Appalachia courting/love

Most Unusual Love Story from the Mountains of NC

Unusual love story from appalachia

I recently read a most unusual love story in the book My Mountains My People written by John Parris. The story took place in Valle Crucis NC.

Parris tells of a man named Johnny Holsclaw, who happened to be a real charmer when it came to women. Parris compares Holsclaw to Black Jack David-if you haven’t a clue who Black Jack David is go listen to this and then come back.

Seems Holsclaw was a loner when he wasn’t wooing the mountain belles, but there came a time when Holsclaw decided he needed someone to settle down with, so he started visiting the families that were spread throughout the settlement.

Parris says once Holsclaw stopped by the Baird home and laid eyes on their daughter Delilah he knew he’d found the girl for him. He captured Delilah and her families attention as he told them tales about Kentucky and all its splendor.

Holsclaw stayed with the Bairds a couple more days and all the while he told them wondrous stories of the land called Kentucky. He also told of his longing to return to Kentucky.

Once Holsclaw and Delilah were alone he convinced her to run off with him. He promised to take her to Kentucky and give her a good life that couldn’t be found no where else. I’ll let Parris finish the story for you.

Johnny Holsclaw liked to have walked Delilah to death. he took her up one mountain and down another, across streams and through rocky ravines. Delilah kept asking when they would get to Kentucky and Johnny kept saying it wouldn’t be too Long.

Maybe it was a week, maybe it was longer. Nobody knows and Delilah never did say. But eventually Johnny brought her to his bark shanty on the waters of the Elk.

“This is Kentucky,” he said.

Delilah kissed him and hugged him and said she reckoned she never would go back to North Carolina and the Valley of the Cross, for this sure was a beautiful place. Not for one minute did she dream that the home she left was only eight miles away as the crow flew.

She was to be kept in ignorance of this startling fact for many years. Meanwhile, she set out to make Johnny Holsclaw never regret bringing her to this far-off wonderful place. And Johnny took his ax and built them a cabin and made her chairs and tables and a bed.

She gave him children and cooked for him and told him of her love for him. Johnny would smile and then take off on a bear or deer hunt and be gone for days. But Delilah didn’t seem to mind. She watched over her brood and nursed her happiness.

Sometimes, when there were just she and the children sitting around the fire at night all alone, she would sing some of the old tunes and old ballads.

There was one in particular. The one called Black Jack David,. Perhaps it was because it reminded her in a way of Johnny and her. Folks in the mountains had been singing it for a long time. It had been fetched over from the old country and changed to fit the times.

The years passed, and then one day Delilah was out with her children in the woods. They had strayed far from home when she suddenly stopped and listened. She shushed the children and bent her ear toward a far-off hill. “Why, it’s a cow-bell,” she said. She listened some more and said it sounded just like a cow-bell her father used to have.

Curious she and the children searched out the cow. She went up to the cow and looked at the bell. “Why, it can’t be,” she said. But it was. It was her father’s cow-bell.

And then the cow turned and started off across the hill. Delilah followed along and came to the top where she could look down into the valley. And there she saw her old home. “Well, of all things. How could that be?” So she went on and came to her father’s house.

Everybody was glad to see her. Said they didn’t know what had happened to her where she had gone, except they’d figured she had run away with Johnny Holsclaw. Delilah stayed only a little while but promised to come back for a visit. When she got home, Johnny was there.

She didn’t fuss with him. She just hauled off and told him she had been home. Just across the mountain, there, she said.

Johnny sort of grinned.

Delilah smiled. “I want to thank you,” she said, “for taking me off and making me think I was in Kentucky. It don’t matter that this ain’t Kentucky. I couldn’t have been no happier.” And then she reached up and put her arms about his neck and kissed him. And they lived happily ever after.

Somehow, it seems a shame nobody has ever written a ballad about Johnny and Delilah. But even if Johnny didn’t get a ballad like Black Jack David he got a line of elegy from Delilah.

She thanked him for deceiving her.


Now it that ain’t a crazy story of love I don’t know what is and I can’t imagine that I would have ever thanked that rascal Johnny Holsclaw for deceiving me!


*Source: My Mountains My People – A Frontier Gypsy written by John Parris


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  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    February 12, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    Interesting! Glad he stuck with her and took care of her and their children and didn’t run off altogether.
    Glad that in the end, she got to visit home occasionally too. Couldn’t have ended up much better for them all I’m thinking.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    February 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Jim tricked me by bringing me over the SMOKY MOUNTAINS in a heavy snow storm! Bur I soon found a different way back home!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    February 11, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    I agree with Miss Cindy!

  • Reply
    February 11, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Good story, can’t imagine what would have happened to me if I’d done that to my Wife, one things for sure it would not have been a happy ending..

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    February 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    I guess if I had been her, I’d a shot that thing just as he came home. All he wanted was someone to raise his kids and cook for him, it seems. I’d better hush before I tell everyone how much I despise a liar.
    John Parris was always my favorite writer…I miss him…Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 11, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    I’m thinking ole Johnny might be what you call a snake in the grass.
    Why would he deceive his wife like that?
    I think he led two lives, the one at home and another somewhere else. Why else would he hole his family up like that?
    I’ll betcha there’s a lot more to that story! I’m thinking his wife must have been simple minded because how could she be ok with that when she found him out?
    I’m gonna have to chew on this one a while.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 11, 2016 at 9:50 am

    I’ve heard variations of this story….John Parris being one of my family’s favorite writers/printed story tellers from NC and mine too, of course….
    I don’t know why, but maybe it was the deceit of the husband in this story. My mind started humming the old, old song “Frankie and Johnny”!
    I listened to the Carter family sing Black Jack David,
    but when I got about midway of the story, the tune “Frankie and Johnny” jumped in my head…
    “Ain’t that weird!”
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 11, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Tipper–I intend to devote a chapter to John Parris in my next book (in fact, that chapter is already written). I know you and many of your readers are great fans of his, but I’m guessing that many don’t realize that the stories in his books (and some of them appear in more than one of the volumes, all of which have the word “Mountain” in the title) are merely the barest tip of the iceberg when it comes to his long-running column, “Roaming the Mountains,” in the ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES. He wrote three columns a week for more than four decades. Do the math–that comes out to more than 6,000 columns.
    You would think that the newspaper would undertake a book, or maybe multiple books, on the “Lost Classics of John Parris,” but there seems to be no interest in that regard. As a result a wealth of fine writing about mountain people sits forgotten in dust-laden shelves of the newspaper’s archives and/or on microfilm in a few libraries. It’s a flat-out shame.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    February 11, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Ron-I had mixed up feelings about the story too. And like you and Steve I’ll be pondering it for a good long time I’m sure!

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    February 11, 2016 at 8:42 am

    A happy story that makes me kind of sad. Thanks for posting this. It will give me pause for several days.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 11, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Well …. that is some more story. Leaves me feeling kinda mixed up. I’ll have to mull it over. I guess the story of the charming rascal is worldwide.
    Maybe the point is that love is the only thing strong enough to cause us to deny ourselves ?

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    February 11, 2016 at 8:24 am

    John Parris always had a way with words, and tales…. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    February 11, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Based on ole Johnny’s reputation, I’m just wondering what he was up to when he was “off for days” on supposed bear/deer hunts.

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    February 11, 2016 at 7:35 am

    My Daddy grew up in Waynesville but moved to Lenoir,NC during the early 40″s to find work. He met my Mom. He was 24 , she was just barely 18. His car was being repossed so he ask her to elope to SC. She lived 20 mile from him so he knew that he would never see her again without a car. They eloped. He took her home to his Momma, his Daddy who was dying with cancer, his sister. My Mom didnt go home for 3 weeks. Her parents had no idea where she was or what she had done. Daddys sister was married 3 weeks later. Her husband moved in with them til he went off to war. They all lived in a four room house for the next 11 years. My Mom and Dad were married 50 years in 1992. Daddy died a few month later. My Mom talks about the wonderful life they had together. I was born in 1950. Mom and Dad never lived alone until I was married in 69. They loved each other and the Lord. These kind of stories are rare today. Barbara

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 11, 2016 at 7:22 am

    That’s a sweet story, Tipper, do you suppose it happened just like that? I’d a probably hit him in the head with a piece a stove wood.

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