Appalachia

Teacher’s Pet

Today’s guestpost was written by Charles Fletcher.

Old Murphy High School NC curtosey of Cherokee Co Museum

 

Old Murphy High School-Built in 1920. Photo courtesy Cherokee County Historical Museum.

TEACHERS PET written by Charles Fletcher

As I think back to the happy days in the new Beaverdam School, I realize many funny things happened too. And some not so funny. Here is one of those things and I don’t know what category you would call it.

Back in the 1930’s during the great depression a lot of poor people lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina. My family was some of those people. All of our family had to do their share in finding ways to have something to eat. We depended on whatever come our way.

I remember the many giant chestnuts that were on the mountains. Many were near a hundred feet high with a diameter of ten or more feet across the bottom. When they bloomed in the spring the mountains looked like they were covered with snow. Only the people near my age today ever saw this beautiful scene.

In the fall when the trees began to drop their fruit, the ground would be covered with shinny black nuts. Not only did the animals depend on them for food, people like me and my family made certain we collected our share.

Come Sunday noon after we finished our dinner, (dinner is at noon and supper the evening meal to mountain people.) My mom would give all us children one of her pillow slips and send us on our way to one of the many chestnut trees to gather their sweet black nuts. When we returned mom would put on a pan of water and boil some nuts. In the oven of the old wood stove she would bake another batch. Then came the part we were waiting for. Eating chestnuts.

Lets get back to the school house and what happened the following Monday.

Beaverdam school was made from brick in 1932. Brick on the outside, wooden floors on the inside. Plenty of windows but no fans or air conditioning. Our heat for warmth in those bitter cold winters was from hot water flowing through big iron things along the wall we called radiators. Not much heat but better than what we were used to in the old one room school we first went to. For ventilation we would open the windows so the cool mountain air could come inside. On the cold days we never opened the windows.

I was in the fourth grade of school and we had the best teacher in Beaverdam school. A lady teacher by the name of King. We all called her Miss King.

I’m sure you know the gas and smell our digestive system makes when we eat certain foods like dried beans, sweet potatoes, and other foods but the granddaddy of them all is boiled chestnuts. Miss King was aware of the chestnut season and asked all her students to not eat them before or during the days we were in her class. Most of us did what she asked. No chestnuts while in school.

I sat behind the smartest student in the fourth grade. Her name was Betty. She made sure that I could see the answers when I didn’t know them. With this arrangement I was a “A” student.

Betty had one bad habit. She loved to eat. There was always something hid in her desk that she would sneak and eat during the day. And this eating habit showed with Betty and her figure. She was a little on the plump side.

This day was one of those Mondays when everyone had been eating chestnuts and Betty had a passion for the sweetness of these nuts.

Miss King had assigned us our work that morning and it was as quite as a mouse in the class room.

I glanced up and saw all the other students in class looking straight at me. That is everyone but Betty. Miss King walked up to my desk and didn’t say a word. Just stood there with everyone staring and grinning at me.

I always took the blame if I had it coming but this wasn’t my doing so I had to defend myself.

In a low softy voice I said to my teacher.

“Miss King, that wasn’t me, I cooped my hand over my mouth and said to her. “Betty pooted.”

The class was all laughing except Betty. She was on me like a jaybird tearing into me. Only Miss King saved me for a sure death. She held Betty and I headed to the back of the room. Miss King told Betty she could be dismissed for the rest of the day and I was promoted to a seat in the back of the room.

Betty came back to school on Tuesday. I lost my friend and the good grades I once made all from Betty’s love of boiled chestnuts.

——————-

Grassy Top Mountain Charles Fletcher

 

I hope you enjoyed Charles’s memories of the classroom and chestnuts as much as I did. A few months back, Charles published his 5th book-Grassy Top Mountain-not bad for someone who just turned 90.

Me and Granny both loved Grassy Top Mountain. The book tells the story of a mountain family who struggled along life’s road until their new neighbors reached out to help lighten their load. Charles has generously donated a specially signed copy for one of you-all you have to do to be entered in the giveaway is leave a comment on this post. Giveaway ends Sunday April 29, 2012.

If you’d like to buy your own copy of Grassy Top Mountain-or any of Charles’s other books you can go to Amazon books, Barns And Nobel, or any other major book stores to find them.

Tipper

 

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61 Comments

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings
    April 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I am giggling at that great little story, if his book is at good as this, then it’s a winner! I would love to read a copy of this.

  • Reply
    Carol Isler
    April 29, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Sat out on the deck in the sun this Sunday morning laughing it up. Stories like this make me miss my daddy, who would have been 91 at the end of May, and my two papas, both born in the 1890s. I didn’t know about that particular effect of eating boiled chestnuts, but I do have plenty of beans and cornbread stories from the mill village. Now I have to go visit Amazon. Thanks for sharing Mr. Fletcher’s story

  • Reply
    Sandy Satterfield
    April 29, 2012 at 7:58 am

    love to have a copy of that book

  • Reply
    Diane
    April 27, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Love the story. My dad grew up eating chestnuts in West Virginia. He still loves them…I’m not sure I have ever tasted them..but loved the story…Thanks for your generosity!

  • Reply
    tea4too0
    April 27, 2012 at 10:15 am

    What a sweet, funny story. Please enter me, thanks. T

  • Reply
    RB
    April 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Lovely story. Reminds me of when I had a boyfriend, and we use to have Bean & Cornbread Night on Mondays until one of his children’s teachers sent a note home asking if we could move them to Fridays. We did. LOL
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    April 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    What a great story. Charles, you rock! I love old stories so much. Tipper, thanks for sharing Charles with us. I would love this book or anything else involving his writings. If I don’t win, I will definitely be checking B&N or Amazon.

  • Reply
    Jen Y
    April 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

    I’d love to read the book!

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    April 25, 2012 at 9:44 am

    I’ve heard alot about the chestnut trees.. I really love this post..it brings back a lot of memories.Thanks for sharing yours..

  • Reply
    Ethel
    April 25, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Thank you Charles for sharing your memories with us!
    This reminds me of Sunday afternoons, when my grandparents always came to supper and we’d sit around the table for hours, listening to their recollections. You all are truly the Greatest Generation!

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    April 25, 2012 at 4:22 am

    lol tipper that is such a sweet story… love the way you wouldnt take blame for the noises around your desk . im so glad that someone has written down some of these tales so others can read about the lore of olden times.. i would love a chance to win this book.. and thanks always for the love you put into your blog.
    big ladybug hugs
    lynn

  • Reply
    Charline
    April 25, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Well, I never heard THAT effect of eating chestnuts- truly a lost American treasure. My mother told me her grandmother used to gather them with other young people up on Walden’s Ridge, just west of Rockwood, Tennessee.

  • Reply
    Sally K - North Coast Muse
    April 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    How I regret what happened to the chestnut trees in this country! My father is about the same age as Mr. Fletcher and has told me how beautiful they were in So Ohio. I look forward to checking out Mr. Fletcher’s writings, even if I don’t win. Thanks for sharing Mr. Fletcher!

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    April 24, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    It always amazes me how many memories can be pulled out. I remember in the seventies my Dad pointing out rotting Chestnut logs, and he recalled the large chestnuts. His lesson for me was to always give back to the earth more than we take. So, until the day he died he planted trees that he would never see, and he had a special fondness for the American Chestnut. He was still trying to get them started. He once conned one of my neighbors into letting him plant a Chinquapin tree in her yard.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    April 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Thanks, Charles, for writing your memories so generations from now will have your books to enjoy and learn about the past.
    Thanks, Tipper, for sharing.

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    April 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Like Charles, my 94 year old daddy tells about the beautiful chestnuts too. I wish I could have seen them. The Chinese Chestnuts are a poor substitution for what my daddy describes as the king of the woods. I have encouraged my own son to drink in the sight of the hemlocks – I’m afraid his future children might only experience them through his eyes. As for school tales, I could tell a few of my own after over 30 years in the classroom!

  • Reply
    Anne
    April 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    I surely enjoyed Mr. Fletcher’s memories. Now I have a new author to search out his books..Please thank him for sharing his delightful story…
    Being from MS, we didn’t have chestnut trees, but at Christmas time, bags of chestnuts would be sold in markets..Our first Christmas together, my husband and I thought having ‘chestnuts roasting on the fire, carols on the phonograph, popcorn strung for the tree’ would be so very romantic…it was, right up to the explosion in our gas stove of those pesky chestnuts!! They did not come with instructions to cut an X in the shell to avoid bursting! After spending what seemed like hours scrubbing the old stove, the idea of chestnuts lost it’s appeal…
    On a happier note, when traveling in the mountains of NC, we have visited quite a few churches built of chestnut…what beautiful wood!

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    April 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I always enjoy Mr. Fletcher’s wonderful posts, but I had no idea he was a very accompliished author. I can’t wait to scout out my library for his books! Tipper, please don’t enter me in the giveaway-I’ve won before & it’s someone else’s turn to enjoy the fun-

  • Reply
    Bob & Inez Jones
    April 24, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    What a story that is so realistic of those school days!I once purchased a chestnut seedling when on vacation in Quebec, but alas it did not live. In my father’s day , our river that runs the entire length of our beautiful province had chestnut trees all along it’s banks. But, no more. I have never eaten them. We can buy them at Christmas at our supermarket. They would not compare in taste I’m sure.Bravo for Mr. Charlie with his recent writings. I. too, would enjoy reading his book. Kindly add my name to the list. Thanks again for such interesting articles. Bob and Inez Jones.

  • Reply
    Kristina in TN
    April 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I was raised a “city girl” and never knew the delicacies that were the mainstay of a mountain family’s diet. Yet I grieve the loss of the chestnut trees and so much of the wilderness that provided sustaining life to the residents of the mountains. Mr. Fletcher’s stories are not only heartwarming, but they preserve the life and legacy of the good people I have come to love so much.

  • Reply
    Mamabug
    April 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    What a wonderful story from Charles this morning. I’m still smiling! Sounds like a great book to read.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    April 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Linda-YES the books are about or based on life in Western NC in the good old days : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Monica
    April 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    This was a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing this memory.

  • Reply
    Darlene LaRoche
    April 24, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Entertaining story..lol Never have tried chestnuts.

  • Reply
    Glynda
    April 24, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Great story Mr. Fletcher and thanks Tipper for posting it today. Isn’t it great that we have the opportunity to hear these wonderful stories that are being passed down to us and I hope that we will continue to pass them down to our children and grandchildren. Let’s all do our part to keep this great mountain heritage alive that we are so fortunate to have here in these beautiful mountains.

  • Reply
    BJ
    April 24, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Loved the story of the “eating chestnuts” by Charles Fletcher.

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    April 24, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Very cute story. Someone 90 years old has a lot of stories to share.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 24, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Was the title of the book Grassy Top or Gassy Top?

  • Reply
    susie
    April 24, 2012 at 10:10 am

    as i dont live where there’s mt’s,they look so peaceful, i just love them,would cherish that book,love your site.

  • Reply
    Marylou Sweat
    April 24, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Wow! 90 years old! I’m quite aways from that and just wish I could transfer my thoughts to paper as well as Mr. Fletcher. Would really love the book too! Marylou in Dover, Fla.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    April 24, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Wonderful story, it gave me a good laugh this morning!
    I remember my grandfather talking about the chestnut trees and how big they were. The Hemlock trees are facing a similar problem from a tiny insect instead of the fungus that took the mighty chestnut. Hopefully scientists can find a solution before they too are gone.
    Thanks Mr. Fletcher and Tipper

  • Reply
    Lise
    April 24, 2012 at 9:33 am

    What a great story, reminds me of 4th grade! I do think that sometimes, best to keep your thoughts to yourself in response to the “silent but deadly’s”.

  • Reply
    Charles Ronald Perry, Sr
    April 24, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Great story. I went to school in the early 40s in a big brick school with high windows and we had the same experience with heating and cooling, except that the school was in Belmont, NC and in a town and the “soft Summer breezes” just weren’t all that cooling. What I will remember most about the school is the smells…not the smells described above. There were those from kids whose primary diet was pinto beans and bathing wasn’t all that frequent when done in a #10 washtup in the kitchen after the water had been heated on a coal or a kerosene stove. No, the smells that I remember were the oiled wooden floors. They put oil on the wood to preserve it and the smells of all of the kids home packed lunches, banana, peanut butter and perhaps a little meat or chicken left over from supper the night before. That was a great story and the book sounds wonderful.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    April 24, 2012 at 9:24 am

    and poor Betty was remembered for that the rest of her days! We had a dear friend who was reminiscing about his early school days – I asked him if he happened to have known the mother of a classmate of mine. His answer: “yes, she pooted in school one day.”

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    April 24, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Great read, would love to read the rest of his book.

  • Reply
    Shirla
    April 24, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Charles sure has a way of telling a story! I was laughing so hard when he told about Betty tearing into him. I bet she never had to deal with domestic violence from any man.
    I have heard my parents talking about eating chestnuts, but I don’t remember ever eating them. If I ever do, I will definitely think of this story and find me a ‘Charles’ to blame it on.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    April 24, 2012 at 9:05 am

    What a story! I had a good laugh…. thanks, Charles.
    I have eaten roasted chestnuts bought from a vendor on the streets of New York City. I doubt they can hold a candle to the “real deal”.
    Please put my name in for the giveaway.

  • Reply
    Rachelle
    April 24, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Great Story, and I too love those chesnuts when I am going to be home all day. LOL

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    April 24, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Huge chestnut trees are almost a thing of the past. We have one on our Church property. Enjoyed that story from Charles. I can imagine sitting in those old desk in that classroom and hear all the laughter. Too bad Charles lost his friend though.

  • Reply
    kat
    April 24, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Enjoyed that funny story. Don’t blame him for not taking the blame.

  • Reply
    Becky
    April 24, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Oh, that is so funny!! I can only imagine how ticked off Betty was. And how disappointed Mr. Fletcher was to have lost a friend and his “good grades”.

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    April 24, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I have eaten chestnuts but more than likely not that variety, mine came from Lewis County Ky, I enjoyed them and would like to have some more I never noticed them being gassy but that is the way I am all the time being I take 600 mg of iron a day.

  • Reply
    Osagebluffquilter
    April 24, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Oh those grade school memories. Aren’t they great! thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Steve
    April 24, 2012 at 8:12 am

    I have a friend who tells stories like this with the preface, “this is the way I like to tell it”. Helps a lot if you have an uncertain memory.
    I can almost feel myself setting in that chair with everyone looking at me.

  • Reply
    LINDA L. KERLIN
    April 24, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I so enjoy these olde time stories and would just love to read his book —5 books you say he wrote are they all about his life in the mountains?

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    April 24, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Tipper,
    and Charles…what a great story…I enjoyed it so much…Poor little plumpy Betty…you reckon she just scavaged whatever she could find to eat of a morning a’fore school…So cute, sad and funny all at the same time…
    I wonder did Charles pass the grade since he didn’t pass the gas…LOL
    Thanks Tipper and Charles…

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    April 24, 2012 at 8:02 am

    What a great story! Being a retired middle school teacher, these types of incidents happened often. The kids always had a good laugh when they did, but sometimes the disruption was a bit bothersome. I loved the story and I can just see Betty being a ‘tomboy.’

  • Reply
    Marianne
    April 24, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Oh the story brings back such memories of school days! I would have loved to have seen the majestic chestnuts, I can just imagine the beauty! I’d love to have a copy of his book also!
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    April 24, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Hee-Hee! You can hardly fault him for not taking the blame for that one!
    Great story!

  • Reply
    Mimi
    April 24, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Charlie has a simple and wonderful talent for putting his thoughts on paper. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    April 24, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Daddy liked to tell a (true) story about a fellow who was courting a young woman. I’ll use the names of Mary and Matt for the girl and boy.
    One day a fellow asked Mary’s father what he thought of Matt. To show the ultimate level of approval, her father said:
    “Matt’s like one of the family…why, he’ll come up to the house, sit around the fire, eat chestnuts and fart just like the rest of us.”

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    April 24, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Charles Fletcher told us a wonderful story. I can remember as a young child, that one great chestnut tree was near my Grandpa Bud Collins’ house. We went by it as we walked to and from his hosue. Before the blight killed all the chestnut trees in the mountains, that great tree supplied us with plenty of chestnuts to roast. Daddy told me about how they went to the mountains when he was young and gathered great bags of them and took them to Gainesville to the market to sell, hauling them in a covered wagon across the Logan Turnpike. Some in the American Chestnut Tree Association are trying to get that old variety of trees to grow and produce again. It’s such a loss that the chestnut blight killed them off.
    I’d like to have Charles Fletcher’s book!

  • Reply
    tea4too0
    April 24, 2012 at 7:23 am

    What a sweet funny story.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 24, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Great story, I’ve never eaten chestnuts…probably won’t unless I know I’ve got the day to myself. 🙂

  • Reply
    Carol Killian
    April 24, 2012 at 7:14 am

    I enjoyed the story. Thank you for giving me the chance to win the book!
    Carol Killian

  • Reply
    quinn
    April 24, 2012 at 6:56 am

    Mr. Fletcher tells a lively story! 🙂
    And I especially love the description of the chestnuts in bloom…something I’ve often tried to imagine.

  • Reply
    Alica
    April 24, 2012 at 6:14 am

    That was a taste of what sounds like a fun book! Thanks for the chance to have a copy!

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    April 24, 2012 at 6:03 am

    Great story!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 24, 2012 at 5:57 am

    I loved Charles’ story and would love to have his book. I had a buddy I grew up and when to school with that had a malodorous malady caused by pinto beans much like Betty’s chestnuts. We called him Beanie or Charlie Bean.
    I don’t remember live chestnut trees but I remember cutting down dead chestnut poles and dragging them in to use as firewood. I also remember playing inside the stump of an enormous chestnut tree. The main part of the tree was long gone. All that was left was a ring of wood about 10 feet high and 12 feet across with a little gap just wide enough for a skinny eight year old boy to slither through. A deep layer of leaves, blown in by the wind, blanketed the floor. The inside walls were charred black from a long forgotten forest fire. What a wonderful base to battle black knights, launch forays into the wilderness and repel Japanese and Korean attacks.

  • Reply
    malcolm
    April 24, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Well ,I loved the story , but I have never ate a chestnut, maybe when I come to NC this fall I’ll make a point of finding some somewhere to try , and as a side note I hope I win that book . Malcolm from Thailand

  • Reply
    Gorges Smythe
    April 24, 2012 at 4:42 am

    Guess sometimes it’s just best to shut your mouth and suffer.

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