Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Graveyard Dead

Absalom Phiilip Mary Lou Johnson
“He killed him graveyard dead!” Ever heard that old saying? How about these:

  • graveyard shift (I worked the 2nd shift for a while-no fun-but I think it would have been worse to work the graveyard shift)
  • the foot of a rabbit which is killed in a graveyard-is extra lucky (makes you wonder how many rabbits hang out in graveyards)
  • it is disrespectful to step on a grave and bad luck too (I cannot walk on a grave-if I’m wandering around an old graveyard I find myself almost falling to keep from stepping directly on a grave)
  • worms dug in a graveyard will help you catch more fish
  • walking through a graveyard at night is bad luck

When I was very young-no older than 6-I went to a cemetery with my Mamaw. I don’t remember where it was and I don’t remember exactly how it happened-but somehow a small gravestone fell on me-I still have a tiny scar on my knee. I do remember I took the injury very seriously-I refused to walk on that leg for a few days-or maybe it was only that day. I went around hopping on one foot. Everyone kept telling me it would not hurt to walk on it-that it would actually help my knee feel better. No grown up would I listen too. But an older cousin promised me one of Big Grandma’s RC cola’s if I’d only try walking with that leg. As I walked across Mamaw’s living room I could already taste that sweet RC and feel the cold hard bottle in my little hand. I should have known better-as I walked with ease-he said he couldn’t give me an RC or Big Grandma would get him.

Got any to add to the list?


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


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  • Reply
    October 9, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    I have heard most of those. And I won’t walk on a grave either. Sends chills up my spine!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Yep – I worked many a graveyard shift, and it seems that doctors have found that it’s appropriately named – apparently people who have to endure shift work have a shorter life expectancy ! Hope I got out on time 😉
    Nice post – in a deathly sort of way 🙂

  • Reply
    Kristina in TN
    October 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I had not heard about the rabbit’s foot or the worms, but the others are all familiar to me. As a nurse, working the graveyard shift is perhaps a little too familiar! I’m grateful I don’t have to do that any more. I’m respectful when I visit cemeteries, but I don’t necessarily go out of my way to avoid stepping on a grave. That would be mighty hard to do!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    October 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I avoid walking on graves too–just seems disrespectful of the dead. My grandpa kept cold Dr. Peppers on hand for himself–one of my gripes with him after all these yrs. Could have given his poor little granddaughter one once in a while. In memory it seems the refrigerator was absolutely filled with them.
    An old story–A group of young people at a party dared one of the young women to go to the graveyard & stick a fork in one of the graves. She was found dead–had caught her dress tail when she stuck the fork in & died of a heart attack when she tried to get up.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Oh, your cousin was mean to bait you like that, guess it worked, though.
    I haven’t heard of the rabbit or the worms, but the rest are familiar.

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    October 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I love to poke around in the old graveyards. We so enjoyed the headstones in the little cemetary at Maggie’s Chapel the other Saturday.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    October 7, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Tipper, my dad always said a graveyard was the safest place there is. He would say those people in the ground won’t bother you, it’s the ones up walking around you have to watch out for!
    I find graveyards very peaceful places and have never felt scared there. I really like the old ones and try to imagine what their lives were like when they were alive.
    Ron Banks

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    October 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    I was shocked when I read that I had won the Dehlia Low cd Ravens and Crows! I will accept it with much gratitude…Oh Happy Day, thank you!
    I would hunt that older cousin down and make him buy me a belated RC cola..ha Do you think your interest in old cemetaries is related to your scarred knee?
    Doesn’t life experiences take on many twists and turns that shape our own future interests and concerns?
    We loved RC’s and Moon Pies…and Cokes and peanuts…the old fountain coke mix of Cherry coke was my all time favorite..
    Old Graveyards always scared me and reading some of the old stone markers can bring tears to your eyes, especially those of children…
    Thanks Tipper..for an especially great post..Could it be ’cause my name was a winner of the cd? ha

  • Reply
    October 7, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I’m like you. I won’t step on a
    grave if its at all possible. The
    other day a lady announced on our
    local radio program that she heard
    someone slipping across her porch
    at night. Then she said she’d leave him graveyard dead if he came back to steal something.
    And much as I love rabbit hunting,
    it certainly won’t be near a

  • Reply
    October 7, 2011 at 11:32 am

    A young doctor means a new graveyard.
    Indecision is the graveyard of good intentions.
    “Whistling though the graveyard” means a person is trying to be cheerful in times of distress.
    The graveyard is full of people who thought they were indispensable.
    He has one foot on a banana peel and one foot in the grave.
    I LOVE old graveyards and we often find them when we are hiking. I stand there still amazed at what a hard life these early mountaineers had.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Oh goodness Tipper, having a gravestone topple over on you at such a young age must have been traumatic!
    I have heard of graveyard shift, and the taboo about walking on graves. I go a couple times a year to clean up around the family stones. I do walk over the graves, as I figure those folks are long since gone to peace and shouldn’t care much about their mortal remains.
    I do find it creepy though, that people would actually make a day of picnicing in the graveyard back in the late 1800’s!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 7, 2011 at 9:51 am

    I’ve always kind of liked graveyards. They are so quiet and peaceful…..not a lot of unnecessary noise going on. LOL

  • Reply
    October 7, 2011 at 9:48 am

    all of these are familiar except the fish one. and now i want and RC cola with peanuts in it.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 7, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Yes, I’ve heard graveyard dead, my dad used to say dead as a door nail too. I always wondered what made a door nail different from any other nail.
    @ Mike, we used to do that with coke cola at Jr. High dances. I think it was supposed to make you drunk or something. Anyway we all tried it and it didn’t of course.

  • Reply
    Granny Sal
    October 7, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Great story Tipper. I am an old lady now and I still am careful about stepping on graves..Scary!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Boy does this bring back some memories. Visiting grave yards with my parents as kids and my Mom constantly reminding us to be careful. DO NOT STEP ON A GRAVE, she also said it’s disrespectful. As a kid I did wonder if there was more to it than that, like maybe the person in that grave might grab my leg and pull me down. My own thought scared the crap out of me. To this day I am respectful to the living and their deceased loved ones. I in turn taught my daughter the same thing.
    My Mom would get a goose bump chill like, that would make her do this shiver type of thing. When that happened she would say, “someone just stepped on my grave”. I always thought that was a weird thing to say, since she’s still living. Ever heard of that one?

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    October 7, 2011 at 9:14 am

    I have heard the expression “graveyard dead”-it just seems deader than regular dead! I have worked the graveyard shift and I don’t think I’d fish with worms dug up in a graveyard. The one that hits home, though, is the one about stepping on graves. When we were in a cemetery with Mother it was definitely bad luck to step on a grave; she’d knock you off of it in a heartbeat! I am like you I will almost fall to keep from stepping on a grave. I don’t think it’s bad luck or that it would do any actual harm, but it does seem a little disrespectful–and besides momma said don’t do it!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 7, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Speaking of how lucky a Rabbit’s foot is supposed to be, Graveyard killed or otherwise, I’ve always wondered where this lie got started, a Rabbit has four of them and the Rabbit winds up dead with his feet hanging on someone’s key chain. How can this be considered “Good Luck”? It obviously wasn’t lucky for the Rabbit.

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    October 7, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Grass won’t grow on a grave.
    I doubt this is true, but I’ve visited a few graveyards in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, some well over 100 years old, where the grave hole is clearly marked, but only in some of shallow moss.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    October 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

    I have always tried not to walk on the grave sites. I guess out of respect for the dead more than anything else. I would also be uncomfortable shooting a rabbit in a cemetary.

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    October 7, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Ever experience a little involuntary shiver and have someone say, “What’s the matter, you step on a grave?”
    Ever had an RC Cola and a Moon Pie?

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    October 7, 2011 at 7:55 am

    I spend a lot of time as a volunteer photographer for walking through cemeteries and I admit that I do walk on gravesites.
    I haven’t had an RC Cola in a long time. It brings back memories of drinking part of an RC, then pouring a small bag of salted peanuts into the bottle, then drinking RC and eating peanuts at the same time. Surprised I didn’t choke on the peanuts!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Not heard the one about the worms or that the lucky rabbits foot had to be killed in the graveyard. Just thought all of them were lucky.

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