Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – You Might Catch Cold


Chitter couldn’t stand it as soon as the tractor pulled out of Pap’s garden she had to shed her shoes and get in it. The other girl? She was mad because I told her she couldn’t do the same. I wouldn’t let her go barefoot in that cold turned ground in the cool evening air because I could hear Granny in my head warning me not to.

Granny is always worrying about someone taking cold-even herself. There are rules she follows like don’t wash your hair if you’re going to have to go outside, you should wash it after you’re in for the night; remember to wear a jacket or coat with a hat or toboggan if it’s windy or you might take cold; if you’ve been sick recently then when you do go outside you better bundle up good or you might take cold or worse yet a backset; take all precautions against getting wet in the rain or you might catch a cold.

All my life I’ve laughed at Ganny’s dire warnings of catching cold or taking sick and now here I am telling my recently sick daughter the same thing.

Got any warnings from your Granny?


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


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  • Reply
    April 6, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Once when my daughter was an infant the weather was unbearably hot and I had her dressed in just a diaper. My grandmother told me “that baby’s too young to be without a shirt, she’ll get sick”. I immediately put a shirt on her, but that has always been stuck in my mind.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    These all sound familiar, especially the one about washing your hair and going out in the cold. We always went barefoot on May 1st, and not before.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    LOL-no I haven’t heard those 2 : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    March 27, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Ha, my grandma said the exact same things! I’m trying to remember some of the others…”don’t go swimming after eating or you’ll get a cramp and drown.” “Don’t shed a clout til May is out”
    Can’t think of any others at the moment.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    I can remember our Daddy saying to me “You are rushing the season, Sister” when I showed up barefooted.( I was the youngest of five and the only girl. I know the brothers went barefooted long before I could). Then if we did end up sick, Mama always would have us rub with turpentine and take a dose of Milk of Magnesia. Sure cure for everything! ha.

  • Reply
    Mary Jane Plemons
    March 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Don’t think Appalachia is the only place mamas and grannies were cautious; they were the same in Texas! I was not allowed to go out with a wet head. After Mama rolled my hair in pincurls and stuck the bobby pins straight into my head, I thought, (I’d complain, and she’d say, “You have to suffer to be beautiful”…I oughta be a raving beauty by now!), I had to have a wool scarf tied around my head in a turban to keep it warm in the winter, and sometimes sit by the fire, too. Forget going outside after a bath in the winter…”the warm bath opened your pores, and you’ll catch cold.” No bare feet until hot weather. But I had it easier than my mother, who said she had to wear her long wool underwear from the beginning of cold weather, and she had to wear it all winter, plus undershirt, bloomers, long wool stockings, under her dresses. She said she longed for spring, when she could get it off and wear “anklets”, short socks. She had to wear an asfidity(sp?)bag around her neck…an herb, I think, that was supposed to ward off germs. She said it smelled awful, but most everybody had to wear one. Of course, night air made you sick, as did a draft, especially on your head or neck.
    Mary Sunshine

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    My Daddy always said (and it came from Granny) don’t feed a baby strawberry icecream, it’ll poison them. Don’t know, nver tried it. Didn’t have any babies to spare that we wanted to try it on. He also wouldn’t let us drink milk with cucumbers. (came from Granny) I’m laughing my head off as I type this. Did you ever hear those two?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Tipper–There’s nothing more reflective of the wonderful innocence of youth than a burning desire to go barefooted, colds or not. I can remember begging to go barefooted every spring way before Mom and Dad would allow it, with Momma invariably saying something to the effect “you’d catch a cold for sure.”
    Strangely, I don’t see youngsters going barefooted all that much anymore, but when I was a boy it was a matter of pride to build up skin on the bottom of your feet that you could walk on the cement sidewalks of Bryson City in mid-summer without a thought of how hot they were.
    But my favorite memory connected with bare feet is associated with Joe Bennie Shuler, the father of your congressman, Heath Shuler. I initially coached in the local Little League baseball program when it started and then, the second year, ran it with my lifelong friend Jackie Corbin. The very first day of practice, Joe Bennie showed up barefooted. I mentioned something about wearing tennis shoes the next day, not realizing it was possible his family was so poor he didn’t have a pair. I can still see that little boy, proud as a banty rooster, puffing up and saying: “Shulers don’t wear shoes in the summertime.”
    I never knew a boy with more gumption, incidentally. He mowed grass, sold “Grit” newspapers, sold Cloverine salve, and would jump in and help work on anything that was going on. He turned into a fine man and raised two fine boys.
    While I’m walking trails into yesteryear, I’ll also note that the aforementioned Jackie Corbin has long been a researcher at Vanderbilt University, where he earned a Ph. D. a few years before I did. He was a key member of the team which discovered Viagra and also did pioneering work on DNA. It’s possible Jackie and Heath Shuler are the two most famous folks ever from Swain County, although I’d put in a strong case for Dr. Ellen Black Winston, the daughter of our next-door neighbors when I was a boy. She held positions of national prominence in the administrations of both President Kennedy and President Johnson, among many other things, and she was a key influence on my brother, Don, in his choice of N. C. State as the place to pursue college degrees.
    See what a twisted, tortured, and totally enjoyable path your mention of colds and bare feet took me down. If nothing else, it will tell you that while Don and yours truly may be simple (and some would say, not too smart) sons of the Smokies, we’ve known some folks of considerable accomplishment.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Mark Selby
    March 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I don’t know that you’d call it a warning, per se, but my Memaw had a little saying that helps keep life in perspective. She loved living, and she enjoyed a good time. Anytime she’d carry on with any foolishness and get to laughing, she’d always say, “No fools, no fun!” So, I guess you could say that that’s a warning to not take ourselves too seriously. Life’s too short for that.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    March 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Oh,my! I have heard all of the above thousands of times in my life and am still hearing it. I don’t do any of them and have not “caught my death” yet! It’s OK, though, it means my mama loves me.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    My Momma’s yongest sister is named Kathleen – everybody always called her Kat. She and I always loved each other so much. I would always slip off and cross the creek to see her whenever I got the chance. Momma always told me all the things you mentioned about not catching a cold.
    One day when I was a little boy I couldn’t stand it no longer and I went running across the creek on the foot log to see her; this time I fell in and got wet – just like the old song. It was March and the water in the creek was as cold as a frog’s leg. Momma must have been right about all those warnings. A few days later I came down with Pneumonia. Kat didn’t know I was that wet and I was afraid if I told her she would tell Momma. Those things you mentioned are true – I believe. You better be CAREFUL about going bare footed, getting wet etc.. You might not get Pneumonia but you just might get a cold.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    March 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    My Granny Salmons and Mama enforced May first for going barefooted. We cheated when we could, and got our butts whipped for it.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Sounds pretty much the same when I go over them in my head, save for that instead of just saying “catch cold” my mom and grandmothers said, “catch your death”. But quite frankly I would now say to them, “don’t worry so much or you’ll catch your death” and I could if only they hadn’t worried so stinkin’ much!

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo (Granny Sal)
    March 25, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Of course I had heard those warnings, and my sister and I loved to “sneak” and go out barefoot before April 1st.
    I remember us once putting on bathing suits before April 1 and wading in the creek, near our house! Nothing like being young..

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 10:13 am

    When my girls were little, you
    couldn’t keep sox on ’em, let alone shoes. They loved going
    barefoot! ( Must a got that from
    their mother ) I never liked going
    barefeet, probably from being so
    glad to even HAVE a pair of shoes.
    But I bet someday Chitter and
    Chatter will be handing those
    cautions down to their kids…Ken

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    March 25, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Shame, shame, shame on you Tipper. Chatter is right to be mad. Haven’t you ever heard the old adage:
    “Walk barefoot through freshly-turned soil and with colds you’ll no longer toil.”
    Now that you’ve fouled this up so bad, you’re going to have to find her a bait of ramps as soon as possible. After eating them, cold germs wouldn’t come within a quarter mile of her.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Oh my goodness brings up tons of memories. No barefeet until after Easter. My Dad made up one of his own as he always cautioned to not diet in the winter as it would weaken your resistance. I guess he was thinking about those ole starving diets.
    One of my Afro American friends says her family taught to wear head covering toboggin,as body heat goes out the head. My Mom would take in clothes from the clothesline and let them “season” which meant to dry out a bit more so they would not make you “sick.” She is the only person I have ever heard use that term. It seems we are fast losing our Appalachia culture in this area, and that is why I love this site. Thank you again for seeing Appalachia so clearly and honestly through your eyes. (WV)

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Oh my goodness! That sounds just like my Mama talking. I probably told mine the same thing. Guess it’s a mama thing.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    March 25, 2011 at 8:45 am

    I know this is not what you asked, but…Let her go! Don’t deprive her of that once-a-year thrill of digging her bare toes in newly plowed dirt! It’s worth the risk of getting sick. She’ll be older next year and soon the thrill will wear off; she’ll be more likely to worry about dirty feet and what other people think–and about catching cold. Let her go.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 8:33 am

    All of the above, including many, many warnings of being out in the ‘night air’ – and she’s been in Florida for nearly 50 years!

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Tipper, I know somewhere in our heritage we are related.
    I’m always quick to take off the shoes and run outside barefoot. Even in the winter for a dash to the mailbox. Mama still fusses about my barefeet. If I come to visit without a hat, she finds one.
    We could not go out with wet hair even in the summer. And never go to sleep with wet hair either.

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Although we all know that you can’t catch a cold by being out in the cold (right?) — we Moms still repeat that Granny tale. Better safe than sorry. 🙂

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    March 25, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Oh my goodness yes I have heard those warnings because it was really important that you do not get sick! Lets see… don’t wash your hair and go out, don’t wash your hair and go to bed without it being totally dry. You catch cold through your head, always cover it up..(could explain those dumb looking night hats in old time movies!) You catch cold through your feet, so don’t run around barefoot in winter. Do NOT even think about going barefoot outside till May 1st. And oh my goodness… if its a females time of the month..well, you cant wash your hair or go swimming, or take a bath.. at ALL! Because you could die. And if you do any of that and you cause yourself to get a cold.. well you better watch out for next month, because you will sure have to pay for it in the pain department! *shakes my head.* How did I live to make it to now?!! haha!

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 7:17 am

    My Grannie Smith said you couldn’t go barefooted before April 1 – no matter how warm it was before that, nor how cold it happened to be on April 1 – that was the magic day. Before that day, you might “catch your death in a cold”, but after April 1 you were fine. (We, like Chitter couldn’t wait though – just don’t let Grannie see you without those shoes 🙂

  • Reply
    March 25, 2011 at 4:56 am

    My grandma would always warn me against catching cold in March since this is a particularly unstable month in my part of the world – can be sunny and warm during the day and chilly at night. So she’d always remind me to put on a hat and a jacket if I went out and, like your grandma, she said: “Don’t wash your hair if you’re going out. You might catch a cold!”

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