1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.
2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.
3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The’,” or simply a single word to get your started.
4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours. Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top. NOTE: Pingbacks only work from WordPress sites. If you’re self-hosted or are participating from another host, such as Blogger, please leave a link to your post in the comments below.
5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.
6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!
7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.
In the small valley where I grew up, there were many old mountain customs and celebrations. Bizarre to some I am sure, but delightful memories for me. One of my favorite memories was serenading a newly married couple.
What is a Serenade?
The Appalachian serenade (or shivaree) is the custom of celebrating (or hazing depending on your point-of-view) a newly married couple. Most likely taken from the French charivari, it is a loud and unsettling event often occurring on the wedding night of a newly married couple.
The community plans the serenade and waits until about half an hour after the couple turns the lights out and retires for the evening. The community encircles the house and starts to make a loud disruption by banging on pots and pans, ringing cowbells and, yes, even shooting guns outside shouting for the couple to come out.
I remember participating in serenades as a young child, pounding on pots and pans along with the best of them. Our custom was to parade the couple from their home to the local country store where the couple was required to treat everyone to a snack of some sort. Usually a pack of Nabs (Nabisco crackers) and a pop (soda).
In the earliest serenades I remember, the woman was put into a wheel barrow and her husband pushed her all the way to the store. For those who lived in the holler (a hollow nestled in the mountains) it could be a long ride on unpaved roads.
Most people who grew up in our valley knew to expect this. It was not always on the first night because it was a real surprise if the timing was unknown. For the poor people who were from away, this custom could be quite unsettling, although always based in good fun.
My Own Serenade
This custom was still ongoing in 1974 when I married my first husband. We knew it was coming eventually, but the timing was, of course, unknown. The anticipation was the worst part! He thought it would be funny to sneak out the back when the commotion began, but when people surround your house shooting off 22s (a rifle) you think twice about it.
I was not put into a wheel barrow. We did get paraded to the store with the sound of cowbells along with banging on pots and pans and the occasional rifle being fired into the air. We got to the store where we bought snacks for the 30 or so people and then went back home, laughing but also glad it was over.
As I write this, I think how frightening this might sound to some. Even now, after moving back to the mountains, I have a physical reaction when I hear guns being fired by hunters or those target shooting.
I asked my brother if anyone was ever serenaded these days. He could not remember anyone in recent memory. It is a different time, indeed. We no longer always know our neighbors or necessarily associate with them. I suppose it’s best left as a memory of a time gone by.
Family stories can be unbelievable, but even in the hardest to fathom tales, there is generally an element of truth. Such was the case of my great-grandfather.
My grandmother never talked about him and honestly, I was too young at the time to care. We always knew his name, but the details were shady. As children, we overheard shushed stories about him being ridden out of town on a rail.
Now, if you do not know what that means, there are a few things to clarify. The earliest implications of this practice were tied to the horrible practice of being tarred and feathered which could be painful and disfiguring. This was never mentioned in the case of my great-grandfather.
In Colonial times, this practice was used to run someone out of town. This was generally the outcome of some sort of mob justice whereby the offender was placed on a narrow fence rail and paraded around to humiliate the person and eventually taken outside of town and threatened to never return. In some cases, the person was beaten, but again I never heard anything like that in reference to my great-grandfather.
In small country communities, this term was in use well into more current times as a description for sending an undesirable out of town with some threat of what might happen if they ever returned. This is most likely the scenario with my great-grandfather.
Getting to Know Family Through Research
My great-grandmother was apparently still married when she passed away although her husband had been gone for a number of years. With no one in the family talking about it, we must depend on research to try and determine what may have happened.
By looking through census records, I know my great-grandfather was married (and hopefully divorced) with children before he married my great-grandmother. My ancestors were all very religious. Marrying a man who had been married before was certainly frowned upon. I’m sure he was unwelcome from the start.
They were married in 1892, together in 1900 and he was gone by 1910. So, somewhere in that last ten-year span, he left. My great-grandmother died in 1913 and my great-grandfather died in 1918. There is no known death certificate for her, but on his death certificate, he is listed as married.
It is interesting to note that three of my great-uncles drank a good bit. My great-grandfather died of Bright’s disease (kidney disease) for which alcoholism could have been a contributing factor and could have contributed to the family displeasure with him.
The Search for Dead Relatives
Oh, I have written a lot about my genealogical search for my family. It is a passion I think I inherited from my sister who passed away in 2010. At the time of her death, no one had seen my great-grandfather’s death certificate.
The piece of information we had all been looking for was when he died and where he had been buried. Both were listed there. We were one step closer!
Of course, in 1918, people were buried in family plots on land that has changed hands many times. Many old cemeteries are overgrown and often landowners may not even be aware of their existence.
Unfortunately, such is the case for us. The name of the ‘graveyard’ has changed over the years as other family members were born and died. There are now a few cemeteries that could be the one referenced on his death certificate.
After much research, I have narrowed it down to one cemetery and have desperately been trying to find the exact location of the cemetery so I can go and pay my respects.
Searches Always Take a Turn
Unfortunately, the land has changed hands many times since 1918 and I believe it is now owned by the state of North Carolina. It is in the deep part of a heavily forested area and thus far I have only found one photograph of a headstone from that specific cemetery.
For over a year I have contacted every government office possible to get access to the property. After being passed through five different offices, I finally reached someone who is trying to help me. It has been so frustrating to feel so close and yet not be able to actually go there and hopefully find the lost piece of my family puzzle.
In the summer, the land was too green, too many trees — just overall too difficult to access. They would try in the fall after the leaves fell. Fast forward several months and North Carolina is hit by constant torrential rains which makes travel difficult. Then the holidays, then a death in our family and now January rolls around.
One day I received an email. The cemetery had been found. The email contained photos of every gravestone. My great-grandfather’s headstone was not there. I was deflated.
A nice thing about genealogists is that they are kind and helpful. I had been working with two gentlemen who had been working for years documenting cemeteries in North Carolina. I let them know about my disappointment.
The next morning, one of them emailed me back and said he felt strongly they had discovered one of the cemeteries, but not THE cemetery I had been looking for. Through some notes and the help of Google maps and GIS and GPS coordinates, we plotted where we thought the other cemetery might be.
Armed with maps and GPS locations, I returned the email thanking them profusely but telling them about my dilemma. They have agreed to try to find it again based on the new information.
These stumbling blocks in genealogical research are known as brick walls. I have several in my family and many will never be broken through simply because the records never existed or were destroyed.
I will never know the true story behind my great-grandfather’s disappearance, but I am hoping someday I will at least know where he was laid to rest and let him know he was not forgotten. I will always wonder if he was missed or if they felt they were better off without him.
Those are the things I will never know. But I will not stop looking. With the help of a number of kind-hearted people, I might just find him.
“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” Bansky
This morning I noticed a number of blogs that have clever’ W’ names for their Wednesday topics. I am not normally that organized in my thinking and my blogs can come at any point throughout the day. Timing affects what I have the mental capacity to take on. (I was once a morning person, but retirement has caused a shift and I find myself favoring the evening hours a little more.)
My blogs usually come as a result of something on my mind. I have two subjects rolling around in my head, but my thoughts are not fully formed enough to articulate what I am thinking. So, today I thought I would play with a little wordsmithing and see what shakes out.
How do you regain your bearings after a difficult day? I spent most of the day on my old MacBook (which will not startup or run unless plugged in) finding some Illustrator logo files. It is a slow and clunky process. My old Mac needs an OS upgrade, but then my VERY expensive Adobe files will not run if I upgrade. Enter catch-22.
I plugged in an old USB drive and started slowly perusing. Normally this would be a mistake, but yesterday it was a much needed distraction.
Looking through old files I saw so many photos of people in my life who are no longer with us. It makes you realize how fleeting life can be. The pictures issued their gentle warning — take today my friend, but don’t dwell here.
Then I stumbled on a folder of old stories. Some started and never finished. Some I remember quite well (as well as the inspiration for each) and others I have no recollection of at all — did I write that?
I found quite a few unfinished pieces from my early NaNoWriMo days.
Finding these files and re-reading a few made me think more about my writing. I am going to set aside more dedicated time in my day to write. My style and voice have changed for sure.
In the interim, I decided to post one of the stories on my old writing blog. The writing itself is immature, but reading it took me back to that time and place. I laughed as I remembered it all so clearly.