Profiles of Mountain People

Mountain Folk

jc cole

Today’s post is a Mountain Folk interview. It’s been a while since I last did one-something I hope too remedy in the future. When I first started the Blind Pig one of my desires was to interview the older generations-to get down on ‘paper’ what their early lives were like-to garner valuable information about the old ways before it’s too late.

Over the last 2 and half years-I’ve made a wonderful discovery-in addition to the older generations-I’ve found there are folks my age (some younger-some slightly older) who are carrying on the old traditions too. In other words-I’m a naysayer to those who say the Appalachian Culture has faded away. I’ve found it’s alive and well in households from one end of the Appalachian Mountains to the other.

My goal is to do more Mountain Folk interviews-to preserve the wealth of information the older generations own-but also to spotlight everyday folks who have found a way to weave the culture of our forefathers into the modern lives we lead today.

Today’s Mountain Folk Interview is with J.C. Cole. J.C. was born and raised in Haywood County NC.

J.C. what were things like when you were a kid compared to now?

Well we didn’t sit around and watch tv all the time. I remember the first time I saw a color tv was at Sears & Roebuck. There wasn’t no sodiewater or soft drinks. You either drank milk or water. If you did get some cider or juice it was a real treat.

Since you mentioned food-what were the differences in food from then till now?

We had fried taters all the time but didn’t know much of nothing about french fries. We used loaf bread for our hamburgers. And we had coarse ground cornmeal. I like to have never gotten used to store bought cornmeal. Daddy always said yellow corn is for the hogs and white corn is for the people. When I was a boy we grew or raised most everything we ate.

You’ve lived in this area your whole life-how has Haywood County changed?

When they finished up this part of interstate 40 I remember people saying why in the world are they building such a highway when you only see 10 or 12 cars go by. Why they’ll never be enough vehicles to fill it up. But we were wrong. I sit here some days and watch the little portion I can see in the distance and the traffic never stops, it never stops day or night it just keeps going in both directions.

What would you say about today’s Appalachia?

Younguns don’t know what they’ve got-but they don’t know what they’ve missed either. Folks just rush through it all. They don’t take time to enjoy life. The last 2 years I’ve been forced to slow down by my health and now I realize what’s important and what isn’t worth a hill of beans. Society tells our kids that they need to start out at the same level as their parents or better. The I wants have gotten above the I needs.

Do you know other people-who are like you-who are holding on to the old ways?

Yes I’ve got lots of friends who were born and raised in the area that do things the way their Mommas and Daddies did. They still slaughter hogs, hunt, raise a garden, can, quilt, and one still makes syrup every year.

Can you sum up what you’d say about your life in the Southern Highlands of Appalachia?

I’m afraid it’s a changing for the worse. People don’t realize this is a gift from God. People don’t realize The Smoky Mountains are in their backyard. The mountains weren’t never meant to be cut up and built all over. You can’t even drink from the streams no more. But I wouldn’t live no where else. We’ve got the best weather and there’s not a prettier place either. The hard work ethic our people have, the having to make something out of nothing way of life caused the strong fierce independent nature of the people of Appalachia. Today we don’t have much but what we have is ours. I don’t have to worry about bills and owing folks. We grow a garden and raise livestock for food. Other than having electricity we live much like my grandparents did and it makes me happy to know that.


Hope you enjoyed meeting J.C.-just an everyday person who lives out his life in Appalachia walking in the footsteps of his elders.



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  • Reply
    September 4, 2010 at 9:16 am

    What a great interview! JC is my kind of people and makes me proud of my Appalachian heritage. What a great example he is for all of us trying so hard to preserve our family traditions and values, while handing them down to our own children. Thank you JC and Tipper for sharing such a heart-warming interview. You’ve both made my heart glad!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    September 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Tipper: JC seems to be grounded in his thoughts.

  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    August 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I love the old ways. I would love nothing more than to live this way. I’d still need to have my computer though!! lol!

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    August 27, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    I did enjoy meeting J.C. Sodie water. I love that. I think all of my folks who lived out in the country all all gone now. My dad is the senior member of our family. While I do my best to do some things the “old ways” (I just put up a batch of fig preserves yesterday), I know that I’m part of the last generation that heard old stories first hand. Kind of make me sad.

  • Reply
    August 27, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    That was as fun as it was interesting. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Rick M
    August 27, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Good interview he’s my kind of people.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    August 27, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Wonderful interview. I knew so many folks like this when we moved to the mountains in ’75. So good to know there are still some left.

  • Reply
    "Rooster" in Missouri
    August 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Enjoy your site. Also enjoy the singing videos on youtube. I enjoy and try to hold on to the values of the past.I eat morel mushrooms,water cress,polk, deer,rabbit,squirrel,& catfish,wild turkey,quail,etc. Raise my own garden. I stand firm in what I believe in-America,JESUS,family,grand Ole Opry,our Military,& The Bible.Not his crap trying to happen in NY.And I don’t care what anyone thinks.We need to Pray,GOD will take hold.Or we’ll more than our culture/values.Enjoy your tips/ and tunes !

  • Reply
    August 27, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    This is a wonderful interview, he so right on what he has to say about TV, and games, when I was little we never stayed inside, we would play until dark, then it was time to eat, get wash off, and go to bed.Thanks again for this, and hope to see more of this .Have a great day, and God Bless. kay

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    August 27, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I absolutely loved this interview. Thanks for sharing with us Tipper.

  • Reply
    August 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Mountain folk, real people and real stories.
    Whitetail Woods Blog / Muzzleloader Shooting

  • Reply
    Matthew Burns
    August 27, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I really enjoyed reading this interview. He’s got it all figured out. Too bad there aren’t more folks out there like him. I love the part about, “We don’t have much, but what we got is ours.” That is so very true. I’ve been told countless times that in order to get ahead, that we’re going to have to get out of the mountain. Aside from my personal belief that I’d shrivel and die outside of the mountains…I can barely go a few days outside of them when we’re on vacation…those who got more material things and big paying jobs by leaving, just don’t realize the more you make, the more you spend and the more you spend the more you want. I’m a firm believer in, “I don’t have much, but what i have is mine.”
    God Bless You for taking the time and interest in preserving our heritage. I’ve always been told that there will come a time when the knowledge of old ways will come in handy again. If that is the case, you are doing everyone a great service.
    Thanks for all you do, and please give my thanks to Mr. Cole for sharing his wisdom with us.

  • Reply
    August 27, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Whether the young people take things in or leave it behind is the manner and attitude that those around them have towards living. It is an art itself to translate our lives and joys to our children so that they well understand that chasing what others say they need is not the best way to walk out their lives. From my vantage point you possess that ability, you and Deer Hunter.

  • Reply
    August 27, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Great interview, Tipper!
    It’s terrible how sometimes it takes a little age to get us to slow down and really look at our life.
    But I do love how people move away and live their life, but when retirement comes they long for the simple life, the place they remember being their happiest.

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    August 27, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Go, JC. Great interview, thanks for sitting down with this gentleman and journaling for us all!

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    I wish more people thought like JC.
    The world is just moving too fast.

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    That was a great interview! I enjoyed reading it, and loved the line, “Younguns don’t know what they’ve got-but they don’t know what they’ve missed either.”

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    The Smokey Mountains……Just the sound of those words take me away back to the time when I was a boy. My family would go to the Smokies every time we had the chance. The sight of the mountains, that mist, the smell and just being there has never left my mind. I think being in those mountains was a time when I was most happy. No place can raise my comfort level like the high country. You people are so blessed to live there. If I ever become rich I’m going to buy all the land in those mountains I possibly can.
    These stories captivate me so much. I won’t be able to concentrate the rest of the week! My mind will be in the high country with people like J.C. and folks like him.
    Stories like this -to me- are so comforting kinda like putting cool water on a burn. Tipper, you have done it again with your writing. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Greta Koehl
    August 26, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Great post – I love this kind of interview. This is very close to what John Reece Irwin was trying to do with his Museum of Appalachia. And a lot of what J.C. says is not far off from what you would hear from someone in my little home town in Texas.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    August 26, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks Tipper and J. C. for this interview…
    I remember hamburgers on light bread and a side of slaw..(no fries)..and no cokes..LOL Pinto beans, turnip greens, with a plate of fried “streak meat”, cornbread and milk for supper…still love it….
    A baked hen was only for Sunday dinner. Ocassionaly fried chicken or “cubed steak” during the week, mainly pork or no meat at all….Never had a real Steak, Pizza or French Fries (only fried taters and onions) until I was grown..
    We had moved to the city, but Mom and Dad kept a lot of the traditions they learned growning up in Applachia….
    To make do if you needed it and to do without if you didn’t…It sure didn’t hurt nobody! All lived long lives and never starved or went to bed hungry..LOL

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    August 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    tipper; thanks for this kind of interview. it brings a flood of memories from years gone by. my folks brought that culture west with them in 1929, my father on his deathbed spoke of swain county as if it and heaven were one and the same. just this morning i approched the dillsboro darter, right here in sedro woolley wa. he said kenny when are you going back to carolina? i said soon. k.o.h

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I loved this. When I first moved to Haywood County almost 30 years ago, I was stunned at how “slow” life seemed here. I moved from DAllas, so you can imagine the difference. but JC is right, the younger kids don’t know what they have. This is a blessed place and i’m always so happy to call WNC my home. I live in Candler now, but my mom still lives in Bethel.
    Tipper, I love your blog and it makes me appreciate where I live even more..keep up the good work.

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    According to many youngsters, the younger generation knows best. The old, they say, always assume that they know best for the simple reason that they have been around a bit longer! The young are questioning the assumptions of their elders and desturbing their complacency. They take leave to doubt that the older generation has created the best of all possible worlds. Few of them realise how much they owe to the older generation. In your interview, J.C. Cole resumes nicely this difference in a few wise words: the young don’t know what they’ve got but they don’t know what they’ve missed either. Great post, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 26, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    So much wisdom in JC’s few simple words. I think you could turn on your TV and watch it all day and not find half the value that JC expressed!
    Want to know what’s wrong with the world? He told us!
    Thanks Tipper, for sharing JC with us!

  • Reply
    Debora Kerr
    August 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    I was eating hamburgers on sliced white Sunbeam bread in WV long before I ever saw a hamburger bun. 🙂 Great interview.

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks so much for the Great Interview with J.C.
    Growing up in rural Iowa, I can relate to a lot of what he says.
    I also miss the slower lifestyle.

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    We all could take a few lessons from J.C. and others like him. It’s become too easy to run to the store to buy whatever we need. We might be more healthier also, not knowing the truth about how food is processed or who is doing it.

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I really enjoyed this interview. I think he is right when he said, “The I want have replaced the I needs.” Wise words.

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Great interview with Mr. Cole. I
    think most of us, like J.C. really
    appreciate the life carved for us
    by our parents and grandparents.
    They were “Green” way before it was the right thing to do. Their
    working tools lasted about a life-
    time and they respected the land,
    not only from necessity but to
    preserve what God had given to the
    future generations…Ken

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 10:12 am

    thanks for sharing this, he is right on the money. and i agree the wants have take over the needs now, not just where you are but all over, that is why our econony is the way it is now. and i do love Applachia

  • Reply
    August 26, 2010 at 9:47 am

    I think it’s wonderful to know the old ways are being passed along. Most people are living in the fast lane and don’t know the joys of a simpler way of life. It wasn’t an easy way to live but it surely had many rewards. Family and friends looked out for each other. I read and try to absorb as much of the Appalachian culture that I can. Really enjoyed this post.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 26, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Tipper and J.C., you’uns made my day. Thank you.
    J.C. is exactly right when he says “Younguns don’t know what they’ve got-but they don’t know what they’ve missed either.” That could certainly apply to me during my growing up years in Swain County during the 50’s and 60’s, by the way.
    Having had the good fortune to meet Tipper, Chatter and Chitter recently, I can say that Tipper is not only talking the talk of Appalachian Heritage on this blog, she’s walking the walk in raising her girls right. I think they do have an appreciation well beyond their years in regards to their blessings of birthplace and family. That could be deduced from postings related to the girls here, but it was a joy to see it confirmed by first-hand experience.
    Keep it up, Tipper – this is grand work that you are doing.
    And thanks again to J.C. He clearly has a fine head atop those broad shoulders.

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