Sayings from Appalachia

Like They do Across the River

old house

“One of my Dad’s favorite sayings was, “do like they do across the river.” I asked him once what they did and he said, “They do without.” I take it that part of what was meant was to take what was given with a wry humor rather than rage against it since one couldn’t change it anyway.”

~Ron Stephens – June 2015



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  • Reply
    July 22, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    I love the picture of the house. We did not waste as kids. Couldn’t afford to. But we did not ever go hungry. Love the post Tipper!!!!

  • Reply
    July 22, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    I was raised to “pull myself up my my bootstraps” and not expect help, certainly never to ask for help. Unfortunately, I also wasn’t taught about how to help others. As a young woman out on my own, I had to start learning about both sides of helping, but even today (as an “old” woman) it’s easier to offer than to ask.
    I love the photograph of the house – is that your place, Tipper? Sure says “home” to me.

    • Reply
      July 22, 2018 at 6:14 pm

      Quinn-thank you for the comment!! No its not my house-its just down the road little ways from me 🙂

      • Reply
        July 24, 2018 at 8:19 pm

        Really? Well, if it’s ever for sale with a nice piece of land, please let me know. Maybe we’ll be neighbors after all!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    July 21, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    I remember a time when my family stepped in to help other family members. I told the story a few years ago on my blog:

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    July 21, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    “Across the river.” I have never heard that said but I like it.
    Coming from “the other side of the tracks” seems more of a moral judgement than economic one.

    Seems tho people handle poverty differently and I sure don’t understand the reason why.
    Starting with my grandparents, every generation of my family raised their standard of living by hard work and SAVING.
    To me, the things my grandparents went without is very depressing to think about but they often told me they were never hungry, thru both wars and the Depression. They grew everything.
    They had the mindset of ‘the harder I work the luckier I get’ and looked to the future.
    While it seems to me when faced with similar circumstances others with scarcity mindset only focus on short term survival.
    “I’m getting the new cell phone no matter if I can’t charge b/c the power is cut off” or no food for tomorrow.

    I’m not sure we haven’t hit a peak and have started back down hill?? Things are different now and I sure don’t know whats to be done about it but instant gratification far to often seems to rule the day.

    I’m blaming cell phones.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    But nobody lives across the river since the Burnetts moved into town. The govment took all the land on both sides of the river to build the dam reservoir but never did. A few people hung on for a while by leasing their former properties until such time that water would rise and flood them out. Eventually all the prior residents drifted away and then there were none. Now there is no lake and there are no people. No permanent residents anyway. All that remains of a place that once lived are bitter memories.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 21, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    And Ron,
    I love the comments of those who lived in the hard times. My parents grew-up and raised 3 sons during the years of the Great Depression. They never even knew they were poor, that’s just the way it was back then. Things were a little different by the time the next 3 boys got here, but we ate well and raised a big garden to sustain us and some of our neighbors. …Ken

  • Reply
    July 21, 2018 at 11:39 am

    Many people seem to want “stuff” right now. They don’t seem to understand saving for the future and how their future will be so much better for the saving. I watched my folks pinch pennies and do without “stuff”. We always had a nice place to live in and plenty to eat, but luxuries were few and far between. The phrase, “Do you just want it or do you really need it?” was often said.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2018 at 10:59 am

    I know a guy who if he saw something for a dollar down and a hundred dollars a week would get it for show and lose it a month later because his paycheck was only 45 dollars a week. He would strut for that month. He is about 70 now and has nothing and a very low credit score. I tried for several years to teach him better with no success.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    July 21, 2018 at 10:40 am

    I grew up with the saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!” and also “Willful waste makes woeful want.”

  • Reply
    July 21, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Appalachian sayings cover just about everything life brings your way. My least favorite saying growing up was when referring to poor folks I would hear, “Soap don’t cost that much.” That is being judgmental, because everybody could not be “poor but proud.” I witnessed some extreme cases of poverty as a young child growing up. It seemed my parents tried to cultivate a caring attitude toward those less fortunate with, “If not by the grace of God there go I.”

    A random case I recall was this dirty unkempt little boy that got on our school bus each morning. It seemed he always had a cold with nose running and hair uncombed. There were never enough seats, so he had to brace himself against a seat to stand until the bus arrived at the school. There he stood as a target for anyone unkind enough to draw attention to him. He probably had no breakfast, no soap, and I can only imagine the circumstances surrounding his life. A few bullying high school boys picked on him, and one threw his worn school book out the window. I let them know that was the final straw for me, and I marched promptly into the principal’s office and reported them. This was at a time when nobody ever tattled, but I was not concerned about peer pressure. They were paddled back when paddling was permitted in school. I recall one laughingly telling me that evening, It didn’t hurt.” They were poor, but did not know it. They were not neglected by their parents. I know them today, and they turned out well, I just wonder what happened to that little boy, and if he ever succeeded in life! I think his name was Timmy.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2018 at 10:10 am

    That used to be the watch-word at our house, and was invoked by looking at our budget before we committed ourselves to a purchase. “They’ve got a sale on a new sewing machine at the store, whaddaya wanna do?” “I reckon we’ll do without.”

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 21, 2018 at 9:54 am

    Dad had a lifetime of doing without in one way or another. He was paralysed from the waist at age 47 and had 27 years of that life. But I never heard him either rage or whine.

    I guess I learned it from Dad but we went for 15 months once without water in the house before we could pay to have a well drilled and a pump put in. And our daughter and son were small then.

    Thanks Tipper for this post. Dad’s highest praise for another man was to say, “He is much of a man.” He would most likely not have agreed but he was one of those himself.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2018 at 9:52 am

    I never heard that saying but I understand the meaning as my parents were brought up during the depression and learned from their parents how to sustain themselves with very little money. Don’t go in debt and only buy what you need. Even during the depression they ate better with their home grown food than the people in the cities did. In my youth, I thought they were survivors and come what may we could make it. It boggles my mind that people would buy stuff and than not be able to pay their electric or water bills. I’ve been told that there are a lot of couples that have bought homes way beyond what they can afford and than file for bankruptcy. Like I say it boggles my mind. Thank goodness for the Wildness of the Country to sooth one’s mind, soul and spirit.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 21, 2018 at 8:08 am

    We have such colorful sayings in Appalachia and most of them have an indirect quality about them. We don’t want to say things in a way to insult or hurt feelings.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    July 21, 2018 at 7:15 am

    We were taught to be happy with what God gave us because he could just as easily take it all away.
    I thank my parents for making me appreciate the little things in life. A beautiful place to live and lots of good friends.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    July 21, 2018 at 6:45 am

    My brother -in-law who was raised poor but not poor now always says that poor people have poor ways. My sister hates that saying.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2018 at 6:06 am

    Wow, there are a lot of folks today that wouldn’t know how to apply that, you wouldn’t believe the folks that’ll have their power turned off every month or several times a year for none payment and pay the penalty to get it back on, rather than give of some of their luxury items, this job I do now is just fascinating to what lengths people go just to have stuff, and the water dept. guys are right in behind me or I them, cutting the water off a lot of times, we actually cross paths, on the same customers several times a year, and the yard will be full of toys, boats, seadoos, 4wheelers, motorcycles, new car, new truck ect.

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