Appalachia Appalachian Food

Ever Been To A Ramp Tramp?

Today’s post was written by Charles Fletcher.

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Ramp Tramp

While hunting in the mountains of North Carolina, I saw ramps very often but never gave any thought as what they were used for. I had heard some of the men folks talk about eating them when they were in the mountains for several days. They jokingly said that they smelled so bad that no wild animal would dare get close to you.

The popularity of the Ramp began to get attention and there were Ramp Clubs being formed in different towns and villages. The clubs began gathering together every spring and having what they called a Ramp Tramp. They elected committees for this annual Get–to-Gather. One group would make a trip to the mountains to dig (harvest) enough to feed the big crowds that attended on the big day of the tramp.

Another committee would contact Bluegrass bands and country singers to entertain the crowd. The next assignment was the main and most important one-the cooks. This was a very demanding job. Every cook had to know how much meat to cook with the ramps, and how long to cook before cooking the scrambled eggs. All the other fixings were prepared at home and brought to the celebration. There would be plenty of cornbread, fresh butter milk and you could bet your last dollar that some Good Old Boy would secretly bring a jug of liquid corn. Of course this wasn’t for everyone. Just his close buddies and maybe a little for the music makers.

The celebration started early with the music and singing. While this was going on the cooks were busy getting ready to feed everyone.

After a good meal of ramps, ham, scrambled eggs, corn bread and a big glass of butter milk to wash all of this down there would be more music and then the dancing began. For those that didn’t dance they would gather in small groups and catch up on the news from their last meeting. Everyone enjoyed these Ramp Tramps.

The Sunday school class that my brother, TJ, and I belonged to at Oak Grove Church located in the community of Thickety decided to have a ramp tramp of our own. This was after we returned from WWII in the late 1940s. The women of the class were to do the cooking and the men were to go to the mountains and dig the ramps.

As soon as the Sunday services were over several of us loaded up in a couple of cars and headed for the mountains above Crusoe located at the foot of Cold Mountain. This was where we were going to dig the ramps for our Ramp Tramp.

We took a couple of big burlap sacks to put the ramps in. The place that we found the ramp patch was a good one. It didn’t take us long to fill the sacks and head back down the mountain, load up, and head back to Thickety. We were about half way back when it started raining. “We’ll have to cook under the Thickety Community Shed about a mile from the Church” TJ said “A little rain is not stopping us from having our Ramp Dinner”.

When we arrived at the community shed the women were already cooking the meat to get the grease for the ramps.

Some of us were cleaning the ramps and others cutting them into small pieces for cooking. The women soon had everything cooked and on the tables along with the corn bread and butter milk which they had prepared the day before. After the blessing by one of the men we were ready for our Ramp Meal and none too soon. We all were hungry as a wolf.

By the time we finished eating and cleaning everything it was time for the evening church service. We washed up a little, combed our hair, loaded up in our cars and headed for church.

We all went to our regular seats where we were in a habit of setting. Heads began to turn. People began taking their handkerchiefs out and wipe their eyes and nose. Some even coughed.

The preacher took his place up front and began clearing his throat. “It seems that someone has been to the ramp patch, smells like onions in here. I believe it is worse than onions, more like garlic.”

The preacher was looking directly at Howard, TJ’s brother in law. “It ain’t me preacher”, Howard said. “I only eat one helping but TJ and some of the others eat two or three helpings. It’s them preacher, not me”, Howard said.

“Now wait just a minute Mr. Dotson. You eat as much as I did and you know it.”

The preacher cleared his throat and said “Lets all stand and sing the first and third verse of page 224 in the hymnal on the bench where you are sitting.” The piano player started the music, the song leader stood and we all began to sing The Lily of the Valley.

There was no more talk of how we smelled. It has been many years ago that I went to the Ramp Tramp. It was my first and also the last one for me.

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I hope you enjoyed Charles Fletcher’s story about the Ramp Tramp that nearly cleared a church service as much as I did. Leave him a comment and I’ll make sure he reads it.

Tipper

 

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    delores (Rusty) ellis
    May 11, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Ramps…I remember a comment at
    one time when some one in a crowd
    waiting to get into a concert hall
    saying, “who had the audacity to
    eat garlic standing in line here
    (at the top of her voice). As
    for liquid corn, my old time string band used to kid about the
    fiddler (me) after a gig….Leave
    her be layin’ drunk on the path,
    she’s air driver.
    The Old Fiddle Lady, Rusty Ellis

  • Reply
    Becky
    April 17, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Loved the story, Mr. Fletcher. I can only imagine how strong that odor was. I wonder if they left the doors open after services to let the church air out. LOL

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 10, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Great Story….thanks Mr Fletcher!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    April 9, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Great story! Makes me hungry for some ramps…

  • Reply
    SandyCarlson (USA)
    April 9, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Utterly amazing. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    April 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Thank you for the comment! Check out this site for more details about ramps: http://foyupdate.blogspot.com/2010/04/wild-onions-collecting-and-gathering.htmlI I think ramps taste like both onions and garlic mixed together-only stronger : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Ken
    April 9, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Tipper,
    I always enjoy reading anything
    Mr. Fletcher writes about. He is
    a man of much experience and we
    could all learn from him. It felt
    just like I was sitting there in
    church too, guilty as the rest of
    the bunch…Ken

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    April 9, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Tipper,
    Thank Charles Fletcher for a great post…It was so funny and I hope a lot of truths added…
    You know the ramp is in the Lily family…and yes there are a lot or ramp festivals (tramps) in the Appalachians…I think Cosbys is this weekend!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Mary Jane Plemons
    April 9, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I have wondered what a ramp was…still don’t know. They don’t grow here in central Texas, I am guessing.

  • Reply
    kat
    April 9, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Enjoyed Mr. Fletcher’s story. Funny isn’t it how the blame game still continues?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 9, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Tipper–This fine piece from Mr. Fletcher is right up my alley. I’ve never been to a ramp tramp but I’ve done my fair share of tramping after ramps. In fact, as I noted yesterday, brother Don and I had a fine bait of ’em, along with morel mushrooms, last night. All that was missing was trout, and I’ll soon remedy that.
    Speaking of trout, that’s where most of my early culinary adventures with ramps focused. Throughout my teens a bunch of us opened the trout season in the Park every year with a camping trip at Poke Patch, high up on Deep Creek. We’d gather ramps on the way in and have ’em with fried taters, branch lettuce, and trout. Anyone who hasn’t sampled and savored this mountain feast has an empty spot in their life, although they may not know it.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    Donna Godfrey
    April 9, 2011 at 9:20 am

    I love stories like this. It is well written but I have a question…what do ramps taste like?
    I am afraid I never heard of them.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 9, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Good story! Funny

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    April 9, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I enjoyed this very much. I was very interested in community names I had never heard of near Cold Mountain, which is just over the mountains from our place in Brevard. Never heard of Thickety or Crusoe, but found them on the map.

  • Reply
    Nancy
    April 9, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Interesting! I learn so many new things from your blog, Tipper. 🙂

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