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Friday, November 29, 2013

PAW PAW, THE NATIONAL FRUIT OF APPALACHIA!

THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN THE WORLD OF FRUIT
 
 
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

THANKSGIVING 2014 A FEW THINGS TO BE THANKFUL FOR

A LIST OF THINGS TO BE THANKFUL FOR IN APPALACHIA
 
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

HOG KILLING TIME IN APPALACHIA

SUBSISTENCE FARMING IN THE MOUNTAINS

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?" 



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

VINTAGE APPALACHIAN PHOTOGRAPHS

Feeding The Chickens--West Virginia??--Subjects & Date Unknown--Circa 1945-50 (Roger D. Hicks)



As privately owned cameras became more common in Appalachia after the turn of the 20th century, families began to take photographs of family members and those daily aspects of life which were important to them.  After about 1900 to 1910, we begin to see photographs which are more mundane than the old studio photographs with their stiff, dressed up subjects standing ill at ease and often in front of some contrived background which might have been very unfamiliar in daily life.  Instead, in these family created shots, we see the people of the mountains living their daily lives, killing hogs, feeding the chickens, raising crops, riding horses, going to church, and a hundred other activities of daily life which can be educational, touching, and often heartwarming such as the photo above of a little girl and her dog sitting in the chicken lot with a cooker full of feed and the hens pecking contentedly in the background.  I would love to know who this little girl was and suspect I never will.  I found the photograph in a collection of miscellaneous materials from an estate auction. No doubt she is long dead.  But she reaches out and touches us with her childhood simplicity and happiness in her everyday world. She hangs in a place of honor in my home.

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My  auction ring man, Dewey Rogers, from Tinker Fork of Mud Creek in Floyd County Kentucky is a lifelong collector of photographs and high school year books from the area.  Recently, he brought this photograph of his parents with a very large turnip to one of my auctions.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a natural for this post of vintage photographs.  It is the very type of shot I am looking for to depict life in Appalachia as it was 50 and 100 years ago.  It shows two ordinary, hard working Appalachian people with the product of their work, a successful venture in gardening which made the local newspaper, most likely the Floyd County Times which published many photographs like this in the days when it was owned, published, and primarily written by Norman Allen.  This photograph also lies within a general category such as the one below of the cow and calf, a photograph of simple items in life which were important to the subjects.  Hopefully, we will be able to add several more photographs from Dewey's ever expanding collection over the next few years.




Dewey Rogers brought in a couple more photographs for addition to this section.  The better of the two is of his grandfather, George Washington Rogers, who was a mail man in Floyd County many years ago.  It shows G. W. Rogers riding his horse on a snowy day and carrying a large box for delivery to someone who might well have ordered it from a Sears or Montgomery Ward Catalogue as an important addition to the home.  The other photograph is actually not a photograph but a photocopy of one which includes several members of Dewey's extended family including G. W. Rogers.  In spite of the increasingly poor quality of the reproduction from photograph to photocopy to computer, I am including it because it is typical of something that happens with important family photographs.  Often several members of an extended family may want a copy and not everyone has the capacity to have them reproduced so they simply take them to someone with a copier and have a copy made.  This is becoming much less common with the proliferation of computers and scanners into many of even the least wealthy homes.  Here are the newest Dewey Rogers photographs.

George Washington Rogers, mailman (Dewey Rogers)

George Washington Rogers & his extended family (Dewey Rogers)



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I am beginning this posting with this photograph and four others which were loaned to me by Paul Jarrell of P. J.'s Pizza in Banner, KY.  My thanks go to Paul for his willingness to have his family photographs shown to the world at large.  And of course, all aspects of copyright law apply to their potential use by anyone.  I will add to this post as I locate and acquire more photos of everyday life in Appalachia of the past.  I would gladly post photographs from my readers with proper acknowledgement.  If you have photos you are willing to add to this collection, contact me by e-mail at rchicks@mrtc.com or at hicksroger_@Hotmail.com and I will be glad to add and properly acknowledge yours.  I am particularly interested in photographs which show people living life on a daily basis: plowing, working, feeding livestock, planting crops, burying the dead, baptizing the living, and scratching a living from the rocky hills of home. 






WHAT A HOG!!! Jarell Family--Prater Creek, Floyd Co. KY--Circa 1950 (Paul Jarrell)



The photograph above shows the great-grandmother and great aunt of Paul Jarrell at hog killing time on Prater Creek in Floyd County Kentucky with a massive hog, the likes of which are not often killed in the mountains today.  It is a wonderful snapshot of everyday life in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. 
Hog Killing Time--Jarrell Family--Prater Creek, Floyd Co. KY (Paul Jarrell)


The photograph above shows several members of the Jarrell Family with another hog not nearly as large.  This photograph is also a great shot of family life, subsistence farming, food preservation, and life in general.  I have also included a second photograph of the same hog from a greater distance below. 






Cow And Calf--Prater Creek, Floyd Co. KY--Circa 1950 (Paul Jarrell)

The "cream of the crop", a cow and calf from the family photographs of Paul Jarrell.  This photograph with its highly personal and informative note on the back is typical of the kind of shots I discussed earlier in this posting.  It is about animals which were important to family survival.  It is about everyday life in the mountains and must have been mailed in a letter to a family member who lived too far away to come and see the family and the livestock personally.  The pride of ownership in the note is strong and clear.  These were good animals and they were important to the writer and his/her livelihood.  

Message On Reverse Of Cow/Calf Picture--Prater Creek, Floyd Co. KY--Circa 1950 (Paul Jarrell)



Below we have the second photograph of the same hog above taken from a slightly greater distance and showing only three of the family members instead of the four in the first.  The great aunt is gone from the doorway perhaps to check on the water, the knives, the salt, or the smokehouse.  Daily life is going on and this hog will become much of a winter's food for the family.  
Hog Killing Time #2--Jarrell Family--Prater Creek, KY--Circa 1950 (Paul Jarrell)

 The photograph below is of a distant cousin, Clarence Hicks, who was the son of Banner Hicks and the grandson of Hence Hicks, my maternal great-grandfather.  The photograph was sent to me by John D. Shelton, who is married to a descendent of Hence Hicks.  This is a World War II Era photograph in uniform and was most probably taken shortly after completion of basic training and advanced individual training in preparation for deployment to the combat zones of Europe.  Clarence Hicks was in Battle of the Bulge as a Tank Crew Member and wounded 2 times there and died in 1980 of an aneurysm after returning home which so many other Americans failed to do at the Battle of the Bulge which was one of the most devastating battles of the entire war.   I have written extensively about Appalachian Patriotism, one of the key Appalachian Values first documented by Loyal Jones.  That post can be found here: Patriotism, An Appalachian Value  Literally hundreds of thousands of young Appalachians like Clarence Hicks left the mountains to fight in America's wars. 
 Clarence Hicks (John D. Shelton)