Tennessee Mountain Stories

Who Stold the Corn?


When Grandpa Smith lived up on the Head of Wolf River he said that one of the men in the settlement had raised him a fine crop of corn one year.  He stored it in his crib, waiting till he could raft it down to Nashville and sell it.  But before long somebody stold most of it.  The other people in the settlement begin to have their own corn stold, too.  This was very uncommon, since everbody knowed everbody else, and nobody locked anything up.  Fact is, to lock your door or your corn crib was just the same as saying that you didn’t trust your neighbors.

This stealing went on till might night spring.  Then one day Milt Parsons was having a log rolling.  Ever man in the whole settlement was there, and ever time the men’d stop to get a drink or to rest awhile that’s all they’d talk about, the corn stealing that was going on.  Nobody could figger out who would do such a thing.

Old man Titterow didn’t get about too much, but he had come out that day.  Not that he could do any work, but he just wanted to see his neighbors and do a little visiting.  Now when he heard what was going on, he told Milt that he could catch the thief if he wanted him to.  Milt was might pleased at that and said that he’d sure be plumb much obliged if he would. 


Old man Titterow went to the house before anybody else did for dinner.  So when everbody was done eating, Milt told the men that if they’d all go down to the barn, he had something to show them.

Well, when they all got down to the barn, old man Titterow was standing by Miz. Parsons’ big old black was kettle.  He said that he’d been hearing about all the trouble everbody had been having, and that he knowed just how to catch the thief.

He said that he’d put Milt’s old rooster under the wash kettle, and that everbody was to go up and rub his right hand on the bottom of the kettle, and when the guilty man rubbed, the rooster would crow so they’d know who it was.  Everbody agreed, so old man Titterow was the first one to go up and rub his hand on the kettle.  Not a single word was spoke as all the men walked up one at a time and rubbed their hand around and around on the bottom of the kettle.  Then as ever man rubbed, he walked over and stood in line by the old man.  The rooster never crowed a single time.  Then after the last man had rubbed, the old man stepped out of the line and told everbody to hold out his right hand, pan down.  Then he started at one end of the line and took ever man’s hand and turned it up to look at the pan.  Everbody’s hand was as black as the pot bottom till he got to Silas Pardue.

When he saw that Silas’ hand wasn’t black, he said, “Here’s your man, Milt.”

Now everbody was mighty surprised at Silas, but they hahd hi dead to rights so he just owned up to it.  He said that he had done it because he wanted to buy him a little piece of land for his own, so he stold the corn, made it up in likker and sold it ‘way over in Kaintuck where nobody knowed him.

Since everbody in the whole settlement was there, everboyd come the the agreement with Milt that if Silas would just pick up his family and move off, nobody would ever even mention the corn stealing again. 

So it wasn’t but a little spell till Silas come back from a trip to his people over around Jimtown and said that he was moving over there.  Nobody but the men who was at Milt’s barn that day ever knowed a thing about what went on, and just as sudden as it had started, the corn stealing stopped.  Everbody breated easy again, for it sure was a bad feeling when you had to lock up your corn crib against  your neighbors.


New Potatoes

Most homes on the mountain have a little vegetable garden – okay, most of the gardens are pretty big.  And potatoes are one of our main staples.  You may recall I mentioned here that I was raised to understand you needed bread with every meal, well you gotta’ have ‘taters too. 

This time of year (or a little earlier if you were ambitious in February) the gardens begin to yield little new potatoes.  We boil them in their skins with a little oil (bacon drippings or lard if you’ve got it), slather them in butter, add salt and pepper and it’s one of the best meals of the summer.  Well at least it seems like it at the time because if you raised your potato crop by this time of year they’re pretty shrivelled and soft.  And after all, we only get “new” potatoes for a little while before the skins start to get thick and you’re wanting to peel them.

Maybe I’m so thrilled to get these potatoes because of the childhood memories they trigger.  My whole life I remember going to the garden with Grandpa Livesay and digging out a mess of taters.  The dirt around the plants was loose and piled high on the stems so my fat little-girl fingers could just about scoop them right out of the ground.  He’d carefully drive a pitchfork in and we’d all exclaim over the number of little white spuds that popped out – after all this is the prediction of the winter’s potato crop and we thought we’d starve if we didn’t raise a bountiful enough crop. 

My grandpa was not a Christian until the very end of his life yet he always knew The Good Lord was providing this produce by the sweat of our brow – well mostly his brow.

Joy and Ricky Orias

Joy and Ricky Orias

With our day’s harvest in a bucket we’d go to the barn where there were barrels of rainwater caught for cleaning things like this.  Since we no longer needed to catch the water for drinking, you could plunge your hands straight into the cool barrels, cleaning both the food and the child.

We have missionaries from The Phillipines staying with us, and partaking of tonight’s early summer treat.  I asked if they grow this kind of potatoes – sweet potatoes are a staple for them.  She said, yes but we don’t eat the skins.  I bet she has a similar childhood memory for she grew up on a farm as well and little girls on farms have gotta’ have similar memories, don’t you think?