Do You ever Pop a Squat?

squatting down to talk in Appalachia

All my life I’ve noticed men squatting to talk or even just to ponder on things, but I never gave the phenomenon much thought until B.Ruth left this comment a few years back:

Tipper,
I am so sorry but I can’t stand it! First, I love the picture! I also am very excited to find out where and what the strange ground is about??? Now then, about that picture! Not the feet, but the person in the background. I have seen my Father and other mountain men “squat” like that to talk, when there was no chair exactly available. It never seemed to bother him or his knees at all! Sometimes he would, if outside on ground, pick up a little stick and scratch the ground or pick at a piece of grass, sticking the end in is mouth! Mom said, she thought he must be part Indian, as he was just as comfortable squatting as he was sitting in a chair…You won’t see many men doing that anymore. They usually just prop up on a railing, tree or whatever or maybe go ahead and sit, legs stretched on the porch or ground!
Ever notice??

Since she left the comment I’ve been pondering on the squatting  of men in Appalachia. Maybe men do this in other places to and I just don’t know about it.

I can close my eyes and see men squatted talking around the edge of the church yard. I can see The Deer Hunter and his buddies at the edge of the woods, two or three men standing and one or two squatted while they talk and laugh and go on with one another. As you can see from the photo The Deer Hunter squats on a regular basis. The girls have noticed the phenomenon too…only they call it popping a squat.

As they hurry out the door late for the concert at the folk school I say “You’re late there’ll be no where to sit.” They say “Oh don’t worry we’ll pop a squat.”

Some folks don’t call it squatting, but they notice it too. Listen to this short video from Tim Ryan.

So whether you call it squatting, popping a squat, or hunkering down – its a real thing in Appalachia. I hope it never goes away for seeing men squatted down talking or pondering life will forever make me think of Pap.

Tipper

p.s. If you’d like to hear more of Tim Ryan’s story. I’ll share it with you soon as I can.

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Mary
    February 12, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    Tipper, this is something the menfolk in my family used to do. Most of them are gone now and the younger ones don’t do it. Glad I ran across this one. Brought back so many good memories.

  • Reply
    Sandra
    February 4, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    I think it’s more a rural thing than an Appalachian thing. Country men I’ve known have always hunkered down to talk.

  • Reply
    Papaw
    February 1, 2018 at 10:31 pm

    My immediate family and most of the community were squatters not only among the men but also the ladies. I remember my mother working in garden and field in her dress and apron. When she felt the call of nature she didn’t excuse herself to go to the bathroom, she spread her dress tail and squatted right there. Even walking home from church it happened and nobody thought nothing of it. And not only in my family. It was the norm. Such a thing would seem perverted in modern society but at the time was just part of the day. Nobody thought a thing about it. The men and boys had to “hit the woods” as it was called as they had no skirts to hide their private moments. If that happened nowdays a Hazmat Team might come and drag you away. Guverments now would insist you to have a Porta-Jon near your garden.
    “How gross!” I can hear it now. From people who get their water from a river which has just passed a municipality upstream who “treat” their water and dump it back into the river. They then “use” and dump it back in the river for the people down below. “How Gross!”
    So yeah. I used to be a squatter but only to sit, spit, whittle and tell lies but the distaff side of my family were squatters for other reasons too!

    PS: After we got a toilet in the house Mommy acquiesced to the encroachment of “civilization”, donned pants and quit her evil ways. I remember her telling me that someone asked Grampaw why he didn’t put a in a bathroom. “Are you crazy! I ain’t lettin nobody $#!+ in my house!” I guess he forgot Grammaw’s enamelware chamber pot that sat waybackupinunder their bed.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 1, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    Tipper,
    Hunkered down to me is getting in one place and staying there for a spell…either curled up on the couch or in a chair with my cozy blankie…Back in the olden days…living in the secret city…we had air raid drills…We were told on occasion to go to the hall in single file, hunker down as close to the wall as we could get, pull our knees up to our chest, lower our head to our knees and put our arms over the back of our heads in a clasped position…Now of course we know that during a direct attack…a hunkering down wouldn’t have helped except for the instant peace of mind that you were doing the position the way we were told…LOL
    Never heard “pop a squat” that I can remember…nor was the term hunker down the same to us as squatting…
    Guess it is a regional thing…
    Like you every time I see someone squatting, I think of my Dad and how in the world he could stay in that position for such a long time…
    Thanks Tipper for the memory…
    PS…Nope don’t see many men squat anymore. For there always seems to be such a rush to get things done and over with and on to the next thing. There is not much casual conversation and relaxing like the olden days…such a shame…and I think we need to just breathe, squat and draw some lines in the dirt while chewing on that sage grass stem. Don’t you think so?

  • Reply
    Jill M
    February 1, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    I remember my dad and uncles doing this at my Mamaw’s after Sunday dinner years ago. They’d go out, get their chaw and squat to visit. I see my cousin and nephews do it occasionally now but not like I used to.

  • Reply
    Joanne Nelson
    February 1, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Tipper,

    Here in southeast Texas I to have been noticing this male interaction for a few years now where the men squat to talk or they will all gang around a pickup truck bed and prop on it if one is available. They laugh, poke fun at one another, spit, scratch, doff their caps or hats up and down on their head or use a booted toe to scratch in the dirt, chew on a blade of grass or a toothpick. I tease my hubby about their male interactive customs. He does not do the spitting part since he has never dipped tobacco, but many of his male friends do spit whether they have a dip in their mouth or not. One of our grown sons squats outside or on the porch whether a chair is available or not. I’ve often observed him squatting by a tree with his back to the tree. As he talks and interacts with the others present, he sorta leans back into the tree in a seemingly comfortable position. My grown sons use the term pop a squat when talking to their friends about sitting down and talking for a spell. I heard our youngest son tell his little boy to pop a squat when he put him in time out one day.

    I guess I always thought this was a rural country custom or maybe even a redneck or Texas custom. It never occurred to me it could be an old Appalachian mountain custom. However, through my genealogical research on both of our families and families in these parts where we live, it seems most if not all of our families started out in this country in the Appalachian mountains or in the foothills and lowlands around those mountains. Those mountains have always, always held a special place in my heart.

  • Reply
    Yecedrah higman
    February 1, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    My father-in-law at 80 years old could hunker down and stay that way for an hour or so. Then he would just pop right up to a standing position and walk away!!! I marveled at his ability to do that when at 35 years old I couldn’t squat and jump back up if I was about to catch fire. He was from the Missouri Ozarks.

  • Reply
    Stephen T.
    February 1, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    Never heard the term “pop a squat” but it sure is descriptive. One summer when a student at Berea College, I lived with my best friend from college and his family. To pay for my keep, my friend’s father expected a helping hand for projects around the house including cooking, cleaning, yard work and anything else he thought needed tending. Once Friday evening, “Uncle” Harvey declared, “Boys, tomorrow we’re going to build a two-car garage.” Just like that, the next morning at the crack of dawn, with maddocks and shovels in hand, we were digging a foundation trench for a 24′ square outbuilding. No stranger to construction, Uncle Harvey offered guidance since he had built a school and small clinic in Brazil and Haiti when he was a missionary.

    The following Saturday, after scraping away the soil, spreading and compacting gravel throughout the week, the concrete truck came to deliver concrete for the footer and floor. Our retired next door neighbor was only too delighted to see this activity. Standing about 5′ 6″ tall and weighing nearly 110 pounds, he had been a concrete finisher for the past 35 years. His chosen pose to deliver his unsolicited supervision of the day-long concrete pouring and finishing job was to “pop a squat”. He bounced the whole time too and stood only to go relieve himself, get a drink or get a closer look to remark how we could do our work better if we followed his advice. Otherwise, he looked perfectly comfortable in that position. It amazed me, especially since I knew concrete finishing takes its toll on a body.

  • Reply
    Ken
    February 1, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    Tipper,
    My second cousin, Ted Lee had 4 youngin’s, and he took me and Harold fishing above the Nantahala Lake in the river. Gary, the youngest, and close to my age was with us. Ted showed us the make do camp at Tate Cove where he used to Deer Hunt. He could drink coffee right from the pot that he just poured into an aluminum cup. I had never seen that before, and he showed us that you could hold on to the bottom of the pot as long as it was boiling. But the most amazing thing he’d do was squat down for over an hour and take off walking as if nothing was wrong. I couldn’t do that, even then.

    I heard him and his wife could really “Buck-dance.” …Ken

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    February 1, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Well I wish I could pop a squat, hunker down or squat but, with one knee bone on bone and the other going those days are long gone!

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 1, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Dear Tipper, like most of the others I haven’t seen or thought about that lately, but it was very common when I was growing up. I am more familiar with the term “hunker down” but I do hear “squat” used too. In my mind I can picture my dad and his brothers hunkering down.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    February 1, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Meant to note Ron Banks comment about menfolk drawing in the dirt and chewing on grass. The men I knew usually drew and chewed on a grass they called “chicken foot” so named for the way the seed prongs splayed out at the top of the seed stem. It was tough and made a good drawing stick with which they “solved” many a world problem as well as their own farming conundrums. It was also a serviceable toothpick!

  • Reply
    Tamela
    February 1, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Never heard “pop a squat” until this post but it brought up fond memories of farmers squatting together in the shade of a truck to visit when taking a break from irrigating or tractor work. Before mechanization most weeding and picking was done by hand like gardeners do and a lot of it was done while squatting – some could even “walk” the rows in the squat position for a short distance. i remember squatting to play marbles and jacks – a kid could hop up a mite bit quicker to chase a wayward jacks ball or marble from the squat position than from a kneeling position.
    As for “hunkering down” – that usually referred to a very closed up squat or a group squatting very close together so as to keep warm, talk privately, share secrets, or “hide” what they were doing. A group might “hunker down” in the squat position around a campfire or around a craps game. As a child I was strongly cautioned against getting too nosy around a bunch of men or boys who were “hunkered down” – just wasn’t a place for a little girl!!
    Back to “squatting” – near where my in-laws used to live there was an outdoor Bar-B-Q place with square hay bales, and empty cable spools scattered under the live oaks called the “Squat and Gobble” – Good food and a fun place.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 1, 2018 at 10:36 am

    I’ve never thought about that but I can sure recall seeing and doing it myself.
    It was common to see men doing it at Homecoming Day or as we called it, Decoration Day. You would see several groups scattered around squatted down.
    There is a photo of my dad doing that when he was probably in his early 30’s. His short sleeves were rolled up, his wavy hair was all slicked back with Vitalis I assume because that’s what he used for years along with Old Spice aftershave. His shoes shined like a new dime and that little devilish grin like he was up to something.
    I can only do it for a few minutes now because my knees start hurting and get stiff making it hard to spring back up. Oh, to be limber again!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 1, 2018 at 10:20 am

    We had a neighbor when I was a child who always seemed to be squatting. And he wasn’t young! I believe he could have done it for hours.

    I had to invest in a garden seat last year–couldn’t squat or kneel due to pain and bad balance. If I got down, I couldn’t get up. Stooping was killing me. I like the seat but wish it had wheels.

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    February 1, 2018 at 10:19 am

    It’s fairly hard to be sure about the origin of some things……My notion of squatting or hunkering down is just a guess on my part…..I’m 71 and remember when I was a boy and teenager Dad, male kinfolks and friends squatting down at picnics and such for a time…..Never saw the ladies do that…..The men always saw to it that the women had a more proper place to sit be it a chair, bench, log or rock…..There may be several reasons for squatting down, some working better for others and in combination…..For younger men, years ago, squatting down might have been a sign to others of a peaceful talk about to happen…..Standing could be seen as aggressive action, hard to be attacked when everyone is squatting down…..Then as we age and don’t have a chair around, squatting is a way to relieve back or leg pain and is more comfortable…..When we can’t do that for one reason or the other, we just sit on the ground if it’s dry or find something to lean against…..At any rate, it’s all good when we are trying to be sociable……Thank you, Tipper, for your posts, we enjoy them!…..We live in central Ohio now but plan to be moving to the North Georgia Mountains, perhaps in the Blue Ridge, Blairsville, Hiawassee area, in 2019…..Rick and Mary

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    February 1, 2018 at 9:55 am

    I only remember seeing it when I was a young girl. I saw Uncles in MS, AL and IL squat down and talk. They seemed comfortable and never skipped a beat talking. I had forgot all about it til I saw your picture.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    February 1, 2018 at 9:17 am

    I haven’t thought about squatting in ages and we only did it as children. The older men tho, along Little East Fork would squat and talk along the road and I never did see how that was restful.? They were all way down into it tho, with hips resting on back legs! I think it might be an Indian thing, learned from from orientals, ‘rest when you can.’
    . It would finish my knees off now and I wouldn’t need total knee replacement as I wouldn’t have any. Grandfather stood talking with his hands in his back pockets. Whatever is restful to each.
    Squating would look kind of funny in Manahtten I think! But a lot do anyway.
    I’ve heard ‘pop a squat’ on TV, and I think they were asking their guests to sit down??
    Thanks for the reminder tho, Tipper

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 1, 2018 at 9:02 am

    You did it again, got me trying to think if I do that. Once again the answer is, I’m not sure.

    It would make a print-worthy picture to have several guys with a couple squatting and a couple standing, somebody whittling, someone chewing a straw and maybe somebody doodling in the dirt with a stick. Throw in faded overalls, a ball cap or two and work boots and it would say “Homefolks!” (My Dad called baseball caps a ‘bill cap’)

    Something that goes along with squatting that I’ll bet none of us have seen in a great long while is hitching up the pant legs first. I can remember that being common in the fifties. Not sure why it faded out, or why it started for that matter.

    As to the girls popping a squat, that came in with women wearing pants. And a major reason that started was because of women working during WWII because the men were gone. My Mom rarely wore pants because it bothered my Dad whether he said anything or not.

  • Reply
    a.w. griff
    February 1, 2018 at 8:03 am

    We always called it hunker too in e.ky. I don’t see that much any more. Seems like there’s a chair,bench, or picnic table at most places I used to see hunkering, like country stores and churches. While overseas I saw old and young men and women hunker.

  • Reply
    Nance
    February 1, 2018 at 7:58 am

    We ‘hunker’ in rural Iowa. My Dad and uncles were good at hunkering and I still can at 67 and female, in the garden, etc. But, you are right, people just don’t do this as often as they used to.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    February 1, 2018 at 7:41 am

    I hunkered down a lot when I was younger. My Dad and my Uncle preferred it to a chair. I’ve done it a few times lately at Alex’s school when she has had a program in her classroom. My son, though, is the master.

    I’ve heard “pop a squat” somewhere a long time ago. It is one of those funny things about this blog. I’ll know what you mean, don’t remember ever saying it, but know it.

    James will get a kick out of the terminology.

  • Reply
    Sheryl PaulI
    February 1, 2018 at 7:09 am

    It is supposed to be the most comfortable way to be for long periods. The spine is aligned and stretched. Interesting tidbit I picked up somewhere

  • Reply
    TMc
    February 1, 2018 at 5:41 am

    That is interesting that it’s a common thing to do, I believe more folks did it back in the day than today, I cannot do it anymore or long at a time, because of my knees give me problems, most Lineman my age begin to have knee problems because of the climbing I did as a young man, those steel hooks do a number on your knees after so long.

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