Author Topic: Hillbilly Views: Long Journey Forward  (Read 1506 times)

Offline Lion

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Hillbilly Views: Long Journey Forward
« on: January 23, 2015, 09:14:39 pm »
There's also an entry on Selma - her experience, NOT the movie - that she worked on tonight, but I'm going to give her some time to edit it first.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Tempest Fugit! Time flies and does it ever.  Fifty years ago I was preparing to walk across the stage at Presser Hall, Berea College, Berea, Kentucky in recognition of completing requirements for my B.A. degree.  Was I prepared for the next 50 years?  Absolutely NOT. In my youthful na´ve mindset, I failed to recognize exactly what the word "commencement" meant.   Receiving my degree was a huge milestone in many ways. My father with his seventh grade education and backed by a keen motherwit  had acquired the skills and knowledge that today would be called a journeyman electrician. He was largely self educated and  in his time and in his way he was successful.  My  mother had taught winters and gone to school during the summers...supported by her husband's  focused efforts and her parent's support to get that coveted "County Education" degree from Ohio University. Along the way...she had raised two children to adulthood and sent BOTH off to earn their college brother from Tuskegee Institute and my sister from Storer College in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.  She had  also given birth to a third late in life child...ME ...before losing the battle to cancer when I was a toddler.  When I walked across that stage...I did not truly realize how remarkable my journey had been.
My maternal grandfather had been born in 1868 just after the end of the Civil War. My paternal grandfather had been born in 1861...before the end of slavery. Because of the traditions of Appalachian men...especially black Appalachian men....I was "sheltered" from that knowledge....a knowledge I had to fight to acquire after the death of both grandfathers and my father.....knowledge I had to ferret out as the nearly middle age adult parent of half grown children! The journey I began that January Sunday afternoon fifty years ago would be challenging....frustrating...and filled with twists and turns I could not and would not see  or understand for many, many years. Perhaps I thought that graduation was a terminal point along the journey to be educated.....little did I know....that Sunday was only the beginning....of a long journey to the future.
Early in mindset for learning was shaped by the adult family members around me. If I had to paraphrase  the learning style I grew up would be "keep your eyes and ears open..mostly keep your mouth shut and analyze what you see and hear."  That advice shaped the beginning of my news writing fifteen.  The local newspaper decided to print a page in the Sunday paper especially for teenagers.  They announced the page, they asked for volunteer writers, and I applied...and was accepted.  Did I have a clue what I was going to write about? No...but I liked to write so I began.  The first article  was totally rewritten by my editor...and I was devastated.   After my hurt feelings had toned down..I sat down with my original article....looked at the published piece and started picking apart my errors. Never again would I be edited beyond recognition...ever.  I wrote for that paper for three years...reports on school news, opinion pieces, miscellaneous news and hardly a month went by that something I had written did NOT appear in print. By the time I graduated from high school...I knew I wanted to be a writer.
My stepmother blew her stack...telling my father that he shouldn't encourage my useless daydreams.  I had learned early on to keep my writing well hidden from her. She would sneak in my bedroom at my mail, read my journal...and talk about me (negatively) to anyone who would listen. My mother's brother brought home (to my grandparent's house) the solution to THAT problem. He bought a desk and a used typewriter and told me to get busy....and keep my writing in the desk. Loudly he proclaimed that the desk and the typewriter were HIS and no one was to bother it! My stepmother did NOT nose around his desk. Needless to mother's family has ALWAYS encouraged my writing.

It was senior year in high school and time for college applications and the dreaded college essay. Conflict time (Armageddon style) erupted in my father's house.  My stepmother was going to oversee my college application. She swore to my father that my writing was terrible and  nothing...and I do mean nothing I wrote was acceptable (to her).  I was a nervous wreck until the day I finally spilled my frustrations to my grandfather.  His solution....get another application...fill it out and send it in...and the acceptance letter came two weeks later.

Wish I could stepmother's incessant meddling ended. It did not..if anything she was more focused and determined to interfere....even to the point of declaring a major for me that was diametrically opposed to my personal interests. By this point...all I wanted to do was get out of the house and away from her.   By the beginning of my sophomore college year,,,my father had figured out that something was seriously wrong and at that point...he emancipated my decision making and my declared major was changed to English...I secured a job at the local newspaper and my nerves settled down.

Studying the craft of writing at the university level was challenging in many respects.  There are many formats to learn (and unlearn).  Because I had learned (informally) newspaper writing (the five  W's (who, what, where, when. why or how) my writing instructors who were focused on academic writing were determined to break what they considered to be "bad writing habits."    What were those so called "bad habits?"  Primarily I had to learn the difference between formal and informal language, i.e. no trite phrasing  (find another way to convey the idea).   Those words and phrases were considered unacceptable probably because of overuse in daily speech.

A)   A blushing bride, A fool and his money, Absence makes the heart grow fonder, Acid test, Add insult to injury, Age before beauty, All in all, All is not gold that glitters, All things being equal, All work and no play, Apple pie order, As luck would have it, At one fell swoop
B)   Barking up the wrong tree, Best laid plans, Better late than never, Better mind your ps and qs, Beyond the pale, Blood is thicker than water, Blow off steam, Born with a silver spoon, Breathe a sigh of relief, Bright and early, Bring home the bacon, Budding genius, Busy as a bee, Butterflies in (my) stomach
C)   Caught red-handed, Checkered career, Cherchez la femme, Chip off the old block, Clear as mud, Cold feet, Cold sweat, Cool as a cucumber
D)   Dead as a doornail, Dead give away, Deaf as a post, Depths, Die is cast, Dog days, Draw the line, Drink and be merry, Drunk as a skunk, Dull thud
E)   Ear to the ground, Eat, Eat (my) hat
F)   Face the music, Far cry, Feather in (his/her) cap, Few and far between, Fill the bill, Fine and dandy, First and foremost, Fish out of water, Flesh and blood, Fly off the handle, Fond farewell, Fresh as a daisy
G)   Gentle as a lamb, Get the upper hand, Get up on the wrong side of the bed, Gild the lily, God's country, Grain of salt, Green as grass, Green with envy
H)   Hale and hardy, Hand to mouth, Happy as a lark, Hard row to hoe, Head over heels, Heart of gold, High on the hog, Hungry as a bear
I)   If truth be told, In the final analysis, In the long run, It goes without saying, It is the last straw, It stands to reason
K)   Kettle of fish
L)   Last but not least, Lean over backward, Leave in the lurch, Left-handed compliment, Let thew cat out of the bag, Like a bolt out of the blue, Limp as a rag, Little did I think, Lock
M)   Mad as a wet hen, Mad dash, Make ends meet, Make hay when the sun shines, Make no bones, Meets the eye, Method in his/her madness, Moot question, More easily said than done
N)   Naked truth, Necessary evil, Never a dull moment, Nipped in the bud, Not to be sneezed at
O)   Of despair, On the ball, Open and shut, Opportunity knocks, Out of sight out of mind, Over a barrel
P)   Pay the piper, Pretty as a picture, Pull his/her leg, Pull the wool over my eyes, Pure as the driven snow, Put a bug in your ear, Put on the dog, Put the best foot forward

R)   Rack my brains, Raining cats and dogs, Read someone the riot act, Red as a beet, Right down (my) alley, Ring true, Rub someone the wrong way
S)   Sad but true, Save it for a rainy day, Self made man, Sell like hot cakes, Seventh heaven, Sick and tired, Sight to behold, Sing like a bird, Snare and a delusion, Sow wild oats, Start the ball rolling, Steal thunder from someone, Stir up a hornet nest, Stock and barrel, Strong as an ox, Stubborn as a mule, Stuffed shirt
T)   Terra firma, The bitter end, The jog is up, Throw the book at, Tit for tat, Too funny for words, Turn over a new leaf
W)   Waiting with bated breath, Wee small hours, Without further ado, Wolf in sheep clothing
Y)   You can say that again, Your guess is as good as mine  "

This internet based list (from an unknown source)  provides a less than definitive selection of language that my generation of writers were carefully admonished  from using. Since I often hear similar language from today's television newscasters...I suspect the rules for acceptable usage have changed (in the last half century)?  Even if change has occurred in acceptable emotional acceptance  has not altered and I cringe at the abundance of "trite" language usage in the media.  In that respect my original formal writing instructors were highly successful   but they were even more successful in grooming my reluctance to share my creative efforts.

 Was that destruction intentional?  In retrospect, I must say no that I doubt they  thought that far was simply that their vision for my future direction in life and mine were NOT the same. The majority of my instructors were single unmarried women who for their generation had chosen the difficult path of career over the personal traditional path of marriage and family!  After all, I came of age about the birth time of the so-called "women's liberation" movement. The role of women in American culture and society influences all of my gender but that is a topic for another day. I am a woman largely raised by the men of my family and my attitudes and opinions did NOT fit the social norms of the early mid 20th Century! Still don't ! The storm of many conflicts lay ahead and truly....I had no clue.