Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Folklore

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Burning Logs

My life in appalachia - Burning Logs

If you’ve spent much time around wood stoves or fireplaces you’ve heard the crackle, pop, and hiss sounds the wood makes as it burns up. But did you know those sounds mean something?

In an article titled Burning Logs Whisper Secrets, John Parris shared the following folklore he heard from his Grandfather.

  • When the logs tramp along like someones walking-they’re saying company is coming
  • When the logs make a sort of sobbing sound rain is sure to follow
  • When the logs putter and make a sound like a person walking through snow, you know it will soon snow
  • When the fire roars up the chimney like it wants out there’s sure to be a fuss in the family

I’ve never heard any of the folklore above, I found it in John Parris’s book My Mountains, My People.

Back in the day when The Deer Hunter and I were dating, we liked to hang out in Papaw Tony’s basement-there was a wood stove, a couch, and a tv-pretty perfect setup for a courting couple. One Sunday afternoon as we watched tv the chimney caught fire. Quick action by Papaw and a very agile young Deer Hunter saved the day when they quickly got a water hose and my future husband on the roof to put out the fire. That’s a wood sound I never want to hear again.

Whether its a wood stove, a fireplace, or a bonfire there is something mesmerizing about fire-I soak up the heat like a cat and let my mind wander as I watch and listen to the jumping flames.

Parris’s Grandfather made a good point in the article I mentioned that still rings true today-probably more true today than years ago when the article was written. People don’t know about foretelling signs, like whispering logs, because they have no time to listen.


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


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  • Reply
    joe poteat
    December 12, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Heard this one the other day, “not worth a hill of beans”, what is the meaning? thanks

  • Reply
    Kent Lockman
    January 18, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Tipper, When you hear the hiss of the fire from snow on the logs and then the smoke alarm, it means you forgot to open the damper. Kent Lockman in IN

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    January 11, 2012 at 8:34 am

    I like sitting outside by a campfire, watching the fire and telling stories. I’ve never heard of those sayings before but they are kinda neat.

  • Reply
    Kendra Bailey Morris
    January 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    We live by our wood stove in the winter. It’s right in the living room next to our bedroom, and I just love to fall asleep listening to the sounds of the logs hissing and popping. Something so comforting about that. Another great post, thank you 🙂

  • Reply
    Tim Cuthbertson
    January 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    We love fires in the fireplace when we take our annual trips to the state parks (usually Cheaha or DeSoto, sometimes Guntersville – all in Alabama). My youngest son keeps them going all the time we are in our cabin, morning and night. It is interesting to tend the fires and also, like you say, relaxing to just watch and listen to them.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    January 9, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I’ve never heard any of the folklore-can’t wait to ask Mitchell about it tomorrow morning. I just shut our woodstove down for the night-I can hear it popping and hissing, but I think it just means our wood isn’t dry enough! We’ve always said that wood heat is the only kind that warms you twice-and it is all too true. PS-Congratulations to lucky Vicki Lane!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    January 9, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    What a surprise! Thank you, Tipper! I know I’ll enjoy it!
    There is nothing like a wood fire. We have two wood-burning heat stoves and one wood-burning cookstove, along with a kerosene burning heater for back up.

  • Reply
    Mel Hawkins
    January 9, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I grew up with wood heat–I was the “wood boy” at our house, so I’m not nostalgic for them thar “good ole days” so much.
    In the 1950s & 60s one could drive around the area and see “chemlies” left standing on old home places. That usually meant that the chimney had burnt the house down, and folks just left it standing and pulled out of that place.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    We’ve had chimney fires and they are very frightening!
    Daddy always took our heating stove down in the summer; the room was so small it was nice to have the extra room. But I hated the times when he and Mama took it down or put it up; it seemed to me there was always a fuss.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Linda-you can go here to read a brief history of John Parris: the book I mentioned is one of several which contain articles he wrote for the Asheville Citizen.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I will always say there is NO heat like wood heat! It just seems to warm you down to the bone. Oil, gas, and electric just seem to heat the surface.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I grew up in a house with a fireplace and have spent my share of time around bonfires, but had never heard the folklore about the sounds the burning wood makes.
    Referencing your post from yesterday, as a child I got plenty of whippings for disappearing just before it was time to go cut wood, and I still hate it!

  • Reply
    Kim @ Stuff could....
    January 9, 2012 at 11:08 am

    I have not heard of these fire tips:) but there is nothing like a roaring fire!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 9, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Hey Tipper, I’ve never heard of this fire lore, but it stands to reason there would be some. After all during the cold weather folks spent a lot of time in front of the fire with nothing to do but listen.
    My Dad loved John Parris’s books. I guess it reminded him of growing up.

  • Reply
    Ken Kuhlmann
    January 9, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I have to agree with you Tipper. There is something about looking deep into a fire that lets the mind free. I have sat in front of a lot of campfires, bonfires, and wood stoves for 60 years now and have looked into a lot of fires. I have not once seen a re-run. Try that while looking into your TV.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 9, 2012 at 9:32 am

    You forgot about those fiery little meteors that burning wood spits at you. They can burn holes in your clothes and make your hair smell like burnt feathers.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Thanks Tipper for sharing the folk-lore info on what the sounds of the burning wood means–I never heard that but I do sit and get mesmerized by the flames–and I agree most folks do not take the time to enjoy the beauty and magic of the fire–how sad for them!! the book you mentioned by John Parris –is it written as a novel or a study book?

  • Reply
    January 9, 2012 at 9:23 am

    I’ve listened to those sounds all my life and had no idea those logs were trying to tell me something. I’ll be listening to their whispers a little closer from now on.
    Thank goodness they put that fire out in time. I know what it’s like to have your house burn to the ground.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    January 9, 2012 at 8:49 am

    I’ve heard that the fire was “tramping snow” when it sounded like someone walking on snow. And we called it a “chimley” too, Ed! Guess it was just too hard to make that “n” sound follow the “m”.

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    January 9, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I can attest to the “roar” indicating a family fuss. Our woodstove fire was verbal yesterday evening upon starting up. Shortly thereafter my ex-sister-in-law called and vented her own brand of fire upon me. (She likely would’ve done so to any poor soul who answered the phone.) My husband calmly reminded me the moon was nearly full, which makes perfect sense. The logs heard her coming from miles away.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Quite interesting. Didn’t know the foklore of burning wood.
    I love the wood fires, sizzling & hissing wood set the stage for the flames to dance a firey tango.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 9, 2012 at 8:32 am

    What a scary thing to happen, it was a good thing he was there.
    I love a wood fire too, there is something mesmerizing about them, giving comfort in more ways than warmth.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    January 9, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Tipper: WHAT A WINNER! Today your post and Ethelene’s has me prepared for a wonderful day! Those memories around our fireplace – which Grandpa Wimpey and my Daddy built around the ‘barn’ which Daddy had managed to purchase by trading! His trading was in stock! NOT STOCKS AND BONDS but stock out of the barn! With Grandpa Will’s help, Daddy was able to make a house out of a barn and raised eleven healthy children in that chilly place. However fireplace did us well until we kind of got sophicated and got a pot belly stove in the ’50’s.
    Have a blessed and WARM day!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 9, 2012 at 7:18 am

    I love to watch the flames in the fireplace…It’s so easy to see images there…especially the ‘devil’ as pointed red horns of fire rise up around a larger redblue flame…ooooh!
    I hate to hear that hiss and spew invaribably followed by a pop…To me that means wet wood or wood that the saps not down in….Speaking of cats…the sound of mews or low hisses is scary too…
    We had a chimney fire one time…Six inches of snow on the ground and roof…Woke up to a roar…I shut the damper and closed the doors while a half asleep husband got the ladder and climbed the roof…The sparks were flying and coming down on a wet snow…so thankful for that snow…as if it had gotten any hotter all would have been lost as no one could have got up the driveway much less down the state hwy….
    Thanks Tipper, for the folklore I haven’t heard most of those except the roaring fire…love it as usual….

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 9, 2012 at 6:12 am

    We always took the wood heater out in the summer and put it back up when the weather got chilly in the fall. The old Rome Eagle cookstove was enough heat for the cool mornings of the spring and fall. Before we put the heater back up Daddy inspected all the stovepipe and replace the rusted out pieces. Then one of us boys would go up on the roof and put a chain down the chimney and shake it around and up and down to loosen all the soot and what ever else was in there. It all fell down in the house and made a mess no matter how we tried to catch it. But, we didn’t have to worry about a chimney (we pronounced it chimley) fire.

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