to come on in and eat with us".  The house was a small place built of small to medium poplar logs and heated with wood and coal from a nearby coal bank.  We went inside which seemed to surprise the wife who was working on breakfast over a large wood burning step stove.  In addition to the three children who were in my same general age range, there were about a half dozen dogs and a cat or two in the house and several of them had taken up residence near the stove since it was a frosty fall morning.  The woman immediately began shooing them out and one or two small dogs and most of the cats actually ran between the cracks in the logs to escape.  My father had already declined breakfast outside but he had done as he often did with me in such situations and said "that boy might eat though.  He can eat just about any time."  I looked the house over and suddenly realized that the ceiling was not complete and the joists were actually made from small poplar poles and right over the table was an apparent pigeon roost judging by the excrement on the logs. It appeared that the birds were able to enter the house around the eaves and judging by the log joists they were allowed to regularly roost right over the table.  I rapidly declined but the woman kept insisting that we eat.  She already had a large skillet of eggs fried and on the table.  She was working on a large skillet of gravy and shortly took a large pan of big and actually pretty good looking cat head biscuits out of the oven and knocked them out of the pan on the bare table.  A few rolled along the table and one or two even  hit the floor where the dogs and cats had been.  She quickly swooped them up and threw them back on the table right under the pigeon roost.  She then invited us both to sit  and eat and we both claimed to have eaten just before we left the house which was true.  But I do not think either of us would have eaten unless we had been nearly starved.  I will always remember how hard we both worked to avoid eating food on that table although I still today have several fond memories of most members of that family.  And I would also like to say that I mean nothing negative about the conditions in which they were living.  Every member of that family worked every day of their lives and they were doing the best they could with what they had at the time. 

Once I went with my father to buy some pigs from the great Eastern Kentucky Auctioneer Ivan Childers at his farm near Hindman.   We got there and I remember being impressed by the quality of the house, the barns, and the farm in general.  I already knew who Colonel Ivan Childers was but this visit to his fine farm was another key part he played in influencing me to want to be an auctioneer.  We bought a pair of pigs from him and fed them to killing time just as we always did.  I do not remember being on his farm again. 

Buying pigs and separating them from the sow could be a dangerous task if they had not already been weaned.  I remember going somewhere with my father once to buy pigs and the owner had a sow with several pigs in a wire fenced lot behind his barn.  She was lying down nursing the pigs when we arrived and my father chose two sow pigs without going inside the pen.  Then he turned to the seller to ask how we were going to get them away from the sow.  He had a son who was about 14 or 15 and said "this boy can jump over there and pull them off and have them out of there before that old sow even knows he's in there".  I remember thinking at the time that I sure did not want to be anywhere near that old sow when he grabbed the pigs and caused them to squeal.  But as quick as a flash, the boy jumped over the fence, walked over to the nursing pigs, grabbed the two my father had chosen  by the hind leg with one in each hand, and turned in a gallop for the fence.  As soon as the first pig squealed, the sow lumbered to her feet with a malicious snort.  The boy was running toward the fence at full speed.  The pigs were squealing bloody murder with every breath and my father and the seller were waiting to take the pigs from the boy.  As he reached the fence, the old sow was gaining speed and getting closer with every step.  The boy threw both pigs over the fence and, miraculously, my father and the seller caught and held both as the boy put a hand on a fence post to jump the fence.  But just as his rear leg left the ground, the old sow caught up and grabbed him by the loose cuff of his pants just as he went airborne.  The boy was still able to make a clean jump and clear the fence.  But the old sow had a bulldog grip on the pants leg and as the boy sailed over the fence she locked her feet and the pants ripped all the way to the crotch leaving the boy standing on the safe side of the fence nearly naked  but unhurt. 

One of the most influential events in my entire childhood happened in our barn one hot summer day when my father and I were building a hog pen in the end of the shed row.  It was probably either July or August and the barn was hot.  Flies were attempting to eat us and carry the bones home for the children.  The shed row was covered in about an inch of thin, runny cow manure.  I was about 14 or 15 and Daddy was nearly 80 but he was in pretty good shape for a man his age.  We were building the pen out of rough mill slabs which were irregular in width and we had pre-cut them for a length appropriate to the height we wanted the pen to be.  I was hot, tired, lazy, and insolent with the typical teenage insolence  which leads one to believe he is smarter, better, stronger, and generally in all ways the superior of any adult alive.  We got down to the last board and had a space about 6 inches wide left and all our slabs were about 8 to 10 inches wide.  Daddy turned to me and said "hand me that slab over there and I'll see if I can make it fit".  I snorted "that slab won't fit" but handed it to him.  He was squatting in front of the hog pen which most men his  age could not have done.  He took the slab, placed it over the empty space and hit it once or twice with the hammer and then said "it ain't going to fit is it".  I said, "I told you that damn slab wouldn't fit."  It was the first time he had ever heard me curse and it was clearly understood that I was not supposed to curse.  He immediately spun on his heels and hit me with his closed fist in the chest and knocked me over into the cow manure in the shed row.  To be honest, he probably pulled the punch.  But I still went down like a shot and had to cough to catch my breath.  He immediately stood up, reached out and took my hand to pick me up and said "now don't ever let me hear you say that again."  And that was the end of the entire episode and the only time he ever hit me in his life.  I have always been happy to tell that story any time anyone begins a universal attack on physical discipline. I think it was one of the key formative incidents in my childhood.  It taught me a lesson I have never forgotten and gave me a new respect for my father which still lasts to this very day more than 45 years after his death.  Corporal punishment has a place in the family.  It can be productive if used appropriately and it should never be universally banned. 

These hog killing stories and other related to raising hogs have been interesting for me to relate to my audience.  I hope it has been informative and interesting to you as well. 

Addendum April 4, 2017
Over the last several weeks, this post has gotten an inordinately high number of page views for some reason or other which happens from time to time with posts.  I suspect that sometimes these surges in views are related to class work somewhere at either the high school or college level because I sometimes receive messages to that effect or eventually find some of my writing on this blog has been quoted or cited in an article online.  For quite some time, I have considered adding two of my favorite jokes or humorous stories about hogs to this post and here they are.  I might add that they are also both traveling salesman stories which makes them even more up my alley.  If you haven't read my post about country stores and traveling salesmen you can find it at this link.  You might also enjoy this post about Door To Door Sales In Appalachia.
Once a traveling salesman was driving down a country road and saw a farmer in an orchard with a large wicker basket full of pigs under an apple tree.  As the salesman watched, the man would take a pig out of the basket, hold it up to the tree and let it eat an apple.  Then he would put the pig back in the basket and go through the whole process with another.  The salesman stopped and walked over the man and said "If you don't mind, I've been watching you feed these pigs and I think if you would just turn the basket over and let the pigs out you could shake the apple tree and all the pigs could eat at the same time. That would save you a lot of time."  The farmer smiled at the salesman and said, "Well, I reckon it would save a lot to time.  But what is time to a hog?"  

In the other story, the traveling salesman is driving down the road in the country and spies a large shoat with a wooden leg walking around in front of a large, old farm house.  He says to himself, "I just have to hear the story of how that hog got that wooden leg."  The salesman drives up the driveway and knocks on the door.  A woman comes to the door and the salesman says, "I was just driving by and I saw that hog with a wooden leg.  Would you mind to tell me how that hog got that wooden leg?"  The woman says, "I don't mind at all.  That shoat is just like a member of our family.  Our old sow had a litter of pigs in the dead of winter and that one was the runt.  If we hadn't brought it into the house and raised it on a bottle it would have died for sure.  It stays in the house just like one of the family all the time.  We raised it up and a few weeks ago our house caught on fire in the middle of the night.   If it hadn't been for that hog waking us up, we would have all burned up for sure."  The salesman said "So are you telling me that the hog lost its leg in the fire?"  The woman says, "No, it didn't lose its leg in the fire.  But after saving all our lives like that, you don't think we'd eat it all at one time do you?"