Appalachia

The Lost Art of Loafin

Uncle Henry at Clays

Uncle Henry on the far right loafin down at Clay’s Corner. Wish I could have heard the one man band!

Loafers are about as scarce here as hen’s teeth. “Folks just don’t seem to have no time for loafin’ any more,” said Charlie Burleson. “Why, it’s got so they’re in such a hurry to get some place that they hardly take the time to say howdy,” Charlie reckons he’s about the only real honest-to-goodness loafer left in Loafer’s Glory.

“Somebody’s got to uphold the glory of our heritage,” he said, “and I guess I’m as well fixed for the job as anybody. I don’t strike a lick of work if I can help it. I’m retired. But it gets pretty lonesome when a feller has to do his loafin’ all by hisself.”

Now don’t get the idea that Charlie is a lazy man. He isn’t. And if you think that loafing is a lazy man’s occupation, Charlie will set you straight real quick.

“There’s a time for loafin’ and a time for work, ” he said. “Folks who work are the only folks who know how to loaf. Don’t reckon you ever saw a lazy feller a sittin’ around whittlin’ or playing’ checkers or spinnin’ yarns. Loafin’ is a sort of unwindin’ when the crops are in and the plowin’ and the hoein’s been done. Saturday is loafin’ day, and so’s a rainy day. But you’ve got to have folks to loaf with.”

—John Parris – “My Mountains My People”


If Charlie thought folks were too busy to loaf back then reckon what he’d think today. It seems like when I was a young girl there was more time for loafin when all the work was done. These days it seems like we’re all running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Tipper

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37 Comments

  • Reply
    Donald Wells
    June 23, 2021 at 9:52 pm

    All these comments on the Blind Pig today were interesting and enjoyable. They put me to studying about this subject of loafin.The more I thunk and thunk on loafin,the more I think we are all pretty good at loafin,because we showed up here today.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    June 23, 2021 at 7:04 pm

    Yes, I loved the days when one could just loaf around on a store porch with other young people. Some of the best friends I ever had were loafers. I wish I had hung on to them longer. It seems like we are all so driven nowdays. That is one thing I love about the Blind Pig. It is a habit now, and I can just drink coffee and loaf around and enjoy the posts and subject matter. Seems like we mostly got all spiffed up for a date. Then I might hear somebody tell us that we looked real spiffy.

  • Reply
    Crystal Kieloch
    June 23, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    Tipper – I think it would be important for the readers who aren’t local to know that Loafer’s Glory is a small town in North Carolina. I’m not local and the only reason I knew it was a little town is because of a colleague (from a service organization for underserved Appalachian women) hails from Loafer’s Glory. I love the charm of these small little towns and the truth be told, in these types of places, it would be hard to find a truly lazy person. Thanks for your work with this blog!

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      June 23, 2021 at 9:25 pm

      There is a Loafers Glory in Mitchell County NC and another one on Nantahala Lake in Macon County. There might be more but none comes to mind right now.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 23, 2021 at 1:10 pm

    I am still inclined to believe that when nearly everybody had a farm and/or a garden they developed the habit of living by the timing of seasons, plant growth and weather. Certain things had to done at certain times but there was no use to stress about them, had to work with nature, not fight it. When what needed done had been done and the next needed thing wasn’t ready to be done or conditions kept it from being done just relax and call it loafin’ if so inclined.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      June 23, 2021 at 9:40 pm

      If all the worlds problems were set to be negotiated at by old men on wooden benches under trees in front of an old courthouse, instead of old men in pretentious edifices of marble in far away places, peace would reign supreme. Those old men on those benches of wood are dismissed as doddering old fools while doddering old fools on benches of marble are revered as gods. It’s time the roles are reversed!

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    June 23, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    I was never allowed to loaf or nap….mommy said there was always something that needs doing . I am still hoping to get to learn to do those things. As I read all the comments today, I got the image of all of us sitting around having a picnic under my maple trees….eating fried chicken and potato salad….just loafin….telling tales….celebrating Appalachia.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      June 23, 2021 at 2:08 pm

      Kat- I just love that image us all together under your tree 🙂

  • Reply
    Darrell Keith Cook
    June 23, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks Tipper,
    I enjoyed the loafering story.
    Around 50-60 years ago we had the goat man that crossed through our area. The last time I saw him was south of Young Harris. The goat man had a covered wagon pulled by maybe 15-20 goats. I recall him selling postcards for income.

    • Reply
      Dennis M Morgan
      June 23, 2021 at 6:57 pm

      I understand loafing. It is a form of recreation. If you go to any Hardees in the morning in a small town in South Carolina you will see people praticing the art of loafing; everyone has their favorite seat and you had better not sit in another person’s seat! Also at any court house in a small town in South Carolina you can see the art of loafing. When I get around a group of Scout Masters at a Camporee or Summer Camp I could be accused of loafing. Loafing with friends is very enjoyable.

      Dennis Morgan

      I remember the Goat Man. He had a regular route through several states that he went on. He would come through Camden, S.C. then go to Columbia. He was something to see with his little wagon pulled by a bunch of goats. If a goat was sick or had somethng wrong with it that goat got to ride in the wagon. News would spread by word of mouth that the goat man was coming. At the time I did not realize what a unique thing I was seeing.

      Dennis Morgan

      • Reply
        Ed Ammons
        June 23, 2021 at 9:49 pm

        I remember being in class at Almond Elementary School at Lauada in Swain County when somebody came by and told the principal that the Goat Man was on the way. All the classes let out and the teachers lined us up along the road to watch. He had a stagecoach with goats in front pulling, goats all over the wagon and more goats tied onto the back. He waved and smiled at us but kept up a steady pace on up the road. If he had stopped for everyone who he encountered he never would have gotten anywhere.

  • Reply
    Jackie
    June 23, 2021 at 11:43 am

    I would to loaf, loafer or go loafering or even loiter somewhere but my wife always has a “Honey do list” to occupy my time. I remember the older men sitting around the stove in Farmer’s Supply and others playing checkers in the court house.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    June 23, 2021 at 11:40 am

    I remember my dad and uncles sitting on the edge of the porch after supper or Sunday afternoons. They would tell stories, smoke cigars, and whittle. There would be so many wood shavings on the ground that my grandmother would gather them up to use as kindling to start the fire in her cookstove in the morning.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 23, 2021 at 10:49 am

    Mama (born in 1898) used to say, “People are just too busy nowadays. Before we had all these ‘time-saving’ appliances like washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and such, we worked hard all morning, then after dinner had all afternoon for loafin’ and doing fancy work (embroidery, etc.).”

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 23, 2021 at 10:18 am

    There seems to be a discrepancy between loafing and loafering. Loafing, in my studied opinion is a static endeavor meaning you remain in one location, while loafering is more transient. People sitting around a stove or parked on a park bench are loafing. Loafers whittle and tell lies. Loafers have to be quick witted in order to have stories to tell all day. Loaferers don’t, as a rule, whittle at all or at least while loafering. Whittling requires you to be able to sit for extended periods of time. Loaferers can’t do that. Loaferers have only one lie to tell (or can only remember one at a time) and feel compelled to tell it, so they must travel from place to place telling it.
    Loafing and loafering are not mutually exclusive. In fact they are often commingled. When a loafer gets tired of seeing the same sights and sounds, he might decide to go loafering. If a loaferer gets tired of walking or driving about, he might choose to just loafer for a while or for the rest of the day.
    Loafing – Requires less energy but requires an abundance of lies to tell.
    Loafering – Requires more energy but you need only one lie.

    • Reply
      Greg Church
      June 23, 2021 at 11:25 am

      Mr Ammons, that without a doubt is the most studied and accurate description of a loafer vs a loaferer that I have ever heard. I can’t wait to spring that on the fellers down at the hardware store this coming Saturday.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    June 23, 2021 at 10:05 am

    My daddy used to say that a lazy man couldn’t even rest properly. He hasn’t done anything to rest from, he’d say.

  • Reply
    dee
    June 23, 2021 at 9:27 am

    Oh, I meant to add, Tipper, you or Paul ought to write a song titled “Down at Clay’s Corner.” It just sounds like a song. Plus, I love the comment describing loafering as being energy efficient.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 23, 2021 at 9:27 am

    I just got back from a tour of Corie’s new place. It’s nice!

    What did Uncle Henry do for a living? He has some kind of uniform on. He appears to have a badge of some sort but he don’t look like a cop. Maybe NC Forest Service?

    • Reply
      Tipper
      June 23, 2021 at 11:18 am

      Ed-good eye! Uncle Henry did retire from the Forest Service.

  • Reply
    dee
    June 23, 2021 at 9:18 am

    I doubt that my Grandmothers had much loafering time but in the evening and on Saturdays Grandfathers may have had time for a little loafering. Without the distractions of television and phones, I think they looked on it as a time for reading or socializing and talking about the country’s woes at that time period with other older gentlemen. With farmers, this was usually done on their front porch or sitting on a bench at the town’s courtsquare. I got a lot of chuckles from reading the comments on this post. As a child, I remember them all sitting out on the porch, talking away and chewing and spitting. I was sure that tobacco had killed all the grass right in front of the porch:)

  • Reply
    Sandra Henderson
    June 23, 2021 at 9:11 am

    Les Waldroop wrote a song about Loafers Glory and he also wrote Watergate Bugs. He’s my significant others cousin. We live right down road from it and it’s etill there, but not like that…just a place for people to stop and grab a coke and chips or take a break from riding motorcycles up to Topton over to tail of the dragon or going to Murphy.
    Check out those songs when you have time. I think they are on YouTube. I’ve not checked in long time. I’m sure you can find somewhere….

    We try to go to flea market or take a ride and go loafing on weekend. Just down old back roads, etc. my friend one day said to me many years ago, let’s go loafing…off went. No particular direction in mind. Fun times always to be remembered.

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    June 23, 2021 at 8:58 am

    We still have some regular loafers in our community, mostly the older retired fellows; you see them at the barbershop or drinking coffee at the Dairy Queen every morning. I loaf with my sister and our parents every Sunday evening on Mom & Dad’s porch, too.

  • Reply
    JimK
    June 23, 2021 at 8:44 am

    Growing up my family had a country store. In the summer the men would gather to the benches made of wooden pop cartons so talk, whittle and swap knifes. And in the winter they sat around the pot belly stove. About once a month they would bring their musical instruments and pick and sing. People were closer back then, I’m lucky now if this new bunch will wave back in passing.

  • Reply
    Randy
    June 23, 2021 at 8:09 am

    I don’t call it loafing or being lazy anymore, I now call it being energy efficient.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    June 23, 2021 at 8:01 am

    I have often wondered how the women and men in my life did what they had to do and still had time to loaf (as Mom called it). The women cooked three meals a day from scratch and carried water and built fires to do laundry. A man’s job was the hardest under the sun, but a woman’s work was never done. Yet they had time to loaf so much more than folks do today. I can’t remember the last time I saw a family sitting around on the front porch doing nothing but loafing.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    June 23, 2021 at 7:35 am

    When I lived in Lascassas, TN, a suburb of Murfreesboro, at the general store was always men in overalls loafin’ and wittlin’. I went in one day hot and exasperated about my dog chasing ducks to ask advice on what to do. One old loader leaned way back in his rocking chair and said “ well little lady- it’s simple. Who do you care about the most? The dog or ducks?” Another recommended I tie a dead duck around his neck and let him wear it out… my brother’s son has a son who’s grown and he whittles tiny people and animals perfect in their details…why loaf when a tiny device becomes your socialization friend isolating you from life and placing you in a disconnected box of yourself???? Smh in disgust of the cell phone… another way to kill social interaction and it’s worked like a charm- just look around. No one talks, can look you in the eye or even carry on a conversation…

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 23, 2021 at 7:31 am

    My brother in law is the best at being a loafer than anyone I’ve ever met. He worked the same job for 40 plus years. He grew a big garden took care of his family and is a good man.
    In his spare time he loafed. He went from one spot to the other making his rounds around the town and the community. He could tell you the news before it made the news. There appears to be an art to being a loafer and I think he pretty much mastered it.

    He has slowed down due to age and doesn’t see to well to drive so he gets my sister who is younger and still able to drive well to drive him around. She complains about it but does it anyway.
    If he could have made a living at being a loafer he would have done well.
    I remember my dad saying that he was the loaferingest feller he had ever seen.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 23, 2021 at 7:12 am

    No, it don’t seem like there is much loafin any more. To loafer meant to take a break from workin and it seems like nobody has time for taking a break or loaferin any more. There is also no descent places left to loafer. There is Clay’s Corner and Tim’s Vegetable stand. That’s all I can think of.
    Folks used to understand that there was work and apposed to that was a time to recolect and loafer, now it just all runs together where we mix everything together and do it at the same time. We have these fulltime telephones!

  • Reply
    Betty Jo Eason Benedict
    June 23, 2021 at 7:11 am

    Love this! As a young’un I remember Saturdays usually the wives doing their shopping or trading as Granny would say. Mostly the older gents killed time sitting around a courthouse bench or ledge……chewin’ and spittin’ (and some would say tellin’ lies) 🙂

  • Reply
    Carol Roy
    June 23, 2021 at 7:07 am

    I so agree with you Tipper …. there seems to be no time for anything but work these days but we should allow time for ‘loafin’ … it is necessary I believe for our well being. Let’s try to find ‘time’ !

  • Reply
    DeDe Fisher
    June 23, 2021 at 7:04 am

    Howdy Tipper!!! I love your life! I wish I lived in the mountains!!! Unfortunately I live in Columbus Ohio. My family is from southern Ohio on the Ohio River Buffngton island area. My great great Grandfather fought in the Civil War for the North. I’ve heard a lot of the words and phrases that you say. It makes me smile because the way you talk is so beautiful. I love it. I can see why that lady that you were talking about the real pretty and you walked into wherever it was that you were talking about stood there and stared at you I would probably too. I have to say your daughters are beautiful. It feels good to get to know someone from where you live! I have been following you and the girls for about 4 months now and I’ve watched all your videos. Keep them coming!!! I am 60 now and both my mom and dad have passed so sad! Love the food you cook to!!! Reminds me of my Great Granny’s and what’s cool we called our great-great-grandfather Pap he was in his 80s before he passed. And my Great
    (Grandma) was 91. She passed in 1980. She was so fun!!! Well I best let ya go, you seem to be a busy mama, God Bless you and your family! I will write again soon.❣️ DeDe

  • Reply
    Patricia Price
    June 23, 2021 at 7:01 am

    My mother and grandmother called it “loaferin” and “had no truck with loafers.” My grandmother was a tenant farmer or sharecropper to raise 5 children, so there was little time for loaferin’. When she came in from the fields, my mother said she lay down on the front room floor to rest, and the children gathered around her and took turns reading from the Bible. I have to say, I love to loafer and am blessed to have the time to do it.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    June 23, 2021 at 6:42 am

    Tipper.
    I have often wondered if there is a “tie-in” with the name of loafin shoes and loafering? ( Classic penny loafer Shoes)
    My guess is that when one was going loafering, they probably got out of their “work shoes” and slipped on their “loafering shoes”? As the older folks said, “spiffed up a little”?
    spiff [spif]
    VERB
    spiffed (past tense) · spiffed (past participle)
    make someone or something attractive, tidy, or stylish.
    “he arrived all spiffed up in a dinner jacket”

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