Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Bare-legged

My life in appalachia - Bare-legged

Granny isn’t against wearing shorts-but she does think there is a time and a place for them. The other night I overheard her tell one of the girls they shouldn’t be out in the damp evening air with shorts on-she said “Lord you’re out there bare-legged you’re going to get eat up with bugs.” (If it had been a little cooler weather-the warning would have been they were going to take a chill being out in the cool air bare-legged.)

Wearing shorts-going bare-legged-when you’re working in the garden-picking blackberries-etc. makes sense to me. But not to Granny-she wears a long sleeve shirt with her pants tucked into her boots to prevent any bug bites or heaven forbid getting a tick on her!

When I heard Granny warn of the dangers of being bare-legged in the evening air-I wondered if bare-legged was a saying you were familiar with too?


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    July 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    I’m sure at some point I’ve heard the phrase, because when I read it in my mind, I also got three syllables (bare-leg-ed).

  • Reply
    July 19, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Yes, have heard this (& used it) all my life. Like Donna W., it is said as 3 syllables: bare-leg-ed.
    Would have loved to have met Don C.’s grandma. What a mess of squirrels!

  • Reply
    Mary H Brock
    July 19, 2012 at 4:55 am

    The hose were indestructable and the comments entertaining. My senior moment today.Mary Jane

  • Reply
    Mary H Brock
    July 19, 2012 at 4:51 am

    Oh this sounds like my Grannys having coffee with me this AM. Thick hose were made of cotton Enjoy everyones comments. and were almost indestructable.
    Stay as cool as you can.
    Mary Jane

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    July 18, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    I remember grandma saying bare legged. When we went berry picking we wore pants, long sleeves and boots. Grandma put Grandpa’s pants on over her dress. She still came off the hill with blood trickling down her arms.

  • Reply
    Donna W
    July 18, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    I never wore shorts until I was married, because my mother wouldn’t allow it. I grew up hearing the term “bare-legged”, but it was three syllables: Bare-legg-ed

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    July 18, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Oh yes and they couldn’t be above the knees..What little I got to wear any.. We were gonna get a chill as you call it or had to bundle up head to toe pickin berries..

  • Reply
    Barb Johnson
    July 18, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Still must always wear panty hose under a dress to church. My daughter and her 20ish yr old friends think I am out of my mind.

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    July 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Tipper, My mom said ‘naked legs’. “Don’t you go to the berry patch with them naked legs!” She didn’t object to us wearing shorts, but she wouldn’t have left the house in them.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Mama used to tell us to get on some long legged britches and not go off in them woods bare legged cause redbugs would eat us up.( I never knew what a chigger was til I was grown.)

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    July 18, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Hee! My Grandma must have known your Granny because I can hear her saying all of the same things! She always wore dresses with long sleeves and they hit about mid-calf. She said that she didn’t see how anyone could stand to wear “slacks” all wrapped around your legs!

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    July 18, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I have heard that term all my live and continue to use it myself. It is usually used in conjunction with “stockins”. Example: “That girl came in barelegged without stockin one on.” Of course now that I live in Az barelegged is a good thing!! Thanks for the memories around berry picking. My Granny had a sunbonnet (starched) that she wore with my Papaw’s long sleeved shirt when she picked berries, beans, or anything out in the sun.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    I have heard to phrase but use it only periodically…like when I remind my husband that if he goes into the woods bare-legged he will likely get poison ivy again!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 11:41 am

    My aunts picked cotton in dresses with britches under them. Don’t see how they kept from burning up alive. My grandparents were strict Pentecostals & didn’t believe in shorts or pants on women. And they really favored wearing long sleeves, too.
    Granny always wore thick stockings (does anybody know what they were made of?) up to her knees & the top rolled & a twist kind of like a knot to hold them up. Of course her dresses were mid thigh length. I think she wore sheerer ones for church. She would be horrified to see women in church in pants. She wore a hat & white gloves every Sunday.
    Now this has got me to wondering about how she held up her Sunday hose & also about ladies unders of that era. I know a full slip was required & seems like Granny may have worn the drawers with legs. I know Grandpa wore boxers because I’ve seen Granny iron them on the back porch many times.
    I can’t imagine having all those clothes on in an unairconditioned church–don’t remember even having a fan except the hand held ones. (Usually with a picture of Jesus on them from the local funeral homes)
    We were also warned of dew poisoning if we went out with sores on our feet when the dew was on. We also got “sand cuts” in the bends of our toes from going barefoot.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Ed’s story about the legs in that store reminded me of an experience we had.
    years ago when I worked for a soft drink company, a co-worker and myself was at a well known store and we saw a woman with shorts that caught our attention. Actually, he saw her first. Hey, come here! Look over in the cleaning supply section at this lady with short shorts! Well, I told him to please don’ talk so loud and don’t make a scene because it would be our luck that she had her homicidal maniac boyfriend just out of prison with her and I am so exhausted I just don’t think I could out run the old boy. He said, “No, no, it ain’t that. She has got the most bodaciously hairy legs I’ve ever seen!” He went on to say that he bet she had enough hair on her legs to make an Indian blanket. Don’t know about that but, I can tell you now Rogaine would have been a waste of money for her. That character from Star Wars Chewbacca’s (remember him) legs were never that hairy.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 11:00 am

    My granny never wore anything except dresses. I would never wear shorts while picking blackberries. Too many scratches and bugs.

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    July 18, 2012 at 10:56 am

    WOW! What fun your comments are this mornin’! Ed…well, just ED! I’m still chucklin. Just for the record, both my mummo and my nanny used to tell me not to go out bare-legged once I passed about age 10. I was always polite, but sneaked out anyway. The time I really got in trouble though was in elementary school. I had shorts on under my skirt so as soon as the day was over, I whipped off my skirt at the bike rack and started to head off on home. The principal came out and yanked me right off my bike, marched me to her office and blessed me out good. “Ladies do NOT take their skirts off in public!” Didn’t matter that I had shorts on underneath. “Ladies” just didn’t do such a thing.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    July 18, 2012 at 10:48 am

    My momma use to tell us not to go out with dew on the ground if we had a cut or scratch on our feet because we could get dew poisoning. I’m not sure what that is but I never paid it much attention and as far as I know never contracted it.
    Ed’s post about WalMart is hilarious and spot on! If you ever want to feel better about yourself go to a website called, People of Hey, it’s cheap entertainment!
    Great post Tipper!

  • Reply
    Wayne Newton
    July 18, 2012 at 10:19 am

    “They made us swim naked”, boys on one day, then girls on another day.
    I was perusing a site named “Old Time Moultrie Georgia”, which has lots of fotos and reminiscences of recent and long-ago memories.
    Several of the posts were of the YMCA, which was a big part of growing up of many city young’uns from generations past.
    Being a farmboy, the “Y” was a luxury not commonly available, but I once was allowed to go, and after they made me “strip down or go home”, I didn’t
    ask to go again.
    An older cousin (“town boy”)who worked at the “Y”, tried to explain that it had to do with not contaminating the water, but it just didn’t seem the same as “skinny dipping” at the swimming hole at Indian Creek.
    Not sure how your post led me here, but bare legs were once as rare as bare bottoms; imagine that!!!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Morning Tipper!
    Just thought I would share a couple of things I have learned over the years with everyone. Chiggers do not stay in your skin, so polish does not work. It is the tiny “mouth straw” that stays and irritates until the skin pushes it out. Hot soapy water and a good scrub followed by a single tiny drop of pure essential oil of lavender rubbed into any bite takes the swelling and the sting right out them – almost instantly. Also most bugs do not like it, but the bees will follow you everywhere 😀 It will keep scorpions out too like many of the main threshing herbs they put on castle floors in the Meeting Halls. Ticks are not fond of it or Rosemary either. Dog fennel is a useful bug deterrent that grows everywhere here. I have several large bushes of it near my garden. Horseflies are major fun for me and a challenge. They can be easily killed with a good damp flour sack towel hung around your neck to keep you cool and to flap over your head when they are buzzing you or just to wind up into a whip and pop them. If you are not good with a towel, get a badminton racket and have a blast. I do not have any more carpenter bee problems with the barn now either and I bet I would make a mean tennis player now!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Two thangs to ask or state!
    Now I am perplexed…I pondered the statement of two commentors about the dew poisoning…I remember my grandmother warning me not to go barefooted in the early morning before the dew dried…I don’t exactly remember her saying anything about dew poisoning…but maybe that’s what she meant… and didn’t tell me ’cause she knew I would question her reasoning!..I just thought she thought it was too cold yet in the early morning to go barefoot…Could someone explain dew poisoning..or am I going to have to spend the day researching this little surprise of mountain lore?
    Also, I think Ed is like my better half…When he goes to Wally World, he goes in with me for the view, not the stew!…
    Remember the 1958 hit!
    Humm, Dig that crazy chick!
    Who wears short shorts.
    (we wear short shorts)
    Those are short shorts.
    (we like short shorts)
    I wear short shorts
    (we wear short shorts)
    or the lyrics was something to that effect…can’t remember it all!
    Guess, us fatties like to be cool too…However, at 71, I would not wear short shorts to Wally World!
    Thanks Tipper…I guess no one really wears short shorts anymore…guess they think those 3/4 (quarters) covers up the rolls….LOL

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 18, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Oh yes, I remember my Gramma telling me the same thing. No goin’ barelegged downtown, to the grocery store or any where but the back yard.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 18, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Tipper–I enjoyed this post and I’m enjoying the comments even more. Not to be one to tell tales (except when appropriate), but Brother Don once decided to do some bushwhacking on the head of Raven Fork Creek in the Park in an effort to trace the old Breakneck Ridge Trail. He didn’t succeed in following the entire trail but he achieved world-class status when it came to scratched legs–thanks to wearing shorts.
    I would suggest to Ed that maybe some of those ladies with an overabundance of avoirdupis might have bought up dimples not only for the backs of their legs but for a part of their anatomy a bit higher up which I’ve also heard the word bare used with–as in “slick as a bare-bottomed baby.”
    Bill Burnett’s memories of his grandmother’s swimming suit was a dandy, and no doubt others thought her daring in the cut-off overalls. Reckon what mountain women of her generation would have thought of bikinis? No doubt they would have been characterized as clothes of the devil.
    As for bare legs, I guess I saw a bit of leg on both of my grandmothers, but if so it was precious little (and that was carefuly encased in stockings with seams in the back). They ran more to dresses reaching to the shoes, poke bonnets when out in the sun, and long sleeves even on the hottest day. I have a wonderful photo of my maternal grandmother after a successful squirrel hunt. She’s holding a brace of bushytails in one hand, a .22 rifle in the other. Her hunting attired was a tattered cotton dress which reached to the ground. It was once published in a national magazine as the lead illustration to a piece I wrote on here entitled “Grandma Was a Squirrel Hunting Fool.” She may have run against the grain in terms of pursuing what was considered a manly activity, but she adhered to a strict dress code.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 9:20 am

    lol at the comment above! i wear shorts all summer long and the bugs love me!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 9:17 am

    I just went back and looked and
    ole dummie me didn’t recognize
    my own bridge. I was either
    starring at that black bucket or
    them pretty legs to notice anything else. And I still can’t
    figure out if its Chitter or

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 9:10 am

    My mom never owned a pair of pants. I must have been 15 or 16 before I wore pants or shorts. I never understood if it was a religious thing or just tradition that kept us from being bare legged. Yet, if modesty was a reason, wearing dresses showed more skin than pants would have. Mom always put on daddy’s pants when she went berry picking, but never to work in the garden. Bugs don’t bite me, no matter how little clothes I’m wearing. They used to come from other states to chew on my ex husband. We could never sit outside at night even with bug repellent. He always said I wasn’t as sweet as him. That was funny!

  • Reply
    Charles Ron Perry, Sr.
    July 18, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Count on Ed to make me laugh…I agree. Say, what is it about Wal-Mart that attracts these people? You don’t see them in groups at other stores. Tipper, you keep this column lively and interesting and your readers contributions are great.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 8:52 am

    My grandmother said “bare-legged”!
    My mother always said, if I put on shorts in February, “You’re rushing the season, aren’t you!”
    Personally, I would wear pants when I picked berries…unless we were just going to pick the edge of the garden berries…Not to protect from chiggers, ticks, or other varmits, but briars scratching my legs. Especially helps when tromping down briars in a new patch, to make a little hole to pick around…The jeans help somewhat…but them waspers can still get you thru the material…
    Thanks for a memory Tipper,

  • Reply
    Jackie @Syrup and Biscuits
    July 18, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I’ve been hearing bear-legged all my life!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 8:39 am

    When I was little, I remember my
    grandmas talking about that same
    thing. One of my uncles, a preacher, mind you had two boys
    and three girls. These were my 1st
    cousins and two of the girls got
    turned out of a local church for
    wearing shorts in the summertime.
    Times have softened over the years
    cause now some ladies wear pants to church…Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    July 18, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Oh yes, we young’uns couldn’t wait until warm weather arrived so we could get out the shorts which was in my case cut off jeans that had been worn out. I was usually bare legged, bare chested and bare footed most of the summer except for church and going to town on Saturday with momma to shop and if I were real lucky I would get to go to the Lay’s 5 and 10 store. The whole basement was the toy department and for me at the time, heaven on earth.
    I have been eat up with chiggers so many times. Momma would put finger nail polish on them to try and smother the little red devils out. I hated it when she was out of the clear kind and had to use the red or even worse, pink!
    I’ll be bare legged as soon as I am home from work!

  • Reply
    barbara gantt
    July 18, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I can remember my Mom saying, Did you see that bare legged woman in church? That is just a disgrace. Barbara Gantt

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    July 18, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Dusk and dawn are two times not to be wearing shorts. Those bugs will surely eat you up – bright shiny welts will appear all over and itch like crazy. I agree with Granny. It has been some time since I heard “bare legged” used, but then, again, there is always room in one’s vocabulary to regain some old terms.

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    July 18, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I agree with granny…my problem is horseflies in the garden and they make whelts that last for days.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 18, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Your description of Granny’s Berry Pickin outfit brings back memories of my Paternal Gramdmother’s Berry Pickin garb, she looked like she was going to rob the Bees minus the veil. The only shorts I ever saw her wear was her cut off Bib-Overhauls she wore with a long sleeved shirt as her bathing suit when we would hit the Little T after a day of working in the fields. Thanks for jogging the gray-matter again.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    July 18, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Yes! Bare-legged was both a warning and an astute observation from elders in my communigy. A warning in that being “bare-legged” could give the wrong impression of a young lady’s morals–and also as relating to getting bug bites and too much sunlight (in those days a tan wasn’t desired as it is now).

  • Reply
    July 18, 2012 at 7:24 am

    I remember as a kid being eat up by bugs most of the time. That happens when you are out in a dress. We couldn’t wear pants or shorts. And in the winter I remember walking out of the hollow to the school bus and trying to stay on top of the crusted snow. Try as you might sometimes you still fell through. All in a dress. Thanks Ma Sadie.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    July 18, 2012 at 7:17 am

    brings back memories of Granny here who dressed that way to pick berries.
    She would also tell you not to run out barefoot early in the morning because you would get ‘dew poison’ on your feet.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 18, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Bare legged and bare footed too. My grandmother was always worried about me going bare footed.
    Once I had a cut on my heel. Said cut coming from a broken bottle in the creek, where I was bare footed. My Grandmother would not let me out in the morning without shoes,saying that I would get dew poisoning in the cut. I had never heard of dew poisoning. Actually, to date, that’s the only time I ever heard of dew poisoning.
    In earlier times it just wasn’t appropriate for a female to bare anything. Do you suppose that we are now experiencing the opposite. I see young women baring almost everything.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    July 18, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Some mountain folks used to frown (and maybe still do 😉 upon bare legs for anyone beyond puberty.
    Now I’m prone to wearing shorts any time that it’s warm enough to not get my arthritis flaring (above 50). Even when it’s less than 50, I’ll opt for neoprene knee braces when I’m hiking or bushwhacking just so that the rest of my legs can breathe in some fresh air.
    But Granny is definitely on to something with the bug biting. When I go out to work in the garden either in the early morning or late in the evening with bare legs, the mosquitos throw a garden party. The back side of my legs in particular must be the equivalent of tenderloin to those blood suckers.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 18, 2012 at 6:03 am

    Nothing wrong, I say, with wearing shorts if you have a nice looking pair of walkers like those pictured. But those are the rare exception. Walk into Walmart and look around. Y, there ought be a law agin it. 300 pounders in short shorts? Legs with 3 knees on each. Shorts so short that their muffin tops cover them completely. Knees with their own muffin tops! Yuk! Nasty!
    I guess it’s OK to wear what you want in the privacy of your own home but I think you should be inspected and licensed if your legs could potentially stunt the growth of little children or cause nightmares for their grandpaws.
    You know why not everybody has dimples in their cheeks? It’s cause a bunch of fat ladies bought them all up to wear on the backs of their legs!
    Lord, Lord! What kind of a beast have you unleashed in me this morning!

  • Leave a Reply