Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.
FOLK LORE IN DIXIE
In 1861 a small band of Mormon pioneers found themselves halted permanently without purse, and what was more important, very little script in the remote desert valley of Dixie. In the absence of houses, clothing, food, science, an literature, they developed their own version of these human needs to suit the conditions in which they lived and the equipments and talents which they possessed. To some extent, they patterned their lives after the manner they remembered from earlier homes; but life was so different in the desert that the practices of civilization were not often possible, and these people developed unique ways of living to coincide with their unique country. Houses were one-room log cabins with brush roofs or tiny mud-colored huts of "Mormon bricks", clothing was of home-grown and home-spun cotton, coarse, unattractive, but precious; diets consisted of coarse meal bread, alfalfa and pig-weed greens, berries and wild fruit. Without the enlightenment of science, these pioneers developed strange superstitions and concocted fanciful remedies for their illnesses. Without the entertainment of theatres and "pleasure palaces," they frolicked at community dances, husking bees, and peach cuttings. Without the pleasure of books they developed the art of story-telling, and their fireside tales were of their migrations across the plains, their difficulties with the Indians, and their daily struggles to establish security on earth and in heaven. From their own experiences and ingenuities, these people evolved a learning, which enabled them to live in a desert. This learning, their folklore, presents an intimate picture of the Dixie pioneers.
The one quality which they possessed in the most amazing abundance was the virtue of self-reliance. Alone in the desert except for a wife (or two), some children, an ox team, and a wagon, they were forced to be resourceful and ingenious. The first houses were built of logs. Inside of them were tables and benches made from cottonwood logs with holes bored in each end and legs fastened in the holes. The ticks on their homemade beds were filled with straw or cattail fuzz. A hole in the ground served as a stove, and as there were no matches, flint rocks were rubbed together to produce fire. After the first was made and the ground was very hot, the meat was put in to roast. Sometimes bread was cooked on a shovel.
Usually dry wood was used as fuel, but sometimes an artificial "coal" was made. Men went into the hills and gathered green wood, which they brought home and piled up to form a very solid wall in the general shape of a teepee. After packing the wood carefully all over with dirt, a fire was started under the wood in some bark which had been placed on the floor of the structure for this purpose. Enough air was allowed in to char the wood, but not enough to burn it. After several days the wood was completely charred, and the "coal" was made.
For food, the Dixie pioneers ate bread made from corn and buckwheat ground between two stones or in hand coffee mills. Later, wheat was grown and a flourmill was built near Washington. Alfalfa, pig-weeds, and dandelion stems were used for greens. "Yant," a kind of yucca which formed a head something like a large artichoke, was baked in a pit of hot ashes or boiled and eaten as a vegetable by the early pioneers or on some occasions, it was the basis of a pioneer wine. Miners' lettuce, sometimes called Indian lettuce and squaw cabbage, produced small, succulent plants used by the Indians and pioneers for salads. The Joshua tree, whose name came from the idea that its branches pointed toward the promised-land, bestowed fruit upon the newcomers. Small boys herding sheep or cows on the red hills of Dixie often "pieced" upon sego lily bulbs and bottle-stoppers which they found growing about them in great abundance.
As soon as possible the pioneers improved their diet with cultivated vegetables and fruit. They ate potatoes, beans, squash -- a great variety of vegetables, and peaches, pears, plums, apples, figs, and pomegranates. For a long time sugar was almost unheard of, and native molasses, or properly sorghum, was used to sweeten almost everything. They even used it in making preserves of squash, wild plums, apples, and peaches. These fruits and vegetables were boiled down with the molasses to form a kind of butter, which was preserved in barrels and five gallon cans and sealed with gum or wax.
The pioneers dried much meat, particularly venison. This was done by dipping small strips of it in very hot brine water before putting it out to dry. This "jerky," as it was called, was cooked in water gravy or used to "piece" on.
Cotton was grown in Dixie and was cultivated, cured, and spun into cloth by hand. At a later date, silk worms were introduced and silk dresses were seen in Dixie. A variety of materials were used and combined to produce colors for this homemade cloth. Brown color was obtained from walnuts, blue from indigo blossoms, yellow from rabbit brush flowers, brown-green from peach leaves, red from dock root and madder, black from squaw-bush, and green from chaparral. Burdock, sagebrush, and the tan bark from pine trees inspired still other shades.
I have heard that there was never anything under the sun as ugly as the shoes worn by the pioneers. They were made of any kind of durable material. The finest were of buckskin with rawhide soles, but some were made of wagon covers and tent cloth. Those who couldn't afford shoes went unabashed without them, for it was not uncommon to see people at church or even at dances sans shoes of any description. In fact, children under sixteen years seldom possessed such things. Often at dances the fortunate people who were equipped with shoes would lend them to their comrades for a dance. Often shoes would change hands (or feet) so many times during a dance that the owner was hard-pressed to find his shoes when the dance was over. However, he didn't worry about them, for they would surely be placed in the window of the tithing office the next day, and he could claim them then.
But food and clothing were not the only things the sharp observation and resourcefulness of the pioneers produced. Soap was made from the oose root found on the hills; lye was secured from cottonwood ashes. From the alkali that covers like snow the valleys of Dixie was obtained saleratus or baking soda; from potatoes, grated and dried, was made starch. Illumination was secured by burning rags soaked in grease. Hats were braided from wheat straw and made white by curing the straw in a barrel of sulphur. Earthen and wooden dishes braved the tables.
It is as if the pioneers believed that everything had been created to help them if they could only find out each object's use. It seems that there was not a stick, stone, plant, or animal that they didn't attempt to utilize. Especially this seems true when contemplating the various remedies concocted and prescribed by the pioneers to cure their illnesses. From the alkali under their feet to their sincere faith in the administerings of heaven, they received help for physical suffering. A dried Malaga grape raisin, boiled and opened and the fleshy part bound on the navel, was a method of disinfecting the navel of a new-born child. Thick, bitter molasses mixed with finely cut horsehair was used as a salve to cure worms. A felon was healed by holding the affected finger in a cup of water on a hot stove until the water began to boil. To stop wounds from bleeding, flour and turpentine were mixed together and spread on the wound. Snake bites were cut crosswise and treated with milkweed, tobacco juice, whiskey, or black mud. Whiskey, taken internally, was supposed to counteract the poison from a rattlesnake bite and was supposed not to make the person drunk. A slice of over-ripe cucumber laid on each eye was good for sore eyes. The earache was cured by blowing smoke into the ear. Catnip was given to small babies to cure colic. A strip of heavily peppered fat wrapped around the neck was prescribed for sore throat. Molasses and sulphur mixed together and taken in the spring of the year would clear the blood, and used as a salve would cure the itch. Teas made form sweet balsam leaves, sage, saffron, yarrow, mountain rush, and Brigham tea were good for indigestion, for blood purifiers, for fevers, for colds, to bring out a rash, and for a variety of similar complaints. The efficacy of these remedies was probably due to the favorable psychological attitude they produced and in some cases they were innocuous.
Other remedies do not sound so innocent. The following cures must have been most unpleasant, if not downright harmful. A child was cured from biting his fingernails or from displaying other nervous symptoms by putting some finely cut human hair in his bread and milk. To help a baby cut his teeth, his gums were rubbed with some kind of animal's brains, preferably a rabbit's. A teaspoon of mare's milk three times a day was given to a person with whooping cough. For chapped hands, children were compelled to bathe their hands in "chamber lye," or urine; this was also given to babies when they suffered from croup. Manure from the corrals was used to make complexion packs. A live chicken, cut open, was places on the chest of a person suffering from pneumonia. Whenever an Indian was sick, his tribe dug a pit six to eight feet square. This they lined and covered over with heated rocks, and water sprinkled on these rocks produced steam. The suffering Indian was obliged to crawl into this pit and steam away his illness.
Certain remedies were purely superstitious. A band made of snake rattlers worn on the hat was believed to prevent headaches. If one would spit on his finger immediately upon awaking in the morning and make a cross on his corn, it would soon disappear. A salt shaker under the pillow at night was believed to cure fits caused from worms.
In what manner the pioneers discovered these queer remedies, it is not always possible to know. Probably they were compounded from the material handiest, ad if the patient didn't die under the administrations of some new concoction, the remedy was remembered as a cure when a similar ailment arose. Certain it is that when anyone became ill, the good ladies of the village gathered about him with their homemade remedies and, solemnly and sympathetically, tried first one cure and then another, until the unfortunate either recuperated or passed on. Sometimes these remedies were written down and preserved carefully in the family bible where they may yet be found in the homes of their descendants.
Only occasionally is it possible to know just how a special remedy originated. The following story, told to me by one of my students, is an example of what happened in one case. "When my father was a child of six years, he had a running sore, then called a white swelling, on his right leg. For six he was unable to walk. At the end of this time, the doctor advised amputation. That night my grandmother dreamed that the marrowbone of a freshly killed beef mixed with alcohol would cure the sore. The next day they tried it. When the doctor came a week later, daddy was so much better, he decided to wait a while before amputating. He never did amputate; daddy's leg healed." (Emily Land, one of my students, told me this story.)
Though work occupied most of the pioneers' time, they very sensibly set aside certain hours and sometimes days for recreation. On these gala occasions the pioneers chose to dance, for this was always their favorite amusement. Where one existed, the people would gather for their dance in the ward house or amusement hall, and the dance would be under the supervision of some member of the bishopric. Where there was no convenient building, the crowd would gather in somebody's dooryard to trip the light fantastic to the tune of a fiddle or an accordion. The musicians were always paid in produce, dried peaches, squash, cabbage, molasses -- whatever a man could use. Some of the old dances were the polka, the schottische, the quadrille, the Virginia Reel, Six Nations, the two-step, the snap waltz, the spat waltz, and the polygamy waltz, the last so named because a man could have two partners. Such tunes as "Yankee Doodle," "Turkey in the Straw," and "The Old Gray Mare," struck up by the fiddler, set these dances into motion, and the merriment, begun early, sometimes continued well into the night.
The young bloods of old Dixie especially enjoyed "scalp hunting," a custom which led to a community dance every Friday night. All the younger people of the town organized and divided into two groups, each group having an even number of boys and girls. During the week the boys would go hunting in their spare time and secure as many scalps as they could of small game. Squirrels, rabbits, lizards, and wild fowl were their usual victim. At the end of the week each side counted all the scalps they had procured during the week, and the side having the most scalps was entertained at a dance and supper prepared for them by the losing side.
A "peach cutting" was another richly anticipated event. For this, men made scaffolds for drying the peaches at certain propitious places about the town. One night a crowd of young people gathered at one of the scaffolds to set out peaches; until an entire crop of peaches had been pitted and set out to dry. Various races were run to see who could cut and set out the most peaches in a given time, and, as often as not, the winner of such race was permitted to kiss all the young ladies present.
In St. George, the fourth and twenty-fourth of July celebrations exhausted an entire day. Early in the morning the martial band, consisting of a bass drum, two snare drums, and a flute, rode on a wagon from camp to camp to play for the families. As a matter of courtesy, the head of each family treated the band to yeast and molasses beer and molasses cake. At noon everyone was invited to a community barbecue; and in the afternoon a greased pig was turned loose for every boy to try to catch -- and the proud young rascal who was successful usually had glued his hands with molasses to help him win his prize.
On ordinary, less festive occasions, the pioneers found entertainment when they gathered at night around their campfires and hearthsides for story telling and ballad making. These stories and ballads were of Indian difficulties, Indian legends, mining adventures, lost mines, irrigation problems, strange dreams and visions, catastrophes, and superstitions. The story of the last squaw fight was well known in every home, and I am going to relate it here just as it appears in the "Memoirs of John R. Young, who was an eyewitness of this event:
"A squaw fight came about in this way: If a brave saw a maiden that he desired, he would go to see her father, who, according to their laws, had a right to see her, and bargain for her, usually paying from one to five ponies for her. If it happened that the girl had a lover, and he would put up as much purchase money as had the first applicant, then the lovers would settle it by a fistfight. Sometimes conditions would be such that every warrior in the tribe would be allowed to aid his tribesman to win his wife. It would then be a national war, and would be conducted on long-established rules and ceremonies, which the Indians hold in deep reverence.
"In 1861 at Santa Clara, I witnessed one of these tribal fights. A young, slender girl of Tutse gouett's band was purchased by a brave of Coal Creek John's band; but a brave of the Santa Clara tribe was the girl's accepted lover.
"The aspirants were men of influence in their respective bands, though they were unequal in physical ability. The man from Cedar, Ankawakeets, was a large, muscular, well-matured man of commanding personality, while Panimeta, the Clara man, was only a stripling; a youth of fine features and an eagle eye, bu fifty pounds lighter in weight than Ankawakeets.
"By the rules of the contest, this physical difference made it impossible for the lovers to settle it by single combat; hence, it was arranged by tribal agreement, that twenty warriors on each side should participate in the struggle. The ground selected was a flat just west of the old Clara fort. A square was marked off, the creek being chosen for the south line; a line drawn in the sand marked the east, west, and north boundaries.
"East of the east line was Ankawakeets' goal, which, if he could reach with the girl, she was his; contra, west of the west line was Panimeto's goal, claiming the same concessions. On opposite sides of a line running north and south through the center of this square were the braves, lined up, stripped to the skin save for the indispensable gee-string.
"At the tap of the Indian drum, the two files rushed like angry bullocks upon each other; a second tap of the drum, and the warriors clinched. To vanquish an opponent you had to throw him and hold him flat on his back for the supposed time it would take to scalp an actual enemy. At the end of an hour's exciting struggle, a few warriors on each side had been vanquished; but the forces remaining were equal in number, so neither party had gained any advantage.
"They now changed the procedure. The father led the maiden to the central line. She looked terrified; and well she might, for the ordeal through which she was to pass was a fearful one. The champions ran to the girl, and seizing her by the wrists, undertook to force her to their respective goals. Soon it became a "tug-of-war" with fifteen strapping warriors on each side.
"Gyrating from one side of the field to the other they came, in one of their wild swirls, to the banks of the creek and fell into the water pell-mell up to their necks. The girl, evidently in a swoon, was entirely submerged, only her mass of glossy tresses floating on the surface of the water.
"Andrew Gibbons, one of the Indian missionaries, flung himself on the bank; and seizing the girl's hair, he raised her head above the water. Instantly every brave broke his hold, and scrambled onto the bank; and Ankawakeets angrily demanded that Gibbons should fight him for having interfered. Gibbons accepted the challenge, and stepped into the ring. Tutse gave the signal, and Ankawakeets sprang to the fray, only to measure his length backward on the sand. After Gibbons had held Ankawakeets until the imagined scalping was performed, he stepped back and folded his arms. His vanquished opponent arose, stepped to the maiden, spoke a few low words, and taking the unresisting hand, led her to the victor and presented her as a bridal trophy for the white man's valor and skill.
"Gibbons accepted the maiden, and leading her to Panimeto, gave her to him. The presentation was followed by a war-whoop from Ankawakeets and his braves. Rushing to their camps they returned with guns in hand, and forming a circle around the girl, ordered her to march. This time it was Thales Haskell, another Indian missionary, who stopped Ankawakeets; and Tutsegavit again commanded the father to lead the girl to the center of the field until the sun should hide its face behind the mountain. If neither party won by that time the girl should be released from the father's vows.
"Again the warriors took their places, the champions grasping again the wrists of the trembling young squaw, on whose face was a look of despair. At this critical moment, the girl's younger brother, who had stood aloof with folded arms and clouded brow during all the struggle, bounded to his sister's side and, drawing his knife from the sheath, he buried it in her bosom. She fell lifeless into her father's arms. The brother, holding the bloody knife on high, said:
"I loved my sister too well to see her suffer more. If there is any brave who thinks I have done wrong, let him take the knife and plunge it into my heart. I am not afraid to die."
"Every warrior bowed his head, and turning, walked in silence to his camp." ("Memoirs of John R. Young, by himself, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah. 1920. pp.299-304.)
This was the last squaw fight ever held. After this tragedy, Jacob Hamblin, who was well loved by the Indians, persuaded them to give up this custom.
One favorite pioneer tale dealt with the discovery of the Silver Reef mine, which happens to be one of the very richest silver mines in the state and has only been discontinued because of its distance from the railroads and the difficulties encountered in mining, smelting, and distributing it. Incidentally the discovery of silver at Silver Reef marks the first discovery of this metal in sandstone.
It is said that at one time some people left Leeds to go to Pioche, then a thriving mining town, to cut wood. On their way, they quarried a piece of sandstone from the location which has since been called Silver Reef to use as a grindstone for their axes.
When they reached Pioche, they found the miners there were discussing the two assayers who were then in camp, both of whom they believed to be dishonest. Their reason for doubting the characters of these two men lay in the contradictory assays which they made. One of the young men invariably gave a favorable assay on ore brought to him for examination; the other invariably gave an unfavorable assay on the same ore. The miners were puzzled which to believe, and at length conceived a plan whereby they were sure they could detect the imposter.
They decided to give a piece of ore which they knew to be high in mineral value to the man who usually gave a negative report and a piece of ore which they knew to have no mineral value to the man who usually gave a positive report to see if their answers would be true. Accordingly, they pulverized a $5.00 gold piece and an ordinary rock together and gave it to be assayed by the man who habitually gave an unfavorable report; he reported nothing of value. Then they gave to the man who habitually gave a favorable report a bit of the pulverized grindstone which the Leeds woodcutters had found at Silver Reef; he reported 20 ounces of silver were to be found in it. The miners, convinced that both men were rascals, rode them out of town on a rail. However, the honest young assayer who had found 20 ounces of silver in a bit of sandstone from Silver Reef later traced the sandstone back to the cliff it was taken from and discovered the richest mine in the Dixie country. (Story told me by Albert Miller, present mayor of St. George.)
The pioneers could tell no end of stories concerning lost mines. This one is especially interesting since it is connected with the Three Nephites who are believed to have visited the Dixie pioneers many times.
"One day while George Holt was riding in the hills above Enterprise, he came upon a ledge of richly-colored rock. As he was interested in mining, he broke a piece of the rock off, and taking notice of several landmarks to guide him back to the spot, he left for town. The assayer assured him that the rock contained an unusually large amount of gold. With visions of fabulous wealth, he went home.
"That afternoon a small man with a long white beard rode a donkey to Mr. Holt's residence and asked for food. Mr. Holt obliged him, and engaged him in conversation while his wife prepared dinner. The first words uttered by the stranger were to the effect that Mr. Holt had found a rich mine. Mr. Holt confirmed the report, and asked how the stranger knew of his prize. The man evaded his question and merely said:
"You had better forget about this mine. If it develops, it will be for the ruination of your boys."
"Mr. Holt went into the house to see how the food was coming, and was gone for several minutes. When he returned the stranger and his donkey had vanished as if into thin air. The next day Mr. Holt and one of his boys went back to find the mine. They hunted all day, and for several succeeding days, but they could find no trace of the gold-bearing ledge. Nor could they find any landmarks; they did not even recognize the hills. To this day nothing has been found of the mine, and Mr. Holt believes that it has all been for the best." (story told by Clayton Prince, one of my students, and confirmed by others.)
That these Dixie pioneers spent many an hilarious evening ballad-making and ballad-singing is certain from an examination of some of the ballads which have come down to us from them. These ballads, of course, dealt mostly with personal experiences. The following excerpt is from a ballad sung to me by an old pioneer now in his 79th year. It was composed by George A. Hicks and his wife, Betsy, when they were called from Cottonwood to settle Dixie:
"We hitched up Jim and Bally,
All for to take a start,
But to leave my house and garden,
It almost broke my heart...
At length we reached the Black Ridge,
Where I broke my wagon down;
I could not find a carpenter
Within twenty miles around.
I cut down an old cedar tree
And made an awkward slide;
But my load, it was so heavy
Poor Betsy couldn't ride.
I turned around to Betsy
To tell her to take care,
When all upon a sudden
She struck a prickly pear.
Then Betsy blubbered out,
As loud as she could bawl,
"If I was back on Cottonwood,
I wouldn't come at all."
Another delightful ballad was one composed in 1874 by Dave Cook and Sam Workman who were sent from Utah to Colorado to form a guard against the invading Navajos. Though this ballad was criticized by Brigham Young for certain vigorous expressions it contains, nevertheless it is one of the most entertaining ballads of the Dixie pioneers. A typical passage describes Lee's Ferry:
"We traveled on a few days
Till we got to Lee's,
And there it was as hot as hell,
Without a bit of breeze.
And when the wind did come,
It all come in a flirt,
And, golly, it was hot enough
To almost burn your shirt."
(Manuscript in Washington County Library, St. George, Utah.)
Superstitions grew up about certain people and places in Dixie and were turned into tales for fireside repetition. The pioneers of southern Utah, tenacious in a religion that demanded from them the severest sacrifices, often lacked understanding and sympathy for those people whose religious dogma was not the same as their own. Most of all, they lacked sympathy for apostates, and often treated them in much the same manner that the Puritans treated "witches." The following story, told in the own words of a friend of mine will show you how true this is.
"In the early days of Dixie, there lived in Springdale an old man and woman who had once belonged to the Mormon church, but who had apostatized. One night a little boy in the town who was nearly well from a long illness suddenly broke into a tantrum, and couldn't be quieted until someone discovered that the evil old man was standing outside the window, glaring in; he was dressed in his temple clothes. It was evident that he'd bewitched the child.
"The woman, though she'd never been known to harm anyone, was such a sinister creature that everyone was afraid of her. It was a known fact that she couldn't go under steel, and each person had his own way of proving it. One day in the midst of a rainstorm the woman came to grandmother's home. As she was sitting near the stove to dry herself, someone slipped a knitting needle in the rafters just above her head. Her clothes began to steam, and she looked as though she were surely in misery, yet the poor creature couldn't move until the piece of steel was removed from above her head.
"One day when grandmother was home alone, she saw the witch coming toward her house; remembering the incident she stuck a paring knife in a crack above the doorway; then she invited her caller in. After several useless attempts to comply with the invitation the mysterious female decided she'd stay outside instead.
"As I said before, none knew of any harm she'd ever done, yet she was considered a detriment to the community, and a few cruel, half-insane young men took it upon themselves to rid it of her. They told her that her son, who was wanted for murder, was hiding at a certain place up in the hills; he was nearly starved and he wanted her to follow their directions and bring him some food. Her mother's heart made her go to the spot designated. The young bullies were hiding there; they beat her to death with rocks. The exact place where she was murdered has been pointed out to me in Zion Canyon, and I know four brave young people who have good reason not to doubt that it's haunted.
"Years later, when some boys were riding on horses through the canyon they came upon a queer-looking old woman sitting on a rock. The boys were anxious to find out who she was, and since she wouldn't answer their questions, they started toward her. At first she was very near them, but after she'd started running, their horses couldn't catch her. Before their eyes she ran to the top of a steep mountain. It seemed to the awestricken watchers that she flew, for no one had ever been able to climb that mountain before. My uncle was one of the boys who saw her." (Story told me by Elva Hopkins, student Dixie High School and confirmed by others.)
In the early days another spot firmly believed to be haunted was the dark cave on the red hill just north of St. George. The cave itself is a long narrow chasm in a huge rock of red sandstone. At about the center is a small hole leading into a small room. Before the advent of the pioneers, the Indian people of this vicinity used it as a burial vault for their children. I know this is true for my father and mother once found a dead Indian baby in this cave when they were courting. The younger people of St. George believed that the spirits of the dead Lamanite babies were hovering near the place where they had once been buried and were apt to push the rocks together and crush unfortunates who might be squeezing their way through the chasm
Well-known superstitions, such as those concerning mirrors, black cats, numbers, umbrellas, and ladders, were common among the pioneer residents of Dixie. They believed, too, that if knives were crossed, the two persons who saw them first would surely quarrel; if four people shook hands together, it was a sign that one the couples would soon be married; if a baby saw himself in a mirror before he was a year old, he would die within a year; if one killed a frog, his cows would give bloody milk; if one nailed split shingles on a roof upside down in the old of the moon, they would surely curl up on the ends. When her butter didn't come for a long time, there was one old woman who believed that witches were in it. She would drive them away with a hot poker. Of course, stirring the cream with a hot poker heated it and helped the butter to "come."
Many of the old sayings of the pioneers also indicate the superstitions which they held. Pioneers have been heard to say and practice the wisdom of these thoughts: "Comb your hair after dark, and you comb sorrow into your heart." "If you dream of fruit out of season, you'll have trouble out of reason. "If you want to live and thrive, let a spider run alive."
Often, however, the old sayings of the pioneers were of a more rational bent. One delightful bit of philosophy which guided an old lady's entire life was found in this little verse:
"A kiss for a blow
And angels will guard you
Wherever you go."
My grandmother used to scold my sisters and me with:
"Birds in their little nest agree,
Oh, 'tis a shameful sight
To see children of a family
Grow up and do nothing but fight."
After hearing some of the stories the Santa Clara students tell of their grandfather's school days, I rather believe the following verse originated there:
"Oh, Lord of love, come down from above,
And pity us poor scholars:
We hired a fool to teach our school,
And paid him forty dollars."
A humorous incident sometimes produced expressions which were heard long afterward. The story is told that a group of early citizens of Pine Valley were coming down to winter conference. When they arrived at Santa Clara, one old fellow drove his wagon onto the too thin ice, and went down, wagon and all, into the icy water. After a stunned silence, one of his companions called out,
"Brother, be ye cold?"
"Well, I ain't a damned bit sweaty," was the reply.
Needless to say, the diverted lookers-on never allowed this incident to be forgotten, and these expressions are still frequently heard about town.
Folklore has not yet died out of Dixie, but it is rapidly and very properly giving way to the more accurate, more sophisticated learning to be found in books. It is taking its natural place in the history of our state and in the literature of the world. There it can tell itself over and over again, and in each telling the Dixie pioneer -- resourceful, busy, happy, credulous -- will live again.
Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.
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