Mary Celestia Parler;
April 11, 1955
Reel 209, Item 1
MCP: ...Tell me about when you were a little boy....
GC: ...My daddy told me when I was a small boy that if
I'd stay at home— him and my mother went to Broomfield,
she'd get me some marbles, you know. Well,
he did so. Well, I was a great marble player, and
the boys would come in there. Of course, it was
thinly settled, a mile was about the closest anyone
was to us. And on Sundays that was our game.
We'd play marbles. Well, the girls wore hoops at
that time, great big old things. And, of course,
we was playing marbles, a game up there, and I
shot at a fellow with my marble, and it rolled under
this girl's hoops dress. Well, I was shamefaced,
you see, kid-like. So-and-so he said,
"Shoot, shoot." And I says, "I can't." And he
s a y s,--"What's a matter?" And I says, "I can't get
my marble." And this girl— they was jumping rope—
all right there together, playing. And she happened
to look around and discovered my predicament,
and she moved on, and I got my marble.
MCP: Did you ever see grown men shoot marbles?
GC: Yes, mom, and play base and play cat....
MCP: What was cat?
GC: Well, that waw I'd get here and you'd get behind me.
And there was one down there and a fellow behind
him. Well, we'd be partners with the bat, you see,
and they'd throw this ball to my partner down there.
Well, if he struck it and knocked it and they
caught it, we was both out. They went to bat and we
had to throw the ball, you see.
MCP: An early kind of baseball, wasn't it?
Reel 209, Item 1, con't 1
GC:Yes, mom, baseball wasn't thought of then....Then
we called what was called a base. I don't know
whether you ever heard of that. They choose up.
There was five or six on each base, one up here
and one down there. We played base, grown men
played that with us, yes, they played that.
MCP: Did you ever go to any play parties?
GC: Yes, mom, quiltings....
MCP: And after they got through quilting you played
GC: Yes, mom, they played "Polly Lost The Thimble"....
Let's see, was that it? Well, anyhow, they *
played with what was called a thimble. Well, the
boys would set around down here and they'd have
a thimble. And they was one in the center, and
she'd go around and we had our hands down this-away.
She'd rub her hands between ours and go to
the next one, and she'd go clear around. And then
they'd say, "Polly, who's got the thimble?" Well,
the thimble, he got up, he or she— it was generally
a woman, a girl'd have a boy. Well, there, she'd
start after— he'd start after to kiss her. He'd
run her, and she'd run around that circle now—
we was all standing in a circle— and if she could
go clear on around without him a-catching her to
her own place, he didn't get to kiss her....
MCP: You had other kinds of kissing games, too, didn't
GC: Yes, mom. Then there was "Drop The Handkerchief."
Yes, all kinds of games. And then the dancing got
MCP: Did you go to the dancing?
GC: First dance I ever danced, I recollect a girl, she
was a neighbor. I used to delight in dancing....
Margaret Harper. Yes, square dancing. She's dead,
died before she ever married.
Reel 209, Item 1, con't. 2
MCP: Who'd play for your square dances?
GC: Well, we'd all chip in, but the fiddler sometimes
wouldn't cost us anything, you know. There was
plenty of just old hoe-down fiddlers, you know...
tunes, to make a little fuss. Well, we'd go to
MCP: If you couldn't get a fiddler, you could just
GC: Yes, they didn't sing much, that they didn't do.
But the funniest thing in school was back when
they'd form a big row, maybe it'd be ten or fif-teen.
They called it "Popping The Whip." Well,
they'd make a circle around this way and then come
back in thataway...the front ones, it didn't hurt
them, they was the ones that was doing that. But
the one on the end— the first thing you know he'd
MCP: That sounds like a rough game.
GC: Yes, it was, the teachers stopped that...it was
too rough. They was afraid they'd break their
arm or something. They'd get a green one on
there. They couldn't get one, once they'd
played it once, you see. But they'd get a new
one, come into school or something, and get him
MCP: After you were bigger, did you ever take anybody
GC: No, mom, no, I never did....I know of two that's
taken it, personal friends. George Magnus, from
this place, taken it down at Newport, old Jackson-port.
He was a bookkeeper down there. The boys
got him up one night t o hold a sack....George—
they left him out there, you know, no, they commenced
a-shooting— they told him it was against
the law to shoot snipes on that man's place. So
Reel 209, Item 1, con't. 3
the rest of them said they'd go out and hold the
sacks different places. But anyhow, then directly,
they come a-shooting right here close to George,
and he couldn't stand it. So he lit out back to
town, and he run on that bluff bank, that creek
bank, Jack's Creek....He liked to killed himself.
The next morning he was going to kill the boys.
Yes, oh, he got awful mad about it....I never was
into none of them kinds of scrapes.
MCP: I bet you liked to read when you were a child.
Was there much to read around?
GC: Yes, we'd get these story papers, taken a paper
that continued stories. My cousin and I, we read,
he'd read to me, he was the best reader. Two years
older, and he had a good education. He graduated
before I did. Well, we didn't call graduation,
it was a diploma, we got a diploma.
MCP: Would you have a big to-do at the school house?
GC: Oh, law, we'd have a big time....Now, I can tell
you how they'd go in, they'd class you all. You
and I and Dutton and him, we'd all be in the same
class, we'd say, take arithmetic. They'd examine,
anyhow, the whole outfit, and they'd put us in a
class. Well, every month now, they'd examine us.
And if I fell back and didn't come up with my end
of the rope, you may say, why, I still stayed back.
But if you got ahead, learned faster, why, they'd
push you on, see. That'd get you farther ahead.
That'd encourage us fellows...so that we'd get a
promotion, you might say. And, of course, every
month you got it, and them that was old deadheads
like some of them, why, they'd still stay down
there in the same class, you see. But they'd have
higher classes— one, two, and three. The third
class was the highest in all these studies. And
when one got to that third class, he was all
right....I just went sixteen months, all. I went
for six months and then come back and made the
crop, went and stayed ten months at school. That's
all the high school, but I made good use of it.
Reel 209, Item 1, con't. 4
MCP: I bet you did, if you taught twenty-five or twenty-six
GC: Had these old great lamps, just say bowls, something
like that and a spout laying out here. Well, they'd
twist them a long wick and they'd put it in that
grease there and let that grease extend out and light
it, and it'd give pretty good light. Not as good as
a candle though. And that's the kind of the first
lights that we first had now. it was the old grease
light. And the next one that come along was the candle...
next, a little brass lamp with a linger hold
around the edge; you could carry it around, you
MCP: I'd like to see some of those old grease lamps.
Do you know anybody who has one?
GC: No'm, I don't know of anyone that's got one. Just
a little round bowl with a little pitcher of a spout,
you see. Lay that wick in there, make the wick
sometimes a foot long, and just coil it around in
there. And when it burned awhile, they had clippers,
scissors, and they just clipped the cinders
off the end and that'd make it burn better....
MCP: What did people do in the winter time around the
fire to amuse themselves?
GC: Well...they'd set there and sometimes they'd
have some peanuts and they'd eat some of them.
And they never set up very long...be up before day,
before four o'clock, you know.
MCP: Did you have a church near you?
GC: Yes, mom, no. Anderson's School, used it for a
church house...it was a Methodist. Circuit rider
used to come to my uncle's. That was his headquarters.
He'd come in there— he'd make that onct a
month, he'd come in there. Then there was some
local preachers in there, a fellow Chasteen, he was
a Methodist, no, he was a Baptist...'course, Tribble
was our own Methodist, I can recollect of it. He
Reel 209, Item 1, con't. 5
preached there maybe a couple of three years....
Now that was that onct a month they'd have that
church....There was Chasteen, and old man Horton—
old man Horton was a Methodist, but Chasteen
was a Baptist— they was kind of what you'd call
the exalters. Chasteen was a regular preacher,
but old Uncle Horton, Billy, he'd get up and
talk, you know. They'd call them exalters.
They wouldn't take no sermon, no text, you know.
MCP: And exalt people to come up to the mourners'
GC: Mourners' bench, they'd come to the mourners'
bench. Maybe there'd be three or four or five
down at one time, you know. And they'd shout...
and the first thing you'd know they'd have one
turning loose over there. And one'd shout and
then another. And then the camp meeting, we had
one camp meeting, I can just recollect one camp
meeting. That was at my uncle's. Yes, that was
all the denominations come in there.
MCP: How long did it last, a week?
GC: Week, yes.
MCP: And people'd go and carry enough food for a week?
GC: Yes, and some of them cooked....I was about fifteen
then, sixteen....Preachers from all denominations
come and one of them would preach today, you
know, and another'n, and they would go off in kind
of bunches. 'Course us boys didn't know nothing
about what they was after. It was church members,
grown people. And the women would go off in one
and have a time, and then the men. They'd both maybe
go out at the same time and they'd go off and after
while come back and go to preaching. It was of
a morning they'd generally do that. Some of them
said they went off to prayer and pray to get ready
for church, or organize. I don't know about that.
Reel 209, Item 1, con't. 6
MCP: Now what would the young people your age be doing
while they were doing that?
GC: We was just there setting around, we was in the
woods....We wasn't doing nothing, just like young
fellows, only maybe some of us sparking, you know.
They wouldn't be under no control until the preachers
come back. When they commenced, then everything
MCP: Was it just the brush arbor they had services
GC: They had a lot of brush arbors, but this camp
meeting didn't have it. We used the school house...
MCP: Did you sleep in wagons or on the ground?
GC: Under the wagons and around about. Some of us slept
in the house...Yeah, the families would go there
and take their bedding and such as that. And some
of them cooked on the ground. 'Course we'd just stay
there part of the time. Us boys went home and went
to work. But the oldest class was there all the
time. On Saturdays and Sundays when they wound up,
why, we was all there.
MCP: Do you remember how people used to tell time before
they had clocks?
GC: ....My uncle got a clock.
MCP: Where'd he get it...do you know?
GC: No, but I recollect the first sewing machine they
got. It was a Howell.
MCP: ...What were some of the signs you went by to tell
what the weather was going to be?
GC: Well, they'd go by Easter, they'd call that Easter
flood. And whip-poor-will, that was a storm. You
could plant your corn then, and there was no danger
of frost or anything like that. After a whip-poor-
will's storm, when you first hear the whip-
Reel 209, Item 1, con't. 7
poor-wills a-hollering, you don't hear none, or I
don't, now. They'd holler of a night, and you'd
hear one of them hollering. And they say then
the men didn't have to get in no more of the wood,
the women got in all the wood... And I played off
on my first wife up here at Cord. One evening I
was carrying a little wood in, stove wood, and I
heard the whip-poor-will a-hollering. I just
dropped the wood right there...She says, "Where's
your wood?" I says, "Out there." Then I told her
why I did it, you know. I told her when the whip-poor-
will hollered, why, then, the women got in
MCP: Do you know any more signs like that?
GC: I know the seven stars. That was the sign of a
night, you know. You could tell what time it was.
Then the evening and morning stars, you know. And
the White Way, Milky Way. And Job's Coffin. And
the Dipper. 'Course that's kept up, I guess, yet,
I don't know....
MCP: Well, did you have any signs about fishing and
GC: Yes...when the dogwood blooms, then you could go
fishing. Catfishing, they claim the catfish bite
when the dogwoods bloom....When I was about five
years old, or six, George was a little older than
I, and there was a lady, Bett Allen, she had two
brothers, Benton and Breck. Well, they kept house.
She was delighted in children. When sermon time
come— she was a great, big, two-hundred pounder,
about 16, 17, 18— 20, probably, I don't know. She
got the people around there to let us boys and girls
to go in swimming. They had two swimming holes,
one was Tom McDowell's and the other was Smith's
swimming hole. So she learned me to swim. By
holding her hands under me, you know...Us boys and
girls all went in that creek there together. It
was Lick Creek, it was about as wide as from here
to across the street there. Fine place. She
learned me to swim.
Reel 209, Item 1, con't. 8
MCP: Did you wear your clothes in swimming?
GC: No, mom, just like we come into the world....
Nobody knew what she done. 'Course she just taken
us down there and stripped us and we went in and we
had a time. But the second time, why, a fellow by
the name of Harper--we was all in there swimming,
that was on a Sunday. She'd been a-going through
the week, but we went on Sunday. I didn't go but
about three or four times, two or three. That was
in my mother's lifetime. So he was out a-hunting,
he wasn't a mean man, but he was a devilish sort
of fellow. And he come up and got our clothes.
Yeah, he said he was going to keep them. And he
give all the kids--said, Now you kids can have
your clothes. But said, Bett ain't a-going to get
hers. 'Course she ducked down in the water, sat
down, the water was along about here to her, before
it was waist deep. That was the first time I ever
heard a woman cuss. Yeah, she cussed him. He set
there and laughed a while, and so he got up and
pulled out. And that broke up our...
MCP: And did he take her clothes?
GC: No, mom, no, mom, he didn't, he was just teasing
her. Well acquainted with her, you know. Breck
and Lacey live right there close to him, you
know...I guess he done it a purpose to have some
fun. And that broke up our swimming....
Mrs. Crosser: Tell them about the snakes.
GC: There was a lot of snakes there. We lived in the
forks about a mile from Lick Creek. My father's
farm run down to Lick Creek. And then a wise on the
north about a mile and a half. We was sort of in
the forks. But the hazel thickets, the hazel nuts,
was thick. And we get out there Sunday, girls and
boys, and get hazel nuts. Play Hull Gull, and
such as that. They would, the big ones. All us
little ones, little fellows, would, too, occasionally.
Well, my brother John, he was eight years, eleven
years, older than me. My father had married twice,
Reel 209, Item 1, con't 9
and we was just half-brothers. And, of course, he
didn't want to be bothered with me, a little old
tad, you know, following around after him, and the
big fellows would come up. Well, one Sunday...
they was going to the creek, and they tried to get
shut of me, you know, still tackled around, you
know, and stay around with them. But finally they
got off someway. And after I found out they was
gone, well, there was a road around my father's
farm to the creek. Then there was a narrow way to
go across a little field and a path went down to
the swimming hole. So we always went thataway
afoot. It was about a half mile down there, I
guess. And I got over the fence, it was just a
path in the hazel thicket....Anyhow, I was a-going
truckling on down that path, you know, I'd been
there a thousand times almost. I was truckling
on down that path and run right up and a big old
rattlesnake was laying across the path, had
crawled in there after they had left, you see. I
was a-run down there, I seed him, I jumped back.
And he commenced singing, and I commenced hollering.
Well, I started back, and I run up pert near to the
fence there before I got up there...and this'n had
called the other and he got in behind me, you see.
And there I was between them two snakes, a-hollering.
But John he heard me. He was down the creek.
They was a-making a lot of noise, but he heard me,
and here he come. And he like to run over that
first snake...I was just a-dashing from one to the
other, you know. I looked and here come another
one, right in the center, right towards me. There
I was now. Why, them snakes would of bit me, I
didn't have no better sense than to. I just thought
the woods was full of them. And now that was my
snake story, and John he killed all three of them.
MCP: Shot them?
GC: No, mom, with his club, stick....
MCP: I bet you're still scared of snakes.
GC: Ever time that they would talk about going anywhere
Reel 209, Item 1, con't. 10
they didn't want me to go, they'd name snakes to
me....Now that there looks like one anyone wouldn't
hardly believe, now that's an honest fact if I ever
told it. Oh, there was a lot of snakes, it was
MCP: Did you ever hear of many people getting snake-bit?
GC: Yes, my father got snake-bit...he was a-cutting
wheat, right in the calf of the leg. They used to
take whiskey to the field for them. When they cut
wheat, they cut with an old cradle. The rattlesnake
bit him in the calf of the leg there. I
seen the scar. Ever summer it'd break out about
that time, and then it'd heal up again....
MCP: You say they took whiskey...
GC: ...in the field. They gave him whiskey. He
drank about a quart. Now, I don't know, they told
me, you know, before it had any effect on him.
See, they had no doctor, didn't know what else to
do, and that's all they used. They tied his
galluses, he had a gallus and they tied it around
his leg and then he drank this whiskey. But he was
drunk for two or three days, they said....But it
killed the poison....
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