A Crazy Love Story

Unusual love story from appalachia

With Valentines floating around I was reminded of the craziest love story I ever heard.

I stumbled on it in a John Parris book, “My Mountains My People.”

Parris tells of a man named Johnny Holsclaw, who happened to be a real charmer when it came to women. Parris compares him to Black Jack David—if you haven’t a clue who Black Jack David is go listen to this and then come back.

Seems Holsclaw was a loner when he wasn’t wooing the mountain belles, but there came a time when he decided he needed someone to settle down with, so he started visiting the families that were spread throughout the settlement.

Once Holsclaw stopped by the Baird home and laid eyes on their daughter Delilah he knew he’d found the girl for him. He captured Delilah and her families attention as he told them tales about Kentucky and all its splendor.

He stayed with the Bairds a couple more days and all the while he told them wondrous stories of the land called Kentucky and of his longing to return.

Once Holsclaw and Delilah were alone he convinced her to run off with him. He promised to take her to Kentucky and give her a good life that couldn’t be found no where else. I’ll let Parris finish the story for you.

Johnny Holsclaw liked to have walked Delilah to death. he took her up one mountain and down another, across streams and through rocky ravines. Delilah kept asking when they would get to Kentucky and Johnny kept saying it wouldn’t be too Long.

Maybe it was a week, maybe it was longer. Nobody knows and Delilah never did say. But eventually Johnny brought her to his bark shanty on the waters of the Elk.

“This is Kentucky,” he said.

Delilah kissed him and hugged him and said she reckoned she never would go back to North Carolina and the Valley of the Cross, for this sure was a beautiful place. Not for one minute did she dream that the home she left was only eight miles away as the crow flew.

She was to be kept in ignorance of this startling fact for many years. Meanwhile, she set out to make Johnny Holsclaw never regret bringing her to this far-off wonderful place. And Johnny took his ax and built them a cabin and made her chairs and tables and a bed.

She gave him children and cooked for him and told him of her love for him. Johnny would smile and then take off on a bear or deer hunt and be gone for days. But Delilah didn’t seem to mind. She watched over her brood and nursed her happiness.

Sometimes, when there were just she and the children sitting around the fire at night all alone, she would sing some of the old tunes and old ballads.

There was one in particular. The one called Black Jack David,. Perhaps it was because it reminded her in a way of Johnny and her. Folks in the mountains had been singing it for a long time. It had been fetched over from the old country and changed to fit the times.

The years passed, and then one day Delilah was out with her children in the woods. They had strayed far from home when she suddenly stopped and listened. She shushed the children and bent her ear toward a far-off hill. “Why, it’s a cow-bell,” she said. She listened some more and said it sounded just like a cow-bell her father used to have.

Curious she and the children searched out the cow. She went up to the cow and looked at the bell. “Why, it can’t be,” she said. But it was. It was her father’s cow-bell.

And then the cow turned and started off across the hill. Delilah followed along and came to the top where she could look down into the valley. And there she saw her old home. “Well, of all things. How could that be?” So she went on and came to her father’s house.

Everybody was glad to see her. Said they didn’t know what had happened to her where she had gone, except they’d figured she had run away with Johnny Holsclaw. Delilah stayed only a little while but promised to come back for a visit. When she got home, Johnny was there.

She didn’t fuss with him. She just hauled off and told him she had been home. Just across the mountain, there, she said.

Johnny sort of grinned.

Delilah smiled. “I want to thank you,” she said, “for taking me off and making me think I was in Kentucky. It don’t matter that this ain’t Kentucky. I couldn’t have been no happier.” And then she reached up and put her arms about his neck and kissed him. And they lived happily ever after.

Somehow, it seems a shame nobody has ever written a ballad about Johnny and Delilah. But even if Johnny didn’t get a ballad like Black Jack David he got a line of elegy from Delilah.

She thanked him for deceiving her.

Now ain’t that the craziest love story you’ve ever heard. Thanking Johnny for deceiving me would have been the last thing I wanted to do 🙂

Last night’s video: Loving Lemon Bread (Cake) in Appalachia.


*Source: My Mountains My People – A Frontier Gypsy written by John Parris

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  • Reply
    Susan Robinson
    February 18, 2022 at 6:47 am

    What a fun story!! Yes, I think it is the craziest love story I’ve ever heard.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 17, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    Valley of the cross in Latin is Valle Crucis. Valle Crucis is a community in Watauga County. Valle Crucis is the home of the original Mast General Store. Across Beech Mountain from Valle Crucis just a few miles is where the Elk River flows. That would be the “waters of the Elk” mentioned in the story. In my younger days I got to know the geography of that part of the country fairly well but it wasn’t until I got old that I learned of its rich history.
    I once could say it’s right up the road from here but that was when I could get out and travel. Now right up the road means in sight of the house. But, when I read a story like this post I instantly recognized the location. I’ve been there!

    I looked on Google Maps and measured the distance from Valle Crucis, NC to Middleboro, KY. It’s only 111 miles. Johnny Holsclaw could have easily taken Delilah there in a week.

  • Reply
    February 17, 2022 at 11:59 am

    Thanks Tipper that is a wonderful variation on the Blackjack David or Davie story. Davie and is brethren had their special magic with the women that rode away with them.
    In many versions the girl’s husband or father got on his fastest steed and found the lovers in the woods. In every variation of the song, and there are many, the women chose to stay with Davie and sleep on the ground rather than go back home. Delilah truly had a heart of love, and also chose to stay with her Johnnie.
    As someone else said, this might make a wonderful ballad to add to the tradition

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 17, 2022 at 11:04 am

    Terrible!! Reminds me of an aunt who married a very abusive man. She finally left him when he beat her badly, even knocking out her front teeth. The family dog attacked him and probably saved her life. Anyway, she stayed for maybe a month or two with her sister and then went back to him–she loved him!

    We had a neighboring family whose father left his wife pregnant and went to live with another woman. He stayed with this woman until she died 7 years later. His wife took him back immediately. She loved him. He was abusive un til he died.

    IMHO, there is something badly wrong with anyone who tolerates such if they have any way out of almost any kind.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    February 17, 2022 at 10:51 am

    Wow, never heard a love story like that. I don’t believe that would have been my reaction. But, love can make you do strange things. Thanks for sharing. Take care and God bless!

  • Reply
    Brad Byers
    February 17, 2022 at 10:02 am

    Ms Tipper, this is a wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  • Reply
    Rita F Speers
    February 17, 2022 at 10:00 am

    That would have been the end of that love affair for me! He might have woke up to find himself kilt dead! LOL!

  • Reply
    February 17, 2022 at 9:40 am

    That is indeed a crazy story! I will say, she must have had a true Godly heart to forgive and still love him. Notice he never said he was sorry for his lies over the years. It takes a strong woman to be content like that and still love.

  • Reply
    February 17, 2022 at 9:26 am

    That sneaky liar sounds like a KY feller I know. When Delilah reached up to put her arms around his neck, I expected a different end to the story. That was a crazy love story!

  • Reply
    February 17, 2022 at 9:20 am

    Somehow, I just do not think that love story was quite as pretty as painted by the author I sure wish we could see an actual interview with Delilah. Life is hard enough in the present day with family around, and having those children in the wilderness with no support system, and then she thanked him. It just makes Delilah seem a bit “tetched,”

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 17, 2022 at 9:11 am

    Well, the bible describes love as bearing all things. They must truly have been entirely self-sufficient to have never seen anybody who could have told her she was not in Kentucky. Johnny must have been afraid for any other man to see her.

    As for taking a long, round-about way, there is a country saying in eastern Kentucky half humorous and half serious. Ask a native how to get somewhere and they just might say, “You can’t get there from here.” They know it sounds funny and they don’t mind ribbing a stranger a bit. But the serious side is, they mean you need to go first to a good solid beginning place and then they can tell you how to go.

    It is quite true though that in the early days of America folks thought they were in one state only to eventually find out they were not. Settlement out ran the surveying of boundaries. One such place is the Kingsport, TN area.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    February 17, 2022 at 8:37 am

    You got me with this story! I tell this to people all the time. It doesn’t matter where you go because there you are…I think Delilah grew up a whole lot thinking her kin was far away. She had to rely on her wits, skill, blind love, and lots of faith to see her through til she reconnected with her kin by (of all things) a cow bell she knew the sound of. What if she would’ve said to herself “ I’m crazy. That can’t be. Mommy and Daddy are back in NC.” She knew what she knew and I’d like to encourage you all to do the same. Don’t fall for the bologna all around. Know thyself and be true to self and God…

  • Reply
    February 17, 2022 at 8:18 am

    Tipper – loved the story and lemon bread video! About the cookbook, Dining with Pioneers – is yours volume 1 or volume 2 ???

    • Reply
      February 17, 2022 at 7:14 pm

      Nan-it doesn’t say so I’m guessing it is the first volume 🙂

  • Reply
    Kathy Gautier
    February 17, 2022 at 8:15 am

    Oh my goodness! Thank you Tipper for sharing this story. I really enjoyed it. Yes, sometimes love is blind, but we thank God for it everyday. Hope you have a great day!

  • Reply
    donna sue
    February 17, 2022 at 8:00 am

    I loved that story! Delilah was truly happy, and completely satisfied, in her life and love for Johnny.

    Donna. : )

  • Reply
    February 17, 2022 at 7:38 am

    I’m with you Tipper. That is one more crazy love story; no way I would thank him for deceiving me and keeping me from my family all those years. She must have really had the gift of mercy!!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 17, 2022 at 6:28 am

    I think I might have shot him for taking me away from my family! That’s quite a story.

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