The Kentucky Mountaineer
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The Kentucky Mountaineer 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 ( The Kentucky Mountaineer T HE Kentucky mountaineers are practically valley people. There are the three forks of the Cumberland, the three forks of the Kentucky , and the tributaries of Big Sandy-all with rich river-bottoms. It was natural that these lands should attract a better class of people than the average mountaineer. They did. There were many slaveholders among them-a fact that has never been mentioned, as far as I know, by anybody who has written about the mountaineer. The houses along these rivers are, as a rule, weather-boarded, and one will often find interior decorations, startling in color and puzzling in design, painted all over porch, wall, and ceiling. The people are better fed, better clothed, less lank in figure, more intelligent. They wear less homespun, and their speech, while as archaic as elsewhere , is, I believe, purer. You rarely hear "you uns" and "we uns," and similar untraceable confusions in the Kentucky mountains, except along the 27 Blue-grass and Rhododendron border of the Tennessee. Moreover, the mountaineers who came over from West Virginia and from the southwestern corner of old Virginia were undoubtedly the daring, the hardy, and the strong, for no other kind would have climbed gloomy Black Mountain and the Cumberland Range to fight against beast and savage for their homes. However, in spite of the general superiority that these facts give him, the Kentucky mountaineer has been more isolated than the mountaineer of any other State. There are regions more remote and more sparsely settled, but nowhere in the Southern mountains has so large a body of mountaineers been shut off so completely from the outside world. As a result, he illustrates Mr. Theodore Roosevelt's fine observation that life away from civilization simply emphasizes the natural qualities, good and bad, of the individual. The effect of this truth seems perceptible in that any trait common to the Southern mountaineer seems to be intensified in the mountaineer of Kentucky. He is more clannish, prouder, more hospitable, fiercer, more loyal as a friend, more bitter as an enemy, and in simple meanness-when he is mean, mind you-he can outHerod his race with great ease. To illustrate his clannishness: Three mountaineers with a grievance went up to some mines to drive the 28 The Kentucky Mountaineer book-keeper away. A fourth man joined them and stood with drawn pistol during the controversy at the mines, because his wife was a first cousin by marriage of one of the three who had the grievance. In Republican counties, county officers are often Democratic -blood is a Rtronger tie even than politics. As to his hospitality: A younger brother of mine was taking dinner with an old mountaineer. There was nothing on the table but some bread and a few potatoes. " Take out, stranger," he said, heartily. "Have a 'tater-take two of 'em-take damn nigh all of 'em! " A mountaineer, who had come into possession of a small saw-mill, was building a new house. As he had plenty of lumber, a friend of mine asked why he did not build a bigger house. It was big enough, he said. He had two rooms-" one fer the family, an' t'other fer company." As his family numbered fifteen, the scale on which he expected to entertain can be imagined . The funeral sermon of a mountaineer, who had been dead two years, was preached in Turkey Foot at the base of Mount Scratchum in Jackson County. Three branches run together like a turkey's foot at that point. The mountain is called Scratchum because it is hard to climb. "A funeral sermon," said the old preacher, 29 Blue-grass and Rhododendron " can be the last one you hear, or the fust one that's preached over ye atter death. Maybe I'm a-preachin' my own funeral sermon now." If he was, he did himself justice, for he preached three solid hours. The audience was invited to stay to dinner. Forty of them accepted-there were just forty there-and dinner was served from two o'clock until six. The forty were pressed to stay all night. Twenty-three did stay, seventeen in one room. Such is the hospitality of the Kentucky mountaineer. As to his pride, that is almost beyond belief. I always hesitate to tell this story, for the reason that...


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