Children and Religion in Appalachia

two girls laying by a swingset

Chitter and Chatter

“A thump, thumping and smothered cries took her rushing to the stairway in time to catch Cassie as she rolled onto the narrow landing above the little door. She seized her, shook her, blew in her face, then ran with her to a window to see what bones were broken. The limp little figure dangled over her arms; the head, with the straggling hair slipped as ever from its braids, flopped backward toward the dangling hand-me-down shoes. Gertie, shaking her, whispering in terror, “Cassie honey,” blowing breath into the open sagging mouth, remembered guilty that with all her riches not one new thing had she bought for Cassie, and that in all the hurry to get to the new house before the certain rain promised by the war, windy, reddening sunrise, she had not even combed Cassie’s hair.

“Clytie, git a dipper a cold water—quick!”

Then the limber arms were flung about her neck, the sagging mouth was laughing, while the too big shoes flew to the far corners of the room as Cassie kicked her heels. “Oh, Mom, you looked so funny. I got tired of this sinful Satan-ridden earth and I went up to heaven.” She sighed and slid from her mother’s arms. “I didn’t like it so good—That Callie, she pulled them gold feathers out uf a big angel’s wings and throwed away her crown. It went a bounden an a bouncen down them golden stairs clean down to this Satan-ridden world.”

Clytie, her face white with fury, torn from linoleum, willowware, and curtains, threatened to throw the dipper of water into Cassie’s face. But Gertie was too relieved to do more than slap her bottom not hard enough, as Clytie pointed out in disgust, to squash a fly, and threaten to beat that Callie Lou till she was pieded black and blue from head to toe.”

—The Dollmaker – Harriet Simpson Arnow


I’ve always found kids who quote things they’ve heard at church to be especially hilarious.

When Chitter was about three years old she’d tell me “Momma the Lord wants you to be good to me!” Such a thing coming from a tiny little girl who knew that I was always good to her left me in hysterical laughter. Other times she’d say “Momma! I thought the Lord told you to be good to me!”

A friend of ours told the story of a small boy at a church up near Andrews who was cutting up instead of listening during preaching. When his Daddy had had enough he picked the little boy up to take him outside for a talking to. Knowing what was coming, on the way down the aisle the little boy yelled out “Yall pray for me!” to the congregation.

While Chitter and Chatter weren’t as strange as the character of Cassie in the book, they certainly had some of her traits when they were that age, and on occasion they still do.


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  • Reply
    Darrell K Cook
    November 10, 2021 at 9:38 am

    Years ago our son rode his bicycle out of our neighborhood and to a main highway intersection. He was told several times to not bicycle down the steep road. Highway 11 was busy that time of year and there were several county roads that intersected there. Anyway a car turned in front of him at the intersection and he had to lay down the bike and bumped the side of the car. Fortunately he nor his bike were to hurt much. I bet the occupants of the car were terrified! I asked Tony what he thought when his bike skidded under the car? He said this came to mind, “Honor your parents that your days on earth are long!” I guess he was listening to the preacher that Sunday.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    September 7, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    lol tipper…those stories of your girls made me smile…as the saying goes…out of the mouth of babes

    love your girls….God is good
    blessings and love to you all

  • Reply
    September 6, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    I remember one time a little feller ran up to the front of the Church right before service started and got up next to the podium and looked out over the audience took his little finger and pointed up and said I’m gonna preach about him and then took and point down and said and preach about him, we all busted out in laughter.

  • Reply
    September 6, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    When our daughter acted up in church I took her out and gave her a lecture about how I expected her to behave. We went back in and in a few moments she started again. I took her out, gave her a spanking and we went back in. A few minutes later she was at it again. As we neared the door she cried out, “Please don’t spank me again.” I kept walking and then she cried out in an even louder voice, “Well, at least don’t pull my pants down this time.” That was the only time she had a spanking on her bare bottom.

  • Reply
    September 6, 2019 at 11:48 am

    I think I remember a like happening at our church many moons ago… carried out by his daddy He said the same thing… :), that’s a sweet picture up there, I haven’t read this book, but I think I’ll tuck me a copy away for our next camping trip… October, when it’s a bit cooler, and fall is really in the air :), think I’ll read the book first then watch the movie. 🙂 have a nice day all ..:)

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 6, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Buster was the last one to go visit the Lord, and he worked for Roadway for many years. One time he told me a story about our oldest brother, Bud. That’s what we all called him, but his real name was Gentry. Buster told me this story that I hadn’t heard before. Seems Bud, after High School, got to running with some of his friends and got caught stealing gas out of a parked School Bus at Robbinsville. To avoid going to Jail, Bud joined the Army. After basic training they sent him off to Korea.

    After he was there for some time, they sent him and his crew to scout around for the enemy. Bud was left alone at the camp and was fixin’ Breakfast when he noticed someone standing between him and his gun. It was a North Korean and he had a gun. Bud didn’t know what to do, so he just stood there. Suddenly the North Korean started toward Bud, neither of them could understand each other, and Bud noticed that the Korean was poor as a snake and wanted to Surrender. Bud hugged the North Korean’s neck and took his empty gun. He fed him and made a Promise not to do no harm to him. When Bud’s bunch returned, he told them what had happened and they turned him over to the Authorities, promising that he’d be taken Care of. God looks after those that belong to Him. …Ken

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    September 6, 2019 at 9:37 am

    Out of the mouths of babes. You would be surprised what I have heard over the years from students.
    I used to tell parents “I won’t believe what they tell me about you if you don’t believe what they say about me”. They usually laughed but they wouldn’t laugh if they heard what their kids had to say.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 6, 2019 at 8:18 am

    I took one of them spells once ever that I recall. My great aunt and great uncle were sitting in their car alongside the road at my Grandma’s. I was running towards them down the path alongside the fence when way over in the woods a gun cracked. Quick as thought I flung my arms up and fell backwards into the grass.After a minute my great aunt said, ‘Reckon he is alright?’ My great uncle said, ‘I don’t know. I heard a shot and he fell.’ I waited until I heard them getting out of the car before I jumped up laughing.

    It is a useful ability to be able to make your own fun and entertain yourself.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    September 6, 2019 at 7:47 am

    Years ago I did a newsletter for a church nursery and part of the page was funny stuff. The preacher’s kid and two friends had found a dead bird & decided to give it a burial. They dug out a little hole and prepared to bury it. As they put it in, the preacher’s son said, ” In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and into the hole you go.”

    We used to attend the tent revivals every summer. Of course the preachers would walk up & down the aisles, preaching fire & brimstone & telling people to repent and go to the altar. I was always huddled down hoping & praying he wouldn’t stop at our seat. I guess he accomplished something anyway–he did have me praying!

    • Reply
      September 6, 2019 at 4:24 pm

      I have a memory long ago of a big baptizing. Apparently, I was so rambunctious Dad had to leave with me and come back. He did not like impolite children, and taught us against lying at a very young age. He said I was a *handful.” I remember that old phrase *piet nigh” or “pert near.” ….never heard pieded.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 6, 2019 at 7:08 am

    It is a fascinating thing to watch the minds of children. They are total innocence and ultimate deception at the same time. Chitter took what you valued and used it to try and manipulate you into what she wanted!
    There is no telling what will come from the minds of children so you have to pay close attention or you will miss some real gems!

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