Stories, Old Ragged Verse, Letters to and from mountain cousins by Storyteller and Appalachian Humorist Stephen Hollen. Enjoy the humor and bittersweet memories of Eastern Kentucky and a place where the mist crawls down the mountainside ''like molasses on a cold plate''
didn't want to brag, but here is my 16 pointer. Rare Jackalope actually
as it grew a rack where this sub-breed usually grows their wings.
I was a'walkin' a fence row down home in my hometown of Beloved,
Kentucky several years back durin' huntin' season, tryin' to flush some
grouse out of the fence row when a whole covey of them winged Jackalopes
got kicked up an' flew. The noise of a covey of Jackalopes is somethin' that will scare Yankee folks or the unassumin' mountain man.
I however was ready an' waitin'. This one took to the air but wasn't
flyin' as good as the rest as it was still in velvet. It was a big ol'
bull Jackalope I could tell even though the mist was a'hangin' on the
fence row right thick.
Now, to make it fair all I use is an ol'
20 gauge Stevens single shot shotgun Daddy gave me years ago. I load my
own shells an' only put one single lead birdshot pellet an' 70 grains
of powder in the whole shell. If a feller ain't a good enough shot to
hit a critter with one little ol' single bb size birdshot, well he ain't
worth his salt an' shouldn't be a huntin' Appalachian Jackalopes.
If they get spooked an' start to stampede... well, I ain't gonna
mention the lost town of Ox Hide, Kentucky (just over the hill from Bull
Skin. It was settled after Bull Skin an' since the name was taken an'
the folks was set on Bull Skin they went with the next best thing, Ox
Hide). A youngin' playin' with firecrackers too close to a hillside
plumb full of Jackalope holes started a stampede an' them things came
out of them holes like hornets. They ran ever'where, knockin' down
houses, barns, trees, eatin' crops, crows, buzzards an' then they
morphed like grasshoppers morph into locusts.
Before the town
of Ox Hide knew it them Jackalopes had done et the whole town, even the
town librarian an' all six books! Nothin' was left. They even et the
town off ever' map in the state.
Anyways, I threw that ol'
Stevens up to my shoulder, took aim an' hit this one right betwixt the
eyes. If you look close you can see the pinhole where that single pellet
It weren't till I had it mounted an' the velvet came
off what I though was the wings did I realize they weren't wings a'tall.
THEY WAS ANOTHER SET OF ANTLERS!
Folks went crazy wantin' to
see it. I charged a dime a peek an made might near $137.59 before one of
them pepper-rosie fellers snuck in, took a picture an' sold the picture
to the National Geogramic Magazine.
So, I lost the chance to
be rich or even to be on the Mike Douglas Show back then. But I still
have the only 16 point Jackalope in the world.
One of the first things a young boy learns, usually the hard way is
1) "Young man, you are not company! Do NOT wipe your hands on Company
Towels!! and 2) Company Towels are NEVER to be used for ANY reason.
In the photos (not ours, from the web) you can see a lovely arrangement
of Company Towels. As stated above, these towels are never to be used
under any circumstances. When you wash your hands you either look around
till you find a regular towel or dry your hands on your pants. (A boy
child eventually learns to wipe them down on the cuffs of his pants so
as not to experience ridicule about pants wet in the wrong place.)
One might consider rubbing hands through your hair first so as to have
that "wet and wild look" women love. It is not your looks that attracts
women but the fact that you DID NOT use the Company Towels and chose to
spare the towel by rubbing your wet hands through your hair.
don't know who invented the rule or first wove Company Towels. I read in
National Geographic that they found Company Towels in King Tut's tomb,
still unused since 1323 BC. According to a papyrus found inside
King Tut's wrappings, some slave or priest or mummy wrapper said, "We're
almost out of wrapping bandages but there are some Company Towels over
there." He was then sealed in the inner room where they found him along
with millions of scarabs for suggesting using Company Towels. (in
Hieroglyphs Company Towels is spelled "basket, noose, owl, steel,
vulture, ripple of water, two reeds, loaf, lasso, quail chick, reed,
lion, folded cloth") The folded cloth is actually a representation of a
Company Towel made of the finest Egyptian Cotton.
When Mama moved
from her condo into a nursing home we found not only the Company Towels
that hung in her full and half bath, but EVERY Company Towel she had
ever proudly displayed in the homes we lived in years before. Each was
still carefully folded and wrapped, first in acid free tissue paper and
then in fine linen cloth. They were then carefully stacked in a cedar
box with an index as to which house and bathroom they went in along with
photos of each set as displayed, the original receipts and notes on how
each was folded and arranged. However, there was also a warning that
they could never be used again and were not part of the estate in the
event of her passing.
There were also instructions that they were
to be left in the tissue and fine linen cloth in the cedar box
box permanently sealed in plastic similar to the plastic slip covers
(see photo attached for reference) that protected her living room
furniture when Brother Mike and I were children.
The box and
contents were then taken and buried in an undisclosed spot, much like
the fabled Elephant Graveyard. Generations of Company Towels from our
family (maternal side, of course) are buried there. Each family has a
secret Company Towel Graveyard. The location is passed from one woman to
another when they get their first Company Towels.
I was not only
sworn to secrecy about the location, but was also hypnotized so as not
to even remember where the Company Towel Graveyard was. My cell phone
was magnetically wiped clean and my GPS destroyed, ground to dust.
The every day towels that we used daily were much like (and I suspect
manufactured by) the Scotts single ply toilet paper one finds in public
restrooms and cheap motels. (towel photo attached). You will note that
strings do hand down, as they should. The appropriate way to display an
every day towel is stretched out wide with strings hanging down for all
to see as if a badge of honor or like a "yellow ribbon tied 'round an
old oak tree".
Here is a neat fact about that song: Irwin Levine
and L. Russell Brown wrote the song as they remembered the off white,
yellowed, stringy every day towels from their childhood. The song
originally suggested one such towel be hung from a branch of the old oak
tree. However their respective mothers got wind of the song and
insisted it be changed so as not to show disrespect to the Company
Towels of their youth. Tony Orlando was pressured by his Dawn singers to
not sing the original lyrics.
One of our favorite games as a
child was to see how much of a children's book we could read through one
of the every day towels. You might try it at home with your kids or
grandkids! It is a fun way to pass the time on a rainy day or even one
of those cold, snowy stay at home days of winter. First pick out
their favorite book. It can be something like Dr Seuss' "Hop On Pop" or
my favorite, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain. Lay an every
day towel over the pages of the book, make sure the lights are turned on
overhead and there are no wrinkles in the towel (it is still possible
to read through the wrinkles, but it can strain a child's eyes a bit.)
As the child reads congratulate them and remind them the game should
NEVER be played with Company Towels and that those towels are NEVER to
be touched by any hands other than that of the appropriate woman type
How do you dry yourself with an every day towel you
ask? It is not easy as they are produced from petroleum by-products and
are made to be non-absorbent.
When finishing your shower or bath
it is advisable to have a window squeegee on hand to squeegee excess
water from your body. The reason Daddy always gave us burr haircuts when
we were kids was to keep from having to dry our hair. That is also why
hand held hair dryers were invented. Better to use electricity and ruin
the environment than even consider using Company Towels to dry your
locks! You then attempts to dry off with the every day towel and
when that fails it is suggested that if you live in the country and some
distance from neighbors you run nekkid along the road, allowing the
wind to dry your hair and skin.
Do note that you may have to
wash the dust from your feet with a hose before entering your home. You
then lay on the grass with feet and legs in the air to allow the sun to
dry the water from them. If that is not possible and you have
wall to wall carpeting, you are in luck! Simply lay on the floor and
roll from side to side till the carpet absorbs the excess water.
final note about Company Towels: A Communist Plot arose years ago
suggesting that Company Towels could be transformed, demoted, misused by
designating them every day towels when the woman of the house changed
decor or bathroom color. This could be no further from the truth and a
terrible falsehood perpetrated to speed up the downfall of western
As noted above, the appropriate method of changing
colors, styles or even sizes of Company Towels is to carefully fold
them, wrap them first in acid free tissue paper and then fine linen
cloth. They are then placed in a cedar box (hand crafted in the hills of
deepest Appalachia by one family who was given the task and secret of
the building such boxes 42 generations ago.) and never to be used again.
Even if the woman of the house goes back to the previous color
or decor these retired Company Towels are not to be unwrapped in
disgrace. A whole new set of Company Towels would be purchased,
hopefully at great cost and with no regard to budget or future
retirement plans of her spouse.
I love the quiet times on a gloomy ol' rainy day
Time to sit a while in my favorite thinkin' chair
Little dogs asleep and snorin' comfortable
Pushin' my feet to the edge of my ottoman
Takin' advantage of my better nature.
No one home but me just now, for a while
The sound of the fireplace is just behind me
Whisperin' comfortin' sounds as it burns bright
Now an' again a little dog snores an' snorts
I smile when they wake themselves, look round
Then lay their heads back down, assured all is well.
Just yonder out the window the clouds rush
Pushed an' bullied by the Spring wind
Sometimes I just sit an' watch as they race
Movin' just now from right to left across
Like they were some type of Hebrew
Or other ancient language seen but not understood.
Yet sometimes I just sit, listenin' to the sound
Of 'all is well" in this little piece of the world just now.
Just now I'll just sit, close my eyes now an' again
An' just listen, thinkin' an' studyin' on how things was
How things are an' maybe study for a piece on how they should be.
Spring has lost her way Somewhere she wanders Coming here and back again Making promises unkept Warm days and balmy nights Trees budding and blooming Daffodils pushing through Dandelions springing up Almost overnight they bloom Only to be bitten and twisted As spring hides, turns her back And Winter romps over the scene.