The Woodhick and the Ridgerunner written by John Parris
The woodhick and the ridgerunner talked of ballhooters and chickadees, bullwhackers and cantdog men.
They remembered when the hills throbbed with the sound of the stem-winder and the misery whip.
Both were old-timers, the last of a vanishing breed waiting to cross over the Round River, who grew up with a pickaroon or a briar in their hands.
As they sat in the shade of the tall hemlocks, fast beside a lake of sky-blue water, they sprinkled their talk with strange words that have no meaning for most folks nowadays.
For they talked of the days when this was a great logging town, with its bandmill and logpond, its great white-water flume and neat little rows of houses.
The world they knew has vanished. The great forests they leveled have come back. The logging camps back in the hills are only memories on which to hang a tale. The old-time bunk-houses have disappeared.
But there are a few reminders. Like some of the tools of their trade that have been preserved and now hang on the porch wall of the cabin of hand-hewn logs at their back.
“That,” said the woodhick, “is a misery whip or a briar.” He pointed to a seven-foot crosscut saw hanging on the wall. “It was designed for sawin’ the huge logs of the virgin forest,” he explained. “It was found some time ago by Red Haney completely embedded in a large rhododendron where an old-time cutter had left it years ago.”
A woodhick, he explained, is the mountain term for lumber-jack or logger. And a ridgerunner is a farmer who logs now and then.
A ballhooter is a fellow who rolls or slides down a hillside and a chickadee is a man who looks after the logging roads.
A bullwhacker is a driver of oxen and a cantdog man is a fellow who uses a short-handled peavey.
The peavey is a stout lever from five to seven feet long, fitted at the larger end with a metal socket and spike and a curved steel hook which works on a bolt. It is used in handling logs.
The cant hook is similar to a peavey but has a toe ring and lip at the end instead of a spike.
I hope you enjoyed this old article written by John Parris. He wrote for the Asheville Citizen-Times for years and compiled many of his columns into book form. This piece is from the book Mountain Bred which was published in 1967. The book notes the area which he was writing of as the Sunburst area of Haywood County NC.
I worked at the site of the old logging operation of Sunburst when I worked for Champion International at their Lake Logan facility. Granny once told me that her mother and father worked as cooks at a logging camp named Sunburst. It had to surely be the same place.
As you can see from the photos, there are still signs of past logging operations in Western NC. Don Casada was gracious enough to share the photos of items he has stumbled across while wondering around the mountains.
Please leave a comment if you’re familiar with any of the old words Parris used-or if you knew them but with a different meaning. About the only one I’ve heard before is misery whip.