Monday, January 30, 2017

Do I Talk Funny?

Recently I discovered Applachian Magazine online and have been thoroughly enjoying the stories they post.  It's just little snippets of life here in the mountain region, many from a historical perspective and many with a wry sense of humor, that surprise me often with the commonality to my young life.  I grew up in rural Idaho but I identify pretty strongly with many of the customs and sayings they claim as uniquely Appalachian.

Photo from Appalachian Magazine's article "The Story
Behind More _____ Than Carter's Got Liver Pills" dated
January 24, 2015 (link imbedded in post).
This morning's reading was about the origin of Carter's Liver Pills.  Kind of interesting in and of itself, but what caught my attention and amused me were the golden little idioms of speech that peppered the story.  Considering myself a "word person," etymology is always one of my interests. And when I find a new saying, or even just a really fun to say word, I start thinking about how to work it into a casual conversation if for nothing more than shock value.

I like these colloquialisms!  You may have heard some of them, or you might find something new listed here, but hopefully you'll appreciate the colorful way with words and let them set your imagination, and conversations, afire.

When something is desirable:
On that like a fat lady on a donut... white on rice!

When someone is ugly:
...face could haint (or haunt) a house.

When someone is shaking (from cold, afraid, laughing):
Shaking like a cat crapping a peach seed.
Jiggling like a bowl of jello.

Speaking of someone being clever or if it's really icy outside:
...slicker than snot on a door knob.

When someone doesn't shoot well or doesn't understand something obvious:
...couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.

When one holds a tool differently than most of the population:
Just like a pig with a pitchfork.  (This was used about how I hold my crochet hook once...)

When there's a large quantity:
More ____ than Carter's got liver pills.

When one is angry:
Madder than a wet hen.
...could thread a sewing machine – and it runnin'! his knickers in a knot!
...pitched a hissy fit!
Well... that just dills my pickle!

When you have done a lot or have a lot to do:
Busier than a one legged man in a butt-kicking contest.
Running like a chicken with it's head cut off!

When you are surprised:
...coulda knocked me over with a feather.
Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!

Describing finances:
I'm so poor I can barely afford to pay attention!
Don't even got a pot to piss in (or a window to throw it out)!
Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash.

Describing someone who is vain or conceited:
...thinks his #^%@ don't stink.
She thinks she is all that, and a bag of chips.

When something isn't happening fast enough:
...slower than cold tar at Christmas-time!

When you are thirsty:
...wet your whistle.

Describing being thrifty or cheap:
Pinch that penny so tight you could pick the boogers from Abe Lincoln's nose...
Squeeze a quarter so tight the eagle screams... tight he could back up to a wall and suck a brick out!

When something unfortunate happens:
No use crying over spilled milk!

When you are feeling especially good/something very fortunate happens:
...finer than frog hair and twice as nasty.
...finer than a frog hair split four ways.
...grinnin' like a possum eatin' a sweet tater.
Happy as a hog in slop!

When something is fun or funny, or used sarcastically when it's not:
More laughs/fun than a barrel full of monkeys.

Describing one with a distinct lack of musical ability:
...can't carry a tune in a tub.  (My friend, Heidi, once went on to describe me as being able to sing two parts: solo and tenor.  "So lo" no one can hear it and "ten or" fifteen miles off key.  So much for thinking I should ever try to sing outside the shower, huh?)

When things are going right/you finally understand:
Now we're cookin' with peanut oil!

When someone pretends to be something they are not/has bad character:
He's all hat and no cattle.
He's lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut.

To describe a nasty wound/bad period/miscarriage:
...bleeding like a stuck pig.

When a woman becomes unexpectedly or unintentionally pregnant:
____ got bit by the trouser worm.
...gone and got herself knocked up.
(and my Grandma's shout out to an expectant jaywalker: "hey lady, you know you can get knocked down, too!")

Describing the weather:
It's so hot I just saw two trees fightin' over a dog!
It's dryer than a popcorn fart...
Raining cats and dogs!

Referring to a child/childhood/events that happened before a child was born:
...knee-high to a grasshopper.
You weren't even a twinkle in your daddy's eye yet...

Describing nervousness: a cat on a hot tin roof.
_____ needs to go pop a valium!

Describing being confused:
Doesn't know his [backside] from a hole in the ground...
Don't even know which way is up!
It's like reaching around your [backside] to scratch your elbow.

Describing a liar:
Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining.
That dog won't hunt!
You'd call an alligator a lizard.
...windy as a sack full of farts.
Her mouth is goin' like a bell clappin' out of a goose's [backside]!
If ____'s lips are moving, s/he's lying.

Describing stupidity:
If ____ had a thought it would die of loneliness...
Light's on but no one is home!
...ain't got the sense God gave a goose!
If his brains was dynamite, he still couldn't blow his nose.
____'s crazier than an outhouse rat.

When you hope to do something:
God willing and the creek don't rise!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Emmanuel Episcopal Church

Photo from website of Emmanuel Parish of the Episcopal Church

The Cumberland hilltop where Emmanuel Church now stands was originally the site of a trading post for the Ohio Company, who sold land to would be settlers and supported America’s westward expansion by selling them needed goods and offered a place to trade the things they produced.  It was also the cultural and social center of the community.  On Christmas Day in either 1778, or more likely 1749, the first Christian worship service in this region took place. It was led by Christopher Gist, known as a devout Anglican, who ran the trading post and is likely the origin of the current Church’s name, Emmanuel (meaning God is with us).

George Washington.
The center portrait by John Hancock Snubs courtesy of the New England Historical
Society is the familiar look we associate with George Washington,but the flanking
ones by James Peale that hang at Mt. Vernon may be more similar to how he would
have looked during his time in Cumberland

In 1754, a young George Washington, then employed as a surveyor for the Ohio Company and a Colonel in the Virginia Militia, brought troops to push the French out of territories claimed by the British Colonies. He failed.  And his surrender at Fort Necessity (about 50 miles away) was the impetus for the French and Indian War. In 1755 the British Army occupied the land and erected Fort Cumberland, named after the British Minister of War, to serve as logistical headquarters for the forces under General Edward Braddock.  At the time it was the largest military installation in North America.  Braddock’s expedition ended as a complete disaster with his defeat in the Battle of Monongahela but troops continued to be garrisoned at the fort under Colonel Washington’s leadership for the remainder of the war. Local settlers and soldiers met together at the Fort to hold church services, some of which were led by Colonel Washington when a Chaplain was not present.  It was last used as a military installation in October 1794 when President George Washington brought troops to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion.

Tunnel Below Emmanuel, Photo from website of
Emmanuel Parish of the Episcopal Church
One of the features of Fort Cumberland was a system of earthworks known today as The Tunnels.  The Tunnels, and a cabin that’s been moved to a city park, are all that visibly remains of the Fort. Originally these tunnels served as storage for perishable foods and gun powder and played a part in the Forts defense system.  Because the Fort was made of wood, it was highly vulnerable to attack and required out defenses ¼ mile to the Potomac and Will’s Creek that were accessed by trenches extending from below the Fort’s walls. 100 years later, the same tunnels and trenches became the way that escaping slaves got up under the Church to the safety of the Underground Railroad station here.

In the early 1850’s a young escaping slave named Samuel Denson arrived from Mississippi and decided to remain, pretending to be a freedman, and work for the freedom of others rather than continuing on his own journey to freedom.  He conspired with the Reverend David Hillhouse Buel, Rector of Emmanuel Parish, who had also worked with other Underground Railroad sites in Sykeville and Westminster before coming to Emmanuel in 1847. Buel gave Denson the job of Sexton which included keeping the Church and Rectory looked after, keeping the furnace going, ringing the Church bell and doing custodial work at the Allegany Academy (which now houses the Public Library).  In that capacity it was a natural part of Denson’s job to traverse the tunnels regularly.  It was the perfect cover for his role with the Underground Railroad!

Part of the old Fort’s defense works ran from the east end of the Church down the hill to Will’s Creek.  In those days this was an area where rail lines came together at the Terminus of the C&O Canal.  It was called “Shanty Town” because of the proliferation of saloons, brothels and shacks where canal workers and lowlifes lived… a natural hiding place for someone on the run.  Escaping slaves were instructed  to hide out there while waiting for the next moved to be signaled – Samuel Denson ringing the church bell in a special coded way - and then bringing them to safety under the Church where could rest, eat and get other aid for a day from Rev. Buel and fellow abolitionists.  Then they followed a tunnel under the Rectory and out the cellar door into a [then] unpopulated part of town and be transported over the Mason Dixon line 4 miles away.  For many, the tunnels below Emmanuel Church were the last Underground Railroad stop in slave territory.

Monday, January 16, 2017

For Whom The Bell Tolls

I know... cheesy to steal the title from the ever more famous and great writer, Ernest Hemingway, but I like it.  And it works for this post about church bells.

There is a pretty little Catholic church, St. Patrick's, on the next block.  Jason's Mom said it used to have a contingent of Nuns and even, at one point, served as a Monastery but now was vacated for lack of a large enough congregation to warrant the expense of keeping clergy there.  Someone still rings the bells, though.  And the parish website lists a full schedule of meetings and masses. So who knows?

Photo from the website of
Our Lady of the Mountains
Roman Catholic Parish of Cumberland, MD
I've noticed the bells several times at 6:00 am, noon, and 6:00 pm.  At first I thought they were marking time.  And then I became vaguely aware that there were significantly more than 6 (or 12) peals... This morning I counted 22.

And so I went to Google for some answers.

I learned that the history of ringing church bells dates back to 400 AD. Paulinas of Nola was the first to introduce them to the Christian church and Pope Sabinianus sanctioned them in 604 perhaps as part of the meshing of Pagan practices into the early church as more people became members by force if not by choice.  Pagan winter celebrations have long included ringing bells to drive out evil spirits perpetuating the idea that bells have great spiritual significance though nothing in the Bible distinctly calls for the ringing of bells as part of worship.

Today's Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches ring bells at 6:00 a.m., noon, and 6:00 p.m. as a summons for members to pause and recite The Lord's Prayer or Angelus.  This schedule is also steeped in ancient tradition. Christianity draws from Bible verses speaking of thrice daily prayer:

Psalms 55:17 says "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice."

And Daniel 6:10, "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime."

Praying 3 times a day is consistent with the Jewish practice of visiting the Wailing Wall.  And sounding a call to prayer is analogous to the Islamic tradition of the adhan from a minaret.  I think it's very interesting that we draw from so many diverse cultures and traditions for something so pleasant as bells on neighborhood churches.

About St. Patricks, their website gives this history "The rich history of Mt. Savage includes one of the first masses celebrated in the area in 1793 by Fr. Stephen Badin (the first priest ordained in America). As the Catholic population grew, St. Ignatius Church was built between 1829 and 1835. When a larger church was needed, construction began on what is now St. Patrick’s Church, named for the predominance of Irish immigrants. The new church was formally dedicated in October of 1873. Mt. Savage is also the birthplace of Edward Cardinal Mooney (1882-1958) who was elevated to Cardinal in 1946 by Pope Pius XII."

Pretty cool... While I still have no idea if 22 bell peals at 6:00 a.m. has meaning, or is just the result of an especially enthusiastic bell ringer, I can say I've walked in the footsteps of America's first priest now!