Story telling is an important aspect of Appalachian culture. The stories we have heard throughout our lives reflect our values and help shape our identities.
The people in this area are natural story tellers. Or course, some are better than others, but we seem to have a certain knack for it. Maybe it is the distinct Appalachian twang in our accent? Or perhaps, it is the descriptive sayings and phrases we sprinkle throughout our conversations? Whatever the reason, Appalachians can tell one heck of a story. At this time of year, the area’s best story tellers can be found on front porch swings or creaky wooden rockers, surrounded by a captive audience of family and close friends.
When I was growing up, Sundays were for visiting. The first stop was my grandmother’s house for a Sunday dinner. After spending a couple of hours there, we would visit my other set of grandparents. If you didn’t show up on Sunday, you had better have one darn good excuse. Trust me, no one can inflict a sense of guilt quite like an Appalachian grandmother. It was on these Sundays that I learned the art of Appalachian story telling.
What did we do on those Sundays? We talked….a lot. We talked about anything and everything. There was talk of days gone by; of the way things used to be. We talked about events in our daily lives. We gossiped. We discussed current community events and past events. In other words, we told stories. It was from these stories that I learned my family’s history, my state’s history, and my town’s history.
The stories I heard from those front porch swings and crowded kitchen tables united us as a family. Sunday stories were different than any other story and far more important. After all, these were “our” stories.
If you find yourself driving along a winding Appalachian road on a comfortable evening, you will find the art of Appalachian story telling is alive and well. As you are driving, notice the porches. You will find story tellers young and old telling the stories that will create their families’ legacy.
As I grow older, I realize how important the stories of my youth have been in my life. These stories create a thread that is deeply woven into my personal moral fiber. These stories are an important part of “who I am” and what I value and believe in. When I was young, I often complained about these Sunday gatherings and went grudgingly out of obligation. These days, I would give anything to spend a Sunday in the company of my family, listening to the stories that encompass who I am.
(Courtney Pigman is news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2279.)