Now this old ballad was taken over by the people in various parts of the mountains and was readapted to local conditions. For instance, Dogget’s Gap is in Western North Carolina however songs like Cumberland Gap are evidently indebted. This song follows the melody of the first tow line and there is no chorus.
“Chestnut tree full of chestnut sap
Snow knee deep in Dogget’s Gap.
“Sheepskin collar and coonskin cap,
I don’t mind the weather in Dogget’s Gap.
“I got a girl in Dogget’s Gap,
She don’t mind a sittin’ in sweetheart’s lap.
“The old man’s a-cussin’ but I don’t give a rap
The women wear the britches in Dogget’s Gap.
“It’s walnut bark and walnut sap
Colors all the stockings in Dogget’s Gap.
“Oh, they went to my buggy and the raised the flap
And they stole all my liquor in Dogget’s Gap.
“Run home, boys, and tell your pap,
I’m agonna start trouble in Dogget’s Gap.
“I shot about twice and I raised a little yell,
And they boys all ran like a bat out o’ hell.”
This video is quite amazing with Bascom Lamar Lunsford performing his song – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7nJ6HtXdnU
A couple staying with us recently came back from a scenic ride around Lake Santeetlah highly excited. As they were taking in the natural beauty this area has to offer, they noticed a dropped tree in a ditch on the side of the lake. They pulled over to see a total of three beavers hard at work in the midst of construction of a dam. The couple remarked that they had seen several beaver dams over the years but had never had the opportunity to watch one being built. One never knows what is around one of our mountain curves!
A politician was canvassing the county in a race for a seat in the North Carolina State Legislature. He dealt in generalities and was careful as far as possible not to commit himself on any proposition. One of his constituents was a farmer whose sheep had been killed by dogs, and consequently he was much interested in the passage of a dog law then under discussion. The old politician knew how dangerous to his kind dog laws were, and had never mentioned the subject once. Finally the farmer in question began to follow him around, and ask him in a loud voice during his speeches: “How do you stand on the dog law?”
At last the candidate, being forced against his will to make a declaration, said: “Yes, I am in favor of a dog law.”
“What kind of dog law?” called out his tormentor. “That’s what we want to know.”
“Well, I’ll tell you,” said the orator, and then hesitated.
“Go on,” yelled the farmer, “and tell us what kind of a dog law you are for.”
“Wait a minute,” said the candidate, “and I will tell you. I am in favor of a good law that will protect the sheep and at the same time will not hurt the dogs.”
The Terrapin and the Deer
Once, in the olden times, when the animals of the earth had the power of speech, a red deer and a terrapin met on Joanna Bald. The deer ridiculed the terrapin, boasted of his own fleetness, and proposed that the two should run a race. The creeping animal assented to the proposition. The race was to extend from the Joanna Bald to the summit of the third pinnacle extending to the eastward. The day was then fixed and the animals separated. During the intervening time the cunning terrapin secured the services of three of its fellows resembling itself in appearance, and having given them particular directions, stationed them upon the several peaks over which the races was to take place. The appointed day arrived and the deer, as well as the first mentioned terrapin, were faithfully on the ground. All things being ready, the word was given and away started the deer at break neck speed. Just as he reached the summit of the first hill he heard the shout of a terrapin, and as he supposed it to be his antagonist, he was greatly perplexed, but continued on his course. On reaching the top of the second hill, he heard another shout of defiance, and was more astonished than ever, but onward still did he continue. Just before reaching the summit of the third hill, the deer heard what he supposed to be the same shout, and he gave up the race in despair. On returning to the starting place, he found his antagonist in a calm and collected mood, and when he demanded an explanation, the terrapin solved the mystery, and then begged the deer to remember that mind could sometimes accomplish what was often beyond the reach of the swiftest legs.
There is a revealing story about one of the combination farmer-merchant-bankers of Western North Carolina. A book agent came to sell him a set of books on scientific agriculture. The old man thumbed through them.
“No, I don’t want ‘em.”
“You ought to buy these books, sir. If you had these books you could farm twice as good as you do.”
The old fellow settled himself more comfortably in his chair.
“Hell, son,” he said, “I don’t farm half as good as I know how now.”
As a storied region, celebrated in history and romance, the South has never lacked inspiration or material for storytelling. Ever since the first voyagers touched on its shores, the Eden-land of the South has been an Eden-land of the imagination, rich not only in heroic saga and memorabilia but in folk tale and anecdote. Those who came seeking wonders – explorers, colonists, and travelers – found even more than they had dreamed of, and what they did not discover they invented.
As the back country was opened up and the settlers pushed west, the wonders and beauties added to the hyperbole that was to become the stock in trade of guide books and promotional literature, rivaling the tall talk and expansive eloquence of the backwoods.
This virgin “Land of Canaan, flowing with milk and honey,” was also the “dark and bloody ground” of a race of giants and supermen, led by Boone and Crockett and their wild sports and sprees, escapes and scrapes, brags and hoaxes were the subjects or models of endless yarns and tall tales.
The highlander often speak in Elizabethan or Chaucerian or even pre-Charcerian terms. His pronoun hit antedates English itself, being the Anglo-Saxon neuter of he. Ey God, a favorite expletive, is the original of egad, and goes back of Chaucer. Ax for ask and kag for keg were the primitive and legitimate forms, which one can traces as far as the time of Layamon. When the mountain boy challenges his mate: “I dar ye – I ain’t afeared!” his verb and participle are of the same ancient and sterling rank. Afore, atwixt, awar, help o’ folks, peart, up and done it, usen for used, all these everyday expressions of the backwoods were contemporary with the Canterbury Tales.
A remarkable word, common in the Smokies, is dauncy, defined as “mincy about eating,” which is to say fastidious, over-nice. Dauncy probably is a variant of daunch, of which the Oxford New English Dictionary but one example from the Townley Mysteries of circa 1460.
A strange term used by Carolina mountaineers, without the faintest notion of its origin, is doney (long o) or doney-gal, meaning a sweetheart. Its history is unique. British sailors of the olde time brought it to England from Spainish or Italian ports. Doney is simply dona or donna a trifle anglicized in proununciation. Odd, though, that it should be preserved in America by none but backwoodsmen whose ancestors for two centuries never saw the tides.
We have in the mountains many home born words to fit the circumstances of backwoods life. When maize has passed from the soft and milky stage of roasting ears but is not yet hard enough for grinding, the ears are grated into a soft meal and baked into delectable pones called gritted-bread.
When it is necessary to know the depth of the water at any point in the river, the test or sounding is made by dropping a 33 foot rope, to the end of which is fastened a pipe filled with lead. The pipe is about one and a half inches in diameter and twelve inches in length. A few inches of heavy chain are put into the pipe, and around this melted lead is poured. The weight of a lead is between six and ten pounds. The rope is fastened to a link of the chain that is allowed to extend past the length of the pipe. The length of the lead line is marked at four feet by a piece of white flannel woven into the rope, at six feet, by a piece of leather, at nine feet by a piece of red cloth; at Mark Twain there is a piece of leather split into two thongs and at Mark Four there is a single leather strip with a round hole. These signals are recognized by the leadsman as the rope slips through his hands in the darkness.
The sounds are called out as the line drops. A depth less than Quarter Less Twain is given in feet. After Mark Four is reached the measurement is usually give as No Bottom.
The fox had his eye on a turkey perched in a treetop. “Hey, Brer Turkey,” called the Brer Fox, “is you heard about the new law? – Foxes can’t eat no more turkeys, and hounds can’t chase foxes. Come on down and we’ll talk about it.” “Nothin’ doing,” said Brer Turkey, “we can talk about it right where we is.” Just then some hounds were heard coming over the hill. “Guess I’ll be runnin’ along,” said Brer Fox. Brer Turkey said, “I thought you said the new law says no more fox hunts” And Brer Fox said, “That’s right – but them dogs will run right over that law.”