Did You Ever?

Today’s guest post was written by Ed Ammons.

Did You Ever in Appalachia


Did you ever stick two feathers in a corncob so it would spin when you throw it?

Did you ever make popsicle stick guns?

Did you ever make balls out of worn out socks because you couldn’t afford real ones?

Did you ever put a gallon plastic Clorox jug in the freezer with the lid off then take it out and close it tight so when it warmed up it would puff up and you could use it for a football?

Did you ever make a pipe out of a corncob and a piece of rabbit cane?

Did you ever smoke rabbit tobacco?

Did you ever bury your brother in a pile of chicken manure then gash his head with the shovel trying to dig him out because you thought he was going to suffocate?

Did you ever singe a chicken with a burning paper bag after you picked it?

Did you ever pull the tendons on a cut off chicken foot to make the toes curl?

Did you ever have an egg fight with raw eggs?

Did you ever pull pig weeds?

Did you ever make your own black powder?

Did you ever eat wild cucumbers?

Did you ever take a bath in the creek and use sand to scour your rusty elbows?

Did you ever step on a nail and have soak your foot in hot water with Epsom salts in so you don’t get blood poison or lockjaw?

Did you ever try to make wine from huckleberries?

Did you ever have a wire stretched from the hillside on one side of the holler to the other to use as a radio aerial?

Did you ever walk across the high bridge over the little Tennessee? On the girders underneath!

Did you ever ride a little cable car across the Little Tennessee at the Water Gauge when they forgot to lock it up?

Did you ever play Taps on an assembly of used brass plumbing pipes?

Did you ever play roll-a-bat?

Did the coon and bear dogs back on the mountain keep you awake at night?

Did you ever make your own pulling rope with a handle to pull in firewood?

Did you ever have your own ax? Did all the boys have their own?

Did you ever make a cat’s cradle? A Jacob’s ladder?

Did you ever unravel twine from feed sacks and twist it up to make yourself a rope?

Did you ever promise your Daddy you would quit sucking your thumb if he would quit smoking? Did you stick to your end of the bargain but Daddy couldn’t?

Did you ever have a horse named Penny that was the color of a brand new penny?

Did you ever have a sweet natured horse ‘til you tried to ride her?

Did you ever whistle for your horse and she would come running?

Did you ever worry that the Russians would drop an Atomic bomb on Fontana Dam and you would be incinerated?

Did you ever call the people that were forced out when Fontana reservoir filled up Dam people?

Did you ever bust a pillow and have feathers all over the room?

Did you ever see something white move passed the kitchen window?




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  • Reply
    October 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    My imagination was running rampant while reading all of those…Did you’s.
    I am guessing that Mr. Ammons has done all of those things.
    What an interesting life he has led!

  • Reply
    October 10, 2012 at 9:36 am

    As a young child, I stepped on a rusty nail and Granny had me soak it in kerosene ……

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    October 7, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Most of us from Appalachia are still shaped by the ways and means we learned back home to have fun and get pleasure. If I walk through a field and stir up that unique aroma from a patch of rabbit tobacco, I’m carried immediately back to those sunburned hillsides, flying grasshoppers whirring a few feet off the ground, a meadowlark; a wad of those leaves compressed into a rolled up paper torn from a brown paper bag … a very good smoke.
    No, I wouldn’t do that nowadays. I’ll keep my lungs pink and healthy.
    But I could still bring back and enjoy again, almost any, if not all of the things described so wonderfully here. I could still get in the creek, and scour stains away with that sand, and, well … I still have an aerial wire run from the shed to my bedroom window for my Trutone radio.
    Ed, thank you for a good list of delights, many of which I had forgotten and now am reminded. Now I’ve had the pleasure, through your essay, of being carried back to a time less torn apart and empty. 1950s Appalachian childhoods may have had strife; I only mostly remember the happy times from ways recollected here by Mr. Ammons.

  • Reply
    vicki lane
    October 6, 2012 at 12:02 am

    What a wonderful post! I’ve pulled pigweed and made a cat’s cradle…

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    October 5, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    I’ve done some of these, but in no way all of them! Thanks for a great list, and the mermories it triggered.

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    What happened to the music????

  • Reply
    Ken Kuhlmann
    October 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Thanks for posting this from Ed. It brought back a lot of memories of childhood. Most of the things Ed talked about I have done. I was surprised that no one mentioned making a sling shot. We made them out of a forked stick and used strips of rubber from an old inner tube and a leather pouch from the tongue of an old shoe. That was before the synthetic inner tubes of today. These were not true sling shots, but I can’t call them what we used to call them anymore. We also made the true sling shots out of 2 strings and a leather pouch. To shoot these, we put a small rock in the pouch and swing it around your head then let go of one of the strings. We also made homemade bow and arrows. We made wooden arrows out of old wood shingles and shot them with a string on a stick.
    I guess that because we didn’t have a lot of store bought toys, we had to make our own.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Tipper–I thought surely someone would mention a classic Webb Pierce (at least I think he was the artist) song in connection with this, “I Ain’t Never.” Since no one has done so and it’s late in the day, I’ll double up on my day’s posts and mention it as well as thanking Ed again for giving me grist for my little literary mill. I’ve actually done this kind of thing multiple times over the years in columns, but they’ve always been seasonally specific. He ranges all across the year, although if you pay attention it would seem most of the things Ed mentions come in warmer months.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Thank you Ed! You sure had a rich childhood! The only one I’ve ever done is listen to the coon dogs bay all night.

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Shirla: Finally found someone that knows what a “jump board” is. We use to stand in line to get a turn on the jump board. It was the most fun and pain I ever had.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 5, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Tipper-The wild cucumber I was talking about isn’t the tree but a little weed. It has a tiny fruit that resembles a cucumber. The fruit is only about half an inch long. It has a pleasant sour taste. I still see and eat them. They are so small you have to nibble them with your front teeth. If they get further back in your mouth they get lost.

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 11:08 am

    I agree with B. Ruth, each one of
    these “Did you ever’s” could be a
    topic of their own.
    Ed, this is interesting and brought back lots of memories of
    a simplier time.
    I grew up in Topton and we use to
    get lots of snows, even in November. At night we would sneak
    over to the highway and snowball
    cars. Sometimes we would be on
    both sides of the road and when a
    car came by, we’d lean back like
    we were stretching a tight line
    and the cars would stop, then we’d
    I’ve done many of the things Ed
    mentioned, including swinging on
    grapevines on steep mountainsides
    and build swimming holes in cold
    mountain streams. I especially
    remember riding cardboard down
    cutsu infested railroad banks,
    before gravel was put down. Back
    then the Nantahala Gorge had only
    cinders covering for erosion.
    Nice thoughts today from everyone.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    October 5, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Okay! Now that I am just tuckered out reading all that stuff, I realize I haven’t done much in my life being a city gal. I think I may have done two or three of them. Since I won’t make it tonight, I’ll just say, “How do! and wish all of you a beautiful evening!”

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 10:16 am

    So funny. My husband is a “city boy” so he has no idea about any of the things “did you ever” but he was home last week and I was telling him about smoking rabbit tobacco. And I explained to him how to take down the rails so you could get up the hollow to hide from your parents so you could smoke rabbit tobacco. I am pretty sure we will have a rail fence? gate? by our driveway now. He loved the idea. Especially after I told him that if you felt really well you could jump a 10 rail fence. Thanks Ed

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Janet-thank you for the comment! I was too big of scaredy cat to do some of the risker ones Ed mentioned-but I did experience some of the tamer ones : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Lonnie Dockery
    October 5, 2012 at 10:01 am

    That was great Ed! I’ve done a few of them. Tipper, I won’t make it tonight-but ‘how do’ anyway!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    October 5, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Well, Ed, I never!! Actually, I did some of that list.

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Fun article Ed! I got quite a few laughs and giggles out of your story and some from of my childhood memories. It even brought back some to mind that my Father told me about during his childhood. Thanks for the pleasurable walk down memory lane. 🙂

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Ed,since I grew up with a bunch of girls, we didn’t do nearly as much of the mischievous stuff as you did. I will have to admit I have told my girls about doing some of the things from your list and they didn’t believe me. We were allowed to spend the night with cousins if we promised not to dam up the creek for a swimming hole (because we couldn’t swim), make a jump board or sled off a high mountain in a homemade sled where the ground was slick as a ribbon from our previous use-while all the time Daddy thought the boys did it. I’m going to blame all my aches and pains on that jump board from years ago that sent a little skinny girl ten feet in the air and landing wherever and on whatever.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 5, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Well, we didn’t have plastic jugs nor a refrigerator, we washed in the Little T and sometimes Brush Creek. never had a horse named Penny but did have Nell who had one gait, Rough but I think we tried the rest of Ed’s list plus made a rocket out of a bottle with Gasoline and Nitro for fuel bul luckily chickened out and pulled the fuse before it reached to “Bomb”, sister told on this one and Dad convinced me not to try this again. I did wipe the sweat off an old stick of dynamite and flip it on rocks to watch it go “Poof”. Stick a shotgun shell in a bank and shoot the primer with a .22? (Don’t try this at home or anywhere else). Looking back I feel Ed and I are both lucky to have survived “The Good Old Days” but boy were they fun.

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Did you ever smile and smile in delight at the words of another? And remember…..

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Would love to hear the story behind this one: “Did you ever bury your brother in a pile of chicken manure then gash his head with the shovel trying to dig him out because you thought he was going to suffocate?”
    Fun post! I can relate to the sweet horse till you ride it and only once got to do the tendon and chicken foot. I think I led a sheltered life.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 5, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Ed–I have done a goodly number of these and could add considerably to the list from my own experiences. As Don suggests, most of us who grew up in the mountains had a wealth of these simple experiences from childhood to treasure for a lifetime. One of the more traumatic experiences of my boyhood involved pulling red-rooted pigweed with my Grandpa Joe. Maybe Tipper will let me share the tale sometime. What is a wild cucumber? I thought I knew my practical natural history pretty well, but that’s new to me (unless it’s the passionflower fruits, maypops, you are referring to). Speaking of them, I used the seed pods of magnolias as grenades.
    Finally, you’ve given me the idea for a newspaper column sometime down the road, so I owe you a debt of thanks.
    One I can’t believe you skipeed, and I bet you’ve done it, is “riding” cardboard down slick broomsedge-covered hills this time of year.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    October 5, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Didn’t do a lot of these things, but now that you mention it, maybe the time has come!

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I have done a couple of those, Ed, and they sure are more interesting than Wll. Have you ever skinned a rabbit? Have you ever tied a string to a June Bug and let it fly ’round and ’round? Did you ever create a hideout from a fallen tree? Did you ever poke a stick in the ground and attach a lard bucket lid to make your own steering wheel? Did you ever make your tobaccy out of dried cornsilks and almost catch your nose on fire? Did you ever capture a live baby Garter Snake and take it to school in a little box? Hmm, bet if a child did that now would be sent to Reform School.
    One of the most memorable ..Did you ever have a funeral for some dead bitties, and appoint your baby sister as Preacher-man?
    Those were the days and thanks, Ed, for making me think too much with my morning coffee.

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    October 5, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Did you ever put a praying mantis nest in your sock drawer in the winter and watch your mother when she opened it in the spring and said hello to thousands of miniatures?
    Thanks, Ed. What a hoot!

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    October 5, 2012 at 8:21 am

    and Ed…I have done a varient of most of these…
    The one that I remember that I loved as a child was roll-a-bat..or as we called rollybat..
    That was so much fun! I actually could win once in a while…
    I must be a lot older than most here…When I stepped on a rusty nail on Grandmaws farm in NC.. they got the kerosene can, from behind the kitchen stove, and shoved my foot in it…pinching my foot so the gas would go in the punchure..That’ll cure you from going barefoot near the barn…
    Each of these “Have you ever” questions would be good topics for discussion…
    Thanks Tipper and Ed…
    PS Tell folks that you can’t put the cat in the cradle and you can’t climb Jacobs ladder!..
    PS 2….When you grew up, did you tell your brother where you moved and is he still looking for you?

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Truly amazing.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    October 5, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Well, I have to admit, I didn’t do a lot of these things, how about you Tipper? I’ve led a pretty boring life compared to Ed, but I have made dams in the creek, made grasshopper chairs out of plantain, swung on grapevines, picked berries all summer long, had a homemade tee pee for a playhouse, had a pet chicken, walked across the New River Gorge Bridge, made water filled balloons out of the bladder of pigs, fed coal to pigs and listened to the crunch as they ate it and best of all sat on the front porch with Grandma and passed the time of day doing nothing but killing flies and watching cars go by.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    October 5, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Loved this – thanks Ed. The questions are obviously rhetorical, but I suspect that many of the readers will have at least a few of those specific experiences and be able to identify closely with others.
    As I was reading Ed’s own unique set and was combing memories for some of my own when it occurred to me once again – for the eleventy hundredth time – how blessed we were to grow up in the time and the place we did.
    Let me add just one – and encourage others to do likewise.
    Did you ever use the fruit of a wild apricot (maypop, passion flower) as a hand grenade, hiding in the bushes on the hill way up above the highway and throwing your explosive device at vehicles passing by down below?

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    October 5, 2012 at 7:26 am

    I did more of those things than I would admit doing. Didn’t have Tennessee river, but did have Buck Creek and Lake Cumberland. Found out that the big flat conveyor belt in the old feed mill made a good slide, except it would make your bottom raw.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 5, 2012 at 7:13 am

    I’ll be there, Tipper.
    Yes Ed, I have pulled the string off a flour sack and rolled it up.
    Yes, I have made a Cat’s cradle and Jacobs ladder.
    I had a hatchet.
    Yes, I have stepped on a nail and had to soak in epson salts.
    I’ve singed a chicken with burning paper.
    I’ve pulled the tendons from a chicken leg to make it pick up a ball.
    Ed, I promise, I have never buried anyone in chicken manure!

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    October 5, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Wow, did a lot of these things bring back memories, to numerous to tell.. but rabbit tobacco,, I can tell fill the burn in the back of my throat..

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 5, 2012 at 6:25 am

    A few of those, but I was not lucky enough to be raised in the mountains.

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