No. 349

Have you ever been so mad that you could eat ice cream with a screw driver? This is just one of over 300 “expressions” contained in a most interesting book titled, “Southern Homespun” that was written by Ruth Teaford Baker. Ruth Baker has had a long and distinguished career as a teacher and junior high school principal in Walker County, Alabama. Since 1978 she has also written a column for the Daily Mountain Eagle in Jasper
about the history of the area, its people and their ways.
Our paths crossed when my column began to run in this fine newspaper and I felt honored a few weeks ago when Ruth wrote me a letter and sent me a copy of her book. This lady is a wonderful writer, but she has also received a number of awards outside of the field of writing. She has been honored as the Business & Professional Women’s “Woman Of Achievement” (both local & district) “Walker County’s Mother Of The Year”, State of Alabama Governor’s Award and in 1980 she was selected as “Favorite Teacher Of Alabama” and in 1982 as “Alabama’s Teacher Of The Year.”
However, her real passion is preserving the colorful folklore of this part of the deep South. She knows full well that if it’s not written down and kept for future generations, it will be gone forever. Folklore is the traditional knowledge of small groups of people which originated in the past when there was little communication with the outside world. The traditions are handed down by word of mouth and are often found with several variations of the same tale. A history of the people is revealed through many facets of daily living, such as: customs, superstitions, tales, beliefs, songs, games, recipes and home remedies.
Now you know what is in her book, because it contains some of all of these things and when you finish reading it, you will know where many of those sayings and expressions that you have heard all your life came from. As Ruth states in the Preface, “My purpose for compiling these materials is to record for future generations the lore that is part of our heritage. I want my grandsons and all of this generation to keep roots in the soil.”
The first section of the book is titled, “Superstitions and Spooks.” The word superstition literally means a surviving belief. It includes the fear of the mysterious, the unknown and the little-known. No one sets out to teach others superstitions. No classes are held, no text book is written as a guideline. Superstitions are a part of the mores of a people. They are talked, acted out, and accepted as a part of the very process of living. This section includes moon lore, planting, harvesting, butchering and animal care, weather, birds, bees and bugs, black cats, bad luck and much, much more.
The next section is titled, “Folk Medicine: Preventatives and remedies.” While many of these have worked for years, I noted that the author had added a disclaimer to this section. There are over 30 pages of these home remedies and believe me they cover the gambit. Then we come to “Country Lingo” and there are over 20 pages of words like aheapa, bassackward, bumfuzzled, cockeyed, dreckly, kivver, oodles, sashay, and womper-jawed.
And on to the final section, the “Expressions” one of which I used to begin this column. Here are a few more you may find interesting. He didn’t last as long as Pat stayed in the Army, She’s so ugly, she’d snag lightnin, He’s so crooked he has to screw his socks on, He musta roosted on the grind rock last night, I’m brokern a she haint, and a good one to close on “Sober as a judge.” If you would like to have a copy of this delightful book, send $11.50 which includes postage and handling to Ruth Baker, 2100 Hwy. 102, Townley, AL 35587. Her hard copy edition sold out. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)