Sayings from Appalachia

I’m Gonna Light A Fire Under You


I’m a fast worker. When I’m about to do something I want to do it…like now. Most days I feel like I can get more done if folks would just get out of my way and let me do the whole shebang instead of trying to help. Does that mean I’m the best worker or better than those who move at a slower pace? Nope it doesn’t, in fact we all know most of the time slow and steady wins the race, it’s just not in my dna to be slow I’m always in a hurry to get things done.

The Deer Hunter is like me. He likes to get things done as quickly as possible, so we make a good match. Chatter and Chitter? Well they walk and work to their own time piece and it goes a whole lot slower than ours 🙂

I read one time that the old saying gonna light a fire under you came from farmers who sometimes actually had to light a fire under a stubborn mule to get it to move. Lighting a real fire under the girls to get them to step up to Tipper speed isn’t something I’d contemplate doing, however sometimes I would like to give them a good hard pinch like I used to do when they were cutting up in church. But then I remind myself they are extremely competent hard workers they just don’t go at things as fast as I do and I well know that isn’t a true fault. In fact going at things slower might be a trait I need to learn from them.


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox




You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Helen Gardner
    May 13, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    I grew up with that saying. I did not have to be encouraged often but occasionally the day dreaming would slow me down. I’ve also slowed down with age and infirmities… but I still day dream well!

  • Reply
    Susan Jones
    April 15, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    My mama used to threaten to light a fire under my sister and me.
    Her favorite description for someone who didn’t do things fast enough was, “He moved so slowly that the dead lice were falling off of him.”
    The picture always made me wince, but it certainly told the story.
    Happy Sunday up there on Eastern Time and have a great week!

  • Reply
    aw griffgrowin
    April 14, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Jim Casada I agree. Corporal punishment needs to be brought back. I got my britches dusted several times in grades 8,9,10. Did it help? Yes I would be a good boy for several months in a row.

  • Reply
    Jose Felicianeo
    April 14, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    ♪♫ Come on baby light my far!­ ♫♪

  • Reply
    April 14, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    I’ve heard that expression all my life. I’ve said it to some of my students who are not working as hard as they should. If some of today’s kids had had a little heat to their seats, they wouldn’t be the way they are now.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    I’ve always been the same as you, Tipper – dig in and get it DONE – but in recent years that is just no longer an option. I spent probably most of 2012-2014 doing all my daily chores with a voice in my head scolding me for being so slow and weary and so on. Since then, if I hear that voice at all it is mostly reminding me that I’m still up and doing, even if slowly and in short sessions, and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity. I’m sometimes surprised when I see younger, fitter people doing things in a slow, lackadaisical way, but then I think heck, they’re going slower but maybe they’ll last longer!

    • Reply
      Leon Estes
      April 15, 2018 at 6:27 pm

      yes, Quinn. I hear you talking. So what if it takes you longer to get the same thing done as it did 5 years ago? At least you are still up and doing! Life is good!

  • Reply
    aw griffgrowin
    April 14, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    I don’t know how I ended up with Growin attached to the end of my name. My Grandson maybe?

  • Reply
    aw griffgrowin
    April 14, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    I’ve used that and had it said to me. Dad used to tell me when I was slow or late doing something that I would be a good one to send to get a doctor for the devil.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    A yankee friend of mine from the thumb part of Michigan once told me I should live to 120. I took that as a compliment cause I’m Laidback. If I hadn’t hurt my back, working on my Mountain Water, I’d still be doing alright. But as you get older, things happen. …Ken

  • Reply
    April 14, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    You could say those girls march to the tune of a different drummer. That’s still better than trying to work with someone that doesn’t even know three’s music playing.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 14, 2018 at 11:33 am

    Closely related is a threat I heard fairly regularly as a somewhat wayward youngster, although it was sometimes directed towards others along with yours truly. The essence of it was “I’m going to set your pants on fire” or “I’m going to light a fire on your bottom.” Sometimes the threat became reality, and although there were never any flames there was a time or two when there was heat aplenty in my nether regions. Strangely enough, since Dad was the primary administrative agent for heat in my behind, the worst fire ever lit in y rump came from a 9th grade teacher.

    Thad DeHart, who was a wonderful teacher, often threatened to administer “six of my best” to some grossly misbehaved student. One day that student was me, and he went to the back of the classroom to get the razor strap he used for corporal punishment. In a moment of singularly misguided inspiration, while he was temporarily out of sight, I quickly stuffed a Duxbak cap in my britches. Apparently it showed, because he frailed the dickens out of me.

    I didn’t dare tell Daddy, although I was banged up enough to show bruises, because that would have meant another licking (and maybe worse in terms of various types of probation). In today’s world such treatment would bring lawsuits, outraged parents, and a general uproar. Guess what? I deserved the whipping, was probably better and certainly no worse for it, and you’ll work long, hard, and in all likelihood in total futility to convince me that properly administered corporal punishment isn’t a good thing at times.

    Incidentally, just thinking back on the episode sets my posterior aflame.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Jan C.
    April 14, 2018 at 11:25 am

    I heard that many times from my mama and daddy. I was a day dreamer and didn’t get in a hurry about anything-especially chores!

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    April 14, 2018 at 10:58 am

    I used to work like you but I have slowed down a tiny bit and I can relate fully that our children were the same way and even now. They set up their work projects differently but they still succeed and get them accomplished. Have heard that expression light a fire under too. A couple years ago, I was to help a lady set up a meeting with refreshments. When I got there she had set up the whole table. I was to bring the paper products and drinks. I exclaimed “you’ve done the whole shebang!” As soon as the word “shebang” came out of my mouth, I thought where in the world did that word come from. lol Must have been my childhood.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    April 14, 2018 at 10:54 am

    I also am a fast worker. Mama was the same way. It’s pretty hard not to get annoyed by those who are slower! It begins to feel like they will never get done.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2018 at 9:48 am

    Hi Tipper,I’ve heard the one about building a fire but i’ve felt the flip of a wound up tea towel on my butt to hurry up the dish washing job,I wouldn’t mind another flip just to see my dad once more.Tell Paul I so enjoyed his song and vedio on youtube yesterday,beautiful!!! God Bless.Jean

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    April 14, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Reminds me of an old tale, “The Balky Mule”. In summary, a man went to town with a wagon and mule to get supplies. On the way home, the mule balked and nothing would move him. Finally the man built a fire under the mule only to have it pull up just enough to burn up the wagon and supplies. Any truth? Of course not…

    Can the Deer Hunter really light a fire with a magnifying glass?

    • Reply
      April 23, 2018 at 2:39 pm

      Rooney-thank you for the comment! And yes he really can 🙂

  • Reply
    April 14, 2018 at 9:26 am

    When I was forty three years old, my boss told me there wasn’t an eighteen year old in the hub that could out work me. That did not mean I was stronger than them, just that I moved faster. Mom used to say that I was “like a hen on a hot tin roof.” I took that after her. I have slowed down as I get older, but Mom never did.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2018 at 9:23 am

    I’m with ya, I let it get so bad in my early years that I can see where I was wrong now, didn’t get no extra pay, time off, or even a pat on the back, worked myself in the ground and realize now as I’m older, boy was I dumb, most folks didn’t work at my pace so they got out of the way and just let me do it, drew the same pay but less work, now I don’t believe in sand bagging like some do, but I should have paced myself better, now I suffer from bad knees,bad back, shoulder messed up, see where this is going, What’s the old phrase ? Live and Learn. Group Alabama sings a song that reminds me of this topic, one versus says ” I’m in a hurry to get things done, Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun, all I’ve got to do is live and die but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why. I should have stopped more often and smelled the roses so to speak. I heard someone say one time when things get so piled up and upsetting ask yourself, ” In light of eternity what does it matter?” . Man, I should have wrote that down and stuck it in my back pocket, less stress means better all around health. My Wife has an Aunt that raised a Son on her own, she said that she felt that her baseboards needed dusting every Friday, now she wishes that she had spent that time with her son instead because he’s married and moved off and that time she can never get back. Dusty baseboards? In light of Eternity What does it Matter ?

  • Reply
    April 14, 2018 at 9:03 am

    While I’ve heard the phrase often, I never considered a source other than that of actually having a fire lit under me – which most surely would get me to move! . . . can’t say that it would be productive movement 😉

  • Reply
    Ed "Papaw" Ammons
    April 14, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Don’t light a fire under me unless you’re planning a barbeque! © papaw

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    April 14, 2018 at 7:48 am

    I have heard of farmers actually having to light a fire under a sullen Ox to get it up. I have never worked an Ox but stories I hear from old timers indicate they were more stubborn than mules which I have worked and can testify are very stubborn when they decide to be. I may have some habits similar to Mules or Oxen for my Dad threatened on several occasions to ‘Light a Fire Under Me’ in my younger days.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 14, 2018 at 7:46 am

    Tip, I’ve never seen anyone who works like you do. I’m pretty quick but not like you. You go like a house on fire! I’ve also never seen anyone who gets as much done as you do. You have amazing focus, I have seen you read a book many times in the living room with the TV going and the whole family talking. I think it’s that amazing focus that puts you among the front runners of getting things done.
    I’d rather work with you and the Deer Hunter than anyone else I know cause you two get things done instead of just talking about it!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 14, 2018 at 7:45 am

    We each and all just kinda rub along together, none of us a perfect match to anybody else. We frustrate and aggravate and elevate each other by turns. Maybe it was the kids growing up but I finally began to see each of us have to have the room to just be ourselves. Much easier to say than to practice.

    I’m sure we have each heard, “Where did you find this kid?” Like us, yet different, that is, an individual. Such a marvel, “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    April 14, 2018 at 7:43 am

    My daddy told the story many times of lightning a fire under a mule. He and his cousin were coming home from the grist mill when the mule balked. They tried everything two country boys knew to get that mule to move. Daddy said after about an hour they decided they had no other choice, so they gathered so dead leaves and set them ablaze under the mule. It was a good thing Daddy still had hold of the reins, because that jackass took off like mad and nearly left Cousin Andrew behind. Mother reminded me of this story just the other day, but I heard Daddy tell it over and over again.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    April 14, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Not only did I hear from my Grandmother that she would light that fire under me but she also added “and use the bellows on it. I did learn from that because I do go at a rapid speed myself Of course, age has done a little bit to slow me down and I do take a few more breaks.

  • Leave a Reply