Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Rooney’s Knife

My life in appalachia - Rooney's Knife
I first met Rooney and his lovely wife Maryolin at the John C. Campbell Folk School. They’ve been coming to the folk school since the 70s-as students-and as teachers. Rooney is a Blacksmith, and Maryolin is a quilter who also calls contra dances.

Contra dancing is a contact style of dancing. Its hard to dance through a night of contras without meeting every person in the contra line at least once-usually much more than that.

I met Maryolin and Rooney in the contra line. From the start I loved to listen to them talk. They’re from South Carolina and have that long vowel southern drawl. After chatting for a few minutes in between dances we soon realized we had much in common and we’ve been friends ever since.

Rooney likes knives-he picks them up at various places and takes them home. Then he does something totally unexpected with them-he gives them away!

The knife in the photo above-is an American Blade Company Knife with bone handles. It’s called a Sow-Belly Whittler. Rooney explained to me-the sow belly part comes from the sway-back handle shape. Rooney also told me that a whittler always has 3 blades with the largest on one end and the 2 smaller ones on the other end-on each side of the large blade.

The American Blade Co. knife is 25 years old. Rooney bought it way back then, took it home, put it in his dresser drawer, and its been there until a few weeks ago. Rooney sent the knife to me-to give to one of you during my month of Thanksgiving Giveaways.

Since 1966 Rooney has given away 145 knives-this knife giveaway makes 146 knives that Rooney has shared with others over the years.

To be entered in Rooney’s knife giveaway all you have to do is be a subscriber and leave me a comment saying so-that’s it. The chance to enter this giveaway ends on Saturday Dec 3rd-but stay tuned for a few more giveaways during this November Month of Thanksgiving Giveaways to the readers of the Blind Pig & the Acorn.

Being a subscriber means everyday when I publish a new post-you’ll be notified by email. Subscribing is free. Once you click on the subscriber link and fill out the information-you’ll be sent a notification by email-you must open the email and click on the link sent to you to activate the subscription and become a subscriber.



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  • Reply
    Marylou Sweat
    December 5, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    “I’m commenting because I would love to win the knife and to say again how much I live reading your posts.” And signed “Marylou Sweat from Dover, Fla.”

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    December 5, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Hi tipper== You said we could leave another request to win this very cool knife, so I am! I have a weird “thing” for knives– not in a scary way, though.
    Happy holidays to all…. Karen

  • Reply
    December 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Hi Tipper
    Please enter me for the drawing for the beautiful knife.
    I have one that was my great grandpap’s. It is such a precious treasure to me and love the feel in myhand.
    Keep up the awesome stories!

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings
    December 4, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I remember my Daddy having a knife that looked just like that. What memories of asking him if I could use his knife to either cut fishing line with or something else. Daddy was never without a pocket knife.

  • Reply
    Steve Larkin
    December 4, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Love you blog and would love to win the knife. Steve Larkin

  • Reply
    December 3, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Hi Tipper
    I am a subscriber, and love your blog. Please enter me for the knife drawing. Can’t wait to visit TN next year.

  • Reply
    Craig Lawhorne
    December 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    I have subscribed to your wonderful site, and I would be very pleased to carry and use this knife.
    There’s nothing that compares to owning and handling a knife to make you feel that there are still simple pleasures in this life.

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    November 29, 2011 at 9:08 am

    of course I am a subscriber too – but you already knew that. I see John stonecypher in the comments – he’s close to us here too.
    Tis a very small world we live in.
    Derr hunter had any luck?

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    November 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Tipper, that is a great looking knife. I have carried a knife most of my life and would be lost without one in my pocket. I was in Atlanta a few years back taking my son to the circus. We got up to the entrance and they had a metal detector and a sign saying no weapons allowed. Well that presented a problem for me since I had my trusty knife with me. I do not think of it as a weapon but rather a tool. I told my wife I would be back and to wait. It was a long walk back to the car so I scouted around outside and when no one was looking i found a good hiding spot, tucked my knife away and picked it up on the way back.
    I guess this country boy was out of my element and never even thought about not taking my knife with me. Times sure are a changing!

  • Reply
    grandpa ken
    November 27, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Put my name in for that knife love to have it. Carried a knife forever have to leave it in the truck when I go to school (sub-teach) Well most of my teacher have passed, they would not like what schools have become.

  • Reply
    November 27, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Hi TIpper. I’m a subscriber already. Just thought I would post and comment on hoe much I enjoy your site. Keep it up! I’ve heard Daddy talk about hog butchering time and I remember some of it.

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    November 27, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Carry one all of the time, have for years. My favorite knife is my German Eye, have whittled many a thing with it and a few fingers to boot. Thanks for sharing Rooney!

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    November 27, 2011 at 8:49 am

    What a generous spirit to find treasures and share them! Love the post.

  • Reply
    November 27, 2011 at 2:19 am

    Beautiful knife–and oh so useful! It would be a treasure to have.

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    November 27, 2011 at 1:52 am

    What a wonderful give away from Rooney! I have long admired knives. I like the way they fit in your hand and work hard at so many tasks – from the mundane to the creative. My favorites are the ones with that beautiful worn patina from many years of use. I like to imagine the person who held it and the work it did. My personal favorites are: 1. My first knife – a little pearl handled pocket knife given to me by my daddy when I was five. 2. A huge swiss army knife with an amazing array of functions. My impoverished college friends pooled their money together and surprised me with it on my first ever birthday away from home. I have used it at least once a week for the past 34 years and couldn’t do without it. 3. A paring knife that belonged to my Grandmother. She peeled so many potatoes and apples with it that the center is worn to less than a quarter inch in width. That little knife was a workhorse just like my grandma!
    Like Tipper, I also met Rooney and Marolyn in the contra line. They are good people. Rooney and I share a love of the old Brasstown carvings. I could listen to him talk all day – he has so many interesting things to say! He and Marolyn do so much for the folk school and the world in general. Marolyn is passionate about the people of Haiti and has devoted a lot of time and energy there. If I won Rooney’s knife I would immediately gift it to my son who admires Rooney immensely.

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    November 26, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Tipper well,the knife collectors can out of the woodwork,i lost a buck stockman 3 blade knife about 25 years ago. always thought someone stole it. then i found one at a yard sale exactley like it ,like finding an old friend, ya know. regards k.o.h

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Thank you now I don’t need to remimber to open web page every day the e-mail alert will be nice.If I should win knife I will have to send something in return bad luck otherwise

  • Reply
    Cheryl soehl
    November 26, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    My favorite knifenisnone that my Dad bought for me. I had split up with my husband and moved back to Florida with my four old son. The people who had been living in my house rent free thanks to my ex had taken most of my furniture and left a mostly empty place foe me to return to. My Dad bought me two things — a wooden chest of drawers that I finished myself and a good kitchen knife — the kind that you sharpen yourself with a whetstone. He had a good knife of his own and wanted me to have one to make my house a home. Now I own his knife as well as the one he gave me. The kitchen would not be complete without it,,,,

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    November 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    We’re back, just got home with him!….The doctors are amazed at the quick progress! Don’t’cha know he had lots of help from upstairs!….
    He got out and walked every chance he got while in the hospital!…(I think he was huntin’ nurses!)
    …Oh, and he said, “Just like a woman to get what I said wrong, I said, Tell Tipper to butter two rolls for me”…”not eat two buttered rolls for him”…LOL
    I see you’all are cutting up here today!…
    Thanks Tipper and Rooney!

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    What a good looking knife! Many people think of knives as dangerous but the knives are only as dangerous as the people handling them! I’ll send you a penny if you choose me!

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Beautiful knife and story! I would love to win it for my brother who would appreciate both.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Marylou Sweat
    November 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    My husband would love that knife…if I let him have it that is! I read your posts every day and they make me miss NC so much! Marylou Sweat in Dover Fla.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    November 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Hi Tipper, Of course I’m a subscriber! I love a good knife and have several, mostly CaseXX. A few years ago I took my Grandson to Pennsylvania to tour the Case factory.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Tipper – I just thought of something. If I had a good Sow Belly Whittler like Ronney’s and if I could find a red rubber inner tube somewhere. I’d make me a flip that could put a “Hicker-nut” into orbit! Oh yes, and I would whittle me a good fast walking stick so I could get around faster too. If I win I’ll do it!

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Still have my father’s tiny pen knives from his boyhood. Add a new one to the collection when I can. Have carried a pocket knife since My Uncle gave me my first. Wouldn’t feel dressed without it. Thanks to you and Rooney for your kind efforts.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    As a BP subscriber I would appreciate having a chance to win Rooney’s fine knife. Rooney and Maryolin are my kind of people!

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    November 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Wow– that is a great looking knife! Please add my name to the drawing. Mary Shipman is right- that if someone gives you a knife you should give them some form of payment (even if it’s only a penny) cuz otherwise your friendship could be severed!
    I’m just coming out of my turkey coma…. hope you all had a great holiday.

  • Reply
    Pam Moore
    November 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I am a subscriber and would love to be considered for the knife. My dad always had a knife handy and now I always have one with me in the garden.

  • Reply
    John Stonecypher
    November 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm


  • Reply
    Dale Anderson
    November 26, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Tipper, I am a subscriber and would like to be in the drawing for Rooney’s knife. I am a carver and would give it a workout. Have attended Campbell Folk School. Several of the Intergenerational classes with my Grandson.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    November 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Thank you Rooney for donating the knife. The men in my family love pocket knives! They would be thrilled if I won this. My mom gave us a good paring knife one time (I guess she thought we needed one), but she made me give her a penny for it.

  • Reply
    Jerry M. in south Arkansas
    November 26, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I usually carry a knife, but sometimes forget and that’s usually the time when I really need it. I just became a subscriber even though I check your site every day and enjoy it very much.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    November 26, 2011 at 11:13 am

    a few years ago our then 4-year-old granddaugther was “helping” Pop open a package — she said, “you got a knife?” as though it was the most natural thing in the world. Now that’s a new family catch-all phrase.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Please put me down for Rooney’s
    knife. That is a heart-warming
    gift for some Blind Pig Reader.
    I think most of us feel about the
    same way as Bill Burnett when he
    is on his soapbox. Enjoyed all the
    comments as usual…Ken

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

    What a treat this is!

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    November 26, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Good morning Tipper, Of course I’m a subscriber and would love to be in the running to win this knife. I have had knives all my knife, some have broken, some have been lost, some have been given away as well. There are a few I cherish and this I believe would be one of those. If i win, good luck to all.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 10:22 am

    When I was a boy I always had a knife in my pocket, even when we went to grade school and high school and never gave it more of a thought than having a pen or a pencil. As young kids on the farm, my Dad showed us a game to play with a 3 bladed pocket knife, by throwing it up with a little spin and depending on how it landed on the lawn, the thrower scored 25, 50, 75, 100 or 200 points, depending on which blade(s) stuck into the ground. Whoever got to 500 points first won.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Remember most all the men in my family carrying knives. Can still see them in my mind picking their fingernails or whittling. The grandsons still collect them.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    November 26, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Beautiful Knife. Put my name in the hat. Would love to have it.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 26, 2011 at 9:24 am

    I too love a good knife, I was raised on a farm and a knife was a tool you kept with you since you were always needing it to cut something from bags of feed to bales of hay. My wife often borrows a knife from me and usually asks “do you have your knife” then immediately answers her own question with “you have your pants on” since she knows I feel undressed without a knife in my pocket. I am saddened by the attitude today about knives being forbidden in schools, the knife is a tool and as such isn’t dangerous. The person who turns the knife into a weapon is the problem just like the person who uses a firearm to commit a crime. Both are inantimate mechanical devices which have been demonized by todays PC Society since it is easier to blame an object than to address criminal behavior in individuals. Sorry about getting on my soapbox, thanks for showing the simpler Applachain Lifestyle where Personal Responsibility was/is still recognized and honored. Keep up the good work, I would be honored to win such a beautiful, storied tool.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    November 26, 2011 at 9:19 am

    THis is a nice knife. And how nice of the gentleman to give it away! This would be the perfect stocking stuffer for my son who has a nice collection of knives already. THat is if I don’t decide to keep it myself.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 9:18 am

    What an awesome friendship and great story on how y’all met.
    Tipper, I finally became a subscriber. I hadn’t before cause I usually check out your blog on a daily basis and didn’t want “one more” email. I’ll blame the knife 😉 We have many different kinds and I carry mine on my belt in the summer. In the Winter, it’s close by.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I like to keep a little knife with me all the time. What if I need to pick a splinter or peel an apple or cut into a package or unwrap a CD (or do I need dynamite for that)
    If Rooney likes to give away knives he might be offended if the winner offered payment. So, if I win, I won’t. I’ll sent him my gratitude.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 26, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Tipper—As will become obvious to readers in due time, knives hold a truly special place in my mind. You can never have too many of them, and there is no tool which is more versatile. I’d feel naked as a jaybird without one in my pocket, but evidently brother Don is even worse. When I asked him if he had a knife in his pocket at a family reunion this summer, in connection with a story I was going to share (and which will be shared with your readers as Christmas draws nearer), he answered: “No, I have two.”
    I was also delighted with Miss Cindy’s comment about knives, guns, and such like. Hers is the perspective of a true mountain woman.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    November 26, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Tipper: Pocket knives were an important part of our Dad and brother’s world back in the Cove, in the NC Mountains! Purchasing a SWISS knife for my sons was the first thing I did when I saw them displayed in a store somewhere in the Alps! I doubt they have ever been used for whittling but just ‘saved’ as treasures from the past!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Tipper—nice looking knife I have often carried a pocket-knife for my Dad always said have one with you ,(even a girl should have on her person) I own a boline knife with a deer handle –it is an herbalist knife she uses to cut her herbs and roots!! I too have been told that one one receives a knife as a gift that person should always give the other a coin so the that your friendship does not get cut in two—so put me down for that lovely knife –and then I shall find out Rooney’s address or send the coin to you,Tipper and you can see that he receives that token. Linda

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 8:46 am

    This is a beautiful knife! Everyone in my family carries pocket knives. I carry one too, I love them. Daddy’s favorite was Old Timer, he gave me a little one when I was little. I love it and now that he’s gone everytime I use it I feel like he’s right there with me. 🙂

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 26, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I too love the South Carolina accent. My best friend in the 7th grade came from there. I spent the whole year trying to sound like her, so soft and beautiful.
    I have not heard about the penny, but the handing back the open knife yes, my husband almost had a heart attack when we were first married about that. Can you tell I never owned a knife? Much later when I got interested in hiking and roaming the woods, I got one for my own self.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 8:37 am

    It’s funny that I was born in WVa and I know about the knife and penny thing but I’ve only meet a few old timers up here in the hills of Vermont that know about it. Those of my generation when I ask the about it look at me like I have two heads. Best to all, keep it simple. Cheers!!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Jones
    November 26, 2011 at 8:17 am

    A good knife such as Rooney’s knife was always handy in my Dad’s overalls pocket, ready to take out to do any number of cutting and whittling jobs. He wasn’t completely dressed unless he had that knife in his pocket. And he whetted the blades, to keep them cutting-sharp. I don’t know where his knife is, one that looked so much like Rooney’s. My husband, Grover, carried a knife, too, although smaller. Now our son has the habit of having a knife handy for “odd” cutting jobs! Like father, like son-in-law, like grandson…and the mountain customs go on, cutting to the depths of our culture (no pun intended) and loving it and keeping it alive!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 26, 2011 at 8:10 am

    That is a beautiful knife! I love knives, guns, and all weapons. Don’t know how I came by my affection for these tools but I suspect it has something to do with their beauty and the feel of them. There is also a lot of skill that goes into producing them.
    When I go to the Campbell folk festival I love to visit the knife booths with the Deer Hunter and the girls. There are usually two at the festival. These men make the knives from different metals as well as a variety of handle materials. My thing is to hold them and feel their smooth balance and beauty.
    Thank you Rooney for offering one of your cherished blades to the Blind Pig readers!

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    November 26, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Nice looking knife. I too have several “pocket” knives. Some I purchased, some given as gifts and a few handed down by my daddy. They seemed to hold a certain awe about them, though I’m not sure just why. I switch them off from time to time, but am never without one in my pocket. Those are interesting posts by Mary Shipman and dolores. My how we all come up with such unusual traditions or superstitions. I like those and I’ll bet there will be some more so, I’ll check back later too. Have a great weekend all.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Mary-I remember several comments about ‘buying’ knives when I posted about it being bad luck to shut an open knife that was handed to you! Hmm… maybe whoever wins it will have to send Rooney a penny as payment : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    November 26, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Tipper I like the looks of that knife it is similar to one I had several years ago but lost, would love to win that one . Thanks for doing all you do for us.

  • Reply
    November 26, 2011 at 7:45 am

    That was very interesting; I wonder if he knows that he should have attached a penny so that he doesn’t lose a friend, that is if it was a friends he gives the knives to. Yes, it is one of those superstitions that I learned when a small child – never give anything sharp to a friend, lest it would cut the friendship.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    November 26, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Interesting family and interesting idea, giving away knives. Whittling is something I want to take up in retirement. Please put my name in the hat for the knife.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    November 26, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Oh my! Here in the Ozarks it is considered ‘bad luck’ to take a knife as a gift. If someone gives you a knife, no matter what the reason, it must be paid for! The exchange of anything useful or of value, no matter how small, a penny, a stick of wood, a scrap of cloth is enough.
    It’s interesting to go to a wedding shower and see the bride with a stack of pennies to ‘pay’ for knives she recieves

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