Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The hills where I call home

I was born and raised in the hills of southern Ohio, namely Ironton, which was named for its rich iron ore deposits. I'm proud to call myself a "hillbilly". To some people that name conjures up images of ignorant rednecks with missing teeth gathered 'round a moonshine still and shootin' their guns into the sky and I suppose there is some truth to that. My family has lived on the homestead that my great-grandfather Schaffer built in 1883 since that time. And in the era of Prohibition, my grandfather Charles Hart built and ran a moonshine still in the holler behind the barn and made good corn whiskey to sell to the local residents....that is until the "revenuers" found him out and busted it up. He was a scoundrel, my Grandpa Hart. But the majority of the people there are honest, God-fearing citizens who would give you the shirt off their backs if they knew you were in need. They value home and family and giving folks a fair shake in life. For the most part, they are educated and knowledgeable, and they love to have a good time.

Down there we call hollows "hollers" and children are "young-uns". Some people still say "worsh" for wash, but they don't worsh their clothes in the "crick" or the creek either.  There are colorful names for some of those hollers. There's Possum and Painter and Sawmill Hollers. Some of the names for roads would "peel your ears"...Hell's Creek and Pig's Trough (although some call it something worse...just replace that g and the apostrophe with an s). There are interesting names for the ridges that run along the tops of hills...Greasy Ridge and Tick Ridge. The villages in the surrounding area have names that suggest the founders might have been interested in foreign travel...Rome (where the Rome Beauty apple was developed), Arabia, Waterloo. One of the places where I called home for a few years was Aid, which was originally called Marion, but there was already a Marion, so they had to change it. Aid? Really? And, of course, some smart-aleck kid would always write "Kool" above it on the signs (usually my friend Sue Ann's brother Billy).

This Memorial Day marked the 142nd annual Ironton, Ohio, Memorial Day Parade, the nation's longest, continuously running Memorial Day parade. It began in 1868, only three years after the Civil War ended and the same year that the last day in May was set aside to honor veterans from that war. Of course, Memorial Day now honors all veterans from all the wars in which the United States has played a part. I can remember attending the parade when Ironton's last remaining World War I hero, Colonel William Lambert, marched in it.

(Ironton High School's Marching Band)

The parade is a very big deal in my hometown. It's a matter of civic pride and patriotism, and although the town now has a population of around 10,000 people, on Memorial Day the parade draws in an estimated 30,000 people from all over the state of Ohio and the surrounding tri-state area, which includes Huntington, WV and Ashland, KY. People start lining the parade route with lawn chairs at 6:00 a.m. that morning, even though the parade doesn't begin until 10:00. You are very fortunate if you happen to have a relative who lives on the parade route. Those lucky people who live there often find relatives who they didn't even know they had!

It's candy heaven for kids. Every volunteer fire department, city fire department, every police department throws candy from their vehicles. There are high school bands, cheerleaders, majorettes, prom queens, pageant winners, 4-H Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, horse clubs, dance schools, local dignitaries and county and city officials.

(My nephew Rick and his daughter, Madison. Taken by Melissa Koster Campbell.)

Long time participants are the Ashland, KY, El Hasa Shriners. You know about the Shriners, don't you? They dress up in fezes and Alladin and Pharaoh costumes and do funny dances with swords. They drive jalopies and beat-up hillbilly cars and wear hillbilly costumes with blacked-out teeth and funny hats and carry fake guns. They like to make fun of themselves, but they do a lot of serious business in fundraising for Shriner's Hospitals for Children which provide totally free care for children with orthopedic problems and severe burns. Two of my nephews, Rick and James Stamper, are members of this worthy organization and participate in the parade in the Hillbilly Kool Bus.

(My nephew James and his son Nicklaus. Taken by Melissa Koster Campbell.)

We didn't attend the parade this year even though we were home visiting my in-laws. We were pulling an open trailer and had our dog, Lucy, with us and didn't fancy trying to find a parking place and a shady spot for Lucy. We also weren't too keen on the idea of a three-hour long parade and another hour getting out of town on our way back home to Marysville. So, some of the pictures were borrowed from my almost-niece Missy and from a local newspaper, The Herald-Dispatch. But we did attend a few years ago. This picture collage is from ones taken in 1986.

Top left, Jaye's baseball team with his cousin Rick in the front right of the photo.
Top right, Jaye's Boy Scout troop with whom he chose to march. He's the one with his hand raised.
Bottom left, David's cousin Judy and her family with their team of draft horses.
Bottom right, Aimee and me.

Here's a video from YouTube, for your viewing pleasure.


Sandy Nawrot said...

We have young-uns that swim in the cricks where I grew up too! As a teenager and young adult, I loathed the hickishness of it all. Everybody was always in my business. But now, I look at it with different eyes. When I was home last summer, my dad found out he had some heart issues, and literally within a few hours of finding out, we had neighbors stopping by, including their minister, to offer support. I don't get that here in Orlando. They're good people up there.

Wanda said...

My parents were from the far western side of Virginia and my husband's parents were from West Virginia, they all lived on that same mountain range, I know the ways you speak of, Susan.
For a few weeks each summer, my parents, in Warren County, used to rent an old farm house, without plumbing, in Brown County, to rough it and relive their childhood I think. Southern Ohio is beautiful country!


Elle Bee said...

You take such beautiful pictures. Felt like I was there. My mom says worsh. And she grew up in California! ??? I've never understood that! :o)

Susan said...

Sandy, you're so right! I hated that being in your business when I was young, too. You learn to appreciate it when people rally around you in time of need. Most of the time it isn't monetary, but they will mow your lawn, or watch your kids, or bake a covered dish when a neighbor has a death in the family. There are good people all over this country, but midwestern people are just close to my heart.

Susan said...

I agree with you, Wanda, southern Ohio is a beautiful place to be from and to go back to for a visit. I have family who came from those areas in Virginia and W. Virginia, so I also have southern roots.

Susan said...

Thank you, Elle! I wish I could take credit for all of them! I'm sure there are a lot of Californians who say "worsh". Probably all those Okies and midwesterners who moved out there during the Depression.

Ruth said...

Howdy there, lil sis! I like seeing where you holler from. I saw this stat about the longest running Memorial Day parade at the Writer's Almanac Monday, and I wondered if this was near you! And here it is your home town! I had forgotten that. That Garrison Keillor loves hometown America.

I am so glad you explained that holler is hollow, because I had just been reading an article about a photographer who went back to her Kentucky holler, and I'd heard the term from Sissy Spacek, but I didn't know what it meant. I thought maybe it meant a holler was anyplace within hollerin' distance! :)

By the way, my (hillbilly) husband brought home a big ole jug from a yard sale on the weekend (I think he went to several), and it had a corn cob stuck in the opening. The people selling it didn't know why he guffawed when he seen it (hehe, did that get you?), I mean saw it. He asked if they knew what was in the jug, and they didn't know it might be moonshine. They didn't even know about moonshine! I guess we're pretty far from the holler up here, not in hollerin' distance, that's fer sure.

Loved it, Susie.

Ruth said...

I guess that shoulda been big sis, hehe.

The Bumbles said...

Ah this strikes such a chord with me. My mom hails from the mountains of western NC and her relatives had moonshine stills too. I love visiting her family and listening to them talk. Their stories about life and the region are so entertaining. And they know everyone and the history of the families and how the places got their names. They all know each other's business, but they are all there for each other too. A different way - a way that I enjoy.

Andy really enjoys spending time with them and watching him try to understand all their customs and vocabulary is funny - he being the yankee with the thick Boston accent - I'm the translator ;0)

I get very defensive when my southern roots are laughed at or disrespected. Spend some time in my family's homes and you'll wish you could set a good while and be invited in for supper.

Susan said...

HEY THERE, L'IL SIS! That's me hollerin' back atcha, Ruthie! Did you know that some places have hollerin' contests?

Why, I got me a few of them there jugs myself. Mine don't have no corncobs pluggin' the tops, but I seen 'em before. And you know where that sayin' "rough as a corn cob" came from don't you? That's from when you run out of pages from the Sears, Roebuck catalog in the outhouse. ;-}

Sounds like yer man found hisself a real bargain! You holler out to the barn at him and tell him not to hog up all them jugs! He oughta save a few fer the old moonshiner's granddaughter, fer sure!

Susan said...

Molly, it always tees me off when people assume that because one has a southern or Appalachian accent or dialect that that person is stupid or unlearned. There is just as much intelligence and rich history in the hills as there is in the big cities.

Have you read any of Sharyn McCrumb's books? She writes about western N.C. and Virginia. There was even a movie made from her book Songcatcher. She's a very good writer.

Susan said...

Actually the saying is "rough as a cob" and I stand corrected.

alaine@éclectique said...

Loved the video clip, Susan. It's wonderful that you have this celebration every year. Why were the Egyptians there?

Susan said...

Thank you, Alaine, but I'm afraid I cadged the video from YouTube. I was surprised there weren't more to choose from.

LOL! The Egyptians are the Shriners to whom I referred in the post! They like to dress up...just big boys at play!

Tattered and Lost said...

I'm envious to your connection to your history and the land. This looks a lot like the area where my Pennsylvania ancestors lived. I've driven around the area and walked through the graveyard, but I have no connection to the place though my ancestors go back to at least the beginning of the 19th century. Sometimes I feel myself being pulled there though know it's doubtful I'll ever be there again. Yup, envious of that connection. The ranch where my father grew up is but two hours from where I now live but it too was sold a very long time ago and is now vineyards and houses. That plus growing up as a military child makes me feel rootless. There's no place I can really call home. I know I still have many more moves to go down the road.

VioletSky said...

Your holler looks very quiet. I envy you that. As I age (and as much as I love the city) I'm thinking I might be able to live in the charming, rolling hills.
Oh yes, I remember being surprised and a bit confused at your accent when we first met!!!

Char said...

it's good to go to roots, i think so anyway. and i love a great parade - we don't have those as much in montgomery and i wish we did.

Oliag said...

I sure enjoy getting to know your neck of the woods Susan!....and I love a good parade...That is just the kind of parade that I would march in with the Girl Scouts when I was a kid and then later would watch my children marching in with gymnastics clubs and with the school band...I haven't been to one in recent years though...will wait for the grandchildren to be marching soon:)

Loved the video...the Shriners are a hoot!

Susan said...

Tattered, I can't imagine how it must be to feel rootless, but I know there are a lot of people like you who grew up moving from place to place with the military and never having that sense of place. Does any of your family still live in western PA? Perhaps you could establish a connection with them.

Those first two pictures certainly do look like SW Pennsylvania. As you know I lived in the Pittsburgh area for five years and we loved it there, because it reminded us of home. I suppose the reason that we have such deep roots is because my husband and I are not the status quo. Most people who grew up in the hills have no desire to ever leave, and don't. Most of our family is still there and keeps calling us back. We're lucky to have them.

Susan said...

Sanna, HA! I don't have an accent, you have an accent! ;-} Believe me, having lived in several different places, I've tempered mine quite a bit. You probably wouldn't be able to understand a lot of the people there. I do find when we go home for a visit that it creeps back a little though.

You're right, it's very quiet there. Most of the young people hate it and make their own noise!

Susan said...

My roots run deep, Char, and I bet your do as well. Southern people never lose their roots. Although Ohio is considered a midwestern state, the area where I came from is bordered by KY and WV and is much more southern then midwestern. When I was a kid and we traveled 3 hours north to our state capitol, I had people ask me if I came from Alabama! :-}

Susan said...

Oliag, I'm glad you enjoyed my little hometown piece! Some of the people there grumble about the length of the parade, but I don't think they would want it any other way.

When I was a kid, I thought the Shriners were kind of gross, but now I enjoy their antics because I know it's for a very good cause.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a dofferent Ohio perspective, Susan. I grew up in the Newark, or Nerk to locals, area, which is central. Went to college in Columbus and have lived the last 10 years in the Cleveland suburbs. So, I never got to experience this Ohio.
Thanks for representing us Buckeyes in such a postive way :)

California Girl said...

Susan, you have the beginnings of a lovely memoir, don't you think? The photographs complement the writing. And it's all so homey and mid-Western, just the way many of us imagine it to be.

Cindy said...

Makes me wanna be a hillbilly fer sure. How comforting it must be to live where you're close to the kind of people who would bring you a casserole in a time of need. When my Dad was in hospice care recently and we all gathered around him every day and night, one (1) person outside our family brought a ham over. I gave him a big hug and kiss when he arrived. I was so tired of cooking for everyone.

I've traveled around these United States to know that people who live in big cities are not as friendly as country folk.

M said...

Gorgeous country and rich history. I enjoyed the pics and post and the comments as well! You are pretty darn lucky, I'd say. Talking about dialect in all these parts: I once called my-sister-in-law at her dorm at U of Arkansas and when she asked her roommate which sister-in-law had called, she said, "The one from the North." I lived in Missouri. :) It's all relative, dontcha know.

I didn't realize that Memorial Day was as old a celebration as it is until I watched the news Monday.

Flat Rock Creek Notebook

The Bumbles said...

I read this post today and I thought you might enjoy it as I did:

These tales of family history get me every time.

JackeeG4glamorous said...

Yer neck of the woods looks Mighty inviting - I'd love to come on out and sit a spell with you, feed the chickens, visit and all.

Say the word, I'm only one state over. (Indiana)

Susan said...

Stacy, I'm always happy to show off our Beautiful Ohio! You know, people travel the world and sometimes they don't even know the state in which they were born. There are areas of Ohio where I've never visited. I'm hoping after my husband retires next year we will be able to hike the Buckeye Trail which follows the perimeter of the state. Not all at once, of course, just a section at a time. That should get me into some parts I haven't seen! :)

Susan said...

Cali Girl, maybe a collection of (very) short stories about my life? It does sound intriguing. I'm pretty sure that any one of my talented blog friends could do the same thing. Maybe we should do a collaborative book!

I think the funny parts are more WV and KY hillbilly than midwestern! ;-}

Susan said...

Cindy, not only will they bring a casserole or twenty, they'll clean your house, mow your lawn, run errands for name it, they are more than willing to step in in a moment of crisis. They love to feel needed. I wish I had lived near you during your time of need to take some of that load from you. XOXO

Susan said...

Mary, I've always counted myself fortunate to have been reared in such a communal place with lots of family, friends and neighbors around to fall back on when there was a need.

Relative accents, for sure! haha. Arkansas is about as country as it gets! Even in our state, the northern cities are far removed from the southern part.

Glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you.

Susan said...

Thanks, Molly, I can't wait to check that out!

Susan said...

Jackee, I've said it before and I'll say it are always welcome to come sit a spell on my porch and watch the chickens peck and scratch! Shoot, Indiana is just a hop, skip and a jump from me! Come on over!

Judy said...

I had to laugh when you said "hillbilly".... my husband from Ohio says he came from the "union of a hillbilly and an amishman".... I like to see the puzzled look on people's faces after he tells them this.... especially since he has turned out to be so scholarly.
Ohio is beautiful!

Susan said...

Judy, that's too funny! And what I call an amalgamation of cultures! My person came into being from a hillbilly and another hillbilly, albeit a Germanic one. Sometimes we hillbillies make it out of the holler and get edumacated. ;-}

I think Iowa and Missouri/Kansas are very pretty, too. I forget which side of Kansas City you represent.

Deborah said...

I'm so behind in my reading and commenting these days, but finally got to spend some time tonight doing that and was happy to see that you had posted something new!
I love your travelogues and historical tidbits - having such a personal introduction to a place makes it so much more interesting. The countryside is lovely - somehow I had imagined it as much flatter. It is obvious that you love where you live and in view of your family history, your attachment to the land is very understandable.
This is such a great thing about blogland - learning about other places and peoples. I really enjoyed this, Susan!!

Susan said...

Deborah, it's understandable that you're behind in the blogworld, after all you haven't been home long. I'm not sure what my excuse is! I'm just now getting caught up.

Actually, you're partly right about the flatness. Most of the central, north and northwestern parts of Ohio are very flat. Where we live now is flat. However, along the southern part of the state it's very hilly and rocky. We're sort of the western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. SW Ohio in the Cincinnati area is very hilly also.

I love the sunsets and sunrises we have here in the flatland, but there's somethng about the hills that keeps calling us home. :-}

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

What an all American post this was! I love it! :):)
Hugs for this!

CottageGirl said...

What a moving tribute to the place where you were born and raised. You captured not only the beautiful scenery of the area, but the true taste of America, not the politicians or the famous ... or infamous for that matter, that dominates our news, but the things that matter most to us in our little towns and countryside villages across our nation ... pride in family, country and community.
Thank you for yet another inspirational post.

ds said...

Oh, that top photo could be Home (and no, I did not grow up in Ohio). And your hometown's parade could have been our parade, which took place in another, actual town: the candy, the kids chasing the firetrucks so they could cram their pockets full, the Cub, Boy, and Girl Scouts marching with such pride, the HS Marching Band...and the wide front porch of my grandmother's aunt's house from which we watched, when little, or were watched when older...Memories are larger than locations.

We didn't have "hollers" but there was a place called Jugtown Mountain. Rural has a dignity that urban and suburban do not understand (have you read Wendell Berry? His essays are marvels--poems, too). Thank you for the reminders.

Susan said...

Mona, I'm so sorry I'm late in answering your comment...I don't know what happened.

Thank you for your lovely comments and hugs right back to you!

Susan said...

CG, I'm not sure how I overlooked your comment! I'm so sorry.

I know you know what I was talking about. You grew up in the same kind of place and are deeply rooted there. Even if one cuts off a few branches of the tree, those roots remain firmly planted.

Thank you for your sweet comment. XOXO

Susan said...

Aha, ds! Now I know what state you're from! Thanks for the clue. I love that you had the same sense of family with your hometown. We small town people are good people. I love that about us.

Wendell Berry knows how to say it right, doesn't he?