Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Teaching the Next Generation to Love the Great Outdoors

My life in appalachia teaching the next generation to love the great outdoors

If there’s a get together in Appalachia that includes folks of all ages you can bet at some point the older kids will be asked to take the younger kids outside.

I’ve been the small child begging to go outside with an older kid and I’ve been the older kid sent to take the little ones outside and entertain them. I believe my great love of the outdoors was nurtured and strengthened as I held tightly to an older girl’s hand and walked down a dusty gravel road to gather apples from trees that are no longer there, stopping along the way to throw rocks in the creek and look at the cows in the pasture.

And hopefully, I encouraged the love of nature for the children who walked with me as I showed them how lizards hid under rocks in the edge of the creek and how wild touch-me-nots popped at the slightest touch of a small finger.


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

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  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    September 20, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    I’m guilty of June bugs on a thread!! I remember pinning the thread to my dress and taking the June bug to school — not a good idea. Annie over was great fun. I think we only came inside for meals and finally for bed.

  • Reply
    August 4, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Ed-its Chatter in the photo and she has a handkerchief tied around her head : ) Her and her sister both wear them often.  

  • Reply
    August 4, 2016 at 10:26 am

    My first real outdoor job was an internship doing environmental education for children – developing programs, drawing and designing materials, and teaching groups. It wasn’t a long-term job, and it was probably 30 years ago, but I still have some wonderful memories of working with the littlest kids – maybe 5 or 6 years old. Thanks for reminding me – I’m about to tackle a lot of “environmental jobs” out in the paddocks today, and now I have a smile on my face.

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    August 3, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Jim Casada,didn’t know if anyone else made rock throwers out of corn stalks.Some other things we done were flying june bugs with a thread,playing split with a knife,corn cob fights at the barn,anne over with a rubber ball,made our own gigs from tobacco sticks and nails,,made our arrow points from horseshoe nails{borrowed} from my papaws blacksmith shop and many of the things you listed except galax.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Anderson
    August 3, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Nobody mentioned “swinging bridge”. I grew up in the city but spent summers in the country in Tennessee where I grew up, and there was a swinging bridge across the creek near my Aunt’s house. Us kids would always start across and then wait until one of us got in the middle and the others would starts shaking the bridge. I remember being scared it would fall but also how much fun it was. Anyone else remember a swinging bridge?
    Cheryl in KY

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 3, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Tipper–I reckon I’ll wear my commenting welcome out, but Pinnacle Creek’s post about simple childhood pleasures of yesteryear put my memory motor in overdrive. Here, in no particular order, is a selection of remembered outdoor pleasures through the seasons.
    *Riding cardboard “sleds” on broom sedge in the fall.
    *Playing war.
    *Swinging on grapevines in the woods.
    *Making (and shooting) slingshots.
    *Inner tubing (long before this became popular).
    *Skipping rocks.
    *Shooting BB guns.
    *Riding limber trees to the ground.
    *Building forts.
    *Playing hide-and-seek.
    *Swimming in the creek (including skinny dipping).
    *Riding bikes for hours on end.
    *Picking blackberries, wild strawberries, and dewberries for “cash money.”
    *Gathering poke sallet.
    *Catching spring lizards and night crawlers to sell to the bait store.
    *Seining for minnows.
    *Running trot lines and throw lines in the summer and trap lines in the winter.
    *Gathering black walnuts and hazelnuts (and later, after they had dried, cracking them. This was often a family activity.
    *Searching for the perfect Christmas tree.
    *Shooting mistletoe out of trees with a .22 rifle or climbing for it.
    *Gathering galax, running cedar, and other greenery for wreathes.
    *Smoking out wasp nests, knocking down hornet nests, and digging out yellow jacket nests to get fish bait (a delicious element of danger here).
    *Digging fishing worms.
    *Playing endless games of rolly-bat.
    *Playing marbles.
    *Rabbit, squirrel, and bird hunting.
    *Trout fishing.
    *Stringing and breaking beans and shelling crowder peas (I actually enjoyed this even though it was supposed to be work.
    *Building snow forts after a big snow and having snowball fights.
    *Spelunking in caves in the Nantahala Gorge.
    *Playing basketball on outdoor course in our yard or that of other folks.
    *Hunting golf balls.
    *Throwing rocks with an atlatl-like device made from a stalk of Hickory King (or is it Hickory Cane–I’ve heard it called both) corn.
    There was more, much more, but all the things listed were inexpensive, most involved things readily found outdoors, and a good many were productive in the sense of picking up pocket money.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 3, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Assuming that is you in the picture, what is that you have on your head? A scarf? A headscarf? When I was just young we called it a headrag. Many of the womenfolk wore them then. None of the men! Nowdays they are a rarity on women but are seen on men quite often.

  • Reply
    August 3, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    This is the very reason I love the Blind Pig and the Acorn so much. Since I live about 30 miles from you, I have grown-up in Appalachia and know most of the things you talk about. I had a whole bunch of brothers before me, showing me all the things of our Mountain Heritage, including my mama and daddy…Ken

  • Reply
    August 3, 2016 at 9:29 am

    I declare each post to be one of my favorite. This brings back those wonderful memories when there were few toys, and we filled out days with tree climbing, walking, exploring, and absorbing the knowledge of nature like a sponge. Always outdoors and with youngsters in tow, we would find something exciting to do every minute–never bored.
    Even on rainy days we would set up the ironing board on the long porch. An old blanket thrown over it became our cabin. We would pretend the younger ones were lost, and escort them safely back to our ironing board cabin soaked to the gills. I still can get a good laugh from my sis when I greet her at the door with, “Come in little girl lost.”
    As we get older we lose this if we are not careful! I recently took great delight in the laughter of my grandson when we were caught out in a downpour. I tried to jump (limp) out of the car and open a stubborn umbrella, meanwhile accidentally setting off the car alarm on the keychain. Normally this would have been extremely annoying, and I would have grumbled all the way into the restaurant. But in the company of a giggling little boy, this became a memorable event. We finally made it into the restaurant wet and happy. Always try to keep a young one around if possible, because it will help you not to grow up.

  • Reply
    August 3, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Have you read “Last Child in the Woods”? by Richard Louv. He provides so many good reasons for getting children in touch with nature. (For you and readers of your blog, they are naturally obvious; but it’s scary how many people are oblivious to this basic, even instinctual, need.)
    I’m a facilitator for Project Wild, a program which encourages kids and adults to appreciate the out of doors – so many times while leading a group I’ve though what a shame they couldn’t experience the out of doors without the formality of a “class” to get them out there . . . .
    I didn’t have older kids around me to show me “the wild”, but I explored it, meditated in it, observed it, even wallowed in it on my own, and then shared it (and continue sharing it) with as many kids (and adults) as I could (can). Even studying a dandelion in a crack in a sidewalk can spur an appreciation of nature.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 3, 2016 at 8:47 am

    The outside was our playhouse growing up and also, to a degree, our larder. Love for the outdoors is a primary reason, likely the primary reason, men and women enter fields of natural resource management. I credit my Dad for bending this little twig in that direction. Living in the midst of the Daniel Boone National Forest gave us lots of acres to roam and the thousands of miles of clifflines made for a lot of nooks and crannies. As best I can tell, one never outgrows that bent.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 3, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Tipper–Obviously this column is something near and dear to my heart, given that the world of the outdoors has been the source of my livelihood for the last twenty years and a focal point of passion throughout my life.
    I genuinely worry, and this is something I’ve though about a great deal, that we are rapidly losing touch with the natural world. I-phones, smartpads, and gadgets galore seem to be rapidly replacing a scramble to catch spring lizards, grabbing for night crawlers after a late evening rain the in the spring, sitting on a shady bank waiting for a bobber to bounce, wading a cold mountain stream for trout, easing through the woods in late October looking for the tell-tale whisk of a squirrel’s tail or listening for the distinctive sound of a bushytail cutting or a hickory nut, or maybe just walking and ponder the wonders of nature while looking at and admiring wildflowers.
    I’ll give two specific examples connected with my concern. When I give talks (mainly on fly fishing but also on turkey hunting and nature writing), seldom is there a member of my audience under the age of forty. Likewise, I look at the membership of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, two which you belong as I do, and the average age has to be around fifty and there’s more than a fair share of old geezers like me. That translates to fewer and fewer younger folks passing on what is a truly distinctive part of America’s heritage–the right to hunt, fish, camp, hike, or simply enjoy nature’s myriad wonder.
    Thank goodness you are aware of the importance of exposing youth to the good earth, and by all means keep preaching this wonderful gospel.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Steve in tn
    August 3, 2016 at 8:22 am

    While we can’t expect the next generation to be like the last we have moved quickly in my 65 years. Kids are smart but in different things. They seem to have lost the ability to appreciate simple things and to entertain themselves with what is at hand. Sadly, you seldom see them setting quietly enjoying the sunset or watching nature. But then some adults can’t get off the phone either.

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    August 3, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Oh my goodness. I had forgotten about touch-me-nots until I read your post. Nature is truly one miracle after another. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 3, 2016 at 6:32 am

    There will always be time for children to learn simple technology, games, phones, iPods, etc.
    There aren’t enough hours in the day to teach all of Mother Natures wonders and how we can take care and not destroy it. I believe all children need to learn and absorb as much as possible while their minds are young. After all, without nature we could not breathe, eat or live in the elements!
    I have never seen and IPod grow when planted, eaten a cell phone stew or been sheltered from the cold by a stack of video games, have you?
    Thanks Tipper

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