Appalachia Folklore

Sunshine Folklore

B. Nabors God Drawing Water

God Drawing Water painted by B. Ruth

B. Ruth’s comment on my recent post Sun Drawing Water:

Yes, I have heard that all my life…but that “God was drawing water!” One time I painted a lake scene with dark clouds…I showed it to my art teacher, he said “Did you purposefully draw the rays of the sun thru the clouds going down to the ground?”…”Course I did…they are drawing water!” He laughed and said, “I don’t know about that!” and a few other comments about my shafts of light..Kinda broke my heart, as I was sorta proud of the effort…You know what, just for spite, I didn’t change it and still have that painting today…”Please teachers, give students some kind of encouragement, even if you differ in their beliefs…After all, art is in the heart and mind of the artist as well as the viewer!!…

My first emotion after reading B.’s comment was a touch of anger at an art teacher who would squash a student’s artistic creativity by bringing into question her beliefs.

After I got over being a little put out by B.’s teacher, I noticed she most often heard the sun rays referred to as “God drawing water” instead of the phrase Granny commonly uses “the sun is drawing water.”

My thoughts on the sun drawing water made me think of other sun related folklore in Appalachia.

Sunshine folklore from appalachia

  • If the sun shines while its raining (like in the photo above) it’s said the Devil is beating his wife.
  • If the sun rises brightly on Old Christmas-the coming summer will be good for fruit trees and bushes.
  • If the sun shines while it’s raining-it’ll rain at the same time the next day.
  • It will rain the following day if the sun sets with clouds.
  • Red sky in morning sailors take warning Red sky at night sailors delight (I know this one is common all over the world)
  • If you lay a black snake over a fence or tree with its belly facing the sun-it will soon rain.

We even use the sun in a few of our colorful sayings:

  • Why he thinks the sun rises and sets in his hind end!
  • Happy as a dead pig in sunshine.
  • The sun don’t shine on the same man all the time or The sun don’t shine on the same dog all the time.

In Appalachia we often say sundown and sunup instead of sunset and sunrise.

I’m positive I left out much on the subject of sunshine-please add any folklore or sayings by leaving a comment!


This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in 2012.

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  • Reply
    jane childers
    October 4, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Trying to catch up on some of your posting that I missed. I had a friend from England and she used to say if there was enough blue sky to make a sailor a pair of britches it would turn out to be a fair day.

  • Reply
    September 18, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    I loved B. Ruth’s painting and also the photo above. Wish I could paint and capture all those beautiful scenes. Thanks so much for sharing the folklore and pictures. Never heard the one about the snake. I remember hearing this when a kid was misbehaving, ” he is gonna get whooped where the sun don’t shine!”

  • Reply
    SherriandBill Bennett
    September 18, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    We called the Jacobs ladders, too. Does any one ever remember seeing sun dogs? I have witnessed it. Wonderful

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    September 17, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I think B Ruth’s painting is beautiful! I don’t know why some teachers don’t realize how some criticism hurt a student. I happy B Ruth kept the painting the way it was painted.
    I enjoy read the different folklore. I remember when I was younger hearing my Mom say that if the sun was shining while it was raining the devil was whipping his wife. Have you ever heard that one?

  • Reply
    September 17, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Ed Kardhner, I love what you said: “Appalachians don’t live in the world, we participate in creation”
    Thank you for that lovely way of thinking about us!

  • Reply
    June Jolley
    September 17, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Right now I would be thankful if God would send some of that water back down to the earth.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    “Pink skies at night, sailor’s delight, pink skies in the morning sailors take warning.” My Mom taught me that quote as a child. But the origin? Here’s Matthew 16:
    “1. The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
    2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
    3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
    I was fascinated that it’s from the Bible!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Those pictures are nice, reminds me of my childhood days. I never heard of the saying about hanging a black snake on a fence for rain. Maybe our fiests didn’t leave enough after slinging the stuffings out of him. …Ken

  • Reply
    September 17, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    I’m always amazed at how some teachers stifle a student’s creativity. B. Ruth’s painting is awesome and her ideas behind it make perfect sense!

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    September 17, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Well sir, I’ve hered most them here sayins but that hanging a snake in a dogwood tree is new to me. The next time our neighbor’s cat and the local black snake gets in a fight in my garden, I just might catch that snake and put it in one of my dogwood trees!
    Now thar!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    September 17, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    B. Ruth’s 2012 painting is lovely, and the title hints at the mysticism that can be part of belief in God.
    I also am enthralled by your photo. I have tried so many times to capture a good “sun shower” photo – it is always a magical time that relaxes me and makes me smile. I don’t like the idea of that being the “devil beating his wife” and don’t understand how that expression fits.
    Otherwise, we often use “sun-up”, “sun-rise”, “sun-down” and I’m familiar with “red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in the morning, sailors take warning” but all the other phrases are new to me – – – – – we’re going to have to try that black snake thing (we’re getting mighty dry again), but the only “black” looking snake I’ve seen any where near around here is some of the water moccasins!!
    Sometime I hope you get to see a dramatic west Texas sunset – the ghost herd breathing fire – related to the song “Ghostrider’s in the Sky”.
    Another water photo I have yet to capture to my satisfaction is “Will O’ Wisps”. Do you have any photos of those? They also appear when there’s moisture in the air but appear best when the ponds and tanks are warm from hot days but a norther (cold front) has moved through and things have calmed down.
    My mind is chasing rabbit trails of sun and rain and misty, moisty mornings and all the delightful visions they can bring.
    Thank you for all the days you’ve sent my mind off on such pleasant excusions!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 17, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    b.Ruth – Most people have eyes only for the prize and miss a multitude of treasures along the wayside. In my book you are one of those jewels. Don’t cut yourself short.
    Who was it said, “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches?”

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    September 17, 2016 at 11:58 am

    A Haiku:
    Shafts of light
    From earth to heaven:

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 17, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I always heard that a snake didn’t died until sunset and we would hang ’em over the fence to keep an eye on ’em. If we looked and it was gone, we would have to go back and kill it again.
    If a snapping turtle bit on to you, it wouldn’t turn you aloose ’til it thundered.
    I remember one time when we was driving up Needmore Road in JT’s International Scout. It was in between Rattlesnake Creek and Loudermilk, there was the biggest snake crawling across the road and it was a rattlesnake. J T decided to kill it and get the rattles, so he run over it. We looked back and it was still crawling so J T backs over it. Well, you know what, that didn’t faze it either. J T backed up some more and floorboarded it. When he got to the snake he locked it down and slid right acrost it. That cut it plum in two. Shorely it was dead by now. So he gets out and gets out his pocketknife and tippietoes over toward the rattle end. Guess what! The head wuddent dead and put him right back in the truck. So J T decides he didn’t need them rattles all that much and we went on to where we was going. On the way back we stopped and both pieces was dead so he got his rattles.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    September 17, 2016 at 10:54 am

    thank you tipper for giving us a bit more folklore..i love that kind of lets you use imagination and our hearts to see the world much in the world has changed and I long for the compassion and loving what the Good Lord has given us..instead of only seeing what we don’t have…
    hope you and the gang have a great weekend..sending love and ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 17, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I was surprised to see my painting titled. “God Drawing Water”! I hope he has a few buckets for our neck of the woods sometime in the coming weeks. We are in dire need of water at this time on our part of the county.
    My Dad used to come in from work with a comment of some sort or other. I was a youngster when I heard him tell my Mom as he came in the door. “Old Sol sure is hot today”! He often mentioned some of the men he worked with so I figured it was a person. As Mother stated in her reply, “Well, you just need to stay out of it”!
    Now then, I had heard my grandmother refer to “hot” as mad or she would say “Don’t you get hot under the collar”! It took a long time for me to get up the courage and nosily ask Dad, a few days later, if “Old Sol” was still mad! HA
    By the way, your photo is just beautiful. The mountains and the curves bring beautiful images to our eyes if we will just see! I wonder how many just past by all the beauty by without noticing the wonderful world we live in! In all respects we need to be looking up and then look all around and see what surrounds us!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS “Old Sol” is still bringing his heat again today!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2016 at 10:16 am

    That is a lovely painting, and that grouchy teacher must have been a really miserable teacher to not find joy in B’s description of “God drawing water.” But, we remember forever that kind or meany teacher. I recall one especially ornery teacher cracking a little boy on the knuckles with a ruler for erasing his paper so much he made a hole. He was just trying to make an 8, so I sat there terrified trying to prevent a hole in my flimsy writing tablet. Why did they make that learning tablet paper so flimsy anyway? She should have gotten an A+ for being so original!
    I love all our wonderful sayings to describe all aspects of life. Again this serves to remind me that our children are seeing the world a whole different way, and that may be through google. Sometimes my sister and I will sit and try to think of all the enjoyable ways Dad described life using mountain sayings and folklore. I can recall how fascinated the youngsters were when we would tell them the devil was beating his wife. Keep them coming, Tipper, and keep them alive for future generations to enjoy.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2016 at 9:20 am

    I always heard to hang the snake in a dogwood tree for rain.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    September 17, 2016 at 9:04 am

    I love this stuff, Tipper. I’d never heard God/sun drawing water. My grandma called that phenomenon “Jacob’s ladder” and said that was how angels traveled to earth. I’ll be honest, that freaked me out a little as a boy. I like drawing water, though.
    I remember one summer it was really dry and my Dad hung a black snake belly up on the fence. It did work.
    I just talked about some of this in my class Wednesday night. Appalachians don’t live in the world, we participate in creation. How lucky we are to have such a mindset.
    Thanks, as always, for a great start to my day…again!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2016 at 8:31 am

    I like sundown and sunup. Forgot about these words. Thanks

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 17, 2016 at 6:21 am

    Wouldn’t life be boring if we didn’t have all these sayings to keep us entertained! I’ve heard most of these or variations of them. We have colorful and interesting ways of explaining the unexplainable.
    I love B Ruth’s picture and it makes perfect sense to me.

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