A Look Back: ‘Clicking’ and ‘Clacking’ with Verna Mae

I thought this week I would share another article from Verna Mae Slone’s “Now and Then”, a former column in the Troublesome Creek Times.  Her articles are some of my favorite pieces in the archives.  They never fail to make me smile. Verna Mae had such a rich take on Knott County life and you can practically hear her telling the story out loud when you read her writings.  I read this article and felt like I was clicking and clacking right along with her quilting class. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Verna Mae Slone outside her cabin on Caney

“Has another week really come and gone?  I enjoyed myself so much last week, it’s hard to believe it’s over.  I ‘learned’ a lot of new friends and swapped “Howdys” with old ones. There is only one thing in this world better than meeting old friends, and that’s making new ones.

The first three days of last week I went to Hindman Settlement School and met with a group of women, and young girls, to teach them how to make quilts as a part of Appalachian Folk Week.  I am afraid we did more than sewing. If our needles had ‘clicked’ as much as our tongues had ‘clacked’ we would have finished a quilt. We forgot our differences in age and backgrounds, the British accent, Scottish brogue, and hillbilly dialect blended into just plain ‘woman talk.’

One afternoon we ‘sat under the apple’ and told ‘preacher jokes,’ then redeemed ourselves by singing some beautiful gospel songs – I just listened, I can’t sing.

Up until a few years ago, anyone born outside of this area was called a ‘brought on person’ by us, and regarded with suspicion.  So many people had taken advantage of our honesty, and betrayed our trust, that we were rightfully skeptical of all strangers. They had come with their tongues in their cheeks and hands in our pockets.  There was a lot of misunderstanding on both sides. Now that the stereotypical hillbilly has been proven a myth, outsiders have learned we have a lot to give them, and that we are willing to give when we know they are not wanting to just take.  People that are now coming here wanting to help, are now being accepted that twenty years ago would have been rejected.

One thing that has brought all this about is roads.  Forty years ago, no one thought anything about walking from Caney to Hindman.  When the two schools competed in a basketball game, the whole school, with the exception of the team, walked the eight miles to and from.

I remember once when we were coming back up Troublesome Creek, someone had dumped a load of celery by the roadside.  Many of us tasted celery for the first time in our lives. There were long crisp stalks with a flavor not found in this hard tough green stuff you now buy that’s been grown for quantity, not quality.  This has little to do with my story. I just gave you that extra.

My husband told me of working for Faultsburg Tate when my husband was a teenager.  He drove a mule team and wagon, and hauled creek rocks to fill in the ‘chug’ holes along the road that’s now the main street in Hindman.  Yes we have come a long way with our roads.

This time a hundred years ago, strangers coming to Knott County would have found people living far apart, about one house ever half mile.  Folks liked ‘a plenty of elbow room’ and they needed space for their stock and crops. The Visitor riding through would have seen very few people, but he would have been seen by everyone.  If a neighbor had gone over this same route, at every house he passed, all the family would have come to the road to see and talk with him or her. They would have been asking again and again to ‘come in have a bit, and sit a speel.’

Now with our better roads and our new understanding, and on behalf of all people of Appalachia, I invite all you brought on people, ‘Come in, have a bite, sit a speel.  You all come back again. You all hear now, bring someone with you, next year.”